Making a Trough Fountain from an Antique Water Pump

This project was more a throwing together of new and old elements, than an actual “building” or “making from scratch” project. But as it is one of the most useful and atmosphere-enhancing elements of our backyard, I thought I’d share the details with you lovely people!
This water trough fountain is functional, (this water trough really IS a water trough for the goats), and it’s decorative, (the fountain makes a great feature in the barnyard – it looks and sounds great!)
Basically, my dad gave me the old manger that he built years ago, and his late 1800’s antique water pump that we had on our property when I was growing up. So both of the fountain features – the container and the “fountain” element are both family heirlooms of sorts! These provided the visual imagery of my childhood that formed my ideals of backyard living and urban homesteading. (Growing up in an urban residential area with gardens, chickens, rabbits, etc., I didn’t realize till just recently that my parents were pretty much urban homesteading before it became popular!)
So anyway, setting up these childhood memories in my own backyard for MY children to enjoy has been beyond fun for me. It’s been an absolute joy! Watching Tessa toddle around these features just fills up my happy and I can only daydream about passing these treasures on to her (or Thyme!) one of these days! (Makes me wonder – which one of my girls will get bit by the backyarding farming bug..?)



When putting the water trough fountain together, we first had to decide how to make the wooden trough waterproof. We had a few options, among them using a waterproof caulk, or a pond liner. I really wanted to pursue the waterproof caulk option, because I liked seeing the wooden panels of the inside of the trough. But in addition to being rather expensive to thoroughly caulk for long time use, the chemicals in the caulk were not animal safe chemically speaking. (Remember, this is primarily the goats drinking water trough!)
So we decided to opt for the pond liner. The black lining blends in well once the water is filled up, it’s heavy duty, it’s safe for drinking water, and it’s easy to fix and patch in the event of leaks! So after installing the pond liner to the wood (using staples above the waterline) we then focused on the antique water pump.



We’d purchased our fountain pump from (if you are making a fountain I recommend you do the same.. WAY cheaper on there!) and all we had to do was feed the water tube through the antique water pump.
But preparing the antique water pump for the fountain element was far trickier than I’d initially anticipated. The construction of the antique hand pump is such that you can’t feed a fountain tube through the thing unless you remove the inner workings of the pump. When consulting the ol’ interwebs, I kept reading, “take the pump apart and feed your fountain tube through the neck and out the spout”. Easy peasy, right? No. Just, no no no NO.
First, the cast iron of the antique pump was BEYOND rusted at the screw and joints, so simply “taking it apart” was a two freaking day job. NO JOKE.



In our efforts to unscrew the rusted bolts, we resorted to: brushing the rust with copper brushes, liquid thread lubricants like WD-40, literally soaking the entire fountain in oil overnight, applying heat with a heat gun, and so on and so on. After two days of taking turns breaking our hands over these nuts and bolts, the darn thing eventually BROKE! We didn’t even get to properly unscrew it, it just snapped in half!
You’d think that solved the problem, right? Well, no. Now that the pump was in half, we could not discern how to remove the inner workings! They were solidly attached! And we couldn’t reach in to remove the guts of the pump.
So we ended up just snaking the fountain pump tube through the water pumps innards, zigzagging and pushing it past all the internal mechanics. It was a tight fit, and now that the tube is through the pump handle doesn’t move up and down.. it’s just kind of stuck in the mid-way position. But the fountain officially works now!
Since we were unable to replace the screws (broke the sucker in half, remember?) I got some C clamps and painted them black and used them to physically hold the fountain together. They’re super sturdy (which is great, since Odee likes to use the fountain to scratch his head!) and once all put together, it works like a charm!





Now the goats can drink from a beautiful running fountain, with goldfish swimming in the trough as a natural form of algae control! It’s such a delightful sound, hearing the running water out in the barn as I milk in the mornings!

Are you a fan of fountains or outdoor water features? Share your thoughts below!