DIY Copper Rain Chain

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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 Discussions

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sbryant9

1 year ago

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

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justuff

4 years ago on Introduction

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.

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jheidbrink

4 years ago

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

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ndronet

4 years ago on Introduction

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.

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a rigger

4 years ago on Introduction

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.

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Housedog

4 years ago on Introduction

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.

4 replies
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Housedogtarbucky

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

That would be because Tony added it after I asked him what it was.

If you bothered to read all the comments, before offering your helpful advice, you would have figured that out.

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wikkitHousedog

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Mostly it just slows down the falling water, so that it doesn't cut a hole in the ground and splatter out as it would without the chain or downspout. Downspouts have the advantage that they can also move the water away from the building, though.

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JCK

4 years ago on Introduction

You pass the chain up thru the opening for the down spout then use the straight piece to hold it in? Your picture doesn't appear to show the attachment.

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adkhar

4 years ago on Introduction

Awesome.I want one of these.thanks for sharing.

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Ace918

4 years ago on Step 6

Perhaps you might want to show us how to link the rings together before you solder them. Just a thought.

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I love it! I've seen several instructions on the web, but yours is very good. We have problems with squirrels climbing up inside our downspouts and I've been eyeing rain chains for a while now.

2 replies

Yes, but they won't chew through the current bottom plastic gutter guards to get up which is just as well with me. Apparently our attic was a squirrel motel for years before we purchased the home and we discovered it a year after we bought it. Trapped and relocated over 22 squirrels that year (TN state law prohibited killing them at the time) and repaired the hole they had chewed at a gutter corner to get into the attic. Years past, nothing, and now they have started running through the gutters again, so I don't want them getting any ideas. Plus watching a squirrel trying to climb up an unsteady rain chain seems pretty amusing entertainment.

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Tinker_001

4 years ago on Introduction

That's awesome!! Now I just have to think of some way to electracize it to prevent copper thieves in my area making off with it.