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Old 04-13-2017, 09:21 PM   #1
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Fabricating an aluminum U Channel for garden fountain


To begin, here is a pic showing the conceptual illustration of what I'm trying to achieve. It's a water feature that compliments a koi/lilly pond. In the pic, its the built up structure at the back and sides of the pond on the rock area. The metal channel/trough atop the block built up structure is called a "rill" and serves as a channel where water flows down onto the rocks below.



For the rill, I need a stainless steel or aluminum U channel fabricated into an "L" shape. Water will be routed up from a pump in the ground through a rubber tube that goes into the cap block space in the block and up through a hole cut into the bottom of the aluminum rill at the junction where they meet in the corner.

Water will flow down each leg of the rill and fall onto the rocks. There will be a buried catch basin below each rill end where the water falls. A filtered pump located in the catch basin recirculates the water back up.

I'm searching for a way to build the rill channel.

The closest thing I've found to what I'm looking for is to piece together two pieces of angle aluminum sourced from Home Depot. See pics below. This has the exact sleek contemporary look I'm seeking but I'd rather not have to join two angle pieces together if I could find a U channel the size I need already made (I need one segment to be 3 foot long and the other to be 4 foot long. Ideally it should to be 1/8 inch thick aluminum that is about 1 inch tall and 3 inches wide.

If I could find a U channel matching those dimensions or something close, I'd only have to fabricate the join of the two rill channels.







And here is a shot where I have a dry fit stack of blocks in place where they will eventually be once done. The aluminum rill piece will set atop the blocks held in place by a stucco mortar once the face of the blocks are stucco'd.



So, for this to work, I'll have to:

1) Solder or spot weld the two sides of aluminum together to make a U channel

2) Cut the two rills together to for a 90 degree join and solder or spot weld them together

3) Apply a bead of silicone to the bottom join to waterproof the union

4) Some stuff I'm sure I haven't yet considered.

Is this the right approach or would you do it differently? Thanks in advance for your feedback and suggestions.

Last edited by homeimproverjoe; 04-13-2017 at 09:31 PM.
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Old 04-13-2017, 09:34 PM   #2
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Re: Fabricating an aluminum U Channel for garden fountain


I would suggest you contact a local steel supplier. Part of the clean and modern look of that detail (which I like) may not be best represented in a couple of sections stitched together.

You will find that the fabrication and material shops have all kinds of stuff available and that very dimensional piece of steel might be readily available and look better as a pre-machined piece.
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Old 04-14-2017, 07:13 AM   #3
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Re: Fabricating an aluminum U Channel for garden fountain


This looks interesting (except for the "Mill" finish - Is that different from the finish I'm seeing with the Home Depot stock?)

Link to Grainger Example

Wish they had pics of the actual piece or an example at least. The generic drawing they have on the product page is near useless.
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Old 04-14-2017, 07:24 AM   #4
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Re: Fabricating an aluminum U Channel for garden fountain


As mentioned go to a real metal supplier, they can order you some aluminum channel or may even have some on hand.
Google "aluminum channel" to see lots of ways it comes.
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Old 04-14-2017, 07:56 AM   #5
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Re: Fabricating an aluminum U Channel for garden fountain


Ayuh,... Agreed, Ya gotta get outa the box stores, 'n go to a real metals supplier,....
Also, I donno how aluminum will react with the concrete,...
A Hvac company can bend up what yer lookin' for, outa ssteel,....
SSteel can be polished, or brushed to get whichever effect ya want, 'n will hold the finish longer,....
Aluminum you can polish, but it begins to corroded as soon as yer done polishin',....
The finish ya see on those angle pieces won't last a year, probably more like a few months,...
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Old 04-14-2017, 09:54 AM   #6
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Re: Fabricating an aluminum U Channel for garden fountain


My buddy has a metal shop. They can bend up to 1 inch steel or aluminium.

He could bend this as a one piecer real quick and easy.
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Old 04-15-2017, 10:52 PM   #7
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Re: Fabricating an aluminum U Channel for garden fountain


You can get a 3 x 1 x 1/8 alum channel in 6063 aluminum. However, in that environment you may want to check out an anodized piece. In stainless, if you go that route - check out 316 stainless. If you need to have a piece bent, which forming sheet into channel is not a big deal -- you will need something like 5052 which can be bent to a 90.
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Old 04-17-2017, 11:14 AM   #8
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Re: Fabricating an aluminum U Channel for garden fountain


Thanks for the helpful suggestions. I've located a local metalwork shop and I'll be visiting them to check out the options.
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Old 05-19-2017, 12:55 PM   #9
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Re: Fabricating an aluminum U Channel for garden fountain


This all seems like the hard way.

If you find a real local metal place, just buy a piece of aluminum extruded square tubing, and ask them to cut it in half (or whatever percentage you need of it) lengthwise on their bandsaw.

Yes it will probably run you an extra few-20 bucks, but its way less than the time and work to get it welded up.

Upside, you'll have a second piece in case something happens to the first.

Also, the extruded tubing will look nicer and be more robust than the bent, bending AL is always something of a gamble, and a full 90 degree bend is a whole lot for thick AL.

You'll still need to get the L shape welded together, but that means one piece of tubing of the right length, cut lengthwise, then one piece cut lengthwise again, and both pieces cut to 45 degree miters would leave you with one small scrap, and just one weld bead needed.


Last thing to think about is if you know people who can weld, but are not professional welders, it is somewhat more likely that you know someone who can weld stainless than aluminum.

Last edited by Tailor; 05-19-2017 at 12:58 PM.
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Old 06-13-2017, 06:54 AM   #10
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Re: Fabricating an aluminum U Channel for garden fountain


I did find an aluminum U channel from a local metalworks shop. Got an 8 foot piece for $25. Here it is cut to fit in place waiting on plumbing and liner install to complete:

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Old 08-16-2017, 03:51 PM   #11
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Re: Fabricating an aluminum U Channel for garden fountain


Update: I got the fountain put together (dry fit) and I'm ready to weld the aluminum channels together at the 45 joint connections.



The local metals shop can do it for $50

I can get a small small Mig wire welder for around $100 > https://www.amazon.com/F2C-Gas-less-...um+wire+welder

I've heard that aluminum is difficult to weld cleanly, but if I can use a cheap wire welder for this, it may be a good opportunity to begin learning a new skill.

Thoughts?
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Old 08-16-2017, 05:35 PM   #12
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Re: Fabricating an aluminum U Channel for garden fountain


Quote:
The local metals shop can do it for $50
Ayuh,.... That $100. chinese welder, is Not up to the task,...

'n, Yes, aluminum is finicky metal to weld, Successfully, muchless cleanly,...

Mig welded aluminum most usually needs grindin' , 'n brushin' to clean it up,....
Tig, can do show quality "Pretty" welds,....
But that is another skill that requires miles of Practice, to look good,...
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Old 08-16-2017, 05:52 PM   #13
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Re: Fabricating an aluminum U Channel for garden fountain


If you want to DIY, you could look into brazing aluminum.
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Old 08-17-2017, 04:26 PM   #14
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Re: Fabricating an aluminum U Channel for garden fountain


Quote:
Originally Posted by XSleeper View Post
If you want to DIY, you could look into brazing aluminum.
Ayuh,.... Not sayin' this stuff wouldn't work,.... But,...

By it's nature, it's better suited to over-lap joints, not so much butt-joints,....

Mig, or tig, a loose fittin' joint allows for 100% penetration welds,...
New real aluminum where there was nothing,...
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Old 08-17-2017, 04:33 PM   #15
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For only $50, I would probably just take it in and have it done. Thats cheap AND is the best way.
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