How to Build a Shishi Odoshi Japanese Fountain

Chris Deziel

The soft sounds of spilling water and gentle clacking may not scare any deer away from your rock garden but a shishi odoshi fountain is a charming additionX

A shishi odoshi is a "deer-scarer" fountain, designed to startle deer grazing in Japanese gardens and scare them away. It works by filling a partly hollowed bamboo rod with water so it tips, spills the water in a rush and snaps back to knock against a rock with a sudden resounding clack. There are countless variations of the clever fountains, but you can make a simple decorative one for the front entry of your home or a lively water feature accent inside. (see reference 1)

    Choose several sizes of bamboo.

  1. Select 4-inch diameter bamboo for the top cross piece and the water scoop, slightly smaller bamboo for the upright supports that slot into the cross piece, an even smaller diameter short piece for a water spout, and a very thin piece of bamboo to camouflage the metal axis rod. Bamboo is a natural grass so measurements won't be precise -- you want sturdy, unsplit lengths of bamboo to accommodate the simple design of the fountain.

  2. Drill a hole in the ceramic planter.

  3. Use a glass and tile drill bit to make a hole in the side of the glazed ceramic planter at the bottom, where the power cord for the pump will go. Place a strip of painter's tape over the spot to be drilled to prevent the drill bit from slipping. Drill very slowly, applying almost no pressure so the pot won't crack. Remove the tape when you are through.

  4. Position the pump in the planter.

  5. Put a small submersible fountain pump in the planter and thread the power cord through the hole in the side of the pot. Attach flexible tubing to the pump output to deliver the water to the top of the fountain.

  6. Prepare the grid.

  7. Cut a sheet of metal grid, with openings large enough to poke the bamboo supports through, to fit over the pump, inside the planter. Set the grid in the planter.

  8. Cut the supports, crossbeam, spout and scoop.

  9. Cut a crosspiece from the widest diameter piece of bamboo, slightly longer than the diameter of the ceramic planter. Cut two same-length pieces of the smaller size bamboo for supports, and drill two large holes in the underside of the cross piece so you can insert the supports into the holes. Drill a hole in the front of the crosspiece for the narrow spout that will spill water into the scoop. Cut another piece of the wide bamboo for the scoop, so it is an even length on each side of a node.

  10. Make the water scoop.

  11. Cut the water scoop on an angle on the front end of the scoop only -- a shallow angle of about 30 degrees. Drill a hole completely through the bamboo scoop, just behind the node on the opposite side of the angled end, for the metal axis rod.

  12. Fine tune fitting and tubing.

  13. Drill a 3/4-inch hole in bottom-side of one of the supports so you can thread the 1/2 tubing through it. Poke or drill out the nodes on the inside of that support to clear a passage for the tubing. Poke out any nodes on the cross piece from the place where the tubing will enter the crosspiece to the spout. Then thread the clear flexible tubing from the pump, through the hole in the side of the support, up through the support, into the cross bar, and let it dangle out the hole for the spout.

  14. Tip

    Tapping a piece of metal rebar inside the bamboo and through the nodes will clear it if you don't have an ultra-long drill bit. Work gently to avoid splitting the bamboo.

    Assemble the framework and scoop.

  15. Fit all the supports and cross pieces together, with the flexible tubing in place, poke the supports through the openings in the metal grid so the frame stands up in the ceramic planter, and place the large decorative rock behind the frame on the grid. Slip the metal rod through the scoop in the holes behind the node and experiment to see where on the support poles the scoop should pivot so the back end strikes the rock. Mark that spot, measure so it is even on each support pole and then drill a hole all the way through each bamboo support pole at the marks.

  16. slide the metal rod that holds the scoop through the holes in one support, the scoop and the other support. The scoop should pivot on this rod. When the scoop is empty, the non-angled end should be down and the lighter, angled end up so the scoop is tilted up toward the water spout..

  17. Test-drive the water flow.

  18. Fill the ceramic pot with water so the pump is submerged, plug in the pump and set it to the lowest flow. Fiddle with the tubing to see where the water should pour out to drip into the scoop. Then measure and cut the small, hollow piece of bamboo that fits into the hole in the cross piece and holds the tubing. The spout should trickle water into the angled opening of the scoop.

  19. Set up the spout.

  20. Turn off the water and remove the spout from the hole. Trim the tubing so it fits into the spout but does not protrude from it. Dry the spout and the cross piece at the spout hole and run a tin line of epoxy adhesive around the hole in the cross piece, adjust the tubing and insert spout into the hole. Dab a dot of epoxy inside the spout and press the tube into it to "tack" the tubing in place and allow the glue to dry.

  21. Disguise the scoop axis.

  22. Measure and cut small pieces of thin bamboo, from a section without nodes -- two to fit on the metal pivot bar to keep the scoop centered, and two more to fit over the protruding ends of the bar on the outside of the supports. Reassemble the frame for the fountain, slipping the bar through a support, adding a spacer, then the scoop, then the second spacer, before pushing the bar through the second support. Slip the remaining two pieces of bamboo over the exposed ends of the metal bar.