I recently put together a small pond/fountain as a gift, and since it wasn't too dificult, I thought I would post a tutorial to take some of the mystery out of it. First, my materials.
-1/2 Whiskey Barrel or Wine Barrel (often used as planters, look at your garden store)
-Round Pond liner, mine was 15" deep and fit my barrel perfectly (Lowes Hardware)
-Pond Pump or Fountain Pump* (Lowes Hardware)
-Flexible Pond tubing, to fit your pump (check the package of the pump, it will specify) (Lowes Hardware
-1"x8" Cedar board
-Decorative water element (I used an antique hand pump that I already had) & bolts or screws to secure it
*A NOTE ABOUT THE PUMP: I purchased a Pond Pump, because I suspect that this water feature may end up with pond plants, goldfish, and most likely a turtle. The pond pump is built to handle debris in the water that its inhabitants will create. If your water feature won't have any living creatures or plants in it, and you're happy with a slower flow, you could probably purchase a fountain pump for less money. The best bet is to read the package and make sure your pump is strong enough for how much water you'll be using (my 210 gph is good for 3'x6' of water, and up to 7.8 ft high) and will tolerate anything living in your fountain.
STEP 1: Place the pond liner into your barrel. If your pond liner doesn't touch the bottom of the barrel, you may want to support it from the inside by adding gravel or styrofoam packing peanuts in the bottom of your barrel before setting the pond liner inside. Water weighs 8 lbs per gallon, so assuming you have 20 gallons in your fountain, that's 160 lbs, and the plastic lip could crack if that's the only support.
STEP 2: Mark with a pencil and straight edge on your cedar board the length you want it across the back of your barrel. Cut your cedar board long enough to fit across the back of the barrel to hold your decorative water element. I used a Compound Miter Saw, but you could use a circular saw, or even a hand saw for this. Often at Lowes, they'll make one cut for you if you know your dimensions. Mine was 25.5" long, and I mitered the corners.
STEP 3: Mark on your cedar board where your element will sit, and where the flexible pond tubing needs to come through. I drilled a 1/2" hole with a paddle bit, since I was using 1/2" flexible pond tubing, a perfect fit!
STEP 4: If your element needs to be secured to the board like I did with my antique pump, mark the holes where the bolts need to be secured. I used 1/4" bolts with a flat washer and hex nuts, so I predrilled my holes with a 1/4" bit. Predrilling is important, even if you're just using regular screws, to keep the board from splitting. If you're using regular wood screws and not bolts, predrill your holes slightly smaller than your screw diameter. Finish securing your element to the board.
STEP 5: Feed your flexible pond tubing through the board and attach to your decorative element, or with my antique pump, I fed it to the top so it will dump water on the spillway.
STEP 6: Place your pump in the bottom of your fountain, and cut your pond tubing to length, leaving a little extra to be able to move your pump around. A box cutter worked well for this, I broke my scissors trying to cut the pond tubing. Attach your pond tubing to the pond pump outlet
STEP 7: Add water to your fountain, enough to cover the entire pump. The pump isn't supposed to run outside of water, it will burn up the moving parts and break, so try to keep it in the water.
STEP 8: Plug in the pump, and adjust the flow valve on your pump and where the water is spraying as needed. Watch out that you don't soak yourself!
STEP 9: Place your fountain in a favorite garden spot where you'll be able to hear the pouring water. If you're interested in Pond Plants, a local nursery will usually be able to help you determine what kind of plants will grow in your area and in this small space.
Most fountains I looked at purchasing before I decided to make my own were well over $200, and nothing fit the style I was looking for. This project was well under $200, and took me less than 3 hours to complete.
If the whiskey barrel isn't your thing, you could also use a good sized fiberglass or plastic flower pot (not clay). Just plug up the drainage hole in the flower pot with expansion foam (look for Great Stuff or equivalent at your home improvement store) and you'll have a beautiful custom water feature to fit the style of your yard. If anyone makes one of their own, I'd love to see pictures and get some feedback on the tutorial.