Bowling Ball Garden Water Feature




Here is how I made a water feature out of an old bowling ball, a few items I had on hand, a few finds and a few purchases.

Items I used:

-Bowling ball (on hand)
-Tupperware cake cover (on hand)
-12" sewer pipe (found in a dumpster, but you can bury the cake cover in the ground and it will look just as good as those expensive fountains at the garden centers)
-PVC elbow (purchased)
-Plastic tubing (purchased)
-Small electric pump (on hand, Harbor Freight $9.99)
-Aquarium sealer (on hand)
-9" x 9" PVC bell drain (on hand, Lowe's $14.99)
-Decorative stone (purchased)
-Ceramic tile scraps (on hand)
-Concrete block (purchased)
-teflon tape (on hand)
-Duct tape (on hand)
-Chlorine or bromine tablet (on hand)

Tools I used:
-drill bits, various sizes
-Common sense. This instructable uses power tools and water. If you see nothing wrong with carelessly mixing these two components, please turn off your computer NOW!

Step 1: Getting Started

I found this sewer pipe in a dumpster and painted it to match my house & shed, intending to use it as a planter. How the fountain idea evolved, I won't bore you - unless you insist.

First, level the pipe and use the 1 1/4" bit to drill a hole about 6" above the ground for the pump cord to pass through.

The photo shows duct tape around the cord on the pipe but don't do that yet. You may have to adjust the cord to a workable length inside the pipe.

Step 2: Filling the Pipe

Put the concrete block inside the pipe making sure it's level.

Placing tile scraps on top of the block was a trial & error procedure. The cake cover sat too deep in the pipe so I added enough layers of tile to raise the rim of the cake cover to about an inch below the top of the pipe. It will be covered with stone later.

You could fill the pipe with stone or gravel, but the block was cheaper, I already had the tile and if the pump has to be replaced, it's easier with the pipe being mostly hollow.

Step 3: Drill, Assemble & Test

Drill a hole large enough for the tubing to pass through the side of the bell drain.

Saw the corners off the drain so it will fit in the cake cover.

What I would have used if I did not have the bell drain on hand: 4" PVC coupling ($1.98).

Next, drill a 1/4" hole through the bowling ball. Use a bit that's long enough to go all the way through. DON'T try drilling from each side hoping to meet in the middle. What I would do differently: If you look at the bowling ball, there is a pattern in the swirls. I drilled through the thumb hole. If I had drilled through a finger hole, I would have come through the "top" of the pattern. The exit hole chipped a bit but it doesn't matter.

Next, silicone the PVC elbow into the appropriate finger/thumb hole & let it dry overnight.

As far as the tubing goes, I have no idea as to what size I used. I took the pump to Lowe's & picked up the PVC elbow, went to the tubing display and bought 1 foot of what fit in the elbow, and 1 foot of what fit on the pump. The tubes happened to fit together tightly when one was inserted into the other. I wrapped teflon tape around one end of the tube to make a tighter fit into the elbow. DON'T put too much stress on the silicone joint at any time during testing or assembly. If the silicone cracks, you have to clean it off & do that step over.

Time to test, which is easier on a deck or patio. The first photo shows how everything was prepared. The second shows the drain/ball assembled UPSIDE DOWN so you can see how it all goes together. Set the drain/ball in the cake cover, hook up the pump & add water. Plug in & stand back. You can swivel the ball around to get the water shooting straight up. Let it run a few minutes. If water splashes out of the cake cover, UNPLUG THE PUMP and enlarge the hole in the TOP of the bowling ball with a 3/8" drill bit. DON'T drill too deep! Drill in about 1/4" & test again. I had to do this several times to a depth of about an inch. The goal is to stop the splashing while maintaining a good spray height.

Photo 3 shows the chip in the exit hole and the swirl pattern I mentioned above. The bowling ball looks like it was used as a cannon ball but when the water is flowing, it looks highly polished.

Step 4: Final Assembly

Photo 1 shows the cake cover in place. Again, stacking the tile scraps was trial & error. Just make sure they all lie flat. The higher the ball rests, the better it looks.

What I should NOT have done: Notched out the side of the cake cover for the cord. I could have forced it. Tupperware has a lifetime warranty and if this one ever cracks, I blew it.

Photo 2 shows everything assembled. Fill with water & test again.

Now is the time to cover the hole in the sewer pipe with duct tape, sealing around the cord. I'm hoping that the combo of tape and the hole being 6" above the ground will keep critters out.

Step 5: You're Almost Done!

Drop in a chlorine or bromine tablet to keep the water clear. Fill with decorative stone, making sure the pump stays as close to the bottom as possible. Plug in & enjoy.

If you have "ugly" stone on hand, fill the bottom with that first. (Hey, I'm thrifty). I still used six bags of the decorative stone, probably the most expensive purchase for this entire project.

Now all I have to do is put a few plants around it & I'll be finished.

The water in the photo looks like it's splashing all over but, believe me, nothing splashes out.

I look forward to your feedback & will try to answer your questions.

Thanks for checking out my first instructable.



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    31 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Could I use an old birdbath bowl instead of the bell thingy?

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Sure! I guess you could use almost anything big enough to hold the pump and the bowling ball support. You'll want to make sure your container is deep enough to hide those parts with decorative stone.

    Good luck and post photos!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    That's pretty sweet, but have you ever seen one where a ball is in a rolling motion I believe its created by a jet stream shooting at one of the sides underneath.....I think?

    9 years ago on Step 5

    That´s a great Instructable. Good work and please add the new pics!!!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    My apologies for taking so long.  I have no photos of the actual procedure but I managed to do a drawing.  The biggest disappointment is that the night photos are terrible.  With a flash, it looks like the daytime shots.  Without flash, the pix are totally black (LED not bright enough to show).  In a nutshell, I drilled another hole on an angle that intersected with the original hole.  The pump is attached to the new hole and the LED was caulked where the pump used to be.  The light shines straight up to the top and refracts in the water.  Hope this helps.  (So many ideas, so little time)


    9 years ago on Introduction

    What a fantastic idea!  I used to go to a gym/rehab clinic place in Cleveland that had one of these in their lobby, but the ball was a granite sphere maybe 3 feet in diameter.  It was awesome, though, because you could grab it and spin it almost as though it was frictionless.  I never thought of trying to build one, though.  I might have to give it a shot next summer.  Nice work!

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Introduction

    Great work. But I wouldn't go diving into dumpsters for used sewage pipes in the future. :D

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry I wasn't quite clear. It wasn't a used sewer pipe, it was leftover new pipe. Used would be... well, let's just leave it at that.


    10 years ago on Step 5

    Hey! Hey! I get to be the first to tell you that, you ROCK! I love the way this all comes together. Good plans, good pics, good job! Very nice instructable!

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Most of my friends think the rocks are in my head! Thanks for you kind words. The plants will probably take another two years to fill in and I added an LED light so I'll have to do an update and add new pix.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    It's beautiful and I want one too. Was it difficult to drill the bowling ball? Were special bits required? A superpowerful drill?.....

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry I took so long to reply. I used a regular, long drill bit (12" I think) and my 18v cordless drill. I started drilling in the 'thumb' hole. It was very easy and took about a minute. I removed the bit every few inches to clear the dust out of the hole. When the bit came out of the other side, the ball chipped. If I do it again, I'll put masking tape on the opposite side to try to make a clean exit hole. It's not a big chip and only shows when the pump is off so it really doesn't matter unless you're really picky (like me).

    I love it. Will be sharing with my hubby . He laughed when I bought home a free bowling ball I found at work and stuck it in my flower bed( I figured it would be similar to a gazing ball) .. I bet he'll end up making us one of these.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Pretty slick. It's got a nice "found art" feel and a very Zen presentation. As for the Loctite, yep, that stuff'll stick just about anything to anything. Good job.

    Mr. Rig It

    11 years ago on Introduction

    That's pretty cool and a great use of materials. There is someing very similar in Disneyworld, except its unbelelvably huge and you can rotate the ball in its holder. I bet you had a heck of a time drilling a hole in that ball.It is even the same color as theone in Disneyworld. Suggestion: You could tile or even creat a mosaic on the pipe. You can use "Loctite powergrab" and it won't have a problem holding your material on. Good job, I like it.