DIY Copper Rain Chain

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Introduction: DIY Copper Rain Chain

This is a DIY guide to how I made my wonderful wife a rain chain. Rain chains are used in place of gutter downspouts to direct the water downward.  She has been wanting one for some time, but they can be expensive.  Only basic soldering skills and a few tools are required.  

Step 1: Step 1 - Gather Tools & Supplies

Here is what you will need for this project:

Soldering torch
Acid flux
Solder
Roll of 1/4" copper refrigeration tubing (or whatever size you want to use)
3" PVC pipe (or whatever size you want your rings to be)
Angle grinder with cutoff wheel, hacksaw, or tubing cutter
Gloves
Safety Glasses
Bench Vise
Wood clamp (not pictured)

Step 2: Step 2 - Notch the PVC

Using your grinder cut a notch slightly wider than the copper tubing you plan to use.  This will hold the tube as you wind it around the PVC.

Step 3: Step 3 - Wind the Tube Into a Spiral

Hold the pipe in the vise and insert the end of the tube in the notch you just made.  Be sure to use the natural bend of the tube to your advantage.  Try to keep a nice tight spiral, it should hold its shape when you take it off the tube. 

Step 4: Step 4 - Cutting the Rings

Pull the newly created coil off the PVC pipe, bend the piece that was in the cutout notch up, and slide the coil back on the PVC so it is pushing against the vise.  Hold the coil tight against the vise with a clamp.  Carefully cut the coil into rings with your angle grinder.  Don't worry about cutting into the PVC pipe.

Step 5: Step 5 - Soldering the Rings Together

I put the cut rings in the vise to hold the while I soldered them together.  It doesn't take much pressure to hold the rings closed.  I just butt the ends up and soldered them together.  

A couple of soldering tips:
-Solder follows flux, if you have flux dripping down the ring, the solder will follow it!
-Wipe off excess flux while it is still hot, it comes off much easier.
-Give the solder a few seconds to harden otherwise your ring will pop open when you release it from the vise.
-Soldering requires a torch.  Torches are hot.  Don't burn yourself or the house down!!

Step 6: Step 6 - Link the Rings Together

Now all you have to do is link your rings together to form the chain.  Use your imagination, different size rings, thickness of tubing, or even using the rings to link other objects in the chain.  The only limit is the amount of weight your gutter can hold.  If you are making a heavy pattern it might be necessary to attach the chain to the house.  We put a flowerpot filled with river rocks at the bottom as a catch basin. 

I don't have a good picture of the gutter attachment but here is what I did:
I drilled a hole through a 1/2" piece of copper pipe and passed an oval ring through it to create a toggle.  Their are many different ways to attach them on the internet.  Just chose the one that is most appropriate for the type of gutter you have.

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40 Comments

Sounds easy enuf! Ty! I've thought about winding copper wire around shells but not sure how to connect them. Any ideas?

I like the look of the copper. Super pretty!

Use swag chain or security chain for a low cost alternative and it comes in white, brass, bronze and black or whatever you paint it. Sure it is steel usually, But I have seen installations that have been there for years.However, the copper is nice and you could patina it...... We grow a bougainvillea up one of our chains.

I think it is cool I also like that he has a Tesla coil

If you use rain barrels, rain chains are the best way to feed rain water to them because the chain filters out all the debris (ie leaves and other roof debris). With downspouts you have to use screens which get clogged and you lose the rain water.

I made one like this some years ago, and have two pieces of advice.

First, instead of cutting the rings with the grinder, I cut them with dikes [Diagonal-side-cutters]. That way the joint was straight and flat, which I thought was easier than soldering round joints. When you roll the joints around they pretty well hide themselves.
Also, if I was to do it again, I would roll the tubing around two tubes of different sizes, making a tear-drop shape. I found that the round rings kicked a lot of water sideways, and would think that by having a smaller end pointed down, more water would end up going straight down the chain.
Oh, and don't be surprised to learn that it takes a whole bunch of copper tubing to get, say, 8 feet of chain. Quick math says that 8' of 3" [round] rings takes some 26' of tubing.

Maybe in the intro you could describe what a "rain chain" is.

I've never heard of one, and I have no idea what the purpose is.

That would be appreciated - thanks.

Plus the advantage of sounding cool in a light storm.