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I came up with this simple trick to give PVC pipe a realistic wood texture when I built a few plastic didgeridoos a couple of years ago. It would also work for theater, home decor or backyard tiki-bars! Send an invite if you build that last one.

Step 1: What You'll Need.

- PVC, Any size you want.

- Heavy Metal File. Mine has Rasp and Double Cut sides. An 8-inch file like this costs $9 at any hardware store.

- 100 Grit Sandpaper

- Artist Oil Paint. You can use acrylic, but it may chip off unless you seal it.

Other Materials:

- Wire Brush, for clearing the file's teeth of PVC.

- Dust Mask, to prevent PVC dust from getting in your lungs.

Step 2: Sand the PVC.

SAFETY REMINDER: Wear a dust mask for this step!!

Remove the shiny coating and ink print on the PVC face with the sandpaper. If the Ink is giving you trouble, give IT some trouble... with acetone. Your PVC should have a nice matte finish.

Step 3: File Away!

Use the rasp side of the file to shred the PVC surface. Pull the file in many directions to give it an organic look. If the file's teeth get clogged, use a wire brush to quickly clear them.

CAUTION: This step will make sharp ridges on the surface of the PVC. Try not to slide your knuckles along the pipe until you have smoothed it out.

Once you're happy with the texture, use the double cut (smoother side) of the file to remove the shavings and sharp ridges on the PVC. Give the plastic a few extra rubs with the sandpaper.

Step 4: Add Some Color.

Find a nice oil color you like for your PVC wood. Wipe it on with a rag, making sure to work it into all the new grooves. You can use some faux finish techniques for extra texture, blotting the paint on in irregular patterns instead of bush strokes. Let it dry. That's it!

Step 5: Going Further...

As I stated above, I used this technique to make a few didgeridoos. If you like this idea, there are many Instructables on making one. You just need PVC and bees wax for a mouth piece.

I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Enjoy!

Awesome tutorial! Do you know if this technique would work on the grey pvc?
<p>Greetings! I dont see why it wouldn't work on grey PVC. I'm not sure where you are in the big world, in USA, grey PVC is called &quot;schedule 80&quot;. It just means it has a thicker wall than the white &quot;schedule 40&quot; PVC. The rasp file should tear through the surface just as easily on both types. </p><p>The only other factor I would be concerned about is the color. You would have to experiment on tints and shades of your stain or paint to get the desired look having a grey canvas instead of white. Here's what I would do for best results: </p><p>Sand the PVC and rub it with acetone (nail polish remover). Spray a few layers of white plastic rated spray paint primer on the surface and let it dry. THEN... use the rasp file and cut into the surface to make the wood texture. After that... apply your color agent. Again, experiment first to see what works best for you as far as oil, acrylic, wood stain etc with the primer on your PVC. </p><p>I'd love to know how it works out. Have Fun!!</p>
Perhaps with a grey PVC, you could experiment with a birch bark look; instead of rasping the pipe lengthwise, you would probably rasp randomly around the circumference and 'dig' a little more aggressively to create the black, lateral embelishments. A little trickier with the paint, but it would look cool.
<p>This is just wild! My heads spinning with project ideas. So what do you think about using this on a plastic steering wheel? Any thoughts on a clear finish? I'm restoring a 47 year old muscle car faux wood steering wheel.</p>
<p>WOW! I would test it before committing to a real steering wheel, in case it doesn't work, I'd hate to see such an artifact ruined. I cant claim to know too much about the materials used in car restoration or even the details about modifying car parts. I like the idea of a wood steering wheel. But if you're going o put your time and money into a restoration job... why not get the real thing? NOT to discourage you from trying, of course!! If you scroll down, you'll see FRKS1904 modified a Nintendo 64 to make a wood finish. </p>
<p>I've heard great things about &quot;Frog Juice&quot;. It's originally used for those vinyl signs, but it's tough and UV-resistant, so I think it would work well for a steering wheel!</p>
<p>This is just too cool. I'm going to have to give this a try. I wonder if oil based wood stain would work just as well? </p><p>Would you recommend using a finer grit sand paper to smooth everything once the wood grain has been created? <br></p>
<p>I've heard of people using wood stain and are quite pleased with the result. I only use oil paint because I can control how thick the application will be, giving it a more varied depth of color through-out. </p><p>I don't think a fine grit sand paper would be necessary. You want SOME texture on the surface for the paint / stain on which to grab. But I like to tell people who try this... PLEASE experiment! And share what you find. That's the beauty of open source ideas. Have fun!!</p>
I want to use pvc to make a rail fence. Can I spray paint it without sanding, and it will not chop or scratch and also be weather/rain proof for at least 10 years? Is the stain you used water proof or scratch proof? The fence really won't be touched much. Also was reading through some other comments about filling it with cement or something to make it stronger. What do you suggest
Ok so i bought a small piece of PVC pipe and tried this, here's what I found...I bought the exact brand and color of Artist Oil paint you show, however, the package mine came in, was lighter than the one you show, but the label is the exact same...and the color seems lighter on the pipe as well. Does it take several layers to darken up, or what did I do differently, would you guess?
<p>Hey, Juliedf. Good question. Try easing off the pressure you apply to the rag as you wipe on the oil paint. The less pressure, the thicker (and darker) the oil paint layer will be. But yes, by all means, a few layers wont hurt. If you still are not getting the result you want, simply try a darker brown color or mix in a little black with the color you are using. The great thing about oil paint is that the color changes VERY LITTLE as it dries, so what you see is what you get as a final product. </p><p>And PLEASE be patient in letting it dry. One comment below by user YMRG suggests using &quot;cobalt oil paint drier&quot; a few drops, to speed the processes. In a well ventilated area, maybe even out doors (or near a small fan) give it at least 2-4 days.</p><p>That being said, you also dont have to use oil paint. I do because it looks most like wood when dry and is most robust against damage. There is a variety of plastic friendly paints and dyes to use, but in my humble opinion, they dry too quickly and dont offer the &quot;organic wood texture&quot; I prefer. </p><p>If you need more help, please ask! I'll try to get back to you as soon as I physically can!! : ) Have fun and thanks for reading!!</p>
<p>i am doing this to a video game console! thanks for the tips Zaphodd42!<br><br>i have a quick question.... how long does it take for the oil paint to dry before adding a clear coat?</p>
<p>Cool! Making a retro ATARI? I cant wait to see pics! Anyway... give it a few days to a week. (IF you use oil paint.) Others have said that acrylic or even wood stain have worked for quicker drying times but you may need multiple coats for wood stain. I'd put it somewhere with fresh moving air. When it's dry to the touch, apply the clear coat. Be patient. It's worth it. </p>
<p>I'm actually doing a Nintendo64. and the controllers too. ive done the top of the console so far and it looks incredible. i did have to touch some of the harder to get areas with a brush but it didnt change the look at all, as long as i kept going in the same &quot;groove&quot; direction.<br><br><br>i used the same exact oil paint you used and tbh, i dont think this could look any better. thanks for this instructable.<br>i actually found it on YouTube when you called some guy out for stealing your pictures and words. I decided to go straight to the source. <br><br>one difference i added was i also did a few little puncture marks (dots) and some cut as well on corners, to make it look more rustic.</p>
<p>HA! Yeah, I felt a bit petty for calling that guy out. I didn't report him, just asked for credit in the description. I guess I felt in the nature of the spirit... &quot;open source&quot;, share and share alike. The idea is getting out there and that's what counts. It's nice to be imitated. It means they like you. ANYWAY... That Looks Awesome!!! The texture of the plastic looks great!! I love the extra knicks and pits you put into it, it adds a level of organics to it. It makes the Nintendo logo look &quot;branded&quot; on, like with a hot iron. </p><p>I'm glad you enjoyed the instructable. Thank you for sharing and and I am stoked with the path you took to apply this idea. Truly genius. Now go play some GoldenEye 007 for 8 straight hours. </p>
<p>well, she's finished!!!!!<br>did a controller too.<br>plz - any feedback is welcome.<br></p>
<p>The controller looks sooooo good!!! I love how good it turned out. Great Job! Let me know how the finish holds up and if the color stays put. You should send these pics to Nintendo!! </p>
<p>When you work with oil paintings you can add a little bit of cobalt drier, two or three drops, depending of the amount of paint and it will dry in a couple of days or less.</p>
<p>YMRG, Thanks for the heads up! Does this additive modify the color or texture of the paint in any way? I think knowing about that will greatly benefit this idea!! </p>
<p>Not at all, I am a professional fine art artist and this drier is what we use to accelerate the drying process. I usually put 3-4 drops into my paint thinner which I always mix with linseed oil and that way the oil dry faster, this is about half of the condensed milk can, I guess you don't need all the mix so if you drop a few drops is going to be OK, you can give it a different tries to see which one fit you better. There is no change at all in the color or texture of the paint. You can get it at any art or art and craft stores where you live. Good luck!</p>
<p>Thanks for the instructable! I bought some PVC sewer pipe and made strawberry planters. </p>
<p>I love this idea so much I will have to borrow it from YOU! I have a nice blank slate on an outdoor wall that this would look great cascading down. I'd use hanging vines and succulents to fill in the spaces. </p><p>But you did an amazing job!!! I can tell you not new to the maker community. Thanks for sharing. I love seeing what others do with this idea. </p>
<p>Hey I am planning to make a PVC wooden dummy for martial art training, to cut down expanses, i am going to use pvc instead of whole log<br>in your opinion, Could the color and the transparent spray hold against punches?<br>and maybe do you know any filler that can be use to fill the PVC and make it dense like wood? (my number 1 option is sand right now)</p><p>Thanks</p>
<p>I have never done it but have you try filling the PVC with concrete?</p>
<p>i haven't try it myself but i know the effect of filling it with concrete<br>it'll be so hard and punching it will feel like punching a rock<br>that's why I'm thinking about sand</p>
<p>Spray expandable foam ( it is called &quot;Great Stuff&quot;, you can get it at Home Depot) Gives it more weight, less flexibility, and more strength.<br> PVC breaks in sharp edges and breaks down over time in the sun. I would do a test piece and see if it will stand up to what you need. With hand protection.</p>
<p>Thanks for the advice<br>how's the test piece?<br>i search for reviews regarding expanding foams and i think if i fill the whole 9&quot; diameter pvc with only this it will be too light.<br>SO maybe i'm going to make a concrete core with maybe 4-6&quot; in diameter and fill the rest with the foam<br>how do you think?</p>
<p>I guess controlling the concrete, by putting it in a smaller PVC pipe?<br></p><p>I have used Great stuff &quot;yellow&quot; cap in PVC many times with no breakage. (yellow and blue caps are &quot;both&quot; expanding foam, just yellow expands more than blue)<br> You do need to give the foam a place to go. Capping the end you spray it into, and leave the other end open. drill a hole you can put the nozzle into. May need to do it in sections at a time. see how far it expands, drill a new fill hole and repeat. <br> if you read the can, it will tell you how much it expands. I &quot;think&quot; it is Y= 5 times volume of liquid in can, and B= 3 times.<br></p> You may want to think about using XB15 it expands 15 times volume. it is a 2 part liquid that you mix. a little more tricky to use so start in real small batches (15 times bigger is easy to be more than you think).<br> It would need to be poured in, and you have a limited work time before it starts to expand. working in &quot;small&quot; batches with a 4-9&quot; diamiter opening in the top should be plenty of expansion room. The trick would be to get the first few batches in the bottom without getting any on the sides.
Dude- great stuff expanding foam will break your pipe! Yellow cap= expanding, blue cap= nonexpanding
<p>I used rapid setting cement......I made a small bird avairy &amp; didn't want the wind to move it around. </p>
<p>Is this one of those &quot;wing chun&quot; dummies? To answer your question, I think the paint will hold up, but I'm not sure the PVC itself will. </p><p>Before you put too much work into it, I would see how much punching PVC will allow you to do to it. Also, wood will react to your body differently than PVC. Will that somehow compromise the effectiveness of the exercise? I am not familiar with martial arts in any practical way, so please understand that as I ask these questions!! </p><p>Anyway, yes, the paint should be ok. You can always touch up areas that get worn away from repeated contact. AND... please be sure to sand it thoroughly after you file the texture into it. That process makes very sharp edges on the PVC surface. If you punch it or hit it with your skin with allot of force, you may cut yourself. I have rubbed my knuckles across that sharp PVC texture many times. Good luck. Post a pic if you make this!! </p>
<p>that's why I'm trying to find a material to fill the pvc so that it gives similar feel when punching it like punching wood.</p><p>Got any idea? A type of plastic grains, or anything?<br>anyway I'll be making this very soon and I'll post the picture here</p>
<p>Like it. Did you try a diff. sand papers from 40 to 200 to knock down the rasp cuts? And if so, using straight or random orbital sanders? I live in South Dakota using 4&quot; x 10' sch 40 to hang bird feeders. Will use Clear coat for summer and winter weather, test for one year than do it. You had a poster ask about elbows and how to cover them, and they said rap it with rope, Great idea, will do that! </p>
<p>I never thought to knock down the rasp cuts, I always liked the effect of a deep wood grain. Those rasp &quot;pockets&quot; give a nice place for paint or stain to collect and offer more contrast overall. But what's great about ideas is that they evolve, change, grow. Please let me know how your project turns out. </p>
<p>I used this technique to create my color changing cosplay staff featured here: https://www.instructables.com/id/Color-Changing-Crystal-Staff-for-Cosplay/</p><p>Thanks for the instructable!</p>
<p>That looks awesome!! I'd love to see a vid of the crystal morphing!! I never tried wood stain on PVC. Does it hold up well? It looks like you got great coverage!! </p>
<p>Im using your great idea to build an 18 ft ship mast for our ptoduction of The Little Mermaid! The production is outside and the prop will be cradled above ground 6in outside probably 5 days during day and night. Do you think if we cover it with a tarp it will be okay? Im scared of dew and sun light and hoefully not rain. I tried a clear matte sealing spray on a dry test piece and it made the paint job dull and in some places it looked like it was taking the color off. I cant use laquor because i dont want the shine. </p>
Is there a nontoxic PVC dye for a woodgrain finish? I want to use it for a bird playstand?
<p>Any PVC &quot;dye&quot; you find will probably not be suitable for use with animals and water. I did a bit of research (but PLEASE do your own!!) most results of which say there are chemicals in PVC dye that are toxic. There are plenty of articles that say artist oil paint is safe as it is linseed oil with pigment and some other fixers etc and generally considered safe to be around animals and children. What I would do is find a specific paint you want to use and research that brand specifically. Good Luck. Share what you find! </p>
<p>can i use this outdoors? I want to make a bird feeder :) will the rain ruin it?</p>
Sure! There are a bunch of outdoor friendly spray protectors to apply to it. You could probably even choose between shiney and matte. Look for them in spray paint isle. Rust-Oleum makes a few.
<p>Thanks!!!!</p>
What are the chances this is weatherproof??? I'm going to be making a chicken waterer with pvc and I love the idea of having it look like wood in the coop!!! Or is there a good sealant anyone suggests? I love this!! Thank you so much for sharing!!
<p>If you use oil paint, there will be a reasonable resistance to weather. But to give it a real kick-in-the-butt level of weatherproofing, there are TONS of great clear sealant sprays. Krylon makes several levels of clear sealants specifically for outdoor protection: water and UV. </p><p>I'm glad you like it! I only ask that you consider the safety of using certain chemicals when applying this technique around animals. I am not an expert here, I just love all creatures that swim, fly and crawl!! : ) </p>
<p>One of the most fantastic, simple and useful DIY's I have ever seen, thanks.</p><p>Ron Gordon Modesto, Calif.</p>
<p>Thanks for checking it out!! Use it wisely!!! </p>
Hey. Awesome tutorial. I am in the middle of making a replica staff for cosplay weaponry. Although i have skimmed through the comments, i couldnt actually see how much paint you used on your digeridoo. My staff is 1.5m long and 40mm in diameter. How much paint do you think i may need?
<p>Hey Nick. Great Staff. Can I ask what you added to the end to make it look solid?</p><p>Thanks</p>
Thanks Eric. I made two staffs. One 40mm pipe with 32mm plumbing end caps sanded down. The other 32mm pipe with round 32mm blanking caps bought from ebay, again sanded down. I made a quick tutorial on my fb page @nickdcosplay. Although the tutorial here is much the same! Hope this helps.
<p>Hey NickD! Honestly, just wipe it on! Put a small dab on a rag and work it in. Reapply as it starts to thin out. If you're using oil color, a little goes a long way. Make sure you work it into the grooves as well... an easy way to do this is to rub the oil &quot;sideways&quot; into the groves... around the staff horizontally. But finish by wiping the oil rag vertically to simulate the grain of the wood. A regular size tube of oil paint (like the one pictured in my instructable) could make 10 staffs, maybe more. </p><p>Also... the more pressure you use in wiping it on, the thinner and lighter it will be. This can work in your favor by helping you achieve an organic look. Apply layers for darker tones. AND!!! If you use oil, give your paint a week to dry. Put it somewhere with moving air and try to hang it so it's not touching anything.</p><p>So, in the end, to cover your staff, you'll use about 1 teaspoon of oil paint. But i'm sure as soon as you start painting, you'll see exactly how much you'll want to use.</p><p>Good luck, let me know if you need more help. I'd love to see the staff when you're done!!</p>

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Bio: I live in suburban Pennsylvania with my wife and puppy. I pass the time building robots, photographing microbes and directing live TV. I enjoy learning ... More »
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