Introduction: PVC Pipe Multi Toy - Absolutely Simple

Picture of PVC Pipe Multi Toy - Absolutely Simple

My nephew's 5th birthday was fast approaching and I had to think of a gift for him.
A TOY for sure... but what? He likes Swords, Guns, Cars, Cranes, Robots ... and this ... and that ... the list is endless!!
I wish there was something that had  ALL-IN-ONE!!

I spent several days looking/searching for some sort of 'ALL-IN-ONE'.
Not having found anything suitable, I decided to design and build one!
That's how the project began.

Being an Architect, I have worked with PVC pipes for temporary structures, furniture, prototypes etc. They are very easy to work with, to fix and to remove. This seemed to have a lot of potential and looked like the most suited material for this project.

Material Decided! - Now to work out a modular system.
For this, I made a list of 15 to 20 items ... sword, car, crane, tank, guns, etc, ...
Tried to draw them in single lines - 'capturing the character' of each so to say.
Then tried to make them using pipes and fittings.
What turned out was like a Puzzle /or/ Assembly /or/ Lego /or/  Mechano kind of toy ..... 
Several pieces can be assembled or re-assembled into various shapes and forms.
And finally it came out as a 'MULTI-TOY-KIT'.

This Multi-Toy was an instant hit! Kids just got hooked onto it!
All other kids (known, unknown, and descendents of distant cousins) are now waiting for their B'day!!

This is extremely simple to make
all you need is the desire, hand tools and a few hours to spare.
So let's get going ….

Step 1: Tools:

Picture of Tools:

Simple hand tools are all that you'll need!

1. Pencil for marking
2. Measuring Tape
3. Mini Hack Saw
4. Fine Grade sandpaper or a File
5. Knife or cutter
6. Hand Drill (Manual drill is OK) and some drill bits

Step 2: Materials

Picture of Materials

SCH-40 PVC Pipe - 1/2 inch  dia - One Pipe 10ft long
The PVC pipe I’m using is White, non-toxic, OD=21mm & ID=15mm
 Most white plumbing PVC pipes are listed as non-toxic
(You can check manufacturer's specs prior to purchase)

PVC Pipe Fittings (for SCH-40 ½" Pipe)
L 90degree elbow = 10 pcs
T Standard Tee      = 10 pcs
+ Cross                   = 2 pcs
Coupler                   = 4 pcs
End-Cap                 = 2 pcs
Total = 10+10+2+4+2 = 28 pieces

3.  PVC pipe Solvent cement - Mine is a 20ml tube

4.  Paper - a strip of about 50mm x 100mm

5.  Cello Tape / Scotch Tape

In case you've never worked with PVC before and would like to have more details,
go through the instructable 'PVC 101'  - a good, crisp compilation.

Step 3: Cleaning Markings on the Pipe:

Picture of Cleaning Markings on the Pipe:

Safety First!
Work in a well ventilated and well lit area
When cutting/scraping/sanding the pipe safer to use a mask & eye protection

Gently scrape the markings using a knife/cutter or fine grade sandpaper.
I prefer to scrape, I find it is the fastest method ... and the least messy
(You could also use steel wool, scotch-brite and acetone to remove the markings)

Step 4: The Marking Jig:

Picture of The Marking Jig:

Using cello tape and the strip of paper, make a paper tube. Roll the strip of paper over the Pipe - not too tight - just loose enough so that it easily slides over the pipe. This becomes your marking Jig. You can now slide the paper tube to the required position and draw a line (on the pipe) along the edge of the paper.

Step 5: Cut the Pieces:

Picture of Cut the Pieces:

Mark 43mm from one end of the pipe. Use the Marking jig (the paper tube you just made) to draw a line all around the pipe. Cut using a Hack Saw (Or a PVC pipe cutting tool). The line drawn all around will help you to keep 'on line' and to make the cut nice and square. Use sandpaper (OR a file, OR a knife) to clean the rough edges.

Continue marking and cutting pieces of pipes.
Sizes and number of pieces are mentioned below:

43mm Long = 14 pieces (Let us call these 'S')
109mm Long = 8 pieces (Let us call these 'M')
241mm Long = 4 pieces (Let us call these 'L')
465mm Long = 1 piece (Let us call this 'XL')
Totally you'll have 14+8+4+1 = 27 pieces
After cutting all the pieces you'll be left with about 100mm length of the pipe.
Keep it safe - It'll be used later in case you decide to make the 'wheel-assembly' (Step-10)

The lengths and number of pieces are calculated after trying/designing several assemblies. It is important that you stick to the lengths mentioned here. One length of 10ft Pipe will be fully consumed - Nothing wasted!

Step 6: Ease of Assembling/Dismantling:

Picture of Ease of Assembling/Dismantling:


Make cuts of about 12mm length at both ends of each of the 27pcs.
This makes pushing the pipes into the fittings & removing them easy.

Without these cuts, if you push the pipe tightly into a fitting (even without glue), It'll really be difficult for kids to pull it out. So these cuts are a MUST.

Clean all cuts using fine grade sandpaper or a file.

Step 7: Clean and GO!

Picture of Clean and GO!

Clean and wash:
Wash all the pieces thoroughly (to remove any dust, dirt, particles etc).
I soaked the pieces in mild detergent solution for about 5mins and scrubbed them with a soft old toothbrush, washed them clean, and dried using a paper towel.

Start Off:
Now that you have 27 pieces of pipes and 28 pieces of fittings ....
Your 55 piece Kit is Ready to use.
Some examples are given below to start you off.

Make something even more DYNAMIC:
The next few steps (Step-8 to Step-12) illustrate how to make some interesting add-ons and accessories.
That'll take this kit to a Dynamic Dimension

Step 8: Accessory #1: the Robot Face

Picture of Accessory #1: the Robot Face

To make the Robot Face,  you'll need:

1.   End Cap for 1-1/4 inch SCH-40 PVC pipe
2.   End Cap for 1inch SCH-40 PVC pipe
3.   Some black paper (87mm x 18mm) cut to shape as shown in the picture
4.   A Pin with Glass Bead 
5.   Thermocole Balls - for eyes - approx 10mm dia
6.   Black pipe approx 21mm OD (From an old marker/ electrical conduit etc)

Just follow the attached picture - it is self explanatory.
My Robot Head:
I've used 10mm Red LEDs instead of thermocole balls for eyes. 
There is a small LED Flasher circuit and a button cell inside the head.
The antenna on the head is a switch - The eyes blink when switched ON!

Step 9: Accessory #2: the Crane Winch

Picture of Accessory #2: the Crane Winch

To make a Crane Winch You'll need:

1.  Coupler for 1/2 inch pipe
2.  Coupler for 1inch pipe
3.  3mm Aluminium (From an old Hanger)
4.  3mm Dia Bolts 10mm long with nuts - two pieces
5.  Wooden / Glass / Plastic Beads with 3mm dia hole 
6.  Some Nylon Thread
7.  A small Hook

With the 1/2" pipe coupler:
Cut 17mm pieces from either end of the 1/2 inch pipe coupler.
Cut off 19mm lengthwise - as shown - to form a 'C'
Drill a 3mm Hole exactly in the center.

With the 1" pipe coupler:
Drill a 4mm hole right through the center
Drill two 3mm holes - on only one side of the pipe
Bend the alu rod to  'Z' shape as shown
Bolt the two 'C' parts as shown - these will work as 'snap-on-clips'
Pass the 'Z' alu rod through the 4mm hole and glue two beads to the rod as shown
This forms your crane winch (File ends of alu rod to make them smooth and safe) 
'Wind' the nylon thread and tie a hook at the free end of the thread

Follow the self explanatory images below.

Once the Winch assembly is ready, you can make a working Tower Crane which can lift and lower loads. This could also be an add-on to the Kid's builder kit

Step 10: Accessory #3 : Wheel Assembly

Picture of Accessory #3 : Wheel Assembly

To make Wheels, You'll need:

1.  60mm Trolley Wheels (4 wheels)
2.  M8 x 45 Half -Thread Alan bolts with nuts (4 nuts and 4 bolts)
3.  Wooden/Nylon Dowel which'll tightly fit into the 1/2" dia pipe (15mm long x 4 pieces)
4.  100mm Length of SCH-40 1/2" PVC Pipe (left over from step 5)

Cut the 100mm piece of pipe (left over from step-5) into 4 equal parts (each of 25mm)

Drill 8mm dia hole, through center of the dowels, this should be done very carefully and precisely, you may have to use a vice to hold the dowel while you drill.

Push the dowel into the pipe. The dowel must be a real tight fit into the pipe. Put a dab of glue before pushing the dowel into the pipe. 
Pass M8 bolt through the wheel, hold the nut using a plier and tighten the bolt all the way through, then loosen it by about half a turn. Rotate the wheel and make sure it runs freely.
Put a drop of CA (super glue) or Loctite (nut lock glue) - to glue the nut in place.

(The nylon trolley wheel I've used has a bore of 8.5mm and it rotates freely over the 8mm bolt - Better to buy trolley wheel first then a suitable bolt)

You could also use Roller Skate Wheels. Buy wheels with bearing, in this case tighten the alan bolt all the way through. (No need to loosen it by half a turn because the bearings will make it rotate freely)

Follow the self explanatory images below. Needless to mention that you want to make 4 wheel assemblies!

Step 11: Full Glory

Picture of Full Glory


Step 12: The Gift Pack

Picture of The Gift Pack

If you make the entire kit with all the accessories the total tally should be:

28 pieces :  Fittings: Elbow, Tee, Coupler, Cross
27 pieces :  Pipes  S, M, L, and XL
01 piece   :  Robot Face
01 piece   :   Winch - for crane applications
04 pieces :  Wheels
61 Pieces :  TOTAL

61 piece set!  Very easy to loose a few pieces if they aren't kept in a proper container.

Simplest solution: A large and thick plastic bag (perhaps with a zip-lock). 

But if you want to give this as a gift it can't be 'pieces in a plastic bag' ... it better be a little more stylish.

Here's a suggestion for that ..... You'll need:
1.   2ft long piece of 4"dia PVC pipe (I used a grey PVC pipe - got a scrap piece)
2.   Two end caps for this pipe. 

The entire 61 piece set easily fits in a 4inch dia x 2ft long grey PVC pipe.
One of the end caps can be cemented permanently to the pipe. The other end cap will act as the lid. Grey was looking a bit boring so I quickly compiled some pictures, printed on self adhesive paper and pasted it over the pipe.
I call the Multi-Yoy-Kit : INFINITE CREATIONS.

Pictures of the container are self explanatory.

Hope you have a great time with this project - making it and using it.

Raj Quest!


Evancreator (author)2016-04-11

lol I am using car design for a bigger version of it and driving it down a hill. Smart

Raj Quest (author)Evancreator2016-04-12

Good to know that, do post pics of the scaled-up version when done.
Be carefull & be safe when rolling down-hill.
Take all safety measures and precautions.

gusnawa (author)2016-03-10

I am on this situation for my grand son, thanks so much it's awesome

rush_elixir (author)2016-01-21

awesome 5 year olds will love this! awesome!

rush_elixir (author)2016-01-21

awesome 5 year olds will love this! awesome!

RobertJ10 (author)2015-05-07

where can I find PVC fittings beyond th usual hardware-store / Home Depot variety? as they go up in size, regular pipe fittings can get pretty expensive.

hobhob (author)2015-03-17

So ingenious!

dratman (author)2013-11-19

You could build and sell these sets! That may seem contrary to the concept of Instructables -- but many people are neither willing nor able to spend that much time making their own toys.

FlexPVC (author)2013-02-22

PVC is not toxic to humans unless they are burning it and inhaling the smoke. PVC is probably the safest material out there. No California has not banned PVC packaging because of it's hazardous nature! The glue can be nasty (and toxic) but there is Gorilla Glue which is not anywhere near as bad. However I doubt any parent is going to give their kids pvc glue to play with, so it's a moot point.)

PVC parts themselves and pipe are as benign as it comes. Please don't use scare tactics on subjects you don't know anything about. The carbon-chlorine bond in PVC is almost impossible to break, and it's the chlorine gas that is the toxic part.

As for PVC pipe being used for water, it's been used for decades, it just depends on where you live in the country. It has a potable water rating from NSF (NSF 61). There is no higher rating for water safety.

There is not a single health risk with PVC pipe and fittings when used as directed. I'd let my kid play with PVC all day long compared to toys we get from overseas which have lead paint and other fillers in the plastic.

adjeprado (author)2011-01-06

Very cool project! Great images and great idea.

Having worked at a hardware store and having made a bunch of things using PVC, I can definitely say that it's really easy to work with, but kids tend to put toys like this in their mouths... It's definitely not the ideal material for a children's toy.

PVC is considered as being toxic to humans and extremely toxic when disposed of in the environment... In fact it's been banned as a packaging material in California because of its hazardous nature and many other governments are considering implementing similar legislature. I would suggest caution to anyone intending to make this for young children.

jauncourt (author)adjeprado2011-01-06

How does that work with this being made of PVC water delivery pipes, which are the same pipes that virtually all of us have in our homes?

yokozuna (author)jauncourt2012-06-12

You are thinking of CPVC, which has different chemical properties.

adjeprado (author)jauncourt2011-01-06

Actually most water delivery pipes are made of copper. PVC has only been implemented fairly recently. Water isn't a very good organic solvent, but enzymes in saliva help digest it. Also, PVC has a very particular smell, they're toxic fumes that are released from the plastic. Finally... when kids chew on toys they break off microscopic bits of them and digest them, which helps with absorption, which isn't really the case for pipes.

I can't really talk about the regulations in other places, but in Canada PVC is mainly used for chalets in rural areas where homes are only occupied for short amounts of time. The fact that PVC is very inexpensive compared to copper might make contractors use it instead though so I guess it depends on the regulations.

You might be thinking about ABS which is used for waste disposal and has been around for a fairly long time. Since they're used for waste disposal I haven't seen any studies concerning their toxicity...

Hope that answers your question! I suggest you do a quick google search if you're interested in the topic. There's quite a bit of research out there, but there's also a powerful movement by industries which use PVC to manufacture all kinds of things.

jauncourt (author)adjeprado2011-01-06

No, I am not thinking of ABS. I am thinking of PVC water delivery pipes, which these are, and are sold as. Additionally, unless a child is developmentally disabled, it's pretty unlikely that they will be teething on this toy.

adjeprado (author)jauncourt2011-01-06

So after doing a bit of reading, here's what I've found:
-Contradictory sources stating whether or not PVC can be legally used in highrises, but this is mainly due to fire hazards.
-Sources that state that PVC can be used legally for both cold and hot water, while others say it cannot be used at all for potable water and can only be used for industrial applications. There is quasi unanimity that cPVC is legal for most applications although I'm uncertain as to why since more chlorine atoms in a compound is usually worse for health and the environment.
-Sources that suggest that PVC makes up the majority of all piping in the USA and Canada, which is contradicted by the fact that it's said to be against building codes.
-A plastic industry site that suggest that PVC and cPVC are completely non-toxic.
-A plumbing association website that doesn't even talk about PVC and says that cPVC pipes used for potable water release dangerous toxins into the water.

Not to draw this out any further since it's not really related to the quality of the instructable, I'm just saying that there is concern with the safety of PVC. I won't start flaunting my credentials, but I'll just say that chlorinated compounds in general aren't particularly safe. You can find PVC toys on the market as well, but that doesn't make them benign... just as with lead paint being used on childrens' toys years ago or more recently, bpa in baby bottles.

rabb72994 (author)adjeprado2011-07-30

blah blah, what is not toxic these days? Soon enough you will tell me water is un-healthy to drink. Who cares we all die live it up man.

Dudely (author)adjeprado2011-01-06

In my experience PVC is used all over the place in Canada. Apartments, new homes, and renovations- I have seen it used in all cases. The only time I saw wide copper pipes used (you see the small ones all the time) was in an old apartment building.

jauncourt (author)Dudely2011-01-06

Exactly. In many places, it's part of bringing older buildings up to code, in fact, toi replace old metal water delivery pipe with PVC. In my experience, only pipes from the hot water heater to the faucets are copper.

grigsby (author)adjeprado2011-01-23

Poly Vinyl Chloride PVC gives off chlorene gas when burned. PVC can be made from sodium cloride. Common table Salt. Maybe there is a chemist here that can shed some light on the subject. People that use copper pipe do not want you to use PVC pipe because it is a DIY product and puts trade people out of work. Sorry , this is my opinion. I hope all is big enough to understand opinion.

rabb72994 (author)2011-07-30

You should do an ible on how to do an instructable. I wish they were all put together this well.

BaySpieler (author)2011-01-17

Awesome stuff. I made a set of these today. If you remember, I'd like to know this: Is there anything magical about the lengths that you cut other than that they all fit on a single 10 feet length of pipe?

I used English measurements, for those interested, they were.

Extra Large piece - 18 1/4 inches
Pretty large pieces - 12 inches (These pieces were not adapted from the initial instructable, I just added them later.
Large pieces - 9 1/2 inches
Medium pieces - 4 1/4 inches
Small pieces 1 3/4 inches

The notch cuts that I made into the ends of each piece were about the same size as the height of my hacksaw blade.

I'm looking forward to putting some of the advanced pieces together.

Raj Quest (author)BaySpieler2011-01-18

Dear BaySpieler,

Thank you for going through the instructable.
I hope you enjoy working on it.

The lengths of pieces are calculated based on proportions.
I worked on a number of assemblies and then concluded on the sizes and numbers. Take 'Laptop' (shown in step-7) as an example.
2T + 2S + 1M = 1L. Smaller pieces with Ts or Ls would equal the length of a larger piece.

Fitting it all on one 10ft pipe is for 'no-wastage' /or/ 'economy' /or/ 'full utilization' purpose. At the end of the project, you'll only be concerned with disposing off the sawn-dust (PVC-Dust). The 'notch' cuts at the ends of pipes could also be made <12mm or >12mm for a tight or lose fit.

Once the idea, concept and essence are captured, more number of pipes and pieces could certainly be added to build on and on and on ......
Aeroplanes, Helis, UFOs, Forklifts, tents, and ... may be something entirely different.

jgeekw (author)2011-01-15

I can see adding an accessoryor two, to some of the "artillary" toys to convert them to backyard ballistic machines ;)

ianheavy (author)2011-01-11

I think this is a great project, my grandson's birthday is coming up soon. This looks great. Haven't yet tracked down a UK supplier for this stuff. Had a look at B and Q and Homebase, but didn't see anything there. Any UK based Instructablers know where to obtain this stuff?

Well done!


Raj Quest (author)ianheavy2011-01-13

Dear Ian,

I did a google search for "1/2" white PVC pipe in UK" and came up with the following result. I'm sure you've done this already, but if not ....Hope this helps

MrTrick (author)2011-01-11

Fantastic work!

I know next time I go to the local hardware, I'm going to be looking twice at all the building supplies.

hummer_head (author)2011-01-07

i don't want to offend you but the pictures seems like they are from the internet and the size is very small to be taken by camera. Sorry for the distrust but that's my opinion. Hope i'm wrong! Otherwise is great. Regards!!

Raj Quest (author)hummer_head2011-01-09

Dear hummer_head,
Indeed you are absolutely wrong!
1) pictures taken by camera can be RESIZED TO LOWER RESOLUTION for faster upload/download!
2) These days IMAGE PROCESSING software comes free when you purchase a camera!  :-)

hummer_head (author)Raj Quest2011-01-09

I'm sorry i didn't looked from that point of view!! :)

cjraabe (author)2011-01-07

This is an absolutely wonderful toy. I am curious about toxicity concerns and wonder whether some of the sources stated are outdated. Installing pvc pipe for plumbing is definitely not against code in many places. I plan to make this toy without concern for safety. Great job!

Raj Quest (author)cjraabe2011-01-09

Dear cjraabe,
Presently a lot of toys, inflatable toys, and inflatable pool accessories, pens, tap washers, gloves, and what not .... are made of PVC! Search and you’ll be amazed!

My five year old nephew is already smart enough to understand toys are for playing and food is for putting in the mouth! Hence I wasn't worried. 

:-) You may not vaporize just by looking at or by touching PVC!
BUT you may … avoid making stuff (for example: blow guns or similar) which would necessitate putting PVC in the mouth. Enjoy!

Junkyard Dawg (author)2011-01-06

Man, I whish I had a cool play set like this when I was younger

julio_mendes (author)2011-01-06

It´s very cool...great idea!!! \o/
Thanks for sharing with us.......

DieCastoms (author)2011-01-06

I am disappointed that there aren't already more comments on this Ible.

I think this is an example of how Ibles should be done. Your instructions are clear, your images are great, your examples are useful!

As I read through this, I had only a couple suggestions, most of which you included further along in the Ible (adding lights (or other features) to the robot head, cutting couplers to make snap-on clips, etc.).  The only other suggestions I had were:
* Glue one more bead flush at the end of the handle on the winch.  This will make the aluminum hanger end a little more safe.  Also glue one onto the toggle switch if you add lights to the head, or else use a push-on, push-off (lick clicking a retractable pen) style switch.
* Make a few different shape wood seats with the cut-coupler-clips, or else with sections of pipe permanently attached.  These could easily spark in idea for the child to build.
* Add an Eye Bolt to one of the pipe caps to be used for attaching pull-ropes

I did have a couple questions.  You show a few examples like the trolley (otherwise known as a dolly or hand-truck), and the Micro Scooter.  Know, please, that these questions are asked out of curiosity and interest and not as criticisms or put-downs.
* I had to wonder if these would support much weight at all?  Will the middle of the scooter's horizontal pipe drag on the floor?  
* How much weight will it hold before it does?  
* Would it be worth it to find a way to slide the T fitting along the length of a single continuous pipe for the horizontal span of the scooter of for the 'forks' of the trolley? 

Please keep up the good work.  I will be reading your other Ibles!  This has been voted on and favorited!

Mike, from DieCastoms.

askjerry (author)2011-01-06

Nicely done, fun and expandable.

octochan (author)2011-01-06

This is fantastic! It's so expensive to get a decent general-build kit of any kind these days! I don't even know if they still make lego assortments anymore.

serpensphile (author)2011-01-06

Ok, now I expect to see the "Adult" version! Pieces make a Trebuchet, a potato launcher, a blow gun, etc, etc........LOL!!!

Great Job!

Exscaly (author)2011-01-06

Great idea! Very creative.Nice pictures and photos too!
Well done!

Bengt Englund (author)2011-01-05

I'm impressed!

laserjocky (author)2011-01-03

Genius man, genius! I wish I had one of these when I was a kid. I worked with plenty of PVC when I got a bit older, haha, but this is like K'Nex on steroids! Nice work!

Raj Quest (author)2011-01-03

A Big Thanks to all ....
for your wonderful comments and suggestions.

CDNbiker (author)2011-01-03

Great idea - I'm going to build this for my 4 year old

Lamaclown (author)2011-01-03

I can honestly say that is one of my favorite instructables yet. It is easy and inexpensive to do and extremely entertaining and engaging for my son.

Thanks for sharing it!

Biggsy (author)2011-01-03

I have two little nephews who would love this... The great thing is if someone looses a piece... you can just replace it without having to go to supplier websites and lord knows what!

Great Job


hollasch (author)2011-01-02

Ten years ago I made a similar set out of 1/2 inch copper pipes and fittings. One of my son's (then four years old) first projects was a whacking stick / hammer. My wife intervened and told me to use something else. :) I created a similar set. He has a large shoebox full of fittings, as well as a huge box full of pipes of different sizes (3 inches to 2 feet). This set is by far his longest-lived toy -- both in terms of durability and in terms of playability.

Note that there are many many uses for such a set, including bedsheet house/tent frames, blowgun toys, costume tanks, and tons more. My wife and I have even borrowed the set from time to time to mock up furniture before purchasing!

I *strongly* recommend doing this -- it's cheap, fast, and fun.

portalturret2 (author)2011-01-02

that is so stinking awesome man!!!!

hobbitboy (author)2011-01-02

coool i made one for me and i play with it and im 12

verdastel (author)2011-01-02

genius, excellent project served in neat instructable!

DELETED_jorgegunn (author)2011-01-01

this is really cool it reminds me of growing up with my dad our toys were allways made out of pvc or odd electronic elements amazing what an awesome uncle you must be

DNMEBOY (author)2011-01-01

I think the tank needs a built in mouth peice so the cannon can be loaded with marshmallows. I bought a marshmallow gun kit and it was just PVC pipes lol. Add it to the design of the tank and I'm sure it would be an even bigger hit with the kids.

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