How To Make A Beautiful Copper DIY Rain Chain

Want to replace your downspout with a rain chain but don’t want to spend too much money? Learn how to make your own copper DIY rain chain with this easy step-by-step tutorial.

Rain chains are one of my favorite outdoor home accessories. Like water features and garden art, they look beautiful in your yard and they’re functional, too!

DIY Copper rain chains

As you may remember from the post I did on rain chains a while back, I am a little obsessed with them.

My goal is to eventually replace most (if not all) of the downspouts on my house with one of them.

Copper rain chain with leaves

I had seen this one on amazon* and really liked the idea of having the leaves hanging from the chain. But I didn’t want to spend as much as they are charging and didn’t need one that long.

So I decided to make my own, and I’m really happy with the way it turned out!

Read on to get the step-by-step instructions for making a copper DIY rain chain.

What You Need

Materials – For The Chain

Flexible copper tubing* – I used 1/4″ thickness that was 20′ long. The chain ended up being 5′ long…if you want a longer chain, you’ll need more copper tubing.


Materials – For The Leaves



Tools









Make The Chain Links

Wind the copper tubing around a broom stick
Wind the copper tubing around a broom stick

The first part of the process is to form the copper tubing into the shape of chain links.

To do this, you will need to wind the copper tubing around a long round object. I used the end of a broom stick, but you could use any long round object (such as PVC pipe) that is at least 1½” in diameter. The larger the diameter of the pole, the larger the links in your chain will be.

1. Start near the end of the broom stick and wrap the copper tubing around the pole. Try to get it as close to the pole as you can…that will give you the best round shape.

Start with the copper behind the pole
Start with the copper behind the pole

2. Wrapping the copper around the pole can be a little tough, so after you have a few rings to hold on to, try pushing it on to the pole instead of wrapping it. To do this, start with the copper behind the pole.

Hold the existing rings on the broom handle and push the tubing over
Hold the existing rings on the broom handle and push the tubing over

3. Hold on to the rings that have already been wound. Then push the copper tubing over the pole to the opposite side.

When the tubing has wound over to the other side, rotate it back toward you
When the tubing has wound over to the other side, rotate it back toward you

4. When the tubing has wound around to the other side of the pole, flip the rotate the pole backwards so that the loose end of the copper is back on your side of the pole, and repeat. I also found that I was able to make the rings more even by pushing the copper over the pole this way.

When you have wound all of the tubing around the handle, slide it off
When you have wound all of the tubing around the handle, slide it off

5. Keep doing this until you have wound all of the copper tubing around the pole.

6. Remove the wound copper from the pole by pulling it off the end. I found it was easier to do this by rotating the copper in the direction it was wound as I was pulling.

The coiled copper tubing
The coiled copper tubing

You should end up with a roll of copper tubing that looks something like this.

Cut The Links

The cut chain links
The cut chain links

Next you will need to cut the copper tubing to form individual links.

I tried a couple of options before finding the solution that worked the best (and fastest!)

Using snips to cut the links works but causes the ends to be flat
Using snips to cut the links works but causes the ends to be flat

My first option was to use pliers or tin snips to cut the tubes…which worked but caused the ends to flatten. Not what I wanted for a chain!

Using a hack saw blade to cut the links works but is very slow
Using a hack saw blade to cut the links works but is very slow

Next I tried a hacksaw blade (the blade was easier to use by itself than it was with the saw). This also worked, and did not flatten the tubes…but took forever!

A bench vise and reciprocating saw make quick work of cutting the links
A bench vise and reciprocating saw make quick work of cutting the links

Finally, I decided to try a bench vise and reciprocating saw with a blade meant for cutting thin metal.

Use a bench vise to hold the links still
Use a bench vise to hold the links still

This worked perfectly! Make sure not to put too much pressure on the copper (you don’t want your links to lose their shape).

Cut the links using a reciprocating saw with a metal blade
Cut the links using a reciprocating saw with a metal blade

Rest the bottom of the reciprocating saw on the top of the bench vise to give it some stability. Also make sure to saw at an angle so that you don’t cut through the bottom of the links as well.

Then saw away. When you get to the last few links that are still in the vise, you will need to move them up to the front. This helps to keep them stable in the vise which makes cutting easier. I was able to cut the whole length of tubing in less than 10 minutes.

Assemble the Chain

The rain chain rings
The rain chain rings

Now you will make a chain out of the links that should end up looking like this.

Use pliers to open a link wide enough for 2 other links to fit through
Use pliers to open a link wide enough for 2 other links to fit through

1. Use the pliers to open the ends of one of the links. It should be wide enough for another link to fit through. I tried to look for links that already had the biggest gaps to use for this purpose. I also found that using two pairs of pliers (one on each end of the ring) was the easiest way to open the link.

Groove joint pliers are helpful for squeezing the ends together if necessary
Groove joint pliers are helpful for squeezing the ends together if necessary

2. Find a ring that has the ends pretty well aligned already. Use pliers to close the gap. Groove joint pliers work well if you need to squeeze the ends together from outside the ring.

3. Add the closed ring on to the open ring.

Use pliers to align both ends of the link
Use pliers to align both ends of the link

4. Use the pliers to squeeze the loop closed.

The completed chain
The completed chain

5. Continue adding rings alternating an open ring and a closed ring like this until you reach your desired chain length.

For me, the 20′ length of tubing created a chain that was a little more than 5′ long…which was pretty close to the length that I wanted it to be.

If you like the idea of having a plain chain for your rain chain, you are done! Skip the next step and go straight to hanging the rain chain.

Add The Leaves

The rain chain with leaves
The rain chain with leaves

This step is a purely optional decorative option for the DIY rain chain. If you don’t want the extra embellishments (or just don’t want to do the work), skip to the next step of hanging the chain.

Use a jig saw to cut out the leaf shapes
Use a jig saw to cut out the leaf shapes

1. To cut the leaves from the copper sheet metal, use a jig saw with a blade meant for thin metal. Since the leaves are really just 2 arcs that join at the top and the bottom, I didn’t bother to draw them. I just cut them freestyle. However if you would like all of your leaves to be the same size and shape, you might want to cut the shape out of a piece of cardboard and draw it on to the metal. I made 2 leaves for each link in the chain…which is a lot of leaves…and a lot of cutting! You can adjust the number you make depending on how you want your chain to look.

Cut off the used portion of the sheet
Cut off the used portion of the sheet

2. When you have cut a row of leaves, cutting off the used portion makes the metal easier to work with.

3. Remove the plastic covering from the copper leaves.

4. If the edges are sharp, sand them with 120 grit sandpaper to smooth them off.

Drill a hole in the end of each leaf
Drill a hole in the end of each leaf

5. Use a 1/8″ drill bit that is meant for drilling metal to create a hole at the end of each leaf.

6. Cut a 2″ to 3″ long piece of copper wire.

Slip a piece of copper wire through the hole
Slip a piece of copper wire through the hole

7. Stick the copper wire through the hole in the leaf.

Wrap the copper wire around the link twice
Wrap the copper wire around the link twice

8. Wrap it around the chain link twice going back through the hole in the leaf.

Cut off the excess wire
Cut off the excess wire

8. Cut off any ends that are sticking out.

Add the leaves on either side of the chain link
Add the leaves on either side of the chain link

9. If you are using 2 leaves per link like I did, attach the second leaf on the other side of the chain.

10. Repeat until you have added leaves to all of the links.

How To Hang The Rain Chain

Remove the screws from the downspout
Remove the screws from the downspout

1. The first step to hanging the rain chain is to remove your existing downspout. Usually this is just a matter of undoing the screws that attach it to the house…sometimes easier said than done if those downspouts have been there for a while.

The hole in the gutter
The hole in the gutter

2. You should end up with a hole in the gutter like this. Sorry for the dirt…I obviously hadn’t cleaned it in a while #keepingitreal 🙂

Make a V out of an extra piece of copper
Make a V out of an extra piece of copper

3. To make a rain chain installer, bend another small piece (mine was about 15″ long) of flexible tubing into a V shape with ends.

Pull the chain through the hole in the gutter and attach the holder
Pull the chain through the hole in the gutter and attach the holder

4. Pull the chain through the hole in the gutter and attach the gutter installer to the end of it.

Pull the chain through the hole
Pull the chain through the hole

5. Let the chain fall back down through the hole so that the V comes through the hole.  The ends of the “V” should hold it in place.

6. Or if you prefer, you can buy a rain chain installer like this one*.

DIY Rain Chain gutter installer
DIY Rain Chain gutter installer

It gives a little more polished look.

Using a straight pipe to hold the chain up doesn't funnel the water properly down the chain
Using a straight pipe to hold the chain up doesn’t funnel the water properly down the chain

I did try using just a standard piece of straight pipe laid across the inside of the hole. It works fine for holding the rain chain in place. But since the water doesn’t get funneled down the chain, you end up with a lot of water coming down outside of the chain area.

Re-position leaves on the rain chain that are sticking out
Re-position leaves that are sticking out

7. If you added leaves to your rain chain, re-position any of the ones that are pointing out so that they point down. This will let the water continue to flow down the chain. Otherwise you will end up with a lot of water splashing outside the chain.

Enjoy Your Rain Chain

Rain chain rings with water running down
Rain chain rings

You can test your rain chain by putting a hose in the gutter and letting the water run down.

Rain chain with leaves and water running down
Rain chain with leaves

If you added the leaves, you may have to do some adjustments to the leaf positions to make sure the water goes down to the bottom of the chain. This version will splash a little more than the straight rings because the leaves have ends that cause some of the water to drip.

The installed rain chain above a rain barrel
The installed rain chain

Adding a barrel under the rain chain will catch the water.

A rain barrel with an outlet will let you attach a hose
A rain barrel with an outlet will let you attach a hose

Using a barrel with a water outlet at the bottom will let you attach a hose and disperse the water into your garden.

The finished rain chain with leaves hanging in the garden
The finished rain chain

Even when it’s not raining, the rain chain adds some interest to the garden.


Comments or questions about our DIY rain chain? Tell us in the section below.

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20 Responses

    • Thanks, Debbie! It really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, so I’m sure you’ll have no problem making one, too 🙂

    • It was a little longer than 5 feet…which was just the right length for hanging over a rain barrel from the eaves on the first story of my house.

    • Hi Patricia…I think that sounds like a fun garden club project! But I think you’re right that you might want to do some of it ahead of time…some of the steps take a little time to complete.

  • Maybe when putting the copper in the vise after coiling, you could create a small wooden block. It would be like drilling the coiled copper sized hole in the block, then cutting off approx. the top 1/4th. This wood “mold” would be just deep enough to fit the coiled copper into, and just enough height on the sides to fit against the vice clamps to give more stability to the copper and less chances for damage. The opening at the top for the saw would be about the same as you have pictured to be able to cut the rings. Especially great if you create more rain chains.

    • Thanks for the suggestion, Mary Beth! That sounds like a good idea for holding the coil in place while you are cutting it…especially (as you say) if you were making a few of them.

  • Looks great and love the clear instructions. Just one question: How did you keep from cutting fingers and your hands on the metal edges?

    • Thanks, Dorlis! To be honest, I ended up with a few cuts on my fingers 🙂 That copper sheet metal is really sharp so I tried to be careful when I was cutting the leaves. It might have helped to put on a pair of gardening gloves (the ones that fit pretty tightly so you can still fiddle with them), but that didn’t occur to me at the time.

    • Hi Reuben…Yes, the debris usually passes right through. The only time I have to clear it is in the fall when there are a lot of leaves falling…but I used to have to do that when I had downspouts, too.

    • Hi Sandy…no, it doesn’t have to replace a gutter. If you want it to be more decorative, you could hang it from a garden hook (the type that you would normally hang a plant from), a tree branch or pretty much anywhere that you will keep it off the ground. Or you could make a fountain out of it…hang the chain up over a basin, then use a pump and water line to pump the water up to the top and let the water run down through the chain. Hope this helps!

  • This is certainly a lovely way to look, see, and hear rain. Pintrest is the only way I’ve seen them. I have a troublesome down pipe and out flow onto the roadside that was built to puddle not flow past the outlet, so it has always backflowed up my downpipe, causing my gutters to overflow…. and blocked any run off. So..yes my problem will always be run off, even with a pebble install over ground pipes. If I ignored that problem, and still put one there, what would happen to the large single cement block foundation to the house?
    Also if the copper pipe coil, was streched, not cut, would that work effectively.

    • Hi Catherine…I would probably put some kind of rain barrel under your rain chain. It will catch the rain as it falls, and they often come with a drainage hose that you can use to divert the water away from the foundation. I haven’t tried using the copper pipe as a coil instead of a chain, but I think that would probably work, too.

  • Just found this post while looking for things for my new home! Great ideas, where did you get your rain barrel? Love the chain plan on DIM!!Thanks!

    • Thanks, Melissa! I got the rain barrel from wayfair.com. I’m not sure that they still carry the exact same one, but if you do a search for rain barrels, a bunch of options should come up.

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