RG 16

Make Your Own Rain Gauge

We had a couple of really good storms here last week – the kind that dump down rain for quite a while. Since we’ve been in a drought for a year and a half now, rain is a big deal. Both times I checked the official rainfall expecting to see at least an inch of rain, give or take, and I was shocked to see the “official” amount was listed as 0.25″ and 0.08″ of rain. The official gauge is across town, and apparently the storms missed that area. I did find one website that has people self-report rainfall, and the estimates in my area were more in the 1″ range. But it made me think – I need a rain gauge. I had griped about the rainfall measurements on facebook too and one of my cousins mentioned that I should just make one as a project with the kids – that was enough for me! Great minds think alike. :)

I started scouring the internet for how to make your own rain gauge, and some fairly complicated (or, at least, multi-step) plans came up, and even though some of them had sand in the bottom of the gauge to keep it from falling over, we get some crazy winds here and I was pretty sure that it would just fall over in the first storm and we’d have a mess.

Then I found this idea from the Franklin Institute website. Any place that is dedicated to and promotes Benjamin Franklin has to have good ideas, right? I modified it just slightly to make it work a little better.

Here is what you need:

  • A wire coat hanger
  • A wide-mouthed glass jar (I used a queso jar)
  • A sharpie
  • A ruler
  • Packing Tape
  • Pliers, or similar, to help you unbend the coat hanger

That’s it! The gauge itself is simple. Take your glass jar and your ruler. Line the “0” of your ruler up with the bottom of the glass jar and mark with the sharpie every so often (I did every 1/4″). Then write in some numbers so you can easily see some of your major measurements (1/2″, 1″, etc.).

I wanted my “measuring” to be visible on the back side so I wrote my numbers backwards so that when you are looking “through” the glass, you can see the numbers the right way. If you are happy with the numbers on the front of the jar, you can just write them the normal way.

Take a strip of packing tape that is as long as your jar is tall and put it over your numbers. This will help to keep your numbers from rubbing off as you take it in and out of your rain gauge holder, and will also keep them from rubbing off.

Congratulations! You now have a rain gauge! But where to put it?

That is where the coat hanger comes in. This part is going to sound a little more complicated in writing than it is in real life, so just take a good look at the pictures as you are going along and you will be able to figure it out easily. You are just basically going to use the coat hanger to make a sort of cup holder for the rain gauge. You need support on the bottom and around the sides, and you need a way to hang it up. You will are just bending a wire to do that. It really is not too tough.

Take your handy pliers (if needed) and twist apart the wire on the top to open your hanger up. Mine was a thicker hanger and the pliers definitely helped to get it started. Now you can start to make the “cradle” for the gauge.

After you have untwisted it, start from the hook side and go down to the first major bend. Open it up so the long part of your hanger makes an “L” shape (or 90 degree angle) from the hook part of the hanger. With the hook end up, place your gauge onto the long part of the hanger so it is touching the hook end of the hanger. The part underneath your gauge is what will be the bottom part of your gauge cradle. Bend the long side up so it runs parallel to the hook part. If you took your gauge off of the hanger it should look like three sides of a rectangle – two long and one shorter. The shorter one, again, is the bottom of the cradle.

From this point on you will be working with the long portion you just bent up. Keeping that part running parallel to the hook part, measure up a couple of inches and bend your wire sideways. If you had your hook piece on a wall, the other end should face either directly to the right or directly to the left. Take this part and start bending it into as much of a spiral as you can around the rain gauge. Mine ended up going around about 1-3/4 times. I had to keep sliding the gauge in and out to make sure that it fit snugly in the wire, but not so tight that I couldn’t get it out again. The idea is to make a safe place for the gauge to hang up so it isn’t blown over, but you have to be able to take it out to dump your rain water out after a storm.

Your gauge holder is now done! Wahoo! I took mine to my back fence and hammered some nails on either side of it to support it along one of my fence boards. As you can tell, my fence has seen better days so I didn’t feel too bad about hammering it into the board directly. You could also find more creative ways to fasten it if you’re worried about your fence, or if you think you may want to move it to another spot someday.

When you are looking for a location to put the rain gauge, make sure it isn’t directly under something like a tree or a roofline that would cause it to give an inaccurate reading. It’s good for it to be in the open. That being said, we’ll probably need to move ours up so the gauge itself is near the top or over the fence so the fence board itself isn’t blocking rain.

I’m planning on printing out a sheet, or having a notebook where we can record the daily rainfall and have our own household annual rainfall recording. Go us! :)

There you go! Super simple rain gauge. Fairly easy (and cool-looking) gauge holder. Now we just need to add some rain and we’re in business.

Enjoy! :)

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