Monday, May 27, 2013

Upcycled Copper and Brass Rain Chain

The metal aisle at Goodwill has been one of my favorites in the past many months.  I've been collecting various "bric a brac", all of which is either copper or brass, to make a rain chain.

Rain chains, an alternative to the conventional downspout from a gutter, are a neat way of appreciating the otherwise unseen rain water that comes off your roof.  Prior to making this one, I shopped for and priced a few copper ones, all of which were beautiful but rather too pricey.  Since rain chains (at least the manufactured ones) are just an actual chain or series of bottomless "cups" that allow the water to trickle downward, it seemed like it would be an easy thing to construct.

My first rain chain I made for one of the smallest gutters on our house.  It drains a roof pitch that is about 10' x 15', and it collects a surprising amount of water.

The chain itself I cobbled together using old brass light fixture canopies, candle and incense holders, a brass ashtray, copper cups, brass bells, the center of a copper tray, a brass chain necklace and heavy gauge copper wire.

A cone, fashioned from the cut an hammered interior of a brass platter, forms the
 initial spout from the gutter.

Brass bell and ashtray.

Brass candle holder suspended from copper wire from and incense burner paired with a brass light canopy.

The chain drains water into a reclaimed wine barrel in which I cut a large round hole in the top of and placed a large brass platter.  Filled with beach glass to act as a filter and having several holes drilled in the bottom, the platter serves as a mosquito-proof cap to the barrel.

Note the seepage in spots around the base of barrel.  I kept this barrel too dry for too long.  These seeps slowly subsided and where helped with an application of tree pitch.

Finally, a place for my beach glass when I'm not using it for growing paperwhites.

Antique brass spigot plumbed in at base of barrel for access to the rain water.  
The barrel is also outfitted with a access spigot at the bottom and an overflow spigot at the top back (not pictured) that goes into a hose that leads to the downspout drain.  When I first set up the barrel and since it's May here in Oregon, I thought I'd have a little time to affix the overflow valve.  WRONG.  Just a few days of rain filled the entire barrel.  

I now have about 75 gallons of rain water.   So far it's been nice to use the spigot to fill up the watering cans or rinse off muddy hands before going indoors.  

I have three more barrels that I will eventually be hooking up.  The next one I'm think about setting up a small basin "foot bath" at the base to rinse off little feet after exiting the sandbox.  Fun stuff......


  1. That's really amazing! I love the copper chains (I'm thinking of getting one from Discount Copper Rain Chains; I don't think I could make my own), but I had never seen the barrel idea before. Where do you go to get a functioning barrel?

  2. Hi Graham, Thanks for your comments. I purchased three wine barrels from a local winery a few years ago. Every Fall, wineries "retire" older oak barrels that are no longer in their prime for aging wine. They still hold water (as long as you keep some water in them). If you live in an area where wine is made, you should be able to ask around and find them. I believe that I paid around $50 each for these, though I know that they have become increasingly popular and the price may have gone up a bit. Anyway, hope that helps you.