In the middle are rows of solenoid valves. I used surplus 24-volt DC valves. It is helpful if
these do not use too much current, so that the driver chips can handle the load. Nearby is
the lower reservoir, which contains the 500GPH submersible pump. Each supply tube has a
flow-adjusting valve made from a big nut with a #8 screw tapped through the side. The
screw presses a copper pad that pinches the tubing. Using distilled water keeps everything
running smoothly, and is kind to the finish on the metals.
Above the valves is the pond. A ring of plywood supports the base of the pond, and
another ring supports the rim. Between these two rings is room for servos, lights, and
mechanical drives. The white lights are colored with pieces of colored gel, like DJís use.
The outer part of the base is made of 1/16-inch polycarbonate sheets laminated with 5
layers. They are glued with solvent made for solvent-welding plastics. The skirt on the top
was formed on the fountain. The base was formed on a plywood jig, using two cutouts
separated by some 2x4 lumber pieces. The layers are put on one at a time, squirting solvent
onto it a foot or so at a time, clamping it in place for about 10 minutes, then doing another
section. When it is done, it holds its shape, and can be cut, filed and sanded to final trim.
Blocks of acrylic plastic glued inside allow the base to rest on the plywood at the edges, so
then only a few screws are needed to anchor it in place. I love working with plastics: the
glue joints are very strong, the material is strong, and it handles water well with no surface
The base was first painted to block the light, and make it less transparent, and then painted
with a simulated rock coating. The inside is lined with carpeting to help dampen the sound
of the solenoid valves. Wheels on the bottom help to manage the 250-pound weight.
Copper, Brass, and Bugs
My orchestra is made of mostly copper and brass. I made insects because they are whimsical, easy to make, and it does not
look strange to have them of many different sizes. I used different sizes of brass tubing, brass rod, and brass balls for many
parts of the insects, and sheet copper (.025") and brass (.050") for the bigger pieces. It is all soldered with a propane torch,
Tin/Silver (96/4) alloy solder, and paste flux. Heat shielding compound is a wonderful clay that allows you anchor one piece
that you just soldered, and solder something else next to it without melting and destroying the joint you just made. Most
everything that squirts has a 3/32" inside diameter.
The spider web and some insect wings were made of .025" stainless steel wire, soldered with hard silver solder.
I made all of the parts, including the instruments. Some pieces were soldered together from existing shapes (tubes, balls, etc.).
A small lathe helped turn most of the horns. A few parts were cast from brass, using the lost-wax process. The ladybugís
saxophone was cast in four pieces and then soldered together.
The copper is worked by heating it red hot, then quenching it in water. It becomes softer, and can be pounded into
compound shapes. As it gets shaped, it also gets harder, so sometimes repeated heating and quenching is needed to keep it
workable. Pickling it in 10% sulfuric acid removes all of the black discoloration.
Some of the metal was colored by patina, and then coated with clear finish that is originally made for cars. The green areas
use the clear finish, with blue and green pigments from an auto body shop mixed in. The color makes a nice effect over the
clean copper showing through. Some of the parts were left polished: little parts like eyes and bigger parts especially like the
instruments. The finish keeps it from tarnishing.
The top rim was first made of several layers of plywood, which was shaped to slope down to the pond. Then copper was
formed around it in four pieces, and soldered together. A rim of 3/8" copper tubing makes a border on the outer edge.
The fountain now resides in my office waiting room, and is a big hit. People come to my office just to visit my creations. The
music is mostly big band music, with up-tempo beats, horn fills, and multiple parts. This makes for a lot of action with the
water. There are six tunes in it now, including such tunes as "In the Mood", "Peter Gunn", and "Donít Get Around Much
Anymore". This kind of project is very fun to work on, and it is amusing to scheme up the different performing events.
circuit board with