DIY Waterphone


[Update] Richard Waters, the inventor of the Waterphone was kind enough to point out the construction and sound of a real waterphone is very different (and a lot more work). Please visit Richards website here.

Today I got an email about my EM411 article on making a DIY waterphone. I did not even remember posting it and was somewhat dumbfounded to find out the search query “DIY waterphone” on google delivers the article on the very top of the results. Maybe it’s because off em411’s SEO or because it’s a really cheap and easy to do project.

Original article:

Written October 26 2009

I made a waterphone-ish thing. Unfortunately I don’t have a welding device nor the intention of getting one, I had to solder this baby. And let me tell you, that aint the way to go (I did not use a soldering gun tho, they might have more power). I decided to go to a local welding workshop for a welded one and get it done properly.  Nonetheless this is a nice project and for the money yields great results!

Again; its better to weld a waterphone, but when you’re in the same situation as me and want to give it a go without needing to weld it, this design is pretty simple and its cheap.

You’ll need

  • 2 cake pan’s (differing of shape)
  • soldering iron
  • 60/40 solder
  • rods
  • metal cylinder
  • Glue gun (optional)

The material overview

Make sure you have 2 different cake pans of the same material. One shallow design and one deep design. The first to go on top the latter to serve as a basin for the water.

I used scooter rods/spokes. A waterphone uses much thicker rods. You can also use rods coming from coat hangers, laundry rack, etc. Differing thickness and length produce different sounds.

The process

I used a hammer and a pointy object to punch holes next to the rim in the shallow cake pan that goes on top [1st pic]. I used the same tools to cut the hole in the middle of the cake pan.  It’s best to use a glue gun on the outside of the shallow cake pan and glue the deep pan underneath. If you don’t have a glue gun or good glue for metal you can use scotch tape or a tight elastic band. Now solder the cylinder in the middle hole.

Now it’s a matter of just soldering the rods in the holes you punched next to the rim.  You can adjust the length of the rods by grouping the rods in size groups. (I had 3 different sizes, so 3 groups). Lower the different sized rods so the transition between each rod is equal in length, leaving more the rods stick out from the bottom.  There’s your waterphone-ish device.

11 thoughts on “DIY Waterphone

  • Please note he said he made a waterphone-ish type thing – not a waterphone which is considerably different in both construction and sound. I know as I am the inventor of the waterphone.

  • Thanks for this. Really interested in making something like this, as the official waterphones, wonderful as they are, are out of my price range. Sadly, the pictures aren’t showing up and I’m really not too clear on how you went about this.

  • Interesting topic, want to try this for a sound project for school where we have to make a movie soundtrack for a particular music genre (sci-fi). Too bad I can’t see any pictures. Maybe you could update these?

  • Hi Durk,

    Not sure if this will reach you, but hoping to confirm a couple of specifics:

    Do you happen to know the diameter of the rods/spokes?

    Also interested in the lengths of the rods, if you’re willing?

    Lastly, do you have any length/diameter/thickness specifics for the cylinder?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hey Frankie. I used regular spokes, the ones you find on Puch and Tomos, typical northern European moped brands, available per piece at most bike shops here in Holland. I’d say they are 2mm in diameter, pretty thin. Much like a coat hanger. 189mm long was the longest, and some shorter ones, but I dunno the original length because I have since cut them off. I used a sawed off alluminium broomstick for the cylinder with 2cm diameter and about 20cm long.

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