• Share:
How to Build a Copper Trellis for Your Garden

Build a unique, natural-looking garden trellis for your climbing flowers and vines using standard copper water pipe. This long-lasting copper trellis is made entirely from 1/2-in. and 3/4-in. copper pipe soldered into a repeating ladder pattern. Copy our design, or create your own using the techniques we show here.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

How to Build a Copper Trellis for Your Garden

Build a unique, natural-looking garden trellis for your climbing flowers and vines using standard copper water pipe. This long-lasting copper trellis is made entirely from 1/2-in. and 3/4-in. copper pipe soldered into a repeating ladder pattern. Copy our design, or create your own using the techniques we show here.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Step 1: Overview

Copper is an ideal outdoor material for garden structures. It has a warm, natural look, whether shiny or tarnished. It lasts for years without upkeep. And it's easy to work with and relatively inexpensive.

We built this copper garden trellis from standard 1/2-in. and 3/4-in. type M copper plumbing tubes. We'll show you a unique joining method that allows you to solder the tubing together without fittings. To simplify the process, we'll show you how to assemble a simple 2x4 jig to keep the tubes aligned while you solder them. Don't worry if you've never soldered copper. This project is a great place to learn, since you don't have to be concerned about critical plumbing joints leaking. If you goof up and one of the joints lets loose, just resolder it.

Even working at a casual pace, you'll be able to complete this project in a weekend. You can pick up all the materials and tools at a home center. You'll need a tubing cutter, propane torch, propane canister, emery cloth, roll of solder, flux and flux brush for the soldering work, and a hammer and saw to build the jig. If you want to anchor the trellis in the ground as we show in Photo 15, buy a 10-ft. length of 1/2-in. electrical conduit (EMT). You'll find it in the electrical department.

Step 2: Cut the tubing and build the jig

If you object to the lettering on the copper tubes, remove it with steel wool or an abrasive nylon pad. Then mark and cut the lengths of copper needed following the Cutting List (below). You could use a hacksaw to cut the tubing, but a tubing cutter is much easier to use and results in a cleaner cut.

Start by snugging the wheel onto the tube at the cutting mark (Photo 1). Spin the cutter once around and tighten it a little. Continue spinning and tightening until the tube is cut.

After a few tries, you'll know how much to tighten it each time for the most efficient cutting. If you plan to build several trellises, buy a top-quality tubing cutter. A good cutter will last a lifetime and give better results with less effort than an inexpensive cutter.

Figure A and Photo 5 show how to build the jig. While it isn't absolutely necessary, the jig simplifies the task of keeping the tubes aligned while you solder them together. You can also design your own trellis. Start by drawing the design on graph paper. Then transfer the tubing spacing to the 2x4s and build the jig as we show. Make sure to slide the copper grids back and forth in the jig as you solder opposite sides to avoid getting the flame too close to the wood.

Figure A: Jig Assembly

Figure A: Jig Assembly

Use 2x4s to build the jig for assembling the trellis.

Step 3: Flatten and form the ends

In order to connect the tubing without using plumbing fittings, we show a method of bending the end of one tube to fit around the other. Start by building two bending forms (Photo 2) using 6-in. lengths of steel pipe (gas or water).

Build one jig with 3/8-in. pipe for bending tubes to fit around 1/2-in. copper tube, and another with 1/2-in. steel pipe for ends that fit around 3/4-in. tubing. Bend nails over the pipes to hold them in place on the hardwood blocks. Practice the bending technique (Photo 2) on scraps of tubing to get the knack. It's OK if you don't get a perfect fit. The solder will fill small gaps.

Figure B: Trellis sections

Figure B: Trellis Components

Build the main frame, then add the ladder frame.

Step 4: Careful Tubing Prep Makes a Strong Joint

Photos 5 – 11 show how to solder and assemble the tubes. The key to a good soldering job is to thoroughly sand with emery cloth, flux the contact zone and apply just the right amount of heat.

The heat is right when solder flows easily into the joint. Remember to heat the joint for about 10 seconds first, then feed in about a 2-in. length of solder. Let the copper melt the solder, not the torch. If you heat the joint for too long, the flux will burn and the solder may not stick. If this happens, let it cool. Then sand and flux the joint and try again. Be careful to let the copper tubing cool before touching it or removing it from the jig.

Pay attention to the orientation of the spear points when you're soldering. It's easy to get them twisted slightly or facing the wrong way. But don't worry, the rustic look of this project is what makes it interesting, so it's OK if it's not perfect.

Step 5: Use the 2x4 Jig to Keep Tubes Aligned

The 2x4 jig makes assembling the frames almost foolproof. Start by setting the four 30-in. tubes between the outermost pairs of nails (Photo 6). With the tubes in place, it's an easy task to mark where they intersect the 3/4-in. upright tubes. Then sand and flux the marked areas. Make sure to orient the curled spear points in the same direction. Measure 8 in. from the top of the upright to the top of the horizontal tube and secure it with a spring clamp (Photo 8). After you solder the first joint, remove the clamp and solder the remaining three joints. Remove the half-built frame from the jig and form the opposite ends of the crosspieces (Photo 9). Repeat the steps in Photos 6 – 8 to complete the main frame (Photo 10).

Build the ladder frame the same way. Measure down 12 in. from the top of the spear to the center of the first tube. And then solder the five 18-in. tubes to the upright tubes (Photo 11). Slide the tubes all the way to one side to solder the first tube. Then slide them to the opposite side to solder the second upright. Otherwise you'll burn the wood with the torch. Remove the completed ladder frame from the jig and reinstall the main frame between the nails.

Step 6: Solder the Two Frames Together

Clip the ladder frame back into the jig on top of the main frame. Mark all eight points where the two frames intersect. Mark both frames. Then remove the ladder frame and flip it over to sand and flux the marked areas.

Also sand and flux the marked areas on the main frame. Replace the ladder frame and solder the two frames together (Photo 13). Repeat this process for the two additional tubes. There are no nails in the jig for the final two tubes. Position them according to the dimensions in Figure B and use spring clamps to hold them in place for soldering (Photo 14).

Step 7: Support the Trellis with Upright Tubes

Lay the trellis across a scrap 1x4 and mark the position of the 3/4-in. tubes. Drill two 5/8-in. holes centered on these marks. Use the 1x4 to hold the 1/2-in. EMT in position while you pound it in. Use a level as a guide to make sure your tubing is vertical.

Depending on how hard your soil is, drive the 5-ft. tubes about 18 in. into the ground. Install the trellis by sliding it over the tubes and pushing it into the ground to level the horizontal tubing. Complete the project by planting your choice of climbing vine at the base of the trellis.

Cutting list

KEY QTY. SIZE & DESCRIPTION
A 2 80” lengths of 3/4” copper tubing
B 4 30” lengths of 1/2” copper tubing
C 2 69” lengths of 1/2” copper tubing
D 5 18” lengths of 1/2” copper tubing
E 2 57” lengths of 1/2” copper tubing

Caution!

Call 811 to locate underground lines before you drive these tubes into the ground.

Back to Top

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Hammer
    • Clamps
    • Circular saw
    • Needle-nose pliers
    • Soldering torch
    • Tube cutter
    • Tin snips

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Two 10' lengths of 3/4” copper tubing
    • Five 10' lengths of 1/2” copper tubing
    • 1/2-lb. roll of solder
    • Flux paste
    • One roll of emery cloth
    • Two 8' 2x4s
    • One 6” length of 3/8” steel pipe
    • One 6” length of 1/2” steel pipe
    • Small box of 6d finish nails
    • Eight 3” decking screws
    • One 10' length of 1/2” electrical conduit (EMT)
    • Two 2 x 4 x 8'

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 6 of 6 comments
Show per page: 20   All

January 27, 10:06 PM [GMT -5]

I made two of these several years ago for my garden. I had never sodered before and was able to quickly figure it out based on the instructions. I wouldn't trust my joints with water but they have held up great with jasmine. The trellises have aged beautifully and I smile every time I'm out in that garden - so lovely!

March 28, 5:01 PM [GMT -5]

Made one like this with The Family HandyMans help and my wife loves it!

June 12, 8:05 PM [GMT -5]

This trellis was easy to build and is killer gorgeous. I made mine about 4 or 5 years ago, when copper was way cheaper. The instructions were really good. It was my first time soldering, and was a really good way to learn. Follow the instructions and it will go well!

April 22, 7:09 PM [GMT -5]

Except that the copper will bleed into the soil and affect the pH levels if you aren't aware of your current soil acidity then you better check in to it. Anything below 7-7.5 would be a good place to add a trellis such as this one- just an fyi

March 20, 6:55 AM [GMT -5]

Made 6-8 of these. The instructions were very easy to follow and the design is long lasting. I adjusted the lengths of cut to minimize waste even more, but the outcome is the same. I can finish one in about 1/2 day. Excellent project.

September 01, 10:44 AM [GMT -5]

I built two, one for each side of the garage entrance.

The only hard part was hammering the pipe flat and cutting the pipe to a point.

I'd do it again!

+ Add Your Comment
closeX

Add Your Comment

How to Build a Copper Trellis for Your Garden

Please add your comment
closeX

Log in to My Account

Log in to enjoy membership benefits from The Family Handyman.

  • Forgot your password?
Don’t have an account yet?

Sign up today for FREE and become part of The Family Handyman community of DIYers.

Member benefits:

  • Get a FREE Traditional Bookcase Project Plan
  • Sign up for FREE DIY newsletters
  • Save projects to your project binder
  • Ask and answer questions in our DIY Forums
  • Share comments on DIY Projects and more!
Join Us Today
closeX

Report Abuse

Subject
Reasons for reporting post

Free OnSite Newsletter

Get timely DIY projects for your home and yard, plus a dream project for your wish list!

Follow Us