I like Zen gardens, and appreciate the mental well-being brought on by their proper use, but I do not have the space or patience to build a real one.
So, I decided to create one I could carry with me. Yes, it needs re-raking every time I get it out, but that's the point, isn't it?
Step 1: Needful Things
As well as the files attached, you will need a sheet of 3mm material to cut it from (as is my habit, I used poplar plywood, but you might prefer MDF or bamboo ply), a bamboo skewer, something to cut the skewer and glue to hold it all together.
You will also need to find a handful of clean sand (grab it from a beach or children's sandpit) and a couple of small pebbles.
Step 2: Cutting
While the parts of the tray are cutting, you can trim the skewer down to be the handle and tines of your rake.
The tines need to be 2cm long, and the handle 11cm long.
Step 3: Assemble the Rake
The head of the rake has three layers that need glueing together.
The holes for the tines need to be lined up, and the piece with a notch out goes in the middle.
Glue and clamp them together.
Once the head is dry, the tines should push-fit into the round holes, and the handle should push-fit into the notch on the side.
However, there is no international standard for skewer dimensions - you may need to shave a little off the ends of the skewer to make them fit, or add a drop of PVA glue (wood glue) to fixe them properly. I also used a small file to round off the visible ends of the pieces of skewer, purely for aesthetic reasons.
Step 4: Assemble the Lid
The lid is a simple drop-fit, and the open rectangle of wood keeps it in place.
I used a couple of the side-pieces to get the position of the open rectangle correct, added glue, and then MoodMonster kindly offered to stand on the lid while the glue dried.
Step 5: Assemble the Tray
When I'm assembling items that are basically boxes, I usually lay out the parts flat, then "draw" glue along the fingers. When you lift up the sides, the glue goes into all the joints.
Gently clamp it, then set it aside to dry.
Step 6: Sand and Stones
You can get your sand from the beach, the bottom of a river, or steal it from a children's play area. You could even buy it!
If you get it from somewhere "wild", though, it will probably need to be cleaned, otherwise, your garden will smell of something unpleasant, whether it is elderly seaweed or whatever the neighbourhood cats left in the sandpit.
I boiled my sand to kill anything living in there, but you might want to soak with a bit of disinfectant in the water.
I stirred it up to get fine dust and particles suspended in the water, then poured off the cloudy water. I added more water, stirred and decanted several times to get my sand as clean as possible.
Bonus: the saucepan I used had a bit of burned-on scrambled egg - it's all gone!
After the last decanting, I spread the sand out on an old baking tray to dry. As the owner of a cat, I decided to keep the sand clean by drying it in the oven - half an hour at 150°C, then I left it in there to cool without the cat deciding she had a new litter-tray...
Full-size Zen gardens have rocks, you will need to use pebbles. Pick them from the garden or the beach, but make sure you clean them as well. If there are pebbles in your sand (like there was in mine), it's easiest to pick them out when the sand is spread out on the baking tray. However you get them, pick up more than you think you will need, to save yourself a trip back to get more.
Step 7: Ommm...
Once you have the dry, pebble-free sand in the tray, you're ready to go.
I don't know if there are rules, but I started by raking in parallel lines, then placed in pebbles and raked in the "ripples" they made in the existing waves.
If a pebble is too close to the side of the tray to fit the rake in the gap, you can use the other end of the rake to draw ripples in one at a time.
Before making the Zen Garden, I was a bit skeptical about their use as a meditative aid, but after spending time modeling the way ripples spread and overlap, reflecting off each other as the pebbles land in turn in the sand... I'm hooked.