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Picture of PVC 101
I had produced an Instructable recently on making a PVC Toddler Bed Guard; however there were some concerns over home-made kid safety items and teaching others’ to make it, so, out of empathy, I took it down (it's now back up, check the link below). I did have a lot of great information in that Instructable that people asked me about in relation to methods of cutting, joining PVC and some great PVC resources.

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.
 
 
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Step 1: Pipe Sizes

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First up are pipe sizes.  Pipe size can do a number of things to your project, depending upon your needs.  The smaller you go, the more flexible your pipe will be.  So if you need curved surfaces for a frame, need hoops or loops, go small.  If you want stiffness and strength to the max, go big.  As the pipes increase in size, so does their inner wall, making them stronger and more inflexible.

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”.
 

Step 2: Fittings and Connectors

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Fittings and Connectors are what brings everything in a PVC project together.  And with so many types, the connection formats are endless.  I’ll go over two basic formats of fittings Plumbing Grade and Furniture Grade:

Plumbing Grade:  These are the fittings that were designed solely for the purpose of plumbing drainage and sewer systems for homes and business dwellings.  They perform their task admirably, for basic construction of PVC assemblies.  They don’t look too pretty however, as they are usually marked with ink, barcodes or raised/embossed lettering on them, but they are cheap.  You can find these at your local Home Depot, Lowes or other hardware store.  They are usually made by Nibco (www.nibco.com).

Furniture Grade:  Furniture grade fittings are where the magic happens; they are what make PVC the tinker-toy system that it can be.  While you can get basic Tees and 3-Way fittings from your Home Depot and Lowes, furniture grade fittings expand upon the basic idea, and add 4-Way and 5-Way fittings, fancy end caps, hinge elements and even caster inserts to put wheels on your project.  In my previous post I recommended a store online called Formufit (www.formufit.com), which sells practically all the fittings you need to make any type of structure.   In fact, a lot of the tips I explain in this Instructable, I borrowed from their website.  They are a PVC project builder’s playground. 

Whichever fitting type you choose you can find most of what you need either at HD, Lowes or Formufit, or you can also check eBay.

Step 3: Cautions

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To work with PVC, there are some serious warnings that need to be understood.  PVC is fun and easy to work with, but does have some affairs that go along with it that you should be aware about.

Elasticity:  OK, this is obvious, but needs mentioning.  When working with PVC, especially in its smaller forms, such as 1/2” to 1”, and your project requires a pipe to be bent or curved, make especially sure that it is secured at both ends...strongly.  Once a PVC pipe is bent it will attempt to go back to its original shape (straight) and try to do it quite quickly.  If PVC is released after being bent you can, as your Mom probably used to say, ‘take an eye out’ or at least leave you with a nasty welt.

PVC can be ‘trained’ to stay in a shape after it has been in a particular curved position for a while (or heated, see caution on THAT below), but to be safe, always secure it at both ends either with cement or screws/fasteners.

Toxicity and Out-Gassing:   At room-temperature, PVC is as safe as any other plastic.  In fact, PVC is made from the same vinyl products that other plastic items are made out of.  PVC can be somewhat dangerous in other forms though, specifically when it is melted.

When melted, PVC emits chlorine and dioxins, which are toxic chemicals that can cause harm to the human body over a long period of exposure.  When melting or heating PVC, it is recommended that a person be in a properly ventilated area or wear a respirator to reduce the exposure to the chemicals.  The best thing to do is only melt PVC if it is entirely necessary, such as in the case of bending using heat.

Additional Chemicals:  The PVC pipe cleaner, cement and Acetone I mention in this Instructable are all volatile and toxic chemicals.  Do the chemical activities outside, or in a garage with the door(s) wide open.  Just be safe.  No huffing!
 

Step 4: Design

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OK.  So you want to design an Ultimate Cage Fighting arena out of PVC.  Great.  You need to figure out how you are going to build it.  Yep.  That’s pretty important. 

There are some tools out there to help design PVC projects.  One is Google SketchUp.  I use it all the time to make mine, and Formufit has downloadable components of all their PVC fittings on their website (formufit.com) in their Downloads section, and you can also find them on the Google 3D Warehouse.  If you don’t know how to use SketchUp, look it up on Instructables or YouTube.  It’s marvelous.

When designing PVC projects that involve fittings/connectors, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Include the fitting:  This is obvious, but I have to say it.  The length of any pipe that is attached to a fitting must include the fitting.  Duh, right?  Well, I’ve made a mistake or two on this one.  If you make a project that is a square box and you use fittings on the ends, and you want it to be 2’ square, you need to cut the pipe shorter than 2’, as the fittings on each end will take up extra length themselves.  So if your fittings take up an extra 1” at each end, the pipe needs to be cut to 1’-10”, to accommodate the fittings.

The distance that the pipe goes into the fitting is equal to its diameter (normally):  Sound complex? It isn’t.  To embellish on this, you need to also remember that the pipe usually goes into the fitting a certain amount (so you can cement or screw it), and is different for the pipe size.  There is a detent inside of each fitting that stops the pipe from going too far in.  For instance, a 3/4” pipe will go into a 3/4” fitting about 3/4” of an inch.  A 1-1/4” pipe will go into a 1-1/4” fitting about 1-1/4”, and so on and so forth.  Make sense?  So if you are building something you need to make sure that you account not only for the fitting length, but the amount of pipe that actually goes into the fitting itself.  Try it out; you’ll see what I mean.

Use the right pipe:  If you have something that is going to bear weight, be it a person, or a structure, make sure you use at least 1-1/4” pipe or above.  1” or lower is not going to hold much weight and will flex.  And you will fall on your bottom.

Step 5: Cutting

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One of the great things about PVC is that is can be easily cut, with a wide variety of tools, some very simple.  You don’t need a do-it-all miter saw to cut PVC (however I recommend one).  You can use an assortment of different tools, some actually designed and made to cut PVC/plastic pipe:

Hacksaw:  The most basic and most widely used tool is the hacksaw.  Even I still use one when I need to make more detailed cuts or simple adjustments.  Using one is pretty simple:  mark your PVC where you want it cut and saw away.  Just watch your cut and don’t let the saw drift to make a nice straight cut.

The upside to the hacksaw is that you probably already have one, and if you don’t they are cheap.  The downside is that if you want to make a lot of cuts, it can take a while.

PVC/Plastic Pipe Cutter:  There are two kinds of PVC pipe cutters; scissor style and ratcheting style.  Scissor style works great for 1/2” to 1” PVC pipe.  I will work for larger sized pipes, but it takes some additional lower arm and hand strength.  You basically put the pipe into the half-moon shaped lower part of the cutter, and squeeze the blade down onto it until its cut.  However, for larger pipe, well, that’s where the ratcheting style pipe-cutter comes into play.   It’s a similar premise to the scissor style, but it uses ratcheting action to slowly go through the pipe, and use less arm strength.

The upside to the pipe cutters listed above is that they cut a lot of pipe in a short time, and are fairly inexpensive ($4 for a ratcheting-style at Harbor Freight).  The downside is that they do not cut the pipe square, leaving you with a wavy or curved end of pipe (but if it’s going into a fitting, no big deal…).

Miter Saw:  If you have one, I highly recommend using a miter saw.  You don’t need a special blade.  I use a standard 10 Tooth per Inch (TPI) wood blade, which came with my saw and it works perfectly.  If you don’t have a miter saw and want to make a PVC project that requires A LOT of cutting (like some of mine), I highly suggest investing in one.  You simply place the PVC pipe under the blade where you need your cut, secure it with a work clamp, start the blade and bring it down at a fairly slow to medium speed.  Works like a charm.

The upside to a miter saw is that they can cut a boatload of PVC in a short amount of time.  The downside is that miter saws are loud and scary to some, and they are expensive, however you can land a Ryobi for under $90 at Home Depot.

NOT RECOMMENDED:  I don’t recommend the use of the following to cut PVC pipe:

Band Saws (Bad):  The blade moves too slow, and unless you are using a very fine-toothed blade, it can actually catch on the inside diameter of the pipe, causing it to crack and chip and you to freak out.

Table Saws (BAD BAD):  This is a BIG no-no.  PVC pipe is curved. A table saw surface is flat and often smooth to allow wood to travel across it easy.  Pushing a PVC pipe into a table saw could cause you to slip and bring about SERIOUS harm to you.  Or if it causes pushback or startles you, you could kill yourself.  I recommend avoiding this method altogether.  Please.

Metal Pipe Cutters (Doesn't work):  They rely on the pipe being slowly notching a groove into itself, which is even and straight.  PVC doesn't let metal pipe cutters do that.  It just makes a pretty swirly line around the pipe.

Regular wood saws (Just silly):  The teeth on the blade are too far apart.  They just don’t work.

Step 6: Cleaning

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Standard plumbing-grade pipe you get from Home Depot or Lowes is often dirty, covered in manufacturers’ markings and barcodes and looks pretty bad.  You can order furniture grade PVC pipe which is glossy and attractive from Formufit, however it is expensive to ship and only comes in 5’ increments.

You can clean up standard plumbing-grade pipe and make it look pretty decent by performing the following steps:

To clean PVC pipe you need:

-  Steel Wool
Acetone
Cloth Rags or Paper Towels
-  Latex Gloves (don’t use Nitrile gloves)

1.  Put on the latex gloves.  I mention not to use Nitrile gloves (the blue ones) because the Acetone will cause them to disintegrate and tear apart.  Use latex gloves as they won’t break down (as quickly).

2.  Soak, or pour, the Acetone onto the steel wool.  Using a circular motion, scrub the PVC pipe where the lettering and dirt is and it will come off magically.  Do about 1’ of a section at a time and then QUICKLY wipe away the wet ink and Acetone with a cloth or paper towel.

3.  Repeat for every one foot, replacing the steel wool every 10’ that you clean (it will retain the ink and smudge after about 10’ of usage).

4.   Enjoy your clean pipe!

Step 7: Shining/Glossing

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If you use furniture grade fittings, you will notice that the fittings are nice and white and glossy, whereas your pipe is dull and tan/yellowish.   The yellowing is cause by UV breakdown in the PVC, and normally happens outside due to interaction with the sun, but can also be caused by the fluorescent lights in most stores. 

You can make standard PVC pretty by ‘glossing’ it.  This takes away the dullness and makes it match the glossiness of the furniture grade fittings.  It does not help with the yellowing however.  You need to read my section on ‘Painting’ PVC pipe to make it match the pure white color.

There are two methods to ‘gloss-ify’ the pipe:

Liquid Tire Shine:  This is the best method.  This lasts for months (if untouched).  All you do is spray some liquid tire shine (use the liquid in a spray bottle, not the spray can) onto a paper towel and apply it to the PVC pipe.  Voila!  Super shiny!  The problem with this method is that is makes it INCREDIBLY slippery and very unsafe if climbed on or used as any type of foothold.  But it looks great!

Mineral Oil:  You can, with a paper towel, apply mineral oil to PVC pipe to give it some shine.  The problem with this method is that it only lasts until the mineral oil evaporates, and depending upon your humidity could be a month, or could be a couple of hours.

Step 8: Assembly

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In this section I explain the methods for assembling PVC pipe structures.  Before you assemble anything permanently (especially using the PVC cement method), always be sure to DRY FIT your PVC structure so that you know everything will play together nicely and that you made your cuts properly.

There are three methods to assembling PVC pipe and fittings:

Compression Method (temporary):   This is where, after you have cut all of your pieces to size, you assemble them into the fittings via pressing them hard into place and pray it does not come apart.  Also known as the ‘push-and-pray’ method, this version works well for temporary structures and times that you want to re-use fittings for another project.

PVC Cement (permanent):   PVC cement is the old standby, and what plumbers use to weld the pipes to the fittings.  The PVC cement chemically melts the two pieces of PVC (pipe and fitting) together for a PERMANENT, yet super-strong bond.   This is the best method to use if you want your structure to bear wear or torque.  To use this method following the steps below:

To assemble PVC via cement you need:

-  PVC Pipe (cut to your desired length)
-  PVC Fittings
-  PVC Cement
-  PVC Pipe Cleaner (optional)

1.  Make sure you have DRY FIT everything together to test that it assembles correctly before you proceed.

2.  Gather your PVC pipe and fittings.  You will want everything close by, as things will need to occur rather fast.

3.  You can optionally clean the outside of the PVC pipe and the inside of the PVC fitting with PVC Pipe Cleaner, for a cleaner bond.

4.  Apply PVC Cement to both the outside of the PVC pipe and the inside of the fitting (if you use PVC Pipe Cleaner first, you don’t have to wait for it to dry).

5.  Press the pipe and the fitting together firmly for 30 seconds.  You may have to use a hammer and a wood block (to protect the PVC) to knock it into place.  It should set in as far as it can until it hits the detent in the fitting.

6.  Repeat for each additional fitting joint.

Set Screw Method:  In this method, you assemble the PVC pipes into their fittings and tap a wood screw into the fitting and pipe on both sides.  This is one of the methods I prefer most as it is temporary (the screws can be removed and the fittings re-used), but still incredibly strong.  What even better is if you mess up one of your pipe lengths, you just remove the screw, re-cut your pipe, and then put it back in.  And it’s relatively clean looking.

To perform the Set Screw method, do the following:

To assemble PVC via the Set Screw method you need:

-  PVC Pipe
-  PVC Fittings
-  Drill
-  1/8” Drill Bit
-  1/2” to 3/4” Wood Screws
-  Screwdriver Bit
-  Countersink Bit (optional)

1.  Gather your PVC pipe and fittings.

2.  Assemble your structure as you designed it.  Press the pipes firmly all the way into the fittings as far as they will go until they hit the detent in the fitting.

3.  Using a 1/8” Drill Bit mounted on a drill, drill a hole into the fitting where it meets the pipe.

4.  And optional step is to use a countersink bit to hide the head of the wood screw.  This leaves everything smooth and clean. Use the countersink bit to add a small indentation to the hole you just made in the fitting.

5.  Using a screwdriver bit mounted on a drill; drive the wood screw into both the fitting and the pipe.

6.  Repeat on other sides of the pipe/fitting until you reach the level of comfort for durability.
 

Step 9: Painting

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Yes.  Despite all you have heard, you CAN paint plumbing-grade PVC.

Many attempts in the past to paint PVC resulted in failure, or a pretty short-lived paint job.  PVC is difficult to paint because of its molecular makeup:  it basically provides no rough surface to adhere to.  If you try to paint PVC with standard paints, you end up with a layer of paint that is flaking, peeling, or bubbling, and often just won’t stick.

That was the case until the invention of Krylon Fusion Paint for Plastics.  It’s honestly the only paint available which can actually, and successfully, stick to PVC, since that’s what it was designed for. It comes in a plethora of colors and is available at Home Depot, Lowes or your local hardware store.

If you are using glossy white furniture grade fittings, use Krylon Fusion color 2320, which matches the fitting color and gloss perfectly.

As with any paints, you still need to abide by the old painting laws: start with a clean surface, rough it up a bit and use light coats. Here’s a step-by-step for painting PVC:

NOTE:  If you are going to paint PVC, dont use the Shining/Glossing steps I outlined earlier.  The PVC will not stick to the Mineral Oil or Liquid Tire Shine.

To Paint PVC, you need:
-  PVC Pipe (cut into the size you need first, it’s easier)
-  120-200 Grit Sandpaper
-  Krylon Fusion for Plastic Paint

1.  Clean the pipe as per my instructions in the ‘Cleaning’ section.

2.  Take sandpaper (220 grit is preferred) and ‘rough up’ the surface of the pipe.

3.  In a ventilated area, spray a light, thin coat, with an even side-to-side motion along the length of the pipe section.

4.  Allow 10 minutes between coats.

5.  Repeat the light, thin coats until the desired build up is achieved.

6.  Voila! Even prettier PVC!
 

Step 10: Bending

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WARNING: Before you decide to bend PVC pipe, please consult the ‘Cautions’ section of this Instructable. Bending PVC pipe involves heating the pipe close to its melting point, which can cause the PVC to out-gas chlorine and dioxins. These chemicals can cause harm to the human body over long periods of exposure. Perform the heating of PVC outdoors or in a well ventilated area such as a garage with the door(s) open. If you have to do it in a basement or other interior room, use a respirator or a fan with an open window.

To bend PVC pipe you will need a few supplies. The first is a PVC Bending Jig, whichI have uploaded plans for, located here for SketchUp. This jig will allow you to bend PVC controllably and easily. The trick of bending PVC is that your bend may not end up exactly where you want it in the overall position of the pipe length, so it is suggested that you bend the pipe FIRST, and then cut it to length.

To bend PVC pipe you need:

-  PVC Bending Jig (free plans available here)
-  PVC pipe
-  Heat Gun or Propane Torch
-  Sand or Cat Litter
 PVC End Caps or Duct Tape

1.  Place duct tape over one end of the PVC pipe segment to be bent. This will allow you to fill the PVC pipe with filler.

2.  Pour sand or cat litter into the opposite end, filling the entire PVC pipe to be bent with the filler.  Shake to distribute and top off if necessary.  You’ll need to fill the entire pipe.

3.  Place an additional duct tape over the remaining opened end of the PVC pipe segment.

4.  Heat up the PVC pipe with a heat gun or propane torch along the area to be bent.  Apply heat until the area appears pliable. Don’t overdo it, or you will deform the PVC.

5.  Once the desired softness of the PVC pipe is achieved, place the softened area into the joint position on the PVC bending jig.

6.  
Using the force of your hand, move the top part of the jig to the desired angle and hold in this position for about a minute or until you think it has cooled.  You can use the holes in the jig to hold the peice in place.  Make sure it is completely cool before removing from the jig.

7.  Perform the cuts on each end of the newly curved pipe as needed.

 

Step 11: Recycle

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The biggest problem with PVC is waste. It takes up tons of room in landfills and can leech nasty chemicals. You can however, recycle PVC. Many people don’t realize this, but PVC is categorized as a recyclable material along with all other vinyl products. You can recycle PVC at any location that takes #3 plastic recycling products.

If your local recycler or recycling program accepts #3 vinyl recycling products, you should be able to include your extra PVC pipe and fitting bits in with the lot. Since my place of business does not have a recycling program, we take our extra and used PVC to our local recycler. You can find a recycler close to you by going online to http://www.earth911.org and putting in your zip code.

I always had trouble "dry-fitting" as too often the pieces would simply not come apart.
I finally solved this by using my 1/2" fine-tooth bandsaw blade to cut 1/2" into the ends. That 1/2" and band-saw-thin cut is just enough to relieve pressure for knock-down and refitting. For non-plumbing jobs, I still have the option of using PVC glue or screws for a final assembly, but test-fits are a dream.

it says on the can "no sanding required"

I always sand before I glue or paint, just comes out better.

trevormates (author)  DannytheGreat3 years ago
I know, but the manufacturers sometimes have embossments on the pipes and fittings and if there is anything more filthy, it is PVC from Home Depot.

Plus I come from the old school of 'sand, paint and sand again'. Its just a recommendation...
DBMods5 years ago
 you can just get pvc primer and then paint over that
NickS21 DBMods1 month ago

Primer is sort of expensive, I would rather buy a sheet of 220 grit and sand.

cjcook1 month ago

I am trying to make a VC canopy/awning that can be taken down when not in use. So I don't want to cement it together. Perhaps I am not strong enough, but I am unable to push the fittings together. Is there some sort of lubricant that would help with this effort?

Leathaldose2 months ago

This is one of the best instructables, everything i ever wanted to know about pvc and hell i learned stuff i didnt know. Thank you.

XGundam055 years ago
For Band Saws, I have found that the ones I have access to work rather well. For one, they were both designed to cut steel rather quickly, and two, they both have adjustable drop rates. (Both are horizontal band saws)

And for Pipe cutters, they will work, you just have to be careful with them. I've used them in the past to get really square and even cuts when I didn't have access to a band, chop, or miter saw. Although you do have to really crank the blade in after getting a nice initial groove started.

agreed, i have been using a twirly pipe cutter, seems to do the trick, as mentioned first pass has to be straight, and bam...hands get a little soar after cutting a bunch but it works

yes thank you for saying that XGundam05 i have found that my metal pipe cutter works almost as well as anything else I have used including a dremel with a metal bit in it.
tomtortoise3 years ago
Using a wood saw is just silly? ive tried using both hacksaws and wood saws and the wood saws work great, they cut so much faster and give you a straighter cut.

agreed, i have used a woodsaw and a jig to get awesome straight fast cuts with pvc and ABS...

JamesV143 months ago

Will ABS Sch 40 support the weight of an average person (in a rectangular frame with a sex sling attached to steel eyebolts)?

legoemmet113 months ago

I am just getting started in PVC and mostly want to use it for dart guns/ nerf mods. some of the things I have read on this subject uses CPVC what is that?

graydog1117 months ago
Great inst. You didn't mention that PVC is available in heavy & strong, but expensive "Schedule 40" and also available in light weight but cheap 200 psi pipe. I buy both for different projects.
Look at my posting of "Spiral Cable Wrap" made from PEX pipe.

I want to paint decorations on a PVC pipe. I can spray it first with the Krylon Fusion Paint, but then what type of paint should I use for the decorative painting? What sort of "sealer" should I use over the paint to keep the paint from chipping off as it will be outside?

Great instructable. I use my miter saw to make cuts but I turn the blade backwards so the teeth are opposite of that for wood cutting. Really smooth cuts this way.
Bri_Aday1 year ago

You can also form PVC using boiling water. I find it is easier to control the heat.

Bri_Aday1 year ago

You can cut PVC safely on a table saw, I have done it quite a bit in the past. A compound miter saw is a better choice, but most compound miter saws can only handle stock up to 4 inches. For larger PVC, you need to build something akin to a modified crosscut sled. Mine wasn't two pieces, but he pictures will give you an idea of what you need.

Thanks for the 101! Here are two Instructables on locking joints people may be interested in, feel free to add to 101!

http://www.instructables.com/id/Quick-And-Easy-PVC...

http://www.instructables.com/id/PVC-Bungee-Joints/

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svanname1 year ago
Can you clean old PVC pipes and joints to reuse
heligato1 year ago
Excellent !
zawy1 year ago
An idea to prevent PVC from bending too much in long lengths: run thin gauge steel wire (about $7 for 100 feet from hardware stores) through holes on each end of the PVC tubing. Let the tension be in the steel instead of the plastic. If the piece is subject to possible bending in any direction then the wire will have to run along 4 sides, 90 degrees apart around the tube. You can drill four holes in each end and run 1 long wire through them all.
Mosher63361 year ago
Also, only the glue method should be used for pressurized applications, like making pumps or launchers.

I like the screw idea for non-pressure :)
dereitz2 years ago
Has anyone ever used rivets instead of screws to attach PVC?
An extra step for your instructable.

I remember discussing this somewhere else on instructables but can't really remember so I'm just gonna give you the link to the site that promotes it.

www.thepipeviper.com/

It's a site that sells a tool with which you can cold bend a pvc pipe.

I live in Belgium (Europe) and followed industrial science in highschool. We had electricity there which involved alot of pvc bending. I however never heard off hot bending pvc before I came to this site.

We always bended our pvc cold using the same tool that that company sells. It doesn't damage the pipe and keeps the hole inside open as much as it would if you didn't bend it. It's really handy, easy and there is no danger at all of hurting yourself. And it doesn't take more then a 15 year old boys strength to do it :)

So check it out I'm sure you'll find it interesting :)

Michel
I looked at the site you linked. Very interesting tool. They don't have a FAQ page, so I thought I'd ask you, since you have experience:

Is this suitable only for conduit applications, or can it be used for household water systems? I'd think that even though the pipe is 'not damaged' by cold bending, it may be weakened enough that it would not reliably carry pressurized water for household cold and hot water. So, is this used for water, or only for conduit?
I remember the plumbing classes in my highschool using the same cold bending method I described above for your usual kitched plumbing. You are right that the structure is weakend but the same goes for hot bending (in both cases you are stretching out the material over a longer length)

So yes you can use it to run hot and cold water unless you plan to do some crazy bending with it (over 270 degrees) but for normal 90 degree bends it should do fine :)

Wow. Thanks for the quick reply and information. I may stick with solvent-welding to molded fittings for plumbing, but I have some ideas for running conduit for which this might be just the ticket.

I will have to see if a regular length of flexible spring will work almost as well.
kabira3 years ago
I am always confused about the quantity of cement to apply.

Should it be:
1. A thin layer, or
2. Very generous?

Can I use Acetone as PVC pipe cleaner as well?

Thanks.
trevormates (author)  kabira3 years ago
I would recommend a thin layer. Once the cement hits the plastic it begins to melt, so you really don't need too much.

And yes, you can use acetone as pipe cleaner as well, but I recently found out that those sandpaper foam pads you get in the hardware store work just as good to prep the connection points, as well as remove the ink and marking.
Galonii3 years ago
you can also paint plastic with Killz or Benz paints, they're alot cheaper but you have to brush it on, and home depot will tint your Killz for you.
jayb13 years ago
In Australia there are 2 types of PVC. Non-Pressure or Down Pipe Grade, or Pressure Grade which is used to transport liquids.
The larger pipes 90 mm, 100mm up to 230mm & beyond. are great for buildings. Pot plants, Hydroponics even a wind tunnel with the 230mm.
The PVC off cuts can be picked up for free in the "Poor Mans Bunnings" or the rubbish point on a building site, along with timber scraps, bits of copper pipe, insulation, etc . For the larger pipes go to a New Estate site & ask if you can have the left over water & drainage off cuts (230mm). They'll give them to you, mostly. It saves you having to get rid of them. I ended up with enough house bricks to build a house once. They said, " you pick them all up you can have them." All different colours, but, Hey! If you don't ask you don't get.
foosefoose4 years ago
This is an instructable that doesn't teach you how to build a dang thing! This is also one of the most helpful instructables I have ever seen, complete and straightforward!

Great job.
joen5 years ago
Great instructable! I especially liked that you design in Sketchup. I down loaded the fittings you showed and have been trying to design something from them. I seem to have a problem with lining up the pvc pipe and the fittings. No matter how hard I try I can't seem to get them straight. I am obviously doing it all wrong, and I do mean ALL WRONG! The sketchup tutorials were no help. Neither was Google Warehouse. Any suggestions on how to start getting things straignt? (An Instructable perhaps)

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thanks
I am building a boat out of 1.5 inch PVC and had the same problem with making the 90 degree angles exactly 90 degrees. Build a gig out of 2x4 or 2x6 and not only will your joints be parrell but you can also make a press into it so the pipe will seat completly into the fittings. Also you can make a simple gig (two demental) using a sheeet of plywood and pieces of square 2x4 blocks. I can send you a picture and dementions if you like. (Fallslakebob@gmail.com). Bob
PVC_Press 004_a.jpg
Thanks for the reply bobjacksonjr.
Some people think that building a jig to get something you're building built right is a waste of time and trouble but it really isn't especially if you really need to get it right. So you are right

To get real pipe to make real 90 degree angles is not a problem for me. What I was talking about was how to get real 90s in Sketch up. The 3 dimensional manipulation that you have to do can be a little tricky. I have gotten somewhat better at it since I wrote the post last year but there is still a lot of hear pulling to get it right. Maybe it is a good thing I keep my hear short::) If I am building something with PVC I will use the fittings in the design process to get the angles I need. Getting it to look right in Google Sketchup is the challenge.

Wish you success in your boat;

Joen
TheGreatS4 years ago
I hear filling the PVC pipe with hot sand also is a method for bending the pipe.
sysop4 years ago
On my last project I considered buying a PVC cutter, but after looking at one in the store I borrowed my wifes ratcheting action pruning shears instead. Sharpened the blade a bit and It worked like a champ!
tolson4115 years ago
What's wrong with nitrile? It can withstand more acid and chemicals than latex and is 3x more puncture resistant...
Capt. Kidd5 years ago
i use warm sand to bend. just fill the pipe, and bend. you can also bend it cold with a pipe viper.
thewetturd5 years ago

I thought this instructable was very informative thanks for posting it.
 
I use a modified technique to cut with a ratcheting cutter.  I mark my cut line and I put moderate pressure with the cutter and instead of preceding to cut the pipe through, I roll the pipe in the cutter.  With each turn that I twist the pipe with one hand, I add more pressure on the cutter with the other hand.    If you do it right, after with some practice, you will end up with perfect cuts every time.  
It is very important to make sure that if you are using a power miter saw that you get the saw to full revs before you make the cut.  (I know you mentioned it, but wanted to make sure others undersood why it is so important)   Otherwise, the pipe can catch on the teeth of the saw and become sharp, jagged, projectile sharpnel. 
Awesome instructable!
Oh, btw, that pipe bending coil tool.  WOW!  If I were to start doing more project with PVC, it may pay for itself after a while. 

dolabil665 years ago
a easy way to bend the pipe is use a heat gun , a few minutes waving back and forth will do it ( depending on the size) and with a little practice you can bend it with out kinking , the trick is slow bending with pressure , and then a cool wet rag to help set the bend
kminer49er5 years ago
One of the problems that you may encounter when using PVC in unsupported lengths of over 4 or 5 feet, is sagging.  This can be easily remedied by running a piece of thin-wall electrical conduit (EMT) inside the PVC.  For 3/4" pipe, use 1/2" EMT; for 1" PVC, use 3/4" EMT and it should run the entire unsupported length.  This will give extra rigidity to both vertical or horizontal runs (of up to 10')  It is reasonably cheap and only adds a small amount of weight.
sssssbooom5 years ago
The strength of the pipe really depends on its schedule not the outside diameter. In most cases what you said is true, but you might find a piece of sch 5 2" and that would be a lot weaker that a piece of sch 40 1". The schedule plays a big roll in its strength.
Also a metal pipe cutter works perfect on pvc if its sch is around 40 and up. With the thinner pipes it puts too much pressure on it and kind of turns it oval resulting in a really bad cut, but on sch 40 and up it makes a perfectly straight cut you may need to ream it (in model/furniture making making reaming usually isn't necessary) I use one all the time.
And if you are painting something that you will be touching often then an epoxy finish over your paint will work great. it is tough and will last a really long time.

Just though I would add what I know about pvc. I make potato guns and I work with my father on plumbing jobs so I got some experience with pvc (along with copper, pex, iron, etc lol) Anyways amazing instructable!
trevormates (author)  sssssbooom5 years ago
Completely agree.  I'm going to have to update the instructable with these remarks.  I'm getting alot of word from folks that a metal pipe cutter will work just fine.  I think I've been overrule on this one.  Look for some forthcoming changes!
Whatnot5 years ago
I really don't think there's much issue with painting PVC at all, however drainage pipes for the sink and such are often made not from PVC but from PP, and they look virtually  the same but PP is such that almost nothing sticks to it, in fact you normally use connectors that clamp for them since you can't glue it like PVC.
It will say on the pipes what the material is though so you can easily tell, also PP is just slightly shinier, but you only notice that when you see them together.

xd12c Whatnot5 years ago
Do you mean PolyPro when you say PP?
If that's the case, PolyPro can be welded to itself with a plastic welder.
PP is also a bit more brittle & has more of a tendency to shatter.
Whatnot xd12c5 years ago
I'm not sure where yo get that it's more brittle than PVC, I'd say from experience it's more the opposite, but yeah I mean PP as in Polypropylene (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polypropylene).
And sure you might be able to weld it but that's not so easy for the average person as glue, you need a precisely controlled temperature for welding plastics, and apply that locally, and my point wasn't that you can't find ways to connect it, but that it's more resistant to being painted and the resistance to gluing just underscored how hard it is to make stuff stick to the stuff you see.

Thanks for reading my comment though :)
xd12c Whatnot5 years ago
Used to work with Polypro in the Orthotics field. I had pieces shatter when they were removed from the mold. When thermoforming, PP is considered brittle compared to PE, etc...
There are also specialty welders made for just plastics that are on the market.
And I'd always wondered about painting PP. We always used transfer images when thermoforming the plastic.

NP, you pick up other stuff when you take the time to read the comments :)
xd12c5 years ago
Couldn't you also stop at the local supermarket & get a pair of rubber kitchen gloves?
trevormates (author)  xd12c5 years ago
Yup.  Excellent point.  They are probably best!
Thanks for the reference to 3D PVC components!
trevormates (author)  casvandegoor5 years ago
No problem.  They make life sooo much easier.
Grimmster5 years ago

An even easier way to bend PVC is sticking it in boiling water.  If you cut it in half down the length of the pipe first, you can easily make strips to cover your PVC chairs, tables, etc.

Tommyhzy5 years ago
 This Instructable is so well written that I just HAD to give a 5 star rating.
trevormates (author)  Tommyhzy5 years ago
Awesome!  Thanks!
BeDub5 years ago
I agree with the other commenters that this is a very helpful and informative instructable.  I'd like to use PVC (or CPVC) to make an underground irrigation system to which a garden hose can be attached.  What diameter pipe would you recommend for this purpose, and where can I get the garden-hose-compatible fittings?  Thanks!
trevormates (author)  BeDub5 years ago
PVC is fine.  You can use 1/2", but I think 3/4" is best.  As for garden hose compatible fittings, there is an assortment of them at HD or Lowes, if you have one in your area.
nanosec125 years ago
Nicely written......................5 stars
Jayefuu5 years ago
This is a really good, comprehensive ible. Thanks! Might I suggest you add a contents list to the first step with links to each step? It would make it easier at a glance what the ible contains.
spiderham5 years ago
Just thought I'd throw this out there. We use painted PVC for sign posts in extremely high foot traffic areas at work and they take a heck of a beating. We started using TSP (tri sodium phosfate), sometimes labeled "liquid sandpaper," before painting them and went from repainting them once a month to once a year. It's the same as sanding the PVC but alot quicker, smoother and no dust. As with any other chemicals be sure to read and follow all instructions.

The cleanest cuts by far are done on a power miter saw. Bring the blade down slowly for a finished look on exposed ends.
dchall85 years ago
This is very good.  I'd say it is PVC 101 and 201 combined along with the associated labs. 

I cut small pipe with the ratchet cutter.  I'll never go back to a hack saw again.  For 2- to 4-inch diameter pipe I use a carpenter's skil saw and a wood blade. 
carlos66ba5 years ago
Very nice, indeed!
lancma5 years ago
Very informative.  I learned much about PVC I didn't know.  A couple of comments I'll add.  As you noted, plumbing grade PVC is not UV resistant, and when used outdoors will become brittle after exposure to the sun. I assume painting it would take care of this problem. Electrical PVC (the grey stuff) is UV resistant. Plus, you can buy 90 degree bends and avoid the whole need for heat bending. Alas, other fittings choices are limited compared to plumbing PVC, and the choice of diameters may be limited as well.
trevormates (author)  lancma5 years ago
Yes. Good points, painting PVC will resist the UV exposure, and the grey conduit you spoke of it resistant already, and has bends available.

Actually the other fitting choices, like the furniture grade ones I provided in the Instructable, do come in all pipe sizes, from ½” to 2”.
Oh yes, the link you provided appears to provide any fitting that could be wanted.  I was refering to the limitations of fittings available in the UV resistant electrical conduit PVC. Also, the choice of diameters for the electrical conduit PVC may be limited at the local home store. As you can see, I am having to try very hard to add to an instructable that is very informative already.
implaxis5 years ago
In all the times I've bought PVC and connections, I've never seen the 4 or 5-hole type connector.  It would have been very helpful when building my 3D DDR cage. 
www.instructables.com/id/3D-DDR-Frame-for-PS2/
If I can find them I may rebuild it like the cage above.  Very helpful, thanks!
trevormates (author)  implaxis5 years ago
Yes.  The 4-way and 5-way PVC fittings do rock.  I did provide a resource in the instructable if you need to find them.  Nice DDR cage, BTW!
 REMOVE this from KNEX!!

All else said, nice work!
trevormates (author)  RMConstruction5 years ago

For some reason, I though it was pertinant, as PVC is a big Knex/Tinker-Toy set.  Nonetheless, this is done!