I just started hooping, and like any beginner that meant I needed at least 5 hula hoops to get started :)
Once I began researching the best ways to make a hula hoop, I fell into a rabbit hole of information on the hula hoop forums (yes, they exist). I was so overwhelmed by the choices that I decided to pare down what I learned into this basic instructable.
Step 1: About Tubing
This is by far what took me the longest to figure out. I had no idea when I went to order tubing that I'd be confronted by hundreds of choices. Hundreds. I mean, seriously? After wading through all that information, this is a top level overview on the three most common types of tubing people use for hoops:
PE (polyethylene): This is the easiest to find and most commonly used tubing for beginner hula hoops. It can be found at some Lowes or Home Depots and is commonly used for irrigation, however after calling around in my area I wasn't able to find any in stores. The most common thicknesses for hoops are 3/4" 160psi (heaviest), 3/4" 100psi (lighter), and 1/2" 125psi (lightest). Note that for this material, the diameter refers to the inner diameter, and the outer diameter is around 1/8" - 1/4" larger depending on the psi. This material is connected by using barbed connectors, and I recommend the mid-weight 3/4" 100psi, which is available here with free shipping to affiliate stores.
HDPE (high density polyethylene): This is a more rigid and lighter weight plastic than the standard PE, so more experienced hoopers seem to prefer it to PE, although they aren't that different. It is a cloudy white vs black, so if you wanted to use LEDs you would want to use this or polypro. It is not available at stores, so you will have to order it online. Unlike PE the diameter refers to the outer diameter with this material, and I found that 7/8" was a nice size for a big beginner hoop, and 3/4" is nice for smaller hoops. It is connected by inserting a short piece of tubing that just perfectly fits inside it, and pop-riveting it together.
Polypro (polypropylene): This is the lightest and most advanced material for hula hoops, and is most different of the three materials listed here. Experienced hoopers love it because of how fast and springy it is, but it will be hard to use if you are learning. It is connected via the same method as HDPE, and has the same diameter considerations. You will also have to order this material online.
Step 2: What You Need
Depending on what material you are using for your tubing, this will vary.
If using PE: You will need tubing and one barbed connector for each hoop. I chose to use HDPE for my hoop, so if you would like to make hoops out of PE, check out this tutorial for more information on how to connect your hoop together.
If using HDPE or Polypro: You will need tubing, a piece of tubing 1/8" smaller as insert material, a riveter, and two pop rivets. If you order tubing from hoopologie they will include insert material for you.
For all of the above, once your hoop is made, you'll want to decorate it! There are literally thousands of fun tapes to choose from. Recommended is a fun tape of your choice, and 1/2" or 1" gaffer tape for grip. Good luck restraining yourself.
I also have a push button pictured in the supplies image, which is used for making a collapsible hula hoop. I am going to write this up in a separate instructable.
Both hoopologie and hoopsupplies have all of the above for sale. If ordering PE tubing you will pay a premium on these sites, and I recommend getting it from here instead. However they are a good one stop shop for everything else.
Step 3: Measure and Cut Tubing
Before cutting your tubing, you will need to determine the diameter of your hoop. Bigger hoops are easier to use on the body, and advanced hoopers will move into smaller sizes. I recommend around 38" diameter for a beginner hoop. Right now I have a 36" that feels like a good middle ground hoop, and a 32" that's more challenging on the body, but great for practicing off the body moves.
Once you decide on a good diameter, multiply by pi and cut your tubing!
I cut mine on a miter saw. Complete overkill, but whatever. There are special tubing cutters that are very convenient, or you can cut most tubing with a box cutter, a hack saw, or just about whatever cutting implement you have around.
Step 4: Attach Hoop Together
Once I had my hoop cut, I cut several inches of insert material, and inserted it into the hoop.
Then I drilled two holes on the outside of the hoop, one on each side of the seam line, in order to secure the hoop together.
Get out your rivets and riveter, insert the rivets, and crank away until the rivet pops into place. Make sure you keep some pressure on the rivet as you go, otherwise you can warp the area around the rivet. If you've never used these tools before, I highly recommend testing it out to become comfortable with it first.
With that, you have completed your hoop!
Step 5: Decorate Your Hoop
Now for the fun part! Time to decorate your hoop. There are endless possibilities here, but generally you always want some gaffer tape for grip, and the rest is just decoration. Most hoops integrate spirals of tape around the hoop, but you can also add gaffer tape around the inside of the hoop only as the most minimal approach.
You always want to start with spirals of your decorative tape as they are the least forgiving, then finish with the flexible tapes like electrical tape and gaffer tape which are much easier to control.
Some things I learned along the way is that just doing a simple two tape spiral is pretty straight forward (one spiral of decoration with a small gap, filled in with gaffer, as pictured above), but as soon as I increased the angle and wanted to do a spiral of four tapes next to each other, things got exponentially harder. Something to keep in mind if you are easily frustrated!
Note that your tape will peel and chip with use, so they will need to be re-taped periodically.
Step 6: Get Hooping!
That's it - now get out there and get your hoop on!
If you happen to live in the San Francisco bay area, I've been taking classes from Nicole, and she's awesome!
There are also some good youtube channels for learning some hooping moves: