If you have a circular saw and an
angle grinder, you can spend about an
hour in a cloud of dust and emerge
with a carved fountain stone like this
one. You won't need any special talent,
just a few tricks and a couple of diamond
saw blades (see “Tools and gear” below).
A weekend is plenty of time to carve
the stone and create a small pond. Your
masterpiece could look entirely different
from the one I made, depending on
the shape of the stone you choose. I
purchased all the stone and spent
about $200 on the whole project, but if
you have access to free stone, you can
cut that cost in half.
Selecting a stone
The 6-in.-thick sandstone block I used
was about 9 x 20 in. and cost about $15
at a landscape supplier. The stone you
use can be any size and shape as long
as it has a flat spot that's at least 8-1/2
in. across. The bowl itself will measure
just over 6-3/4 in. across and 2 in. deep.
Soft stone is best for this project.
Although you can cut and grind very
hard stone, it could turn this one-hour
task into an all-day chore. Also avoid
stone with strong “grain”—layers of
harder and softer stone—because it
tends to crack along the layers. That
makes chisel work risky; one wrong
blow can ruin your project.
Hardness and grain aren't always
obvious from look and touch. So if you
pick up stone alongside the road, you
won't know if it's workable until you
try it. If you buy stone, be sure to ask
for recommendations. In most areas,
sandstone and some types of limestone
are your best bet.
Cutting stone whips up a dust storm—don't even think about doing it in your
garage. Work as far away as possible
from anything you don't want coated
with dust, especially open windows or
your neighbor's convertible. Take five
minutes to set up a sturdy work surface
(I used a couple of sawhorses and 2x8
planks.) You'll get better results if
you're working comfortably, and you'll save your back. If the stone wobbles on
your work surface, steady it with shims.
Next, mark out the bowl and channel
(Photo 1). If you want a curving channel
like ours, avoid tight curves; anything
tighter than the curve of a 1-gallon
paint can will be tough to cut with your
grinder. Make the channel about 1-1/2
in. wide and flare it to a width of 2-1/2
in. at the bowl. The flare helps create strong water flow. The flare at the front
of the channel is purely for looks.
Figure B: Adjustable Flow Control
Building the Fountain
This pond is small—a 30 x 36-in. oval, about 14 in. deep. Building a pond couldn't be
much simpler. Just dig a hole, line it with pond underlayment followed by an EPDM
rubber liner and surround it with stone. Then build a simple stepped-up wall to support
the fountain stone. Here are some tips for a smooth project:
- Select larger flagstones for the first layer
surrounding the pond. They stay put better
and can overhang the edge of the
hole by 2 to 3 in. to hide the liner.
- Leave a small gap between two of the
flagstones so you can feed the pump
tubing through later.
- The flagstone I used for the wall had flat
faces that fit together fairly tightly when
stacked. That allowed me to glue them
together with polyurethane construction
adhesive (see Photo 8). If you use irregular
stone, you'll have bigger gaps and
mortar would be a better choice. If you
use large stones, you may not need
adhesive or mortar. Heavy stones stay
put by themselves.
- The pump I used is rated for 210
gallons per hour. A smaller pump may
have worked, but I've learned that it's
better to spend a little extra than to discover
later that a pump was too small.
- Even if your pump has a built-in flow
adjustment knob, consider adding a
valve (see Figure B) for quicker,
more accurate adjustments.
- Choose your tubing before you drill the
hole in the bowl (Photo 7). Depending on
the outer diameter of the tube, you need
either a 5/8-in. or 3/4-in. drill bit.
- The tubing I used fit snugly into a 3/4-in.
hole. So I slathered the tube with silicone
caulk, slid it about 1-1/2 in. into the stone
and let it set overnight. Don't insert the
tube all the way to the top of the drilled
hole. The larger diameter of the drilled
hole helps to dampen water pulsation
caused by the pump.
Cut, chisel and grind the bowl
Fire up your saw and make the bowl
cuts (Photo 2). When making plunge
cuts, you have to keep an eye on both
the front and the back ends of the blade
to make sure you don't cut beyond the circle. And remember that the spinning
blade will try to drag the saw backward.
If your circle disappears under a
layer of dust, stop and blow off the
dust. If you guesstimate where the line
is and guess wrong, you'll end up with
a lopsided bowl. Make at least eight
cuts; the more cuts you make, the easier
the next step will be.
Next, chisel out the bowl (Photo 3). If
any of the slices don't break out easily,
rev up your saw again. Better to make
more cuts than to whack out a big slice
and leave a crater in the bowl. Grinding
(Photo 4) is tedious, but patience pays
off in the form of a smooth, rounded
bowl. With very soft stone, like the
sandstone I used, you can polish the
bowl even smoother by hand-sanding
with 80-grit sandpaper.
Cut the channel
Cut the channel as deep as the diamond
blade on your grinder will reach (about
7/8 in., depending on your grinder). But
the key to controlling that spinning
blade is to make all cuts in shallow passes (1/8 to 1/4 in.). Start by cutting
the outer edges of the channel. Don't
worry about forming perfectly smooth
curves yet; if you have to form a rough
curve with a series of short, straight
cuts, that's OK. Next, cut grooves in the
middle of the channel (Photo 5). Then
chisel out the channel (Photo 6). That
will open up space to smooth out the
curved edges with the diamond blade, a
grinding disc or a combination of both.
When the channel is done, drill a hole
in the bowl (Photo 7) sized to accept the
tube from the pump.
Back to Top
Set the fountain stone
Positioning the stone takes some care.
You have to adjust the flow from the
pump, level and shim the stone from
side to side so water doesn't spill out of
the bowl, and tilt the stone slightly for
a strong, spilling stream. When you have
it right, remove the stone, apply a bed of
mortar or generous beads of construction
adhesive, and reset the stone. Keep
the 2x4 bridge in place overnight. If
water clings to the underside of the
stone and runs back toward the stone
wall, apply a bead of clear silicone
caulk under the front of the stone. The
silicone “drip edge” will force the
water to drop off.
Tools and Gear
- To cut the bowl, you'll need a standard
circular saw and a 7-in. diamond
blade. Diamond blades can cost $75
or more. But for this small job, cheaper
is better. I spent about $30.
- To smooth the bowl, you'll need a
small angle grinder and a
grinding wheel. Don't balk at
buying a grinder just for this project;
you'll find other uses for it. If you want
to cut a curved channel, you'll need a
4- or 4-1/2-in. diamond blade.
Or you can cut a straight channel with
your circular saw.
- I used a hammer drill to drill the hole
in the bowl. But a standard drill, along
with a little extra patience, will do the
job if you're using soft stone. Use a
masonry drill bit diameter that
matches the outer diameter of the
- This project whips up a tornado of
dust and grit, making a dust mask
and eye protection mandatory. Safety
glasses will do, but I prefer a face
shield. Those flying slivers of