A few weeks ago, my wife mentioned that she’d like me to find something to cover the septic tank cleanout in the front yard. I had strategically placed a bird bath next to it two years ago, but I guess people were still able to see the pipe.
Where I’m from, when we have a problem we can’t get rid of, we cover it with a wishing well. So I volunteered to build a wishing well… but not just any old wishing well. Keep reading to learn the secret of the well.
I started off with some rough-cut 8/4 cedar.
I cut one of these 2x12s into three boards, each about 3.5″ tall and 1.75″ thick, to use for the base of the well.
From the boards, I cut eight matching pieces (each with a 22.5º miter on each end) using a miter sled I made for the occasion.
I used biscuits and glue and clamped the octagonal base together with a tie-down strap.
At the lumberyard, I also bought a handful of 6′ 1×6 fence boards. I cut each of these into six two-foot 1x3s. Some of the boards were drier than others.
I screwed the cut-down fence boards into the inside of the base, four on each side. I elevated them about half an inch so they wouldn’t have end grain in direct contact with the ground.
I repeated the process I followed for the base to make a collar around the top of the fence boards, and then I added two roof supports. Each support has two 45º miters at the top.
The lip of the well will be octagonal as well, but with the wide sides of the boards facing up. Two of the sides must be notched to fit around the roof supports, so I made a template out of cardboard.
Seven of the lip pieces are biscuited and glued together. The seven-piece part and the remaining piece are each screwed to the roof supports. More on why it’s assembled this way later.
I chose to alternate the wood colors around the lip, partly because I liked how it looked and other-partly because that was the most efficient way to use the boards.
The roof frame comprises two triangles, one attached to each vertical support.
I attached the triangles and added rafters made from leftover fence boards.
Every wishing well needs a place to hang a bucket, so I made handle and spindle out of a scrap of cedar and an old clothes-hanging rod from a closet we remodeled.
I shingled the roof with cedar shingles I picked up with the lumber, and the well is good to go!
Or is it?? (Oh, I also finished all of the weather-facing wood with some spar urethane before continuing.)
This well’s secret is that when you peek inside, you won’t see the aforementioned septic cleanout. You’ll gaze into an endless simulated abyss, your brain fooled by just a pair of mirrors and a string of lights. Ha ha! Stupid brain!
This illusion is known as an infinity mirror. There are many tutorials online for building these mirrors, but I do believe I am the first person to combine one with a wishing well. I’ll wait while you rush to create a Wikipedia entry for me, now that I am most definitely notable.
I added supports for the mirror about three inches below the bottom of the lip. The lip had to be removable so that I could insert the mirror, and, if necessary, remove it later.
The mirror base (and all of the rest of the parts) were cut on my X-Carve CNC router.
The second layer of the infinity mirror is a standard round mirror, twenty inches in diameter. I got this mirror (and the glass for a later step) custom-made by my local glass shop.
The interior of the infinity mirror is two layers of 3/4″ plywood with an octagonal opening (to mimic the inside shape of the well) plus a piece of quarter-inch plywood on each side with a circular opening that fits around the glass. I glued all of these layers together and then painted all of the interior edges black.
I drilled a hole in one corner where the LED light strip will enter the mirror.
After fitting this section over the bottom mirror, I threaded the LEDs into the frame and used the adhesive backing to attach them around the edge.
Once the LEDs were in place, I added the top mirror, which is actually a two-way mirror. I bought a round piece of glass and applied silver privacy film to one side, creating a mirror that you can look through from one side. On top of this mirror, I added another 3/4″ plywood octagon, a sheet of plexiglass to protect the glass from errant footballs, and a final quarter-inch octagon to hold the plexiglass down. With the lights on, this is what the mirror looks like at this point:
But what is controlling the LEDs, Chris? Surely this wishing well is not plugged into the wall! That would ruin the illusion!
You are correct. I did not plug the well in to the wall. The LEDs are powered by a battery pack that I inset into the bottom of the standalone lip side. Here’s a shot of it before I attached it to the well:
The battery pack is also a motion sensor, so the lights inside the well automatically turn on whenever someone walks up to it (and turn off 30 seconds later). See for yourself: