How can I make a rain chain using recycled materials?

rain_chainWe’ve had an email from long time contributor Bobbie:

I’d like to make a rain chain out of recycled material. Something beautiful but functional and long lasting – the Wikipedia article which has some beautiful examples.

I hadn’t heard of rain chains before but they seem like a fab idea: rather than hiding rain water in a boring tube, they make the drain/downspout into a feature – possibly not great for in constantly wet places like the UK but useful in dry climes and also as additional downspouts where a normal plastic one would look horrible.

So then, Bobbie’s query: what recycled stuff can they be made from? My first thought when I saw the cup style ones on Wikipedia was bundt cake and other round/ring cake tins – I quite often see baking things like that at our local furniture-focused charity shop, and it would be perfect for someone who loved baking. Old paint cans, painted pretty colours, might work too.

I imagine steampunk fans could make very cool ones with random scrapped cogs and machine parts – and a little light rust would add to the look.

Any other suggestions?

(Photo from The Fun Times Guide)

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7 Responses to “How can I make a rain chain using recycled materials?”

  1. Tommy says:

    I have seen some interesting examples made from plastic yogurt containers. They do have to be painted with an exterior paint to resist UV damage from the sun.

    Great post!

  2. Bobbie says:

    That is interesting, Tommy. That must be the trick to getting paint to stick to plastic by using exterior paint. I’ve tried the special plastic paints, but they don’t really get the job done and are super expensive. I have some leftover paint from a recent interior job and have cabinet paint left over…maybe it would work?

    • twinks says:

      Use ‘PRIME IT” on plastic before you paint. It is kind of a yellowish milky substance and very easy to apply. The trick is that the components of the primer ‘eat into’ the surface to be painted. How effective is it – I have been using it under good quality acrylics on plastic flowers (I call them Perpetual Blooms) for years, one bucket full has been outside all year round for going on 8 years now, still in very good condition. You can see them at

  3. Karen says:

    I’m in the US and as a summer project with my son this year, we are focused on water conservation. We made 4 rain chains and 3 collection barrels. The forth rain chain hangs over the corner of our garden and we created a perforated water tube out of an old leaking hose as a basin. It waters the garden on it’s own and is hidden behind the flowers.
    To make the rain chain, we used soda cans cut in half, metal coffee cans, and plastic soda bottles . From the gutter down the “cups” get larger. We drilled holes in the bottoms of the continers and used thin rope with knots to secure the cups to the string. I drilled holes is the flat bottomed cans for a sprinkler effect. The water still catches in the cups below. Our catch basins are 1 large garbage can (water used for cleaning car and filling wading pool) and 2 large ceramic flower pots (water used in remote parts of the garden and veggie patch).
    We didn’t make our rain chains pretty with paint because i didn’t want to buy anything. This was 100% recycled and completely free!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Very good idea of Karen’s,using soda cans (halved & punctured)attached to knotted rope for a cheap but effective rain chain. I’m thinking of making one for a corner in my back yard, then if the overall effect is pleasing, will make “posher” ones for the front.

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