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Functional water feature made out of wood for indoor or outdoor use
Nov 15, 2017

In my last two columns, I have related how to carve a basin out of a Manitoba maple log and how to create an ash wood sink on a lathe.

This week, I will demonstrate how to combine the basin and sink with a handmade faucet to create a water feature and/or functional form for indoor or outdoor use.

Before attaching the sink to the basin, I used a coping saw to rough out an opening in the side of the sink through which water would flow. I refined the opening with an air-inflated sanding drum chucked into my drill press.

I then used two stainless steel screws to secure the sink to the lip of the log basin, creating a two-level water feature, including decorative white stone in the upper sink.

To make the faucet, I purchased a Shark Bite shut-off valve along with some half-inch CPVC pipe, 90-degree elbows and connectors, all for about $20 from Home Hardware.

To keep the faucet’s construction simple and less time consuming, I cut six pieces of ash turning stock, three-inches by three-inches square by 11-inches long. (That was twice what I needed, but prototypes always involve screw ups, and it is therefore good policy to have spare material to work with in the event of a boo-boo.)

My first try at turning the faucet’s two-inch OD barrel was a failure, because it required a large hole to be drilled through its centre to accommodate the shut-off valve. I learned that it is easier to accurately bore a 1 1/4-inch hole through a square blank than it is to bore a similar hole through a two-inch round piece.

For my second attempt to create the barrel, I used a 1 1/4-inch auger bit and a drill press to pre-bore the requisite hole through the centre of the blank. I then turned it to size on the lathe; the result was a barrel with symmetrical outside and inside diameters and no skewed holes. 

I subsequently used this technique to drill and turn the other pieces that comprised the faucet, including the tap’s handle, a tapered cylinder to support the barrel and a base piece to attach the barrel support to the surface of a cedar counter top.

The CPVC pipe has a five-eighths-inch OD which fit through a three-quarters-inch hole drilled down the centre of the tapered cylinder and base piece.

The turned ash handle that covers the orange metal lever of the shut off valve needed an 11/16th-inch drilled hole to allow it to slide over the lever. I secured the handle in place by pouring a generous dollop of two-part epoxy into the hole.

As is the case with prototypes, I encountered problems when I tried to insert the shut-off valve inside the barrel. I drilled a one-inch hole through the top of the barrel to accommodate the nut that holds the steel lever in position on a stem that rotates to turn the valve to the on or off positions. I also turned a wood cap to hide the nut, but I think this feature requires further design work.

It next became apparent that I would have to cross cut the cylinder into two equal parts to give me room to push a length of CPVC pipe with a 45-degree elbow attached into the entrance of the self-locking Shark Bite valve.

Finally, I had to cut a three-quarters-inch lengthwise groove with a router on the underside of the barrel’s back section to allow access to the valve in case the CPVC pipe needed to be replaced. (An inexpensive tool can be purchased to remove and replace pipe that has been locked into the valve.)

I created a decorative scooped lip at the tip of the barrel’s opening by rough cutting it on my band saw and then shaping and smoothing it with a sanding drum. 

To my wife’s horror, I removed the bathroom sink, placed my prototype water feature/wash basin on a cedar cabinet I built for the trial run and attached the faucet to our home’s water supply and the basin to the drain pipe.

Aside from a jet of water shooting across the bathroom when I initially turned the faucet to the full-on position, the trial proceeded without a problem. I learned that by deftly manipulating the faucet’s handle, I was able to control the amount of watering issuing from the spout. The optimum position of the valve was about one-third open, resulting in a pleasing and pacifying flow that filled the upper ash sink and then ran down into the log basin below.

If I were to use this captivating wood creation as an outdoor water feature, I would buy a submersible pump from a garden supply store so that I could set up a continuous water circuit that only needed to be replenished occasionally.

Alternatively, the sink and basin could be fully plumbed to function as part of an indoor or outdoor bar, useful both as a wash-up facility and avant-garde form.