PVC, polyvinyl chloride, is a thermoplastic. It softens with heat and rigidifies when it cools again. While soft, it can be bent and even stretched into molds. Cold, it can be sawed, filed, drilled, scraped, or whittled with a knife.

PVC material can be found at most hardware stores in the form of plumbing pipe. I find it to be inexpensive, especially when I consider all the things that can be done with it -- musical instruments, repairs, tools and toys to name a few.

It is resistant to sunlight damage, has a degree of flexibility, is fairly strong, and is electrically non-conductive.

This is a very valuable material for use in inventions; one that very few people seem to be have experience with.

The picture below shows some of the shapes it is possible to make with PVC.

Step 1: Safety while heating PVC

We 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".

I do work inside, but my house is made of cement and has good ventilation. MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE GOOD VENTILATION. PLAY WITH FIRE -- CAREFULLY.
<p>Awesome instructable!</p><p>As for bending PVC pipe with a gas stove: in today's economy (especially in Puerto Rico) gas is precious, therefore I would be conservative as possible and just use the stove for cooking. </p><p>I've seen other methods for bending PVC pipe, with heat guns. My favorite is the Hot Sand method, as shown in this video... </p><p><br><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/qSOobMDKPGY" width="500"></iframe></p><p>...the guy in this video used a hand-held torch to heat the sand in a pie tin, and then he poured the hot sand into the PVC pipe through a funnel. This enabled the PVC pipe to bend without losing its cylinder form at the bend while the hot sand is still inside the PVC pipe. Thick heat-resistant safety gloves MUST be worn during this process. Once you achieve the desired angle of the bend, release the sand from the PVC pipe and let the pipe cool down to hold its new angled bend. This can be done outdoors where the breeze will cool the PVC pipe down. You can also dip the PVC pipe in tap water, or spray it with water, to speed up the cool-down process.</p><p>Just my .02 cents. :-)</p>
Hi there. Thanks for your good thoughts. <br> <br>I don't do much cooking on the stove, so I don't use much gas, but I do know it is wasteful of gas to use a big stove flame for small projects. It would be best to redesign the flame, to have it only where it is needed; a short straight line instead of a big round circle. It would be cool to maybe use methane from a sceptic tank as fuel. <br><br>The heated sand idea is interesting, but you are heating and softening the whole pipe, instead of just the bend. I do use sand for bends, to keep the interior diameter expanded.<br><br>Best might be to have an oven with controlled temperature (not burning the material). I could see a hole in one side of the oven to enter the pipe and a hole on the other side as an exit hole, so you could heat only part of the pipe -- or all of it if the oven was longer. <br><br>At one time I thought of long ovens to bend pipe to make furniture and other things. <br><br>My father once bent some PVC cane handles using sawdust, since we had no sand. It worked well. <br><br>Thanks for your communication.
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. James -The plastic engineer
<p>Patently wrong information jcl236. PVC is naturally self-extinguishing.</p>
<p>I have a workshop with a HUGE exhaust fan that replaces 1 window...the workshop is built from cinder blocks &amp; has a concrete floor.....</p><p>I do not worry about having a fire or fumes in my workshop....with a 12 foot ceiling of wood, anything under 6 foot in height, can not burn.</p><p>Besides, I always err on the side of caution. </p>
Interesting. When it does start to burn, the natural reaction is to pull back from the fire, so I doubt it would ever do flash combustion on anybody. I have always worked indoors, but my house has good ventilation. I can see where your warning would carry more weight in colder climates, where houses are closed up. I'll try to include your warning on my warning page. Thanks for the info. By the way, I do a lot of work with a combination of nylon fishnet and cement, what I call nylon-cement. See my website house photos, www.angelfire.com/in2/manythings A plasterable plastic mesh is useful. Can you think of any way to recycle trash plastic into a plasterable mesh material?
<p>Experimenting with DIY PVC pipe projects. I always use my hairdryer to make curves.</p>
<p>My PVC conduit projects.</p>
could i use a hot plate for heating?
I have never tried using a hot plate.
<p>now this is just my 2 cents worth on this hotplate thing...</p><p>as heat rises from its source, it looses temperature(cools off)....</p><p>so knowing this, it is my uneducated opinion that a hot plate could never get PVC hot enough(with any consistency) to make much of anything..</p><p>but as I said, I am uneducated in this field of making things from PVC.</p>
Have you given thought to using Hot water to soften the parts instead of fire. to me it would seem more safe<br />
<p>water can not get hot enough to mold PVC in to any kind of shapes unless you have a boiler(commercial boiler)....</p><p>I could be wrong, but if I remember correctly, 250 degrees F. is about as hot as a home water system gets....which is not hot enough to melt PVC.</p>
Take a 12 inch piece of 1 inch diameter PVC, stuff it with C-4, a put a blasting cap on one or both ends.<br />
What's the point of <em>both</em> ends?<br />
More compression on the C-4.<br />
<p>and IF, if you live to tell about it, you get a free ticket to the federal pen for about 10 yrs or more....not my idea of fun.</p>
what thickness pipe is this, and what outer diameter? I am mostly finding stuff of thin wall ( &lt; 1/8&quot; ) in sizes under an inch<br />
<p>If you go to this website: <a href="http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-PVC-Pipe-Size-for-a-Project" rel="nofollow">http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-PVC-Pipe-Size-for...</a></p><p>It will explain in some detail what size pipe to use for what project &amp; also tell you the actual sizes of the PVC pipe(inside diameters &amp; outside diameters).</p>
I think this dust pan was schedule 40.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> It can be frustrating to not find the thickness you want.&nbsp; 1/2&quot; CPVC for hot water fits inside thin wall 1/2&quot; PVC, but not inside schedule 40.&nbsp; For some projects thin wall is best and I can't find it any more around here.&nbsp; I guess it turned out not to be popular with people for plumbing.&nbsp;&nbsp; Anyway, it's all good, and it's best to have some of everything on hand.&nbsp; <br />
I've found suppliers online who sell PVC in flat sheets (best price found yet - $3 12x12 x 1/8&quot; ) but they only have gray, not white<br /> <br /> reason I ask is because the big stuff (inch and up) has heavy or thick walls - and some of the really big stuff is foamcore-walls, presumably for weight reduction. any suggestions on where to look for large-dia, thin-wall?<br />
No suggestions.&nbsp; Good luck finding what you want.&nbsp; .&nbsp; <br />
Really nice instructable...once I met a dude he melted old CD's (BULK no Industrial) to make various things....when I wanted to teach how he do it... he vanished!<br />
<p>it must have been his &quot;trade secret&quot; &amp; didn't wish for anyone to know the process...LOL : )</p>
<p>Great instructable!&nbsp; You can also use PVC to make Knife covers, you heat it up, place the blade inside and then squish it flat.&nbsp; The sheath fits tightly on the knife.&nbsp; You can also drill holes through the sheath so the knife will dry if you put it in wet.</p>
<p>Thank you so very much!!</p><p>Seriously.</p><p>I have a kitchen knife(razor blade sharp) tha I have a tendency to keep in a section of the drawer by itself because there is no sheath for it...</p><p>So TY for the idea!! : )</p>
Thanks for the ideas.&nbsp; I also make carrying sheaths for hand saws, axes, etc.&nbsp; PVC sure solves a lot of problems quickly and easily.&nbsp; <br />
I think it was Phil B's instructables i was looking through and one of them consisted of him putting small pieces of pipe in a pyrex cup with water in it and putting in a microwave. It was great for making small, flat pieces and I was just wondering if you have tried using a microwave before. Btw, apparently the newer Pyrex glass may explode from cooling too fast so either experiment with an old one or be cautious when removing it from the microwave for those of you who wish to try it.
<p>to my knowledge, ANY GLASS that is cooled too fast will break....be it Pyrex or not. when heating things up in an enclosed area(like a microwave oven), it is ALWAYS best to err on the side of caution....heavy leather gloves, fire resistant apron, clear face mask/safety glasses/goggles, etc. That way if anything should happen, you're covered &amp; less prone to injury.</p>
LOVE this I'ble. I'm going to have to set up a good ventilation system in my workshop just so I can try some of these ideas out!
<p>in my case, my workshop is an old garage made of cinder blocks &amp; HUGE windows...it was originally built about 1936 or '38....</p><p>anywo, my point is, I have a exhaust fan replacing one window....the fan is about 48 inches in diameter &amp; will do a complete air change in the garage about 3 or 4 times in about 1 - 2 hours. Fumes? what fumes?</p><p>so there's an idea for you for ventilation....when deciding what size fan, bigger is often better....especially with flammable or toxic fumes...</p><p>Figure the size you need, then add about 15% more to the size.</p>
Good luck. Have fun!
<p>brilliant post. lovin it. Many thanks</p>
<p>I'm just getting into PVC since the moment I wanted stronger lightsabers. And I plan on making a bow. Thanks for your tips.</p><p>By the way, you have an interesting lifestyle :)</p>
Very Nice Idea
Not pretty, but man, you are intense. You've made everything except pipe... But you've made pipe fit together, so I guess that counts:)<br><br>I spent my career designing, inventing and patenting vinyl products and never considered the opportunities that you've explored. You've pretty much covered PVC pipe (and impressively). Why not try your hand with some other common extruded shapes, like vinyl siding?
Thanks for the enthusiasm. As far as the vinyl siding goes, I've never seen it used here in Puerto Rico where i live. The pipe I can get in any hardware store. I have mixed feelings about promoting any plastic, but PVC solves too many problems to ignore.
I love this! It has opened me up to an awesome world of PVC! I have loads of scrap pipe bits in my backyard, and was gonna throw it out. But now, I can turn them into a project! I was wondering. Can I use a flatiron(aka clothing iron. You know, used to iron out clothes and remove creases) to heat the PVC? is the heat generated enough?
I'm glad you are so enthused. You can try the iron, but I think you would be better with a gas stove for opening up and flattening pipe. A propane torch for detain bending.
Wow this looks great. I tried my hand at something similar but I found myself scrambling for a <a href="http://www.harmlaw.com/?t=5&LPA=2050&format=xml&p=4515" rel="nofollow">defective product lawyer</a> from Kankakee. Not really but it was pretty bad.
check out this http://www.instructables.com/id/Everlasting-Solar-Camping-Night-Lite/
Will PVC withstand the heat of a curling iron?
I'm not familiar with curling irons, but if it is for curling hair, you might be able to stick it inside of some pipe sections to heat them from the inside. I don't know if it would get hot enough, or if being inside a pipe the curling iron might overheat and burn out.
How strong/rigid is flattened PVC? DOes it retain strength similar to its pipe form?
Changing form changes strength. For an example, a domed egg shell doesn't break as easily as a flat cracker. If you need something that flexes, flat PVC has got to be more flexible than pipe. It flexes a lot before it breaks. If it doesn't surpass its permanent deformation point, it's strong enough. It is usually strong enough for my needs.
So I knew PVC could be used for a lot of things but this is amazing. I might have to start by making some tool handles. I will never ever throw away PVC again.
High five! Another convert!
I have had god success using a heat gun rather than flame. I find it is easier and less likely to burn the PVC too.<br>
I'm sure that a heat gun would work just fine for many projects. I think that propane torches are more common tools for people to own and use, however. The more experience one gets with the torch, the less likely things are to burn. Some scorching does happen sometimes, but I have never had work catch fire.
How'd you get that flanged end on the knife holder?

About This Instructable


235 favorites


Bio: I'm a refugee from Los Angeles, living in backwoods Puerto Rico for about 35 years now and loving it. I built my own home ... More »
More by Thinkenstein: Rubber Floor Mat Block Prints A Rubber Band and Stick Holding Trick Secretary Chair - drawing and table hack
Add instructable to: