Craft Your Own Miniature Dam With This Comprehensive Tutorial

Fancy building your own dam? Follow this guide to find out how.

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Dam's are awesome structures, but they are a significant investment in money, time, labor, and materials. For most people, this means you could never dream of owning your own. 

However, as it turns out, you can actually make a teeny-tiny one in only a few days. Follow this guide to find out how. 

diy mini dam complete
Source: Construction General/YouTube

As you can imagine, you'll need some tools and materials before you get started.

Materials and gear needed

  • Scrap wood
  • Scrap metal sheets or strips
  • Metal wire
  • Cement mix

With all your gear in hand, it is now time to actually get stuck in.

Step 1: Prepare the ground and create the dam frame

Once you've found a nice spot in your garden for this awesome project, the first step is to break ground. Excavate trench, if no suitable natural feature is available, and then dig a trench to the dimensions of thickness of the dam your want to construct. 

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With that done, take some lengths of c-shaped tubular steel, or similar, and pile them into the ground. This will define the main sluice gate in the center of the dam.

diy mini dam frame
Source: Construction General/YouTube

Next, take some steel wire, and build up the basic frame for the shape of the dam within the trench and walls of the trench. This should form a kind of cage shape that will be used to build up the main walls of the dam. 

This is basically the same process, but in miniature, that happens when real steel frame dams are built, interestingly enough. 

With the frame complete, cut out some shuttering from scrap materials (wood, metal, or whatever you have to hand) and box off the frame as shown below. The shuttering will be removed, so hold it in place using some temporary piles. 

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diy mini dam shuttering
Source: Construction General/YouTube

Step 2: Pour the concrete

With the frame-come-mold now ready, you can mix up your concrete as needed. Once ready, pour the concrete mixture into the dam frame/mold. As your pour the concrete into the mold, ensure you periodically stir it around in the mold so that it completely fills it. 

When you have filled the mold, ensure you level off the top of the concrete as needed. 

diy mini dam concrete
Source: Construction General/YouTube

Leave the concrete to completely cure and then remove any, and all, shuttering from the dam structure to expose the base concrete. 

With that done, add in a piece of wood, or similar material, to form a temporary bridge between the two main walls of the dam. Hold the piece in place using some bricks, or other materials, so that it is level with the tops of the dam. 

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Once ready, lay a length of steel wire frame across the entire length of the top of the dam. You can either use a pre-made frame or make your own as you did for the main dam mold.

Add in some small lengths of the metal sheet across the dam's sluice bridge and directly opposite the sluice gate to act as more shuttering to prevent concrete from spilling over the edge. 

diy mini dam top
Source: Construction General/YouTube

If desired, you can also make scaled fencing to run on either side of the dam's "roadway". Place these in place on either side of the top of the dam as needed. 

Once everything is ready, mix up some more concrete, and pour it across the "roadway" of the dam. As before, move the concrete around and level it off to remove and air gaps in the concrete before it fully dries. 

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Step 3:  Complete the miniature dam

Once all the concrete is fully cured, remove any remaining sacrificial shuttering from the structure. You can also remove the supporting structure below the dam's bridge too. 

With that done, drill a pair of holes to the top of either side of the sluice gate rails. Next, bend some steel wire to make a crank-like assembly that will be used to winch the sluice gate. 

Next, cut a sheet of wood, or steel, to the dimensions needed to fit between the sluice gate rails and fully cover the opening in the dam's walls. Drill a hole in the middle of the topmost side of the gate, and tie a length of string through it. 

diy mini dam sluice gate
Source: Construction General/YouTube

With that done, slot the sluice gate between the rails, thread the winch handle through the holes at the top of the rails, and tie off/glue/nail the loose end of the sluice gate string to the body of the winch.

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Once done, test the action of the sluice gate, by winding the winch. The gate should rise gradually as your turn the handle. 

diy mini dam winch test
Source: Construction General/YouTube

At this point, your DIY mini dam is basically complete. Now you can flood the reservoir-side of the dam in preparation for testing it. If everything has gone to plan, the dam should hold back the vast majority, if not all, of the water without any issues. 

With that done, your mini dam is now complete! Happy sluicing. 

If you enjoyed this interesting project, you might be interested in another miniature dam-based construction? How about, for example, actually making a mini dam generate some power

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