How to Make Your Own Tree-Themed Desk Waterfall Feature
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Do you like water features? Have you longed to have a miniature one on your desk?
Then you might want to consider making your own completely from cement. If this sounds of interest to you, then follow this simple guide to find out how.
As you can imagine, you'll need some tools and materials before you get started.
Materials and gear needed
- Water pump
- Cement mix
- Assorted small-bore plastic piping
- Rubber tubing
- Polystyrene block (recycled or new)
- uPVC piping (reclaimed or new)
- Hot glue gun
- Soldering iron
- Clay modeling tools
With all the gear and materials ready, it's time to get on with this great little build.
Step 1: Make the base
The first step is to grab your polystyrene sheet. Using a regular pencil, sketch out the rough design you want for your waterfall.
This can either consist of a single drop, or you can sketch out a multi-level design -- as in this case. Once you are happy, cut out the design using a regular Stanley knife or another sharp blade.
With that complete, remove the lower portion of the design to leave a void underneath. Place the remaining piece of polystyrene on a non-stick surface, like a sheet of cling film.
With that complete, take your hot glue gun and trace the design out using a line of glue.
With that complete, take your length of uPVC pipe and mark out some lengths of it to fit underneath each of the platforms of your waterfall feature.
With complete, cut down the pipe to size, as needed. Next, take your lengths of pipe and place them in position underneath each platform section of the polystyrene sheet.
Next, take a pen and mark out the position of each spout on the tube. Bore a hole in each piece of uPVC pipe in the marked positions.
With that done, cut some small plastic disks to the same dimensions as the inner bore of the uPVC tube. Glue them into position at the case of each tube.
For the last, and shortest, of the tubes, ensure the base capping piece is more of a donut shape with a large hole in the middle. With that done, take your soldering iron, and melt a tunnel through the edge of the polystyrene sheet directly below where the donut end cap will be.
This will allow the pipe from the lowest level to drain water out and return it to the main reservoir, and ultimately, the pump.
Also using the soldering iron to melt another hole in the middle of the base of the tallest level of the waterfall. This will be used to receive the main supply pipe from the pump.
With that done, cut a small length of plastic tubing, and feed it through the donut end cap and hole in the polystyrene sheet. Then place the plastic tube into place in the void.
With that done, place the other uPVC tubes into place as needed, as add some more length of plastic tubing in position on each plastic tube to act as a spout.
With that done, remove all plastic tubes uPVC pipes to leave the void in the polystyrene free.
Step 2: Add the cement
With that done, mix up your cement according to its instructions. Then begin to fill the void (mold) within the polystyrene sheet. Spread the cement out to make it as flat as possible, and push it into any corners and tight spaces on your mold design.
You may want to use some small palette knives, or indeed your fingers, to help you out here. Keep adding and spreading cement, until the mold is about half full.
Once you've reached this level, insert the plastic tubes into the mold, as shown below.
The first longer tube will act as the main supply pipe from the pump. Water will then drop to the second level where water will collect in the main pipe and then squirt out of the pipe.
The water will then drop to the third and final level, where it will drain from the pipe in the base. When connected to the pump, this setup will provide a constant flow of water.
Once you are happy, continue to add more cement to cover and enclose the uPVC and flexible pipes. Keep adding cement until all plastic parts are completely covered and entrained in the cement.
Once the mold is completely filled, build up and smooth out the outer surface of the cement with your fingers. Wear gloves for this part if desired.
You want to give each level of the waterfall a barrel-shaped form akin to half a tree trunk sort of shape. With that done, take some clay modeling tools and add some rough texture to the exposed edges of the cement.
You will want to make them look ostensibly like tree trunks, so add grooves and other details to make them mimic old bark. You can also add old branch stems, nooks, and other features to your heart's content.
Use a variety of sized tools to add gross and fine detail to each level of the waterfall. You can also give them some added texture using a stiff-bristled or metal brush.
Leave the cement to fully cure.
Step 3: Make the base
Once the cement is hard, we can now move on to the next phase of the build. To do this, tease the polystyrene away from the cement model and then pull the polystyrene away from the cement.
You may end up breaking the cement block in the process so if you plan on using it again take your time doing this. If not, don't worry about it.
With that done, use some fine tools to remove any pieces of polystyrene that may have remained stuck to the cement.
With that done, grab your sand and empty it into a large pile. Dampen it, and then mold it into a long half-cylinder with a flat top and bottom. Next, pour some more liquid cement over the top, and along, your cylinder of sand.
Keep pouring the cement until the sand is completely coated. Leave the cement to dry slightly, and then begin to work the outside surfaces of the cement to make it look like another large piece of a tree trunk.
Using some more cement, you can other details to the trunk like moss or ivy, etc, Or, as in this case, work the piece so that it has some parts of the exposed inner trunk.
You can also add tree rings, etc, to the ends of the piece too. Basically try to make it look like an old, aged, piece of a fallen tree. As the base will be displayed "belly up" you'll want to include four "feet" parts of the outside of the trunk so that it can sit level on them to make a sort of trough.
Before the cement fully dries, cut two sets of small rectangular notches into the bottom of the trunk at either end of both sides. Each pair will need to have identical notches cut directly opposite them too. These will be used to hold two horizontal "bridges" across the piece.
Next, make two bars of cement and add some metal reinforcement bars inside them. Cover the metal bars with cement.
These will act as mounting columns for connecting the main waterfall feature to the fallen trunk base.
Leave all the parts of cement to fully cure.
Step 4: Complete the waterfall
With the cement now fully cured, remove the cement from the sand mold. Clean off any residual sand from the underside of the base as needed.
Then, using some sandpaper, give the piece a once-over along all edges of the base. With that done, mix up some more cement, and cover the inside surface of the base completely.
With that done, leave the cement to full cure once again.
Next, take your rebar pieces of cement and place them across the open top of the base tree trunk. Then, take your main waterfall design and sand it down too.
With that done, mix up some brown paint, and paint the exposed surfaces of the main waterfall feature. This may take a few coats but ensure you cover all the cement of the piece to make it look like a piece of wood.
Using some darker brown paint, add some toning and shadow to the piece too. Alternatively, you can thin down the paint a little and use it as a "wash" for darkening the nooks and crannies.
Consider also dry brushing lighter shades of brown over the bark to really make it "pop".
If desired, add some green patches to the trunks to imitate moss or lichen.
Do the same for the main base trough of the piece too. You can also use spray paints rather than painting by hand -- whichever is easier for you.
Leave all pieces to fully dry before moving on. Once all the paint is dry, take your pump and assemble it, as needed.
Place the pump in the center of the upturned base of the piece.
With that done, place the cross member pieces into their notches on the base. Next, take the main waterfall feature and rest it on top of the cross members.
With that done, connect the pipes from the bottom of the main waterfall to the pump. Next, add some pebbles or other water features into the main trough of the base.
If desired, you can also add some plastic foliage, leaves, flowers, etc too.
Once you are happy with the overall final look, you can now fill the main reservoir with water. With that done, turn on the pump and watch your waterfall finally come to life.
And with that, your DIY desk waterfall is finally complete. Now all you need to do is find somewhere nice to display the piece.
Well done, you.
If you enjoyed making this lovely little desk water feature, you might want to make another one?
How about, for example, making your own bonsai-tree-themed desk fountain?
Chris Long is no stranger to getting millions involved in social causes and now want to leverage technology to involve billions of people.