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Picture of PVC  --  It's Great for Inventions
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.
 
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Step 1: Safety while heating PVC

Picture of 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.

Step 2: Using Lacquer Thinner to remove lettering

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Inventions look nicer without stray lettering on them.

When pipe leaves the factory, it is printed with information about the pipe. Fortunately, a little lacquer thinner and a piece of toilet paper will usually remove the lettering, or most of it.

Lacquer thinner vapors are not good to breathe. Make sure you have good ventilation. Only a small amount of thinner is needed to wet the wad of toilet paper. I poked a small hole in the plug under the cap when I bought the new can, instead of removing the whole plug. That way, I only get the thinner I need, and release the minimum amount of vapors into the air.

Step 3: Flattening PVC

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To make a flat sheet of PVC to work with, cut a section of pipe and cut the pipe section down one side. Hold it with pliers and heat it over a gas stove.

When the plastic heats up, it will unroll itself and feel like a piece of leather. Place it on the floor and put a piece of plywood, or some other flat object on top of it until it cools. When it cools, it rigidifies again, and you have a flat sheet to work with.

Use a gas stove to heat large areas. Use a propane torch to heat small areas.

The photo below shows a narrow strip of pipe being flattened.

Step 4: Bending PVC

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In the dust pan shown below, the square body was folded from a flat pattern.

The handle was formed by hand, pressing the heated plastic around a piece of pipe. Protect your hands from hot plastic by using rags.

To speed the hardening of hot plastic, you can cool it quickly with water. I sometimes hold projects under a faucet, use a spray bottle, or sponge them with a wet sponge.

Step 5: Using molds

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A mold is a shape that is used to create another shape. In the case of the toilet paper roll holder shown below, the hole at the end of the central pipe served as the "female" part of the mold. The ball of a ball peen hammer served as the "male" part of the mold. Between the two of them, they forced the flat plastic into a domed shape. When the PVC cooled, it hardened again.

The dome locks into the end of the pipe section upon which the roll of toilet paper spins.

Step 6: Example: Scissors Handles

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Separate instructables could be done for each of the objects shown here. My goal here is to give you a broad overview of what you can do and to inspire you to invent whatever it is you need.

My fingers didn't fit in the handles of these tiny sewing scissors. I solved the problem by making larger handles and attaching them to the smaller handles. Just fold over the plastic and press hard until it cools.

Step 7: Example: Cup Holder

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These are two cup holders mounted near my computer desk. It is nice to avoid spilling liquids onto the computer keyboard.

Step 8: Examples: In the Kitchen

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PVC has solved a lot of problems for me in the kitchen. Move your cursor around the picture to get the details.

Step 9: Examples: Handles

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PVC is smooth, and fits comfortably in the hand. It is great for making handles for things. Just heat the end of the pipe, jam it over what is left of the old handle and squeeze tightly until the plastic cools.

Step 10: Example: Fruit Pickers

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A friend gave me a light weight fiberglass sailboat mast, which makes a great picking pole. I made an adapter for the end so I could use it with different fruit picker heads.

One has gardening shears mounted on the end. Pulling strings open and closes the jaws. I can cut small branches with it.

The other pole uses a two pole system to open and close a pair of scissors. I use it to snip the stems of fruit.

Step 11: Examples: Mixed

This is a collection of left over odds and ends.

I think that when the inventors in the Instructables community start playing with this material more there will be an explosion of new ideas.

"Necessity is the mother of invention." See what you need and try to make it.
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fkenneth made it!1 year ago

Experimenting with DIY PVC pipe projects. I always use my hairdryer to make curves.

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fkenneth fkenneth7 months ago

My PVC conduit projects.

phonerig.gifrig01.jpgrig02.jpgrig03.jpgPVC electrical conduit Nativity Crib01.jpgPVC electrical conduit Nativity Crib02.jpgPVC electrical conduit Nativity Crib03.jpg
jcl2366 years ago
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
SIRJAMES09 jcl23610 months ago

I have a workshop with a HUGE exhaust fan that replaces 1 window...the workshop is built from cinder blocks & has a concrete floor.....

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.

Besides, I always err on the side of caution.

Thinkenstein (author)  jcl2366 years ago
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?
xproplayer5 years ago
could i use a hot plate for heating?
Thinkenstein (author)  xproplayer5 years ago
I have never tried using a hot plate.

now this is just my 2 cents worth on this hotplate thing...

as heat rises from its source, it looses temperature(cools off)....

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..

but as I said, I am uneducated in this field of making things from PVC.

Tenz5 years ago
Have you given thought to using Hot water to soften the parts instead of fire. to me it would seem more safe
SIRJAMES09 Tenz10 months ago

water can not get hot enough to mold PVC in to any kind of shapes unless you have a boiler(commercial boiler)....

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.

bowmaster5 years ago
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.
n0ukf bowmaster5 years ago
What's the point of both ends?
bowmaster n0ukf5 years ago
More compression on the C-4.

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.

hyratel5 years ago
what thickness pipe is this, and what outer diameter? I am mostly finding stuff of thin wall ( < 1/8" ) in sizes under an inch
SIRJAMES09 hyratel10 months ago

If you go to this website: http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-PVC-Pipe-Size-for...

It will explain in some detail what size pipe to use for what project & also tell you the actual sizes of the PVC pipe(inside diameters & outside diameters).

Thinkenstein (author)  hyratel5 years ago
I think this dust pan was schedule 40. 

It can be frustrating to not find the thickness you want.  1/2" CPVC for hot water fits inside thin wall 1/2" PVC, but not inside schedule 40.  For some projects thin wall is best and I can't find it any more around here.  I guess it turned out not to be popular with people for plumbing.   Anyway, it's all good, and it's best to have some of everything on hand. 
I've found suppliers online who sell PVC in flat sheets (best price found yet - $3 12x12 x 1/8" ) but they only have gray, not white

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?
Thinkenstein (author)  hyratel5 years ago
No suggestions.  Good luck finding what you want.  . 
agis685 years ago
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!
SIRJAMES09 agis6810 months ago

it must have been his "trade secret" & didn't wish for anyone to know the process...LOL : )

ratty8805 years ago

Great instructable!  You can also use PVC to make Knife covers, you heat it up, place the blade inside and then squish it flat.  The sheath fits tightly on the knife.  You can also drill holes through the sheath so the knife will dry if you put it in wet.

Thank you so very much!!

Seriously.

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...

So TY for the idea!! : )

Thinkenstein (author)  ratty8805 years ago
Thanks for the ideas.  I also make carrying sheaths for hand saws, axes, etc.  PVC sure solves a lot of problems quickly and easily. 
cart5623 years ago
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.
SIRJAMES09 cart56210 months ago

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 & less prone to injury.

kirnex2 years ago
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!
SIRJAMES09 kirnex10 months ago

in my case, my workshop is an old garage made of cinder blocks & HUGE windows...it was originally built about 1936 or '38....

anywo, my point is, I have a exhaust fan replacing one window....the fan is about 48 inches in diameter & will do a complete air change in the garage about 3 or 4 times in about 1 - 2 hours. Fumes? what fumes?

so there's an idea for you for ventilation....when deciding what size fan, bigger is often better....especially with flammable or toxic fumes...

Figure the size you need, then add about 15% more to the size.

Thinkenstein (author)  kirnex2 years ago
Good luck. Have fun!
ludenwick1 year ago

brilliant post. lovin it. Many thanks

I_StarkGuy1 year ago

I'm just getting into PVC since the moment I wanted stronger lightsabers. And I plan on making a bow. Thanks for your tips.

By the way, you have an interesting lifestyle :)

kwongniyom1 year ago
Very Nice Idea
bfk2 years ago
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:)

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?
Thinkenstein (author)  bfk2 years ago
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.
Saitu2 years ago
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?
Thinkenstein (author)  Saitu2 years ago
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.
Schmidty162 years ago
check out this http://www.instructables.com/id/Everlasting-Solar-Camping-Night-Lite/
sheilablake2 years ago
Will PVC withstand the heat of a curling iron?
Thinkenstein (author)  sheilablake2 years ago
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.
ballardst3 years ago
How strong/rigid is flattened PVC? DOes it retain strength similar to its pipe form?
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