Instructables
Picture of PVC FRUIT PICKER
FRUIT PICKER (7).JPG
This fruit picker was designed for oranges, but it works for other fruit also. The body of the picker holds several oranges before needing to be emptied. That speeds up the picking process when there are lots of fruit.

The main feature of interest is the "J" shaped channel at the end of the pipe. One makes a spear-like thrust with the picker to get the fruit inside the pipe. The stem of the fruit follows through the "J" channel. A twist and pull of the picker put the stem at the end of the "J" slot, where a sharp razor blade cuts it. The fruit falls into the head of the picker.

Alternative ways of mounting the pole will be described.
 
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Step 1: SAFETY WHILE HEATING PVC

Picture of SAFETY WHILE HEATING PVC
Give a general description of the StepWe love plastics for what they do for us, but plastic manufacture and decay tend to pollute the environment and negatively affect our health.

Vinyl Chloride, one of the components of PVC, is carcinogenic. When it is locked up in the polymer, however, it is much safer to be around. In my years of experience working with PVC, I have not noticed any adverse effects on my health from being around it.

Always work in areas with good ventilation. If you do get caught in a cloud of smoke, hold your breath and move to clean air.

When heating PVC with a gas stove or propane torch, try not to let it burn. Smoke from burning PVC is bad. With experience one burns it less and less. Don't panic the first time you do burn some. It scorches, but doesn't immediately burst into flame. Move the material away from the flame and try again. Don't breathe the smoke. Smoke avoidance comes naturally for most people.

While heating PVC over a gas flame, keep the plastic an appropriate distance from the flame to avoid scorching the surface before the inside can warm up. It takes time for heat to travel to the center of the material being heated.

Keep the plastic moving, and keep an eye on the state of the plastic. When heated, the PVC material is flexible, like leather. Beyond this stage, you risk scorching it.

A word from James, the plastic engineer -- "Just a word of warning, PVC can handle some high heats but if it catches fire, you wont be able to put it out, it does not need oxygen to burn so don't do this inside".

Another idea from ev372 regarding the heat forming of the bottom in Step 2, "Try dipping the PVC pipe in boiling water in order to soften it. Then fold the bottom fins inward. I used to work for a company that made PVC outdoor furniture and the owner used a water tank with a heating element to soften the PVC pipe and then bend it 90 degrees; worked perfect and no fumes or fire."

I do work inside with the fire technique, but my house is made of cement and has good ventilation. MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE GOOD VENTILATION. IF YOU PLAY WITH FIRE, DO SO CAREFULLY.
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Abeytj1 year ago
I dip the portion of pvc to be shaped into boiling water. No fumes, no fear of burning, a little slower, perhaps
astrong04 years ago
you should try and make the bottom swing open like a trap door so you don't have to awkwardly pour out (in a figure of speech) the fruit and maybe put wires that it slides down like the contraption in the movie Fracture with Antony Hopkins but a lot steeper.
or you could leave the bottom part open and add a bigger bucket (like a coffee can or small trash can) underneath it with the pole going threw the middle. the fruit would fall through the picker into the catch bucket.
Thinkenstein (author)  astrong04 years ago
You have a good imagination. Personally, I don't find the pouring out of the fruit to be an awkward maneuver. It takes a little practice, I guess.
dchall84 years ago
I'm thinking you could attach a chute to the bottom of the PVC that would allow the fruit to fall through and gently drop to the ground.  You could use a slightly stretchy fabric to make a tube shape.  The friction between the fruit and the fabric would slow the fall and keep it from bruising when it hits the ground. 
You could use plastic dryer tubing and wrap it around the pole loosely.
embed_dryervent_plastic.jpg
Thinkenstein (author)  dchall84 years ago
I think the cloth tube would just snag on branches and get in the way.  You can give it a try, though. 
calgirlya2 years ago
This is the smartest and most efficient fruit picker. Thank you!
Thinkenstein (author)  calgirlya2 years ago
My thanks to you! Positive feedback is always nice to get.
dawoj3 years ago
You are genious
archerj3 years ago
I have key limes and would love to make one of these. For the limes, what size (circumference) would you use. You could use the same size as yours, but it could be lighter weight if smaller. But then if it is too small, it would be harder to cut the J, or set the blade in. What do you suggest?
Thinkenstein (author)  archerj3 years ago
This design can pick fruit without the razor blade. It just rips the stem out sometimes. Sometimes it doesn't. So, I would pick a pipe size that looks appropriate to you for the size of the fruit to be picked. If you can mount a razor blade, great! If not, tough luck, but you can still pick fruit with it.
Peter Mckee4 years ago
cool idea, I want to build this but all I have are avocados and I think those would get stuck a lot due to their shape.
Thinkenstein (author)  Peter Mckee4 years ago
I have made pickers that work on avocados. The one I use now is a rebar loop at the end of a pole, with a fishnet bag to catch the avocado. It has an elongated area at end of the rebar loop that presses on the top of the avocado as you pull.
I just bought a house with a HUGE avocado tree in the yard. Does the elongated area of rebar cut the avocado stem? Or are you pulling on the fruit itself? Do you have a photo you can share? Thanks for a great instructable.
Thinkenstein (author)  hoolio4 years ago
No cutting blade on this one.  Just pulling and twisting to break the stem.
NET BASKET FRUIT PICKER (3).jpgNET BASKET FRUIT PICKER.jpg
Awesome - thank you!!
carpespasm4 years ago
Thanks for the idea. I'll be making one of these for picking the oranges in my former neighbor's house this evening. All the low-hanging goodness is picked and there's a large cluster with my name on it. She was unfortunately foreclosed on but told me to get all I want. The bank's not gonna eat those honeybells!
 Perfect timing!  We cut our oranges early in season and always have issues with the ones at the top.  Thanks for sharing.
blake774 years ago
 are you serious you really are a genius lol this is great to i like how it looks nice to its not like you took two min. on it and one more time your genius  =)
Thinkenstein (author)  blake774 years ago
Thanks.  Glad you like it. 
lonnyc4 years ago
I think I will just duct tape the end with a folded over piece insid so it's not sticky on the fruit...gotta do something with all the duct tape left over fo the wallets...
I love the design. Very well executed and explained. I would make one modification to your molding technique, however. It is very difficult to heat plastic to the point of being pliable without burning it. It's the classic conductivity problem that bakers run into where timing becomes crucial because you want your product to only reach a fraction of the temperature of the air used to heat it. In situations where your product isn't going to get soggy, why use 1000° air to raise the temperature of your product to 200° and risk burning it as seen in your "Alternative ways to mount"? Also, this avoids the whole "poisonous fumes" debate that always arises with these kinds of articles.
Thinkenstein (author)  RichardBronosky4 years ago
Heating the pipe must be an art. I seldom burn it. It takes practice. Keep the work moving and at an appropriate distance from the flame. One has to publish all the warnings, but I've been working with PVC for years and had no major problems with it.
merijnvw4 years ago
I made it, it works but not perfect. It's because the braches connected to the fruit, have a stronger connection with the fruit than the main brach, so every time it also cuts off a little brach together with the fruit, so the fruit gets stuck at the top of the tube and doesn't fall to the bottom. Do you have this aswell? I used it with pears and apples. I used a really sharp blade and put it on an angle.
Thinkenstein (author)  merijnvw4 years ago
The first thing that comes to mind is the angle of the blade. The cut stem, is being caught on something. Look closely at it when you have the problem next time. See exactly how it is being held. It sounds like it gets jammed in the corner because the blade angle forces it there. I have never had that problem when the blade is straight across.
okay, thanks
strmrnnr4 years ago
What about just using the long PVC tube and when the fruit falls you can catch it at the bottom with your hand or a small net bag.
Thinkenstein (author)  strmrnnr4 years ago
That works with smaller pipe and smaller fruit. See my berry picker instructable, http://www.instructables.com/id/BERRY-PICKER/

The big pipe is heavier and harder to maneuver. The idea of the sleeve to conduct the fruit to the ground is an attractive one, but I find it too awkward for large fruit pickers. It works for the light-weight berry picker, though.

Commercial orange pickers here climb the trees, and pick the fruit by hand. They fill a big sack, mouth held open by a ring of rebar, and lower the sack to the ground with a rope.

There's a much easier way to make a similar fruit picker. Cut the bottom off a 2 L soda bottle, put a long broomstick inside the neck, tape them together, and you're done. You lift it up so the fruit is inside the cup and just twist it around until the stem snaps. This works very well for mangoes and other fruit that have leathery skins with a lot of friction.
Thinkenstein (author)  xenobiologista4 years ago
Thanks for the idea. It's nice to have different alternatives. It sounds like yours could be improvised fairly easily for immediate use with things on hand. I don't drink soda, though. By the way, what is xenobiology?
I believe its like biology, but with aliens instead of the normal stuff. (in the Enders Game series xenobiologists were people studying aliens)
Thank you. I never would have guessed.
merijnvw4 years ago
thanks! Im definately going to make this
evotown4 years ago
Would the PVC be less likely to catch fire if you covered the part you were heating with aluminum foil to prevent direct flame to the pipe?
chriscc634 years ago
I suspect there is a ton of pressure holding the blade in there from the pvc, it would be preferable to have the blade on an angle. would a small screw and nut thru razor to hold it in be a solution?
Thinkenstein (author)  chriscc634 years ago
Give it a try. It might work better. I wouldn't say there is a ton of pressure holding the blade. It slides in and out sideways with resistance, but fairly easily. Put it at an angle and there would be some pressure toward sideways movement of the blade. Straight on there is not.
ev3724 years ago
Try dipping the PVC pipe in boiling water in order to soften it. Then fold the bottom fins inward. I used to work for a company that made PVC outdoor furniture and the owner used a water tank with a heating element to soften the PVC pipe and then bend it 90 degrees; worked perfect and no fumes or fire.
Aaagh! Be careful. Fumes from heated PVC are quite toxic. Perform this step in very well ventilated area!
Thinkenstein (author)  jasonbradley4 years ago
I have added a warning step about toxic fumes. Thank you for mentioning it.
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