Introduction: Copper Deer Scarer (Shishi Odoshi) for an Urban Garden
I recently put in a new deck in my backyard and wanted to build a water feature to add a focal point. Accordingly, I built a "water wall", with the water being pumped from a sump into a tank from which it then overflows and runs down the face of the stacked fieldstone wall. So far, so good. However, I figured I would add a little kinetic art and sound by adding a copper version of shishi odoshi, a traditional device used, allegedly, in Japanese gardens to scare away foraging deer. Why copper, when the traditional material is bamboo? Well, firstly because I like working with copper - I particularly like the way it becomes patinated with a green verdigris over time and I also felt that it fitted in better with my grey stone wall and the overall "look" I was going for. The actual design was really simple and there are a number of postings online which will give you an idea of how to make one of these. In principle it's pretty straightforward. A hollow tube is mounted on an axle ( which in turn is mounted on some sort of stand, or legs). The rear end of the tube is sealed, a ways behind the axle axis point so that it can be filled with water.The placing of the axle is important because it must be forward of the empty tube balance point, so that the tube's heavier, back end will, when empty, fall down, pulling the open "mouth" of the tube up, allowing it to be filled with water from a dripping tap, or similar source.
When the tube is full, the weight of the water overbalances the tube and the front end falls down, emptying the tube, which then swings back into the upward-facing position, the rear of the tube hitting against a suitable striker as it does so, thus emitting a clear, gong-like note. The combination of sudden movement, the gushing water as the tube empties and the ringing note of the strike, all combine to scare away deer; in the urban or suburban garden however, it merely adds a touch of interest and activity, although, for the uninitiated or unwary, it can be as startling as it is for the deer.
Step 1: The Deck and Water Feature
This is an old house with a rear end of the yard that faces uphill into the slope of a steep hill. The soil is clay and we get a lot of water runoff down the hill and not a lot of sun back there, so the area was damp, muddy and wasted. After fruitlessly trying to grow lawn back there for a few years I decided to just cover the entire area with an elevated deck. So far, so good, but the rear corner looked a bit blah and featureless, so I elected to have a go at building a water feature to liven things up a bit. there was already a nice tree back in the corner, so I came up with a design for a water wall made of black basalt stone. The water is pumped up from a sump to a reservoir built into the top of the wall and from there it overflows and splashes down the front of the wall into a collection channel, amidst some nice plantings and thence, back to the sump for re-circulation by the submersible pump.
Step 2: Designing and Making the Deer Scarer
Having decided that I wanted to incorporate some kinetic art, I started hunting around for inspiration. I wanted something that would be relatively robust, simple to build and maintain and would not be too finicky as it would live entirely outdoors at the mercy of the elements. I had heard vaguely of a deer scarer but was pretty ignorant as to detail; so, as all good projects do, this started with a few hours of scrolling through the 'net to see exactly what a deer scarer was, how it was made and how others had made it. A simple Google search on "Japanese deer scarer" will produce a host of images, step-by-step instructions for building one and discussions on and around the topic. From there it was really easy to translate the traditional bamboo design into copper.
I started with a length of 4inch ( about 10.5cm) copper pipe which I had lying around. By cutting off one end obliquely and then soldering this off-cut to the obliquely cut end, I could fashion the oblique "beak" or "spoon" which collects the water stream.
The next step was to drill across the diameter of the pipe, just behind the balance point and solder in a narrow-gauge copper pipe, which would act as the housing for the axle, a solid brass rod passing through this housing. the housing has to be soldered to the main copper pipe, in order to provide a water-tight seal (although this is in a garden, so minor leaks are not too critical).
The rear of the pipe must be sealed to make the large-bore copper pipe a canister, not just a hollow cylinder. I used a copper disc, bent around the edges to give me a lip and pounded this several inches into the pipe, where I soldered it in place, again ensuring a watertight seal. As to whereabouts to place this, this depends on your length of pipe. It needs to be far back enough that when empty, the pipe returns to the upright, collecting position, but far enough forward (i.e close enough to the centre) that when the pipe is full, the weight of water makes the pipe tip over, dumping the load and freeing it to swing back upright, striking the gong as it does so.
The copper collecting and dumping vessel I had made now had to be suspended on legs and a striking gong provided. The pictures show that I used copper pipe, appropriately bent to shape and the axle rod fixed with wire fastenings. A second copper pipe acted as both a cross-brace for the legs/frame and a striker for the gong effect.This should be fairly clear from the pictures below.
Finally, the water for the deer scarer comes from an outlet off the pipe that feeds the water-feature reservoir. I fitted this with an antique tap I found at a junkstore as I wanted to be able to control the flow of water to the deer scarer and hence its rate of filling and periodicity. The last two pictures in this series show the deer scarer in action, filling and then just beginning to tip.