Step 1: Cut and Clean the PVC
I applied the acetone by wetting some paper towels with it and wiped until the lettering was gone. During this step I use Nitrile gloves (Can be found at home improvement stores in the paint and stain section), I just don't like that stuff soaking into me! The ink can go back on the pipe from the paper towels if too much ink builds up on the paper towels so you may have to find a clean spot on the paper towels and re-wet with more acetone.
Step 2: Cut for the nodes.
Step 3: Make the Nodes Look Good!
So the way I have done it is like this. I would place a smaller diameter piece of PVC on my WorkVice table so that it is standing up. It doesn't need to be that long, it just needs to help guide the PVC that we are decorating.
Work on one mode at a time as this can help with consistency.
Fire up your propane torch and lightly burn the knife mark that you just made. I found that to give a quick burn mark the tip of the blue flame should be right on the PVC. Remember to just lightly burn at this point!
Now heat the plastic until it's slightly pliable without burning it more. I did this by holding the propane torch a few inches from the PVC and spinning it VERY quickly so that you evenly heat the pipe. The amount of time it takes will vary based on the diameter of the PVC. After the PVC is slightly pliable compress the pipe and put some force to get it to expand some to a nice size then hose it off to cool it down quickly so it holds its shape.
If you're creating a viaduct style fountain then don't forget to burn the inside also! You'll need to cut the pipe in half before you burn the inside. A band saw works pretty well.
On a 3-inch pipe each node took about 5 minutes each. 3/4-inch pipe takes less then a minutes this way.
Creating top nodes which were solid was both easy and hard. Buy a PVC cap for the same sized pipe, and using a hole saw of the pipe size, drill it out. Gluing it in place, at first, was a bear but after some tries I got a system that was pretty good. Before you place the solid nodes, stain all pieces first! Inside and out! TRUST ME! Now all you have to do is glue the solid node into place. My glue of choice was aquarium cement since it goes on thick and doesn't drip and can support some weight (like the cap you drilled out). First, place a bead of glue just slightly below the height that you want the node at. Then lower the cut out cap into place (so that it resembles a bowl) and let that glue dry. After it is dry put another bead of glue at the top to fill in the gap between the pipe and the cap cut out. Using a gloved hand, spead out and smooth out the glue. Since you stained/shellaced everything first the effect should come out pretty good. Using a 2-inch hole saw to place a node in a 2-inch pipe can leave a substantial gap to fill but with 2-inch and smaller pipe you can but slightly larger hole saws (like 2 1/8-inch) to fill everything fairly tight. Unless you plan on using the node as a water holding structure, I don't recommend filling the small center hole from the guide drill bit to allow water to drain that might build up.
Step 4: Sand and Stain
The good and bad of shellac. The good: When applied with a rag, the shellac gives a really nice uneven finish which I'm not sure regular stain would give. This finish reflects the imperfections of natural bamboo. The bad: shellac doesn't adhere to the PVC really good even when all the instructions are followed. Covering shellac with a polyurethane isn't recommended since shellac has a wax portion which doesn't allow the polyurethane to adhere well. As long as the feature isn't regularly beat up too badly then this shouldn't be a problem. Using stain may help, but I hadn't tried it yet. Other forums seems to be split regarding stain vs shellac.
Step 5: Finished Product(s)!
One thing I found is that the shellac doesn't hold too well in terms of abuse, mostly winter abuse, I think. I live near Buffalo, NY so can have our share of winter. What I ended up doing was sanding down any areas that had chipped / damaged shellac and re-applied the shellac. After it looked good and fully dried, I coated the entire shellac-ed surface (old and new) with about 4 coats of Rust-Oleum Crystal Clear Enamel Spray paint. It held up over the rest of the summer and winter so far but time will tell. I may just touch it up with the Clear Enamel every year or so in order to have a wear surface. So far, so good!