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Tutorial: Rain Chain from Wire-Wrapped Rock

2 July 2012 143,414 views 47 Comments

by heather

We recently featured a DIY rain chain, and since I found out about rain chains, I have been slightly obsessed. Basically, a rain chain is a decorative chain that you can use in place of an unsightly downspout on your home. When it rains, the rain chain makes a pleasing water feature using the rain runoff from your roof. Long popular in Japan, rain chains are beginning to trend here in the USA. I saw a very interesting wire-wrapped rock rain chain, and decided to get a similar look by making my own using dollar store rocks and floral wire. Read on to find out how to make it!

inspiration rain chain

[the inspiration chain from Elderberry Street]

Project Materials:

  • 2 spools of floral wire, $1 each
  • 5-10 coils of thick decorative floral wire, $1 each
  • 1 bag of decorative river rocks, $1
  • Paper clips, on hand
  • Pencil, on hand
  • Wire cutters, on hand or $1
  • Needle-nosed pliers, on hand or about $3

Total cost: $8 and up

DIY rain chain

Note about Supplies:

Wire: You can find the thin, green floral wire, the thick decorative wire, and wire cutters in the floral section of the dollar store. If you can't find the thick decorative floral wire, pick up a spool of colored 20-Gauge Wire in the jewelry-making section of your local craft store for about $5. You can also use plain silver floral wire instead of green floral wire if you prefer.

How much wire you need depends the final length of rain chain, on your wrapping technique, and how sparing you are with the wire. It is easier to wrap with more wire, as opposed to less wire, but with practice, you will be able to conserve wire if you want to.

Rocks:  I bought a bag of decorative river rocks at the dollar store because it was easier than collecting my own rocks from outside, but this could be a fun way to showcase rocks you collect on nature walks or at the beach.

Paperclips: These will make the connecting rings. Any old paperclips will do.

link in a rain chain

Note about Technique:

I used two different gauges of wire because I couldn't get the large gauge wire to work well with the slippery rocks. I added a layer of light-gauge wire to give the large wire something to grip onto. If you are an experienced wire-wrapper, you will probably have more success than I did using just the large wire. When I started this project, I had no experience with wire-wrapped rocks, but after I made the rain chain, I found a wire-wrapping tutorial that was very helpful, and I recommend you read it before you start:

I will still share my "folk art" technique with you, just promise you won't laugh too hard at me! I do think that its imperfection is part of the charm of this wire-wrapped rain chain, though!

diy wire wrapped rock rain chain

Here's a pic of the rain chain in action hanging from the gutter of my parents' 100 year-old garage.

Make a Rain Chain

Part One: Pre-wrapping with floral wire

1. Cut two pieces of floral wire (about 14" long) with your wire cutters. Place them in an X formation on your table, then twist together about 5 twists.

2. Place rock on top of the twists, then bring 2 wires up over the rock and twist together.

4. Repeat with other two bottom wires.

DIY rain chain

I brought my second set of wires to the sides of the rock and twisted them together.

Wrapping rocks with wire

It's okay if the wires are loose around the rock at this point. Just continue to criss-cross the rock with the wires until it is fairly secure. It's all right to leave long "tails" of wire on the rock now. You can use the tails to secure the rock to the thicker wire, or clip them later.

tightening the wire on the rocks

5. To tighten the wire on the rocks, grab a straight piece of wire with your pliers, and gently twist a kink into the wire. Repeat in several more positions on the rock until the rock is snug within the wire wrapping.

Part Two: Wrapping with larger wire

thick wire- bend into a U shape

1. Bend the thicker gauge wire into a U shape. The U will be about 3 inches long.

Twist the thicker wire

2. Twist the U shaped wire about 2-3 times. The resulting loop will be your rock's top or bottom loop. When you make more of the rock-wire links, you'll link them together like a chain.

wrapping wire around rock

3. Place pre-wrapped rock on top of the twist. Begin to twist the thicker wire around the rock.

diy rain chain wrapping

4. There is no wrong way to wrap. Just go around the rock one or two times from different angles. You can tighten the wire later using the wire-kinking method you used with the floral wire.

create the bottom loop

5. While you are wrapping, create a bottom loop. Securely wrap the wire so the loop will stay put. Then clip the heavy wire with your wire cutters. Don't worry about the rough end, we will clean it up a little before we're done.

curl the end of the wire

6. I just curl the pokey edge of my wire up into a coil. Then it's time to take care of the floral wire tails.

DIY rain chain wire wrapping

7. To take care of floral wire tails, you can wrap them around the heavier wire until they are gone, or you can "sew" them in and out of the heavy wire to add an extra layer of security. You can also clip the ends and just fold them over to reduce the chance of them scratching or snagging.

Conserving Wire: You can see in the photo above that I just used a short piece of thick wire twisted with two loops, and then used the floral wire to secure the rock to the loops. This is a way to conserve the more-expensive thick wire.

DIY rain chain

Once you are done, you must make a lot more links to complete your rain chain. Depending on the size of your rocks and your loops, your links will be 3-6 inches long. Multiply that by the height that your rain chain needs to be to hang from your roof to the ground, and that's the number of links you will need.

But how do you connect the links?

Part Three: Making Paperclip Ring Connectors

paperclip connector ring

Making the connectors is simple!

You need:

  • Paperclips
  • Pencil
  • Pliers (optional)

1. Straighten a paper clip out by simply unbending it. You can straighten it further with your fingers if you want.

2. Bend the straightened paper clip around a pencil, making a coil.

3. Use the coil to connect the links of the rain chain, by slipping the coil around each loop (like attaching a key to a key ring).

Part Four: Hanging the Rain Chain

DIY rain chain

I went quick and dirty with hanging my rain chain, but you can mount it to your rain gutter if you are handy.

I just hooked the top loop of my chain on a bolt near the rain gutter. You could also install a hook or nail to hang the chain from.

DIY rain chain

It took me about four hours to make this rain chain, but it was relaxing to twist the wire around all the rocks, and I did it outside on the porch while the boys were playing outside. In other words, it's a fun outdoor craft.

It's nice to have a custom-made outdoor water feature in the garden, and it only cost me about $10 to make!

DIY rain chain with and without water

 

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47 Comments »

  • Chance said:

    Love, love, love this!! I am a rock hound and have been hoping to stumble across a good project for them. Thanks for the idea and tutorial!

  • jinglesmom said:

    This is really cool! I’m going to have to make one.

  • Michelle L. said:

    Neato neato!!! Great tutorial, I love your frugal paper clip connector – a great secure idea!

  • Karen said:

    Thanks Heather! Your DIY chain turned out great!

  • Kate said:

    I love this tutorial and intend to make several…one for myself and more for gifts!

  • Bromeliad said:

    Very smart, Heather. Nice photos, too.

  • love2dream said:

    Anyone know if the wires will rust? I’d actually want it to to give it a more rustic look– like it had been hanging there forever. thanks for the great how-to.

  • Lucy said:

    The purpose of the gutter is to make water go away from the house and foundation. I’d worry about that aspect. They are pretty though, I’d probably hang from a tree.

  • Candice said:

    I love this! So creative, this would look beautiful hanging in the garden.

  • Diane said:

    My gutters are up two stories so that is out of the question. I wonder if they’d work as well hanging from a tree branch or something?

  • Denise said:

    this is a cool idea, i would like to try to make them with the colored stones and hang them from the my balcony in my apartment it could serve two ways with the sun and the rain,

  • Rhonda said:

    Wonderful job with the step by step tutorial. I am sooooo going to make one of these. Thank you!

  • Jennifer H. said:

    Pretty! Do you think if I make it one it will actually rain. I live in south Texas where drought is an every summer things it seems. :(

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  • Ginny said:

    Would love to make these and hang down to my rain barrels!

  • Amy Anderson said:

    LOVE this. I also really love the photos. I want one! I think the neon one might be more my speed heh heh.

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  • LaDonna Hamrick said:

    you could also use old wire hangers for dry cleaning, its a great heavy gage and hard to bend but would also save on re cycling to re purpose them. I’m going to try it!

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  • Diana Graham said:

    I pinned this to both my DIY & my “How To” Pinterest boards. So far they have been, far and away, the most repinned pins I’ve ever posted. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kathy V. said:

    It looks even better now that I’ve trimmed the jasmine back, so we can enjoy it. Thanks Heather!

  • Ajar said:

    Does the wire rust? I would hate to have it rust and fall apart in a few months.
    Thank you

  • Rachel said:

    You can get a GIANT bag of landscaping rocks at Home Depot for a little under $4, and they’re great for craft project. They just need rinsing for most projects, but probably not this one. I think the “calico” kind of mix is pretty. I use these rocks in my aquarium, too.

    I bought some of that red floral wire at Dollar Tree. It’s really fun and useful for lots of projects.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  • heather (author) said:

    @Rachel, great tip! Thanks for sharing.

  • Julie said:

    Really like this rain chain and have started the project. Having a hard time with paper-clip connectors…very hard to bend, uneven, sharp. What am I doing wrong? Is there an alternative connector idea???

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    I don’t have a downspout that I can take down because I live in an apartment. The problem I have is the water dripping from the gutters on to my front stoop. It’s almost like walking through a shower to get past it to the rain.
    if I hung the chain in the middle of the walkway and gradually slanted it off to the side and then down after I got past the step would this work

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  • Juanita said:

    Hello, I love this idea of a rain chain. I have a lot of shells collected from the beach that I think would make a pretty Rain Chain in many different sizes. will post when i get one made. thanks for this great idea.
    Juanita

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  • Letia said:

    This isn’t practical as floral wire is thin and will not hold up to the weather Unless wire is marked as rust proof it will rust

  • heather (author) said:

    @Letia – I pre-wrapped the rocks with the thin floral wire, then used the thicker floral wire to make the links. So far it hasn’t rusted, 2 years later.

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