This past spring, with the help of many, I created my tiny bamboo paradise on a piece of land I call Aka’ula (Hawaiian for red sunset). Adding to the thrill and challenge of being a first-time owner-builder, the build process was documented by a TV production company. The episode (episode 3!) chronicling my Tiny Bamboo Bungalow build aired on HGTV’s Tiny Paradise on July 10, 2017. One of my favorite parts of being involved with the show was being encouraged to add some unique features to my home. (Well, I call it one of my favorite things now that it’s all over – it felt like a lot of pressure at the time!) One idea I came up with was to make my own rain chains. Since the show aired, lots of folks have asked me about them. For those folks and for those of you who haven’t even heard of a rain chain, here you go.
What is a rain chain?
The purpose of a rain chain is to direct rainwater from your gutter to the ground. In many cases, a PVC pipe does that job, especially if the goal is to collect the water. However, if the water doesn’t need to be gathered, a rain chain is an aesthetically pleasing option to lead the rain from your roof to the earth, reducing unnecessary splashing while creating a calming, fountain-like feature for your home.
I found numerous examples of DIY rain chains online, and you will, too, if you'd like to do some Googling. People make rain chains out of all sorts of objects and materials: plant pots, cookie cutters, funnels, scrap metal, buckets, spoons, tea pots, keys, wine bottles, colored glass – and even plastic zip-ties. I chose to go with copper wire and natural stones. My reasoning: copper does well when exposed to water (it acquires a patina instead of rust) and lava rocks are plentiful on this island. Plus, I always thought wire wrapping looked cool, and I wanted to try it.
To make one 8-foot-long rain chain, you will need:
The amounts listed are approximate. Quantity will vary based on the distance from your gutter to the ground, how many stones you decide to wrap, what size loops you create, and how intricate you want your design to be. I would suggest starting out by purchasing a small amount of both types of wire. Take it home, create one foot of your rain chain, and see how much you used. Then buy however much more you need based on the required length of your rain chain.
The materials for this project shouldn’t cost you much ($20-$30). The biggest cost is your time, but hopefully you’ll enjoy the craftiness of it!
Your local craft store is a great place to find the pliers. I purchased those first three tools on the list as a combo pack at the craft store in Hilo. However, the wire cutter wasn’t strong enough for the 10 gauge wire, just the 20 gauge.
Okay, so what do you do exactly?
Well, I’m not going to tell you what to do EXACTLY. But I will give you a general outline.
Wrap the 10 gauge copper wire around a cylindrical object to create a coil. This is the easiest way to prepare to make links. Remove the coil from the cylinder and use the wire cutters to cut the wire into individual loops. Once you have your links, use the flat nose pliers to connect the two ends of the loop. Link them to each other to create a chain. You can do this in many different ways. Check out my photos for inspiration - make hearts, spirals, treble clefs, whatever you like!
Wrap the stones. There are already lots of great teachers out there who have amazing talent with wire wrapping. Therefore, I'm going to direct you to an instructional video instead of attempting to explain this process myself: Wire wrapping.
Cool, right? For me, it was actually easier than I expected. You can't really make a wrong move as long as the wire stays on the stone. Every little adjustment results in fun squiggles and angles and spirals.
For each stone, I ended up using two 8 to 10-inch-long pieces of the 20 gauge wire.
Connect your wrapped stones to your copper loops. My technique was to weave a piece of the 20 gauge wire under the wire on a wrapped stone. Then I'd twist both ends together to form a thicker, stronger section to connect to one of the cooper loops. Again, look at the photos for examples.
Attach the carabiner or hook to one end of the rain chain, and hang it from the gutter! Voilà! Well, maybe not voilà right away if you don't have a horizontal piece running across your gutter opening. As you can see in this photo, the folks who installed my gutters were kind enough to put a metal piece across the opening for me. I wouldn't imagine that it would be too difficult to add - it doesn't even need to be connected to the gutter. As long as the length of the metal piece is greater than the diameter of the opening, I'd guess it would rest there without issue.
As I mentioned in the materials section, you can also opt to purchase a "rain chain copper gutter installer". It should come with instructions.
Now for the final result!
I wrote this post to share my unique rain chain journey. The final product was the result of a lot of experimenting. Even if you follow these instructions to a T, your rain chain will likely turn out a little different than mine. And that’s great! Just enjoy the process. For me, making my rain chains ended up be a very relaxing - even therapeutic - activity in the midst of the often stressful experience of building a house.
P.S. After you make earrings for your house, you can make earrings for yourself with your leftover copper wire! That's what I did at least :-)