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Homemade Copper Arbors

Find out how to add design, dimension and direction to your yard with these helpful tips, and build an arbor with step-by-step instructions.

What's one of the most beautiful ways to add design, dimension and direction to your yard? Add an arbor, and according to landscaper Mark Jones, building one is easy and inexpensive. Jones shows how to create an arbor made out of simple copper tubing (figure A).

From romantic to rustic (figure B), arbors provide the perfect problem-solving passageway from one area of the yard to another. A traditional arbor usually incorporates either an arch or angled horizontal supports as an over-crossing or "ceiling."

A pergola, which is another type of arbor, has a flat top (figure C). Either classic or contemporary, arbors raise the bar on garden design.

"The purpose of an arbor is to define an area you'd like to focus on," says Jones, "whether it's a space definition or a transition from one space to another in a yard."

Consider the possibilities: Arbors may be used to frame a window with a flowering vine (figure D), dress up a blank wall, or simply support vines and draw attention to a pathway or a secret garden.

There's a lot of embellishment and detail you can do to arbors as well. For example, utilize small strands of bare copper wire and twist them throughout the rungs of the copper arbor. You can also hang low-voltage lights throughout the arbor to create a lighted entrance for evening entertainment. And if you've ever priced arbors, you know that storebought arbors can put a big dent in your pocketbook. Building your own arbor can save some 60 percent.

Of course there are other materials you could use to build an arbor. From redwoods, cedars, Douglas firs, painted woods and natural woods to steel piping, there are a variety of different resources. But one of the great things about copper is the metal epoxy, which eliminates the need for soldering. One more reason to love copper is the beautiful dark brown color called patina that develops after long-term exposure to the elements.

Build Your Own Arbor

Materials and Tools:

for the base: twenty 16-inch sections of 3/4-inch copper tubing
for the arch: eight one-foot pieces of 3/4-inch copper tubing and four 8-inch pieces of 3/4-inch copper tubing
for the crossbars: eleven two-foot sections of 1/2-inch copper tubing
pipe cutter
wire cutter
sand paper
metal epoxy kit
copper tubing
optional: wood


  1. Cut the copper tubing to size with the pipe cutter. Simply twist the cutter around the diameter of the tube to cut.

  2. Use sandpaper to rough up the copper and remove the oils. Sanding the tubing also helps the epoxy form a better seal with the connectors. It also adds a more rustic-looking finish (figure G).

  3. Lay out the entire arbor on a flat surface, connectors and all before assembly (figure H). Epoxy dries fast, so having all the parts ready now will save you a headache later.

  4. These nifty reducing T connectors (figure I) make connecting different diameter tubing a snap.
  5. Mix up a small batch of the epoxy since it dries quickly. It may also be a good idea to enlist a friend to help.
  6. Paint the inside of each connector with the epoxy, then slip in the copper tubing.
  7. Working on a flat surface ensures a more stable and even arbor. Build one side and allow time for the epoxy to set up while constructing the other side. On cold days, it may take longer for the epoxy to dry, but 10 to 30 minutes is a good guideline.
  8. If your tastes run more towards wood than copper, just replace the copper support beams with sections of wood measured and cut to the same dimensions. Also, if you decide to use wood, use screws instead of epoxy, and pre-drilled holes for the upper rungs. When working with wood, Mark suggests joining the pieces from the top down, because mistakes are easier to hide towards the bottom.
  9. After you decide where you want to put the arbor, dig a little hole in the soil to stabilize it.

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