Japanese Inspired Self Filling & Cleaning Bird Bath

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Introduction: Japanese Inspired Self Filling & Cleaning Bird Bath

About: Welcome to my Instructables channel where I'll share my wacky and unique creations that hopefully others find useful, or better yet, inspire an evolution of even better ideas!

PROJECT SUMMARY: Fully automated bird bath that fills and cleans itself using two types of irrigation valves. Filling is accomplished with normal landscape irrigation, while cleaning is by a zero pressure ball valve timer that simply drains the basin. Both can be adjusted as needed for your individual design and needs. (BONUS: No electricity needed.)

I just finished setting it up so the birds haven't found it yet. And I've heard there's been sightings of a very rare bird in our area. Hopefully he'll stop by soon and I can get a picture of him ;)

This project is an entry in the 1000th Contest. Please vote if you like it.

We really enjoy feeding and watching all of our native birds. We have woodpeckers, coopers hawks, roadrunners, cactus wrens, and hummingbirds all either frequent visitors or nesting on our property. Many years ago, I added an infinity overflow fountain using that same large dark blue pot for landscape aesthetics, and as a bonus all the birds really took to it, but it was a pain to keep clean, keep in working order, and also was a fairly large use of water and electricity since it ran 24/7. So the fountain has sat empty several years, but we really missed watching all the birds drink and clean from the water, especially the hummingbirds (Google "Hummingbird Bathing" videos. They are hilariously cute!).

As an alternative to the fountain, I created this concept primarily as a low water consumption replacement, but it wasn't until I stumbled on the zero pressure ball valve timer that the final component of the system design was realized. With that in place, the self cleaning feature was made very easy. (Without it, a pump would have been needed, which needs electricity, and the complexity and maintenance goes way up, which is what I was trying to avoid in the first place.)

Terminology: Ill just refer to the Zero Pressure Ball Valve Timer as the "Drain Valve" hereafter.

Supplies

  1. Vessel Sink (I somehow got his for $35, price is now corrected. Home Depot has a lot of very similar ones in the $40-$50 range.)
  2. 1" PVC Slip Slip Union
  3. 1" to 3/4" PVC Reducer
  4. 3/4" PVC Slip to Male Hose Thread (MHT)
  5. PVC Primer and Adhesive
  6. Adhesive Sealant or Silicone (I used this.)
  7. Teflon Tape
  8. Zero Pressure Ball Valve Timer ("Drain Valve")
  9. 1/4" Irrigation Hose and Fittings
  10. Bamboo (1-1/2" Diameter)
  11. 1/4" Jute Cord
  12. Electrical wiring and low voltage lights (Optional)
  13. Screen Material (Optional)
  14. Decorative Rocks (Optional)

TOOLS:

  1. General Shop Tools
  2. Masonry Cutting Tools (Hole Saw and/or Grinder)
  3. Level
  4. Hammer
  5. Tools for Irrigation Hoses and Fittings
  6. Radial Arm Saw with Wood Cutting Blade (For Bamboo)
  7. Sandpaper
  8. Marine 2 Part Epoxy Putty
  9. Black Sharpie Marker
  10. Drill

Step 1: Vessel Sink Drain Preparation, Part 1 of 4

For the sink itself the only objective is to attach "Something" to the drain hole that functions as a drain but then terminates to a Male Hose Thread (MHT) fitting:

In the second image above, the smallest part in the top right is the MHT fitting.

(The MHT fitting will directly connect to the Female Hose Thread (FMT) on the Drain Valve.)

NOTE: Hose thread is the common name for the type of thread on garden hoses

I say "Something", because a normally plumbed sink would never attach to a garden hose. So, you basically have two options:

  • Attach a proper drain and work out how to convert to MHT
  • Mix and match PVC fittings that can effectively seal the sink drain hole while connecting to FHT

I didn't even consider starting with a proper drain as only a few simple and cheap PVC fittings got me directly to a solution. And for less $$ than just a drain would cost alone, which would then add up quickly depending on the number of adapters/fittings to get to MHT, which might not even be possible.

Step 2: Vessel Sink Drain Preparation, Part 2 of 4

The Slip Slip Union is made up of three individual parts. We only need the one with the flange side (Top right in second picture above and alone in the last picture.)

NOTE: Different sinks have different size drain holes. These unions come in several sizes, so your unique setup may need a size smaller or larger.

Step 3: Vessel Sink Drain Preparation, Part 3 of 4

Using standard PVC primer and glue, connect the reducer to the flanged part from the union as shown above. Then connect the MHT fitting to the reducer (No picture).

Step 4: Vessel Sink Drain Preparation, Part 4 of 4

Using Adhesive Sealant, secure the 3-piece PVC "Flange to MHT" assembly to the sink drain.

NOTE: Ensure the sink and PVC assembly are clean before securing. A quick wipe with IPA is good.

Allow the glue to cure, then add an additional bead of the same Adhesive Sealant to the joint.

Last picture shows the Drain Valve attached. Use a few wraps of Teflon Tape before threading on. Finger tight is fine, don't over tighten it.

Step 5: Pedestal Base, Part 1 of 3

This pot is a nice match for the sink I ended up getting. Had I not already had the pot, I likely would not have purchased one this size specifically for this project, and possibly may not have chose a pot at all to serve as a pedestal. At close to 200lbs its not easy to work with or maneuver. And at a normal price of around $300, accidentally breaking it would be bad.

To allow the sink with its drain and attached Drain Valve to be dropped directly onto the pot you need to make a large enough opening. (And yes, I could have stood the pot up normally and not had to do this at all, but I tried it and it just didn't look right.)

To do this:

  1. Start with a hole in the center
  2. Then make several pie wedge cuts
  3. Followed by additional cuts around the perimeter
  4. Finally, gently tap with hammer to break the pieces free

TIP1: When making the cuts, use water frequently to keep the pot temperature low. Large temperature swings can cause cracking.

TIP2: Do not use a hammer drill :)

Step 6: Pedestal Base, Part 2 of 3

Provide a sturdy base for the pot to sit on. I had to fill up the hole from when it was a fountain, so to do so, I added about 6 inches of powered granite, called "Quarter Minus" (Its granite ground to 1/4" size but also every thing smaller including the rock powder.) When compacted and soaked with water its almost as strong and durable as concrete.

Level this surface while its wet.

Step 7: Pedestal Base, Part 3 of 3

Position the pot in its final spot. Placing it while the Quarter Minus base is still wet will ensure a good foundation once its fully dried. Check the top for level and adjust as needed with a grinder. The goal is to be able to drop the vessel sink on top and not have to shim or permanently attach the sink to the pot with mortar (where the mortar would allow for a lot of adjustment to get a perfect level)

NOTE: Since the Drain Timer uses batteries, you will need to access it later, so don't permanently attach the sink to the pedestal unless your setup allows for access to the batteries. (Optionally, you could extend the wires from the battery compartment and relocate the battery pack to an accessible location.)

Step 8: Bamboo Water Spout, Part 1 of 4

A nice fresh stalk of bamboo approximately 19 feet long works well for this step. Just kidding. I usually have some leftover bamboo lying around, but what I did have was badly split and I didn't feel like driving an hour to our nearest big box store (both Lowes and Home Depot usually have bamboo). But I have a few mature timber bamboo plants in the backyard so just decided to take one stalk that was super straight near the base.

This had a diameter around 35mm.

Step 9: Bamboo Water Spout, Part 2 of 4

Creating the bamboo water spout and adding the wiring & plumbing:

  1. To avoid the outer surface of the bamboo from fraying during cutting, #1 use a very sharp woodcutting blade in the circular or radial saw, and #2 wrap it with painters tape.
  2. The cut at the spout exit is a simple 45. The other angle was simply free-handed until it looked right.
  3. Cut a slot in the lower piece of bamboo by drilling two holes and then using a razor knife to make the two linear cuts top open the slot
  4. Route 1/4" irrigation hose up through the bamboo. (The bend was too tight, so I used an elbow fitting to make the turn to the top piece.)
  5. Route electrical wiring if you choose to add lighting as well

NOTE 1: I kept both lengths of bamboo under 35" as I had an 18" long 1/4" spade drill bit to drill holes into the bamboo nodes. (Bamboo is hollow everywhere but at the nodes where its sealed off.)

NOTE2: For the end of the hose where the water exits, do not attach any emitter, just leave the hose "uncapped", and a few inches short of the bamboo exit point so you don't see the hose. I used a separate manual valve to control the amount of water that will flow into the sink during the yard's irrigation cycle.

Step 10: Bamboo Water Spout, Part 3 of 4

Joining the two pieces of bamboo. (Hadn't ever done this before, so it was a bit of trial and error.):

  1. Very important to pre-drill the holes especially in dry bamboo but even in wet bamboo as well
  2. Trim the screws to length so they do not penetrate into the hollow or you risk puncturing the irrigation hose
  3. Insert the screws but leave the head proud of the surface enough to get the wire under the head
  4. Make a single loop as shown above and use pliers to twist the wire until the joint is just closed. Repeat on the opposite side, and then alternately twist each side a bit more until the joint is secure.
  5. Tighten the screws over the wire
  6. With just the wire the joint was actually tight enough to probably leave as is, but since I was going to add the jute cord later to hide everything underneath I figured I'd add something additional to make sure it was a solid joint. I added a good amount of Marine Two-Part Epoxy Putty around the entire perimeter of the joint which fully enveloped the screw heads and wire.
  7. Wrap 1/4" Jute Cord aroung the joint to hide the epoxy, screws, and wire. I used hot glue gun to position the starting point of the cord and then squeezed it into the final layer to keep it from coming loose over time.

NOTE: The wire I used was the ground from some romex. I think it was 14 or 16 gauge.

Step 11: Bamboo Water Spout, Part 4 of 4

Securing the water spout to the bird bath's pedestal base:

  1. Make sure to test fit before permanently securing the water spout. Run the water to make sure the water lands where you want it to in the sink. Also test fit the sink to make sure the sink with the Drain Timer attached to the bottom can be inserted in the pedestal hole while clearing the water spout.
  2. Use the same Marine 2 Part Epoxy Putty to secure the water spout
  3. May need to get creative with some fixturing to hold the spout while the epoxy cures
  4. Luckily black Sharpie was close enough in color to hide the epoxy after it cured

NOTE: I can't claim creative forethought that culminated in the overall design. I had already drilled the side hole in base of the pot when I made the original fountain. I was actually looking for something to plug that hole when the idea came to me to make that be the spot where the spout came from.

Step 12: Drain Timer

The one drawback to this timer is that it must be set at the actual time you want it to operate.

For example if your irrigation turns on at 5:30 am and you want it to drain the dirty water a little earlier at say 5:00 am, you can't (at any random time) set it to "Frequency - Everyday" "When - 5:00 am". You literally have to turn the Frequency dial to "24 Hours" but do so when its actually 5 in the morning. (And it won't run the first cycle till the following day.)

For draining the water, I select 3 minutes, on the right dial. This should account for a slow drain if the sink collected leaves or other debris that may slow the draining. It works via gears (not a solenoid), so setting to a longer time will not affect battery life.

Step 13: Finished

I added a few decorative rocks in the bottom along with a small piece of screen material to keep any debris from clogging the Drain Timer.

This project is an entry in the 1000th Contest. Please vote if you like it.

Thanks for taking the time to read through my Instructable. Please send me any questions or comments you might have. I try to answer them all. Stay safe and healthy! Happy Bird Watching!

And if you see that bird let me know. I think his name is Kevin.

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    30 Comments

    0
    Flacobaby
    Flacobaby

    Question 4 months ago on Step 13

    Hello! I love your project and have been trying to figure out how to make it. Have the drain valve, sink, tall pot and working on pvc pieces. 1. How does the drainage work? Where does the water go? 2. Are you programming your drip irrigation to turn on and off, if so, how often? 3. Any other details most appreciated and thanks for the Instructable. Anne

    0
    Icelandian
    Icelandian

    Answer 4 months ago

    Good timing, I just had to disassemble it the other day to clean it out, but forgot to put one part back, so I need to take it apart again. Let me know if you want me to take pictures of certain parts.
    1. It just drains onto the ground under the pot. I have nearby trees so the water isn't wasted.
    2. Yes, the irrigation is set to come on every day early in the morning.
    3. Feel free to send me pictures of your setup and I'll help where I can.

    0
    Flacobaby
    Flacobaby

    Reply 4 months ago

    Thank you!
    Will send pics when I'm further along.
    1. How long does the irrigation run?

    0
    Icelandian
    Icelandian

    Reply 4 months ago

    Well on mine I have the main timer run for what all my landscaping needs are. So for the birdbath I had to add an adjustment valve on it otherwise it would waste a bunch of water. I just watched it one day and adjusted it to where it just filled up but didn’t overflow.

    0
    Flacobaby
    Flacobaby

    Reply 4 months ago

    Adjustment valve?

    0
    Flacobaby
    Flacobaby

    Reply 4 months ago

    Got it! Thanks so much. Will send pics. A

    0
    Flacobaby
    Flacobaby

    Reply 4 months ago

    Okay. Ordering now. Almost have the full set up. Back to Lowe's today to see how to connect PVC to ss drain pipe. Thanks ever so much. Anne

    0
    Icelandian
    Icelandian

    Reply 4 months ago

    Great. Yeah that’s the tricky part since it’s not a “normal” thing.

    0
    midorikennh
    midorikennh

    Question 10 months ago

    okay but the real question is where did you get kevin from?

    0
    binko55
    binko55

    Question 11 months ago on Step 13

    Hi ,
    Nice looking birdbath. So my question is, are you setting the irrigation timer to just fill the basin and then stop the water flow, so it only fills up once a day?
    Thanks

    0
    Icelandian
    Icelandian

    Answer 11 months ago

    Thank You. Good question. So the irrigation's primary and more important purpose is to water my trees, planter beds, and potted plants. The main timer and all the plant/tree emitters are set and adjusted for that, so I wasn't going to change the main timer to fill just the bird bath since that would, in turn, drastically limit the plant/tree watering.

    What I did was put a tiny ball valve in line to the single emitter that feeds the bird bath. (You can just barely make it out in the "Fill & Drain Cycle" pictures at the top.)

    Some may ask "Why not simply put an emitter (they come in .25 GPH up to 5 GPH) at the end of the line (inside the bamboo) that puts out the proper amount of water into the basin?" There's a couple reasons not to do this. First, the emitters get clogged over time or fail for a variety of reasons, and if that happened I'd have to redo the whole bamboo portion. The other reason, is I change the watering amount during the year, and that would then affect the amount of water going into the bird bath when I make that change in Spring and Autumn.

    So, by just putting a simple (and accessible) little ball valve in line, its easy to control the amount of water going into the bird bath. And even if it slightly overfills, the root system from all my trees is under it so its not wasted water.

    0
    binko55
    binko55

    Reply 11 months ago

    Thank you for getting back so quickly, so if I understand this correctly, you put in a valve on the emitter line and just turned it down so the flow of water supplying the feeder is slow enough that you don't overfill the basin by too much for the time you have set for the other plants. Kinda like a faucet at the sink, a lot of water or less. Is that correct? Thanks again, I like your idea very much and am looking to make something like this myself.
    Very happy camper! Keep up the great work.

    0
    Icelandian
    Icelandian

    Reply 11 months ago

    Exactly. It runs at 0600 for 15 minutes (I actually need to back it off since its Autumn now) so its a "fast dribble" and just fills it perfectly.

    0
    thesnowtheriver
    thesnowtheriver

    11 months ago

    I think i saw Kevin in the first photo! He must have snuck in while you were busy elsewhere! I love this project. thanks for sharing it.

    0
    Icelandian
    Icelandian

    Reply 11 months ago

    Haha, thanks. Are you sure? I heard he's pretty elusive.
    (Initially I had photoshopped in some real birds. Even a Puffin swimming in the water. But I think Kevin was the better choice.)

    0
    thesnowtheriver
    thesnowtheriver

    Reply 11 months ago

    Kevin is Perfect! i have attached a bird video for no reason except it was on my desktop.

    0
    Icelandian
    Icelandian

    Reply 11 months ago

    Wow, never seen an all white one before. Thanks

    0
    threeoutside
    threeoutside

    11 months ago

    This is brilliant! I've been wishing I could have a system to keep the bird bath water liquid even in cold weather but I'm not at all handy and my ideas end up very Rube Goldbergish. I'd never be able to make this but wow do I admire your ingenuity! I voted for this project to win!

    0
    Icelandian
    Icelandian

    Reply 11 months ago

    Thanks so much. Rube was a true genius, so if you can do things like him, that's good in my book.
    For this to work in cold climate, I think you could just have it fill mid morning (though don't most people turn off in-ground irrigation in the Winter?), and drain before sundown. (Assuming most days will get above freezing.)