Building the mechanical part of the fountain involved some experimentation. Initially, I thought that I would use ceramic bowls for the cascade pans, but all of the bowls that I could find had a hole in the bottom to drain water. I got some shallow bowls that did not have the hole in the bottom and assumed that I would put the bowl at a slight angle to get the water to spill out in a sort of controlled area. As soon as I tried this, it was apparent that this was a bad idea. With a reasonable tilt on the bowl. the water ran randomly down the side of the bowl, rather than separating cleanly to drop to the next bowl. I looked around locally for bowls with a pour spout on them and could not find anything suitable, so the round bowls became fabricated pans with spouts. When I tested the new pans (as seen in the photos) I realized that I should have installed the spouts lower on the side of the pans. The water level in the pan rises very close to the top edge of the pans as they are made now. Incidentally, the big catch pot shown had a drain hole in the bottom, and I filled it with fiberglass and epoxy.
When I started the project, I was not sure what kind of pump I was going to use. A low voltage DC pump would be much easier to power and control than a 120VAC pump, but most of the inexpensive small pumps I have messed with, would have a hard time lifting water the 3.3' to the top pan. The Surplus Center (a favorite place for mechanical bits) has some 12V brushless DC pumps that looked like they might work, so I ordered a couple.
Testing this morning showed that the pump works great for this application. The pump pulls about 850mA at 12.2V which is a little bit inconvenient, as most solar panels in that size range put out about 12V. My plan is to put 2 12V 10W panels in series to get 24V @ 20W, and use a buck regulator to drop the pump voltage down to the 9.0 - 12.0V range for some adjustability on the pump output. I would like to have the fountain run a little bit after dark, so I am going to put a gel cell battery in to provide power after the sun goes down. Gel Cells work fine with float charging to a fixed voltage, so the charging controller will not be complex. The design on the timer is still evolving. Implementing the whole controller as an analog project has a lot of appeal to me right now.