I'm sure I'm not the only Canadian who feels less-than-whole because I have never built a backyard ice rink. I am also a wannabe Maker on the lookout for a small-scope project. Over the Christmas holiday, I solved both problems by making a rink. On my deck.
It was mild out (4C). The forecast said the temperature would drop and spend a few days in the -10C range. I thought I recalled from the Surface Tension exhibit at the Museum that a backyard rink requires 5 straight days of negative Celsius temperature. I figured since this was going to be on my deck, it would freeze from below as well as above. A man-made "Caution: Bridge Ices" scenario.
The deck was covered in snow. We didn't want the lumpiness to undo the perfect leveling provided by building on a deck, so we cleared it first. Teri helped, and we shoveled really gently with plastic shovels to avoid wrecking the wood.
After clearing the deck we laid out the tarp. It was a large 20'x20' tarp I bought last year (ahem, for this idea, which I didn't get around to at the time) The tarp was much bigger than our deck, so we zip-tied it to the railing on one side while we squared up the bottom. We anchored it in a bunch of places with snow and plastic backyard chairs (which we thought would make cool built-in chairs anyhow). This gave us a lined pool.
To fill it, we used the garden hose. The mild temperature meant the outdoor water tap was working, and the hose was accessed with ease because I had just neatly put it away for Winter.
It took a long time to fill the volume, but we went with about 4cm of water in the pool.
The next day, the temperature did drop like forecast, and a test of the rink after 24 hours (by stepping on it) revealed that it was not yet frozen, but a nice thick (1cm) ice layer.
The day after (48hr), the rink was solid. The kids skated all day, and supervision was us enjoying some glögg by the fireplace. And it never once smelled like hockey skates.
Happy New Year!