Introduction: How to Make Cheap PVC Project Enclosures and Boxes

Picture of How to Make Cheap PVC Project Enclosures and Boxes

I love working with PVC. One of my favorite materials is the vinyl fence posts available at Home Depot and Lowes. It's easy to cut and turn into all kinds of things. The first thing I did with this material was to make project boxes. Here's how I do it.

Step 1: Making the Box

Picture of Making the Box

I used a 4"x4" PVC fence post for these boxes. I wanted a box that was 12"x4"x1.5". First, I cut a 12" section of the post. Next I used my table saw to score where I want to cut the PVC. This material is under inner pressure and will bind down on the blade if you cut it all the way through. This makes crooked, ugly cuts. I set the blade just below the surface of the PVC and ran it through the saw four times to create two 1.5" high boxes. I used the bench sander to clean up the cut edges.

Step 2: Adding the Ends

Picture of Adding the Ends

Now I needed to make ends for the box. Since the fence post material flexes inward slightly, I made wooden braces to hold the sides parallel. I cut a scrap piece of fence post into a 1.75" strip. I cut the strip into 4.25" lengths. I used PVC cement to attach the end pieces and taped them on until the cement cured. Later, I removed the tape and sanded the edge smooth on the bench sander. I left the wooden braces in while I sanded it for support and I removed them when I was done.

Step 3: Making the Bottom

Picture of Making the Bottom

I made the bottom from a scrap of 1/4" plywood. I cut it 3 5/8"x11 7/8" so it fit snugly into the box. I marked a hole 2" in from each end and drilled a pilot hole. I used 4 small screws to hold the bottom in the box. I added small felt pads to the bottom to protect surfaces.

Step 4: Finishing the Enclosure

Picture of Finishing the Enclosure

Now that it's together, the enclosure can be drilled or cut to fit a wide range of components. I used graph paper to plan out the positions of the components. When I'm satisfied with the layout I tape the paper to the enclosure and drill each hole with a tiny drill to make pilot holes. Next I go through and drill each hole to it's actual size. When all the holes are drilled and sanded, the enclosure can be painted with appropriate paint.

These are great project enclosures. An 8' section of 4"x4" post costs $16, or $2 a foot. That means each of these 12"x4"x1.5" enclosures cost just over a dollar! That's probably the cheapest enclosure possible. PVC is also really easy to drill and cut.

Remember- money saved on materials means more money for tools!


silvertank (author)2017-03-14

Great idea! I have tons of scrap lumber around that would make excellent project boxes. Plus, wood can be treated for outdoor exposure. My plastic project boxes can't take too much Florida weather, but I bet wood can do it. Thanks!

Also, for higher voltage projects I suggest using electrical junction boxes. They are cheap and easy to modify. Need a quick waterproof enclosure? Try a small section of PVC pipe with end caps.

RobertM547 (author)2016-12-14

Clever one!

If you want simple to 3D print, customisable box check out

There is a thingiverse link at the end of the post.

zencuke (author)2016-10-06

Anyone that makes things with PVC should know this link

for a fantastic finishing option.

zencuke (author)2016-10-06

Thank you, thank you, thank you. What a great idea. Even better than the low price is the ability to make exactly the size I want.I make things with PVC but didn't know square PVC existed.

YesItsMeJimmy (author)2016-07-19

This is perfect! Thank you

Jgonzalezcfl79 (author)2016-03-19

Wow, you are a genius! Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this! It annoys me how expensive project boxes are! Alright, gotta go to the hardware store. I'll see how mine turn out. Wish me luck!

rodknutson (author)2015-09-28

Old tupperware cotainers work good too for cases. You can paint them too

JanisF (author)2015-08-20

First, I want to be clear, I don't want to discourage, disparage, or disencline this amazing maker movement or *any* maker. I just need to add to the conversation. I just made myself a new bumper sticker (yes it's on vinyl):

Sticks & stones may break my bones, but polymers are forever.

If there's a chance for folks to use consignment (previously owned) plastics, choose materials that will leave a footprint of a shorter duration, or just give thought to the entire product life cycle, it would pass on both a cleaner planet and a culture of greater respect to the kiddos (a few of whom will be president when you're retired). Thanks on behalf of us depressives who think the world is going to pot, the dump, whatever.

I really like how this final project diverges so far from the intent of the manufactured product. Fence post, wha?

RobTurrentine (author)2015-07-25

Did you see the ible about flattening out PVC? Very cool. Yours is great! Thanks for the idea.

waltbosz (author)RobTurrentine2015-07-31

Is this the one you are talking about?

SalM3 (author)2015-07-27

4x4 PVC posts is brilliant!!!

thank you,.

kwkstar (author)2015-07-26

Great Idea. I like the non conductive aspect of these enclosures. And Yes, What is this use for this enclosure that is pictured?

Chuck Stephens (author)kwkstar2015-07-26

I use them primarily for synthesizers and other audio projects. The one
in the picture is something I'm working on currently. It uses blinking
LEDs and light sensors to control the pitch of two synthesizers. It uses
simple CMOS logic chips to create patterns and simple musical loops.
I'll be posting an instructable on it within the next couple of weeks.

wirepig (author)2015-07-23

How about the sparkly pink, my daughter and i have been looking for sparkly already paint too paint her nerf gun with. We haven't had any luck so far.

Chuck Stephens (author)wirepig2015-07-23

Rustoleum just rolled out a new line of glitter paints in a variety of colors. In my area Home Depot carries it. They are awesome! I start with an appropriate primer, add multiple light coats of glitter and top it off with a couple of coats of Rustoleum triple thick glaze. It comes out really nice and durable.

wirepig (author)Chuck Stephens2015-07-25

Thanks Chuck

I think we'll head to HD today to check it out.

holgerm.murk (author)2015-07-23

This is great! Although for noise considerations, one should line the insides with foil.

marcpilot1 (author)2015-07-23

I like it. The finished product is really cool. Its got knobs, switches and that color is nice too. What I'm curious about now is what are they for? Like, what is that particular one in the pic used for, with the knobs and switches?

What are some ideas for use if I were to make one? I want to make 1 or 2 of this size but I also want to maybe make some different sizes. Possibly one for my letters and cards I get from my daughter and parents around Christmas and fathers day, birthdays and stuff. Maybe one for things I can hide stuff in and maybe one for remote controls!

Anyway, I like it! Is there any ideas for what they can be used for? Thanks, Marc C.

I use them primarily for synthesizers and other audio projects. The one in the picture is something I'm working on currently. It uses blinking LEDs and light sensors to control the pitch of two synthesizers. It uses simple CMOS logic chips to create patterns and simple musical loops. I'll be posting an instructable on it within the next couple of weeks.

smokie1969 (author)2015-07-23

I wish those PVC fence posts were available in guys have all the cool stuff in the states! ?

They are pretty light. You may be able to get them shipped. Maybe even have it cut in half to avoid over-size charges.

Do you get Silompan or other bamboo plywood in Australia? I used it when I was in the Pacific and really liked it, but now that I'm back on the US east coast I can't find it anywhere.

Whenever I travel abroad I always visit the local DIY store to see what they have.

TeleDex (author)2015-07-23

Awesome! And, line it with aluminum HVAC tape to shield it from stray hum!

Festrada007 (author)2015-07-23

My squirrel is on crack and sugar now!

VinnyL1 (author)2015-07-23

Great Idea!, Any time there is a new niche market that involves an
easy to make, low cost material that's current widely produced and selling at a low
price point; everyone that can will exploit that opportunity. Even if it
was something to prevent the death of children; greed will
follow the law of supply and demand.

gmessenger (author)2015-07-23

Very nice :-) I will keep this in mind for future projects.

kjlpdx (author)2015-07-23

if you cut flaps on the ends you could heat and bend them down for ends?

arris01 (author)2015-07-21

very nice good idea

zaphodd42 (author)2015-07-20

This is a much better idea then gluing plexi sheets together like several of my earlier projects. Great idea!!

braytonlarson (author)2015-07-16

This is a great idea! Wish I saw this before i spent $8 on a little project box with plastic so thick I could barely cut through it. I'll keep this in mind next time I do a project.

diy_bloke (author)braytonlarson2015-07-17

it is actually ridiculous how expensive small project boxes are. I have seen small boxes that were more expensive than the microcontroller board i wanted to put in it.
Ever since I keep an eye out for boxes that can be used for such. Got myself a really nice clear box once that had screws packed into it. The screws plus box where cheaper than what I had to pay for a project box. It was sturdy and clear so I could just keep the LCD and led's in the box and they still were visible.
The blue box on the left was 35 cts (it was a small lunchbox), the clear one on the right was free, as it came with screws that I bought

braytonlarson (author)diy_bloke2015-07-18

I agree with you. I am actually currently working on a project that displays temperature on a LCD screen just like the one shown in your picture. I have everything worked except can you send me your code or explain how you did the arrow up or down depending on the temperature? I'm assuming that it shows if the temperature has dropped from the last reading correct? Like if 5 minutes ago the temperature was 26°C and now it is 25°C the arrow is pointing down? Thanks a lot!

diy_bloke (author)braytonlarson2015-07-18

no, I use the arrow to indicate if my water reservoir is empty or full, but you can use it for anything as it is just a character that I have defined.
For my program look here:
Go to Step 16. There you will find the software.
Look for the section '// Create a set of new characters
Nr 6 and 7 are the up and down arrow.

I then use the following function to create the characters:
int charBitmapSize = (sizeof(charBitmap ) / sizeof (charBitmap[0]));

for ( int i = 0; i < charBitmapSize; i++ )

lcd.createChar ( i, (uint8_t *)charBitmap[i] );

That works with the library of F. Malpertida but I am pretty sure other libraries have a similar create char function.
As, I am not using it to indicate temperature drop or rise, I cannot give you any ready made code, but it is pretty simple to do: store yr temperature in a variable called 'old_temp' or something and then with every reading compare 'current_temp' with 'old_temp' and depending on th eoutcome print the up or down arrow, and then store current_temp in old_temp and do a new reading

braytonlarson (author)diy_bloke2015-07-18

Ah I see. Thanks for the information and the code, I'll see what I can do!

diy_bloke (author)braytonlarson2015-07-19

good luck

pfred2 (author)braytonlarson2015-07-17

Plastic so thick you could barely cut through it? You need to tool up! My problem is not so much the tools but the motivation. I tend to be a hopeless minimalist, so I usually only make enough "case" to hold a project together. Although I always do appreciate when others make more of an effort, so lately I have been endeavoring to build better cases myself.

I like sheet metal because it is durable, and versatile. But there is the problem that it conducts electricity. So care must be taken when placing projects in it. But the whole point of placing projects into solid cases is to show some effort, so that really should not be an issue.

It does take possessing some specialized tools to work with sheet metal effectively though. Tools that many electronics hobbyists may not have. I think they should though. I do not have a proper shear, or brake, but I make due with what I have. I do have snips, and files, and I put those to good use. Here's a during picture of the case I posted previously in this comment section. The piece I am using is a scrap piece of metal shelving. You can see it under the back chassis piece.

braytonlarson (author)pfred22015-07-18

I have a Dremel and plenty of tools in my garage, my dad was always a handy guy. The problem is getting the plastic to cut cleanly, unfortunately I can't seem to find the cutting wheel attachment for the dremel and I had to score the plastic by hand with a razor blade to cut it out. I agree with on the sheet metal, it is great to work with if you have the right tools. The case you made there looks really nice for being made of scrap.

pfred2 (author)2015-07-13

$2 a foot is too rich for my blood. I make enclosures out of scrap metal. Although the next time I see a PVC fence on the side of the road I might swerve a little, and graze it, see what I can pick up. If it's for free then it's for me.

diy_bloke (author)pfred22015-07-17

looks great

diy_bloke (author)2015-07-17

smart, very smart.
Fortunately I have a thriftshop close by that sells all kind of luch boxes and freezer and microwave boxes.
Got some really decent project boxes for 35 cts. But should they ever go out of business i will surely remember your method

machetebath (author)2015-07-15

Great idea! I'll try it on my next synth!

Here's one I did that used fence post PVC, a keyboard from a Hammond organ and an Arduino-

acheide (author)2015-07-14

I have overlooked this source of PVC. Thanks for pointing it out.

annrrr (author)2015-07-13

This is rad

fiktin101 (author)2015-07-13

I'm always looking for enclosures for projects and end up not satisfied with the end result. this is a great idea. thanks very much for this

About This Instructable




Bio: I build cool things from trash and recycled materials. I like noise and sound circuits. I live with my wife, a chihuahua named Monkey and ... More »
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