Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tutorial Time! Building a Fountain

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.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010


On my quest to improve my photography, I've been spending a lot of time on different photography blogs and forums, reading everything I can on techniques, post production, lighting and equipment to achieve different effects, as well as skimming through photos on Flickr that other people have taken trying to identify what I like about different styles.  Recently, I read a little piece on Digital Photography School about taking photos with color that pops, and this is definitely something I wanted out of my photos.  I feel like the colors I see in some things are so bright and vivid, and then as soon as I snap the picture a haze settles over it on my LCD screen.  It's very frustrating knowing what the photo was SUPPOSED to look like, and seeing what it actually looks like.

The gist of the article, which you can read here says that while choosing a subject and background correctly, for vibrant colors, post processing is almost always necessary.  I equate minor work in Photoshop to what a film photographer would do in the developing process.  I've been making an effort to work with my pictures to see what they could become with a little post processing, and while this might not be the best example, I think it gets my point across. 

Here's my Straight Out Of Camera shot, blah, flat, boring.

This is just changing a couple settings in RAW.  Exposure: Reduced, Sharpness: Increased, Contrast: Increased, Color Booster: Increased

That was less than 5 minutes of processing.  I'll probably work on this one more round before I'm finished, and may do what the article said about separating the foreground (child on bike) from the background (everything else) so that she pops, and everything else fades away.  My digital SLR came with the RAW software, Nikon's ViewNX, so I could get to this result without Photoshop (I did for this one).  I've heard you can do some of these edits in Picasa too if you don't have a RAW editor, or don't shoot in RAW, or have a point and shoot, and I know there are other options out there.  As far as my subject matter goes, to get a picture that pops, I would have been better off showing some spring flowers,

but I've been practicing panning, which is a topic for another time.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Insulated Table Runner

I found this nifty stuff at the local fabric store- a place I love to go and get lost in often- and it's what is used to insulate oven mitts and pot holders so you don't burn your fingerprints off. I wanted to make something for my dining room table that was insulated and pretty and long that I could lay down and put hot dishes on instead of the ugly brown cork trivets I have. I'll post pics once I get the project done, but I find that if I write about it here, I'm more likely to get it done in a timely manner. Hey- with a bustling household, 2 young children, and a hubby, I'm a busy girl! Anywho- I'll be back with pics- I'm excited!!

UPDATE- I finished the table runner yesterday. It was a pain in the rear so I didn't take pics of the process. I think when my mom sees it, she'll want one too so I'll take pics of that one...maybe. My first one is always the test piece because I know I'll probably screw it up somewhere (enter yoga bags which have been evolving nicely...) Below are the pics of the table runner- I'll let you know how it works once I put something hot on it. I like how it matches the rest of the house (in the last picture you can see the color in the kitchen-perfect!)

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