NOTE: The PVC Toddler Bed Guard has returned to Instructables in all of its glory. Check it out here.
There have been some other Instructables out there that have identified some basics, such as cutting and painting PVC, but I thought it best that I try to aggregate some of the ideas into one big, ultimate Instructable: PVC 101.
I work as a Design Engineer for an architecture/product design firm and I use PVC repeatedly to create prototypes and mock-ups, some of them even to ¼” scale, so one could say that I have a lot of practice with PVC. And since PVC is the ultimate make-anything-toy-set for adults, I only thought it wise to share my experience and knowledge of it on Instructables.
Let face it. PVC is awesome. It’s easy to obtain, cheap, easy to manipulate and you just push it together (and cement if you like) and presto. You can pretty much make anything you can think of by just using some fittings and pipe, and I’ll augment that basic idea along with some tips, and other information for PVC in this Instructable.
There are tons of PVC-based step-by-steps available out on Instructables. Search for one and I bet there is something you will want to make. Last I checked, there were over 1140 Instructables involving PVC.
So if you are new to PVC, or if you are a constant user like me, please peruse. If you have other tips that I have not mentioned in this Instructable, please feel free to add your comments, as I’m always looking for more ideas.
Step 1: Pipe Sizes
I’m only covering basic, white PVC available in most home stores, as ABS is too brittle (and weak) and PEX is just not as friendly.
I’ve broken down the sizes into categories below:
1/2”: Super-uber flexible, but not very strong. It can actually kink when bent. This works well for kites and other light structures, but not so much for something you want to mount anything to. Plus, it’s so small you would need tiny screws to attach anything to it.
3/4”: Very bendable, ideal for just about any project that requires flexibility, specifically hoop houses, green houses, pet agility hoops and other curved frames. This is also good if you need elasticity in your project, as it will spring back perfectly (be careful though!).
1”: Only slightly flexible, but still fairly rigid. This is if you want a bit of sway to your project, but still need a strong framework, 1” is good. Marshmallows fit in them nice and snug.
1-1/4”: This is probably the most ideal size for very rigid, lightweight project. This is perfect for framing, structure, and anything else you might need to build a strong sturdy platform, shelf, table or wall with. It still has SOME flexibility, but not much.
1-1/2”: Pretty much rigid as it gets, except for 2” (below). It’s heavy though.
2”: Probably as strong as you could ever need, will hold tons of weight. It is very heavy and very expensive in relation to other just as strong sizes. However if your project is requiring a good foundation, 2” is perfect. It also works well for canister-style projects (in conjunction with end caps), like garbage bag holders, etc.
Summary: For most projects, either 3/4” or 1-1/4” are ideal. If you need flexibility, go 3/4”, for rigidity, go 1-1/4”.