Introduction: PVC Pipe Blades and Rotor for HAWT From Scrap.

Picture of PVC  Pipe Blades and Rotor for  HAWT From Scrap.


NOTE: This was a proof of concept project, just to show that it is possible to use the casting from an old washing machine to make a rotor, This project is now on hold until I finish my VAWT and other projects I am working on.

I recently had an idea for a horizontal wind turbine.  The idea came to me when I dismantled an old washing machine to get the stainless steel drum to make a patio heater.  I discovered that the drum was mounted on a aluminum casting that had chunky bearings that though would be perfect to make a wind turbine with, the rotor of any turbine is the hardest part of the build and to find some thing this perfect I just had to see if it would work.

I had a 1mtr length of 6" PVC sewer pipe left over from my VAWT  built and decided that i would use it to make a set of blades to see if my idea was valid enough to continue to build a horizontal wind turbine.

For the video the rotor is mounted on a test stand with a clamp.  I already have my brain in gear and a rest of the turbine is already taking shape.

The results speak for themselves, you can see that the blades catch even the slightest breeze.

I may even put my VAWT build on hold for now to work on this turbine as I think it has more potential to get me to the goal of charging batteries for an electric bike project sooner than the VAWT.

I will be continuing work on the turbine and once I have the various stages finished I shall post the Instructables.

Thanks for looking and I hope this gives you some ideas for your own projects.


Step 1: Marking the Pipe

Picture of Marking the Pipe

The first thing was to mark out the pipe.

I first used a length of angle iron to mark a line along the pipe, by using angle iron you get a perfect line and all your lines will be parallel.

Once the first line was marked i measured the circumference of the pipe and devide it by 3 to give the spacing for the other lines.  I marked the distance on the back of the tape measure so i could wrap the tape around the pipe for a more accurate mark.

Once you have the equal distances marked use the angle to mark a lines.

Step 2: Cutting

Picture of Cutting

Once the pipe was marked out i clamped it to the bead of my wood lathe for cutting.

I used a jigsaw to make split the pipe into the 3 segments. each segment would make 2 blades so i would have 6 blades from this pipe.

Once the first cut is made rotate the pipe and clamp again, after the second cut a segment will be removed from the pipe. The pie then was able to be pushed down onto the lathe bead where it sat nice and steady for the final cut.

Step 3: Marking and Cutting the Segments.

Picture of Marking and Cutting the Segments.

I marked each of the segments 1 1/2" in at each end and used a chalk line to mark a line along the segment. the chalk line did not show up to good so I used a sharpie marker to redraw the line before cutting.

I was able to use the bandsaw for cutting the segments.

Step 4: Sanding and Finishing.

Picture of Sanding and Finishing.

Once the segments where all cut i picked the 3 blades that where the best looking of the bunch.

I sanded the blades on the sanding table and removes any fine burs with wire wool to give a smooth edges.

Step 5: The Rotor.

Picture of The Rotor.

The  rotor came from a washing machine drum and is attached to the drum with press in rivets. to remove these either split the aluminum tube the rivet is pressed into or grind the top flat and center punch it and drill the rivet out.

I marked the holes on each arm 75mm center to center and drilled with a 6mm drill bit.

Step 6: The Bearings.

Picture of The Bearings.

The bearing casing is moulded into the plastic drum of the washing machine and need to be cut free. you can either smash the tub up or cut it out if you have a use for the rest of the tub.

To remove the bearing case from the tub I used a angle grinder to cut into the segments on the base of the tub, I also did the same on the inside of the tub too.

I then used a a hand axe to hack out the bearing case but not totally destroy the tub, I plan to use the remainder of the tub to make some kind of planter.

Step 7: Attach the Blades and Add the Bearing Cage.

Picture of Attach the Blades and Add the Bearing Cage.

I clamped the blades in position on each arm and drilled the blade for the outermost holes first.

Once all 3 blades where attached I lined up the first blade and drilled the hole for the second bolt.  i then used the the tape measure to make sure the tips of the blades where at equal distances. Once all the blades where set i drilled the rest of the holes and bolted the blades on to the rotor.

I was now able to test the rotor to see if the blades worked. They worked very well, so well that I decided It would be much safer mounted on a test stand than me just holding the bearing casing.

The blades will need some sanding here and there to make them perfectly balanced, I will do this in the tweaking stage before I mount the turbine on a pole.

I hope you like my idea for a scrappy solution to the problem of making a rotor for a wind turbine.


iFirefly (author)2010-08-09

Suggestion: Won't your blades be more efficient if the ends are the wider part of the blades? Having the larger width at the center is somewhat of a waste, as the "clean" wind at the outer ends are what drives the blades most, rather than the inner portion, which is "dirty" wind flow interrupted by the hub assembly itself as well as by the inter-blade "wash" affect, all of which combine to make the inwards part of the blades almost useless in terms of thrust potential. That's why some very efficient and simple designs have NO inner blade surface area. I realize that doing it this way could preclude the use of PVC because the skinnier part of the blades won't support their own weight, depending on the type/gauge of the pipe (schedule 40, 80, etc.) I need to get a workshop going...

Dr Qui (author)iFirefly2010-08-10

I don't know to be honest, this is all experimental.

I thought that the tips would be narrower as the further from the center you get on the blade the faster the blade is moving the center may be going only a few mph but the blade tip is going closer to 100 mph

It would also put all the weight to the end of the blade, not really where you want all the weight in something spinning at speed.

Also , why do all commercial wind turbines have blades with narrow tips? Its best to copy an idea that is know to work.

Horsehockey (author)Dr Qui2012-01-17

Dr Qui, you have written a very clear, concese, Instructable on your "Experiment". Some of the readers haven't dabbled in a lot of subjects as much as you have.
On the subject of the shape of the blades, you almost hit the nail on the head on your answer above. The real object of the blade, be it powered as in an airplane propeller, or a helicopter rotor, or wind driven like in your blades, is to have the air pressure equal along the length of the blade. The tip speed is greater so it is narrower and flatter, producing X power. As you take power measurements closer to the hub, the blade in that spot is turning slower relative to the wind and the blade is pitched more, thus producing the same power as at the tip. The same is true at all stations along the blade.
Now if I could just find what diameter and thickness of pipe you started with.....!!

Dr Qui (author)Horsehockey2012-01-18

Its 6" standard sewer pipe.

I think 1mtr is a little to long for this, I had planned to cut them down to about 18-24" and re balance them, bad health etc stopped me from taking that experiment any further, but as the Ible says it was only a prof of concept and I hope that someone out there has taken the idea to the next level.

The home made plastic pipe blades have a decent enough pedigree on small scale turbines from the research I did, they will break in high winds but then this is a safety feature of sorts as its better to have the blades that cost a few pennies snap than kill your whole turbine.

Most of the stuff i found online was for pipe blades of about 18-24" for small portable turbines.

Good luck with your own experiments.

iFirefly (author)Dr Qui2010-08-10

You have a good point; however those designs ar as old as aviation itself - over 100 years. Current technology "tune" every dimension to the projected load, speed and consistency of the wind source. An example of the necessity of using tuned rotors may be found at the Carter Copter site, where they are the first and only to use a slowed rotor with weights on the ends to achieve some amazing results. The leading and edges of their rotors are extended into a delta shape containing the lead weights and the trailing edges have a larger delta (empty of weights) to distribute the Aerodynamic Center toward the end of the rotor blade. The measures of efficiency in this design are demonstrated to be 27 times more efficient than the higher-speed operation. Lower speed+higher mass=efficiency in this case.

FreeBaseBuzz (author)iFirefly2010-08-15

That blade is for a autogyro, which is a completely different configuration.

Dr Qui (author)iFirefly2010-08-11

This is not aviation. a wind turbine is not trying to move air and give lift but to be moved by air to convert wind energy into torque.

Also in power production higher speed gives more power.

iFirefly (author)Dr Qui2010-08-11

My inference was to rotor effectiveness in propelling mass and moving air, which is equal in its capacity to be affected by movement of air; an economy of one use infers the other, and most certainly in the case I mentioned (Slowed Rotor). If less movement is required to maintain the same level of energy output, it is more efficient (exponentially, in the SR's X27). As far as your speed=power assertion, I belief Dr. Torque may have a difference of opinion. My motorhome makes maximum torque at only 2300 RPM, yet the best super bikes aren't happy under 9000.

sorin0306 (author)2010-08-05

how many power can produce with this "turbine" ?

Dr Qui (author)sorin03062010-08-05

1.21giga watt

sorin0306 (author)Dr Qui2010-08-05

what, giga????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 giga wat = 1000000000 wat is impossible for this turbine, with this dimension to produce so many power .

Spaceman Spiff (author)sorin03062011-03-31

Seriously! Where are you going to find 1.21 jigawatts? The only power source capable of generating 1.21 jigawatts of electricity is a bolt of lightning, Unfortunately, you never know when or where it's ever going to strike!

Dr Qui (author)Spaceman Spiff2011-05-04

Its obvious that a joke relating to a movie that was released the same year as you where born is totally wasted on you.

Watch the movie, and you will find that you can tell when lightning is going to strike and that lightning is not the only power source capable of producing 1.21 giga watts, a Mr Fusion machine can, but then that will not be invented until 2015.

Perhaps if you had read the instructable rather than the comments you would have seen the bold type that said that this was just a proof of concept project to see if the reclaimed casting could be used to build a functional rotor for a HAWT

The purpose of this instructable was to show other people who dabble with homebrew power  how to use reclaimed parts to build a simple yet effective rotor for almost no cost.

duct tape (author)sorin03062010-08-09


RetroTechno (author)sorin03062010-08-05

He is joking, sorin0306. This is a quote from a movie.

sorin0306 (author)RetroTechno2010-08-06

no no if you use a motor from washing machine for this project you get a unstable output voltage. you can use just a DC motor or a synchronous motor for generate stable output voltage. The motor of a washing machine is asynchrony

did you ever see back to The future???

Dr Qui (author)sorin03062010-08-05

Did you even read the instructable, I said this was only to see if the washing machine part could e used to make a rotor.

sorin0306 (author)Dr Qui2010-08-05

in really not is possible to use a washing machine part motor for the turbine generator.

jumpfroggy (author)sorin03062010-08-05

scraptopower (author)sorin03062010-08-05


sam D (author)Dr Qui2011-04-30

Win, doc!

sailorbob (author)2010-08-06

Is that your back garden ? Have you ever thought of having a clearout and growing veg. for the family. it would be much more profitable than trying make a windmill

Dr Qui (author)sailorbob2010-08-07


martzsam (author)Dr Qui2010-08-18

Haha. He be trollin.

RonaldoNZ (author)2010-08-15

take a look here for good research details. and for sorin0306 re: "in really not is possible to use a washing machine part motor for the turbine generator." I think 300 watts from a washing machine motor says its very possible, sorry.

Dr Qui (author)RonaldoNZ2010-08-17


The "be nice" comment policy stopped me from replying to that one how I would have liked to. ;-)

I'm glad to see that some people actually do think outside the box and dont limit them selves to what the science books say.

It is possible to use a standard motor if you replace the electromagnetic armature with permanent magnets, not the most efficient way but its a start. I have one of those direct drive motors featured on your link that I may use on a HAWT at some point.

I'm in a state of project overload at the moment and the shed also needs cleaned out to be honest before I do anything more. This was purely a proof of concept thing and will most likely stay on the back burner until the rest of the parts for the build show up.

I want to finish the VAWT project more than anything as there are just to many safety issues with HAWT systems that I am less than keen on.

richhummel (author)2010-08-12

love it!

Dr Qui (author)richhummel2010-08-12

cheers, I'm in the R&D mode now for the rest of the build.

R.Blakely (author)2010-08-07

Metal tubing can be used similarly. PVC is not as good for vibrational stress as metal. For example, aluminum irrigation tubing should work instead of PVC.

Dr Qui (author)R.Blakely2010-08-07

PVC blades may not be a s strong, but they are much much cheaper. 1mtr of PVC pipe is £5 but i don't think you would git much aluminium pipe for that.

PVC will also fail sooner than aluminium, I don't mind the fact that the PVC blades will fail if the wind gets very strong, I would rather replace a cheap blade than have a metal prop spinning out of control.

R.Blakely (author)Dr Qui2010-08-07

Airplanes are not made of PVC because it is incredibly heavy and quite weak since it fatigues (cracks easily). Scrap aluminum is available at scrap metal dealers. Each blades should have a pivot at its mounting point. Helicopters use such flexible blade mounts to help prevent blade over-stressing.

Dr Qui (author)R.Blakely2010-08-10

Have you priced even scrap aluminium.

Aluminium is harder to work and is x amount more dangerous to have spinning at several hundred rpm. to add pivots or flexible joints makes the build to complicated for most diy guys.

I work on the KISS system. Keep It Simple Stupid.  I am trying to design a no cost or ultra low cost wind turbine that can charge a few 12v batteries and run a few low power devices. I want something that McGyver could knock together with only his Swiss army knife.

I chose PVC pipe as it already is a a tried and tested method, and also for the fact that it WILL FAIL in high winds, its better to replace broken blades than to rebuild your whole rig.

R.Blakely (author)Dr Qui2010-08-11

Check out a gyrocopter rotor. Opposite blades are rigidly connected yet both blades can pivot together. This allows the gyrocopter to be safe yet easy to control. Also, aluminum sheet could be used by rolling the sheet first and then cutting the blades out. I have a rolling machine made in Tiawan. Having a rolling machine helps, but you could use the services of a metal working business. Aluminum is almost as easy to cut as PVC. Most importantly, PVC is not safe because it will fail by cracking like glass. This is evident if you use it in winter.

Dr Qui (author)R.Blakely2010-08-11

You are totally forgetting one point, that this was a proof of concept project, a project to build a wind turbine from salvaged parts for a small a budget as possible and also be built by any DIY guys with the standard tools most people have.

I'm using cheap easily worked PVC because I know it will fail in high winds, from the info i have seen on other peoples use of PVC pipe I have gathered that some like the idea of having a failsafe built in to your design especially when you are doing a first time DIY build from salvaged parts.

Please remember that this is Instructables not NASA that most of the DIY guys don't have bottomless budgets and fully equipped workshops.

doctoral (author)2010-08-05

I love the way your yard is layed out everything is within reach, my dream come true.

Dr Qui (author)doctoral2010-08-10

It will be allot better once i get all that scrap timber cut up, I attack it now and then but ti never seems to get smaller.

burwuro (author)2010-08-05

I'm a bit confused on how you made the marking/cutting of the pipe. How did you cut it to get that nice curve in the blade? Was it just a bending weight? Thanks

Dr Qui (author)burwuro2010-08-07

No curves, they are all straight cuts.

pleabargain (author)2010-07-31

Please post updates when you get it connected to a generator under load! Very clever reuse of 'garbage'!

Dr Qui (author)pleabargain2010-07-31

I will do an Instructable on how I build the rest of the turbine.  and maybe one on building a flux type generator too.  Dont worry any projects I do will be documented and posted.

This Instructable was posted just to show others that you could use this washing machine part for building a turbine.

jhampa (author)Dr Qui2010-08-06

Sounds great, thanks for the postings. Now I'm looking for a dead washing machine, lol

rapidprototyping (author)2010-08-05

Diagram might help please don't give up on the savanious rotor design I made one in 1980 as i've posted on here in several places it lacked a generator and i used plywood where i should stuck with aluminum. but to make it unattractive to scrapers i'm going for stainless steel. I bought some drink bottles for the prototype for couple bucks i'm sure the designs can evole in materials and the generators be levitated. Harbor Freight sells ceramic permanent magnets for five dollars each 100 pound lift magnets. I wonder if anyone has tried cutting these on tile saw. I like the design of the 1,000 watt generator and in a three ft diameter savanious rotor the gen could be incorporated into the top or bottom disc. or the diamers decreased giving it more resistance to an applied load. Also i wanted to try a sort of sapphire bearing as a pivot point at bottom with mag lev and piviot point light weight less hundred pounds total. I used combine bearing similar to washing machine bearings

Dr Qui (author)rapidprototyping2010-08-05

savonious is the least efficient type of wind turbine I have moved on from those.

rapidprototyping (author)2010-08-05

here is diagram for the vertical axis unit

xarlock667 (author)2010-08-05

Your inginuity is impressive! Please post updates as you make progress!

cchubb (author)2010-08-05

Because it's tough to get the line to snap along the length what I do is stretch a piece of twine between the end points then put a quick blast of spray paint along the string. Remove string and cut along the masked line.

gogutu (author)2010-08-05

Foarte igenios chiar am aceste piese si ma gandeam sa le arunc dar le voi refolosi ,astept sa vedem cu ce vei realiza generatorul de curent,poate va fi ceva simplu si usor de procurat. Foarte igenios

AntonioMDC (author)2010-08-05

excellent idea. have you seen these mega horizontal turbines that are supposed to be coming down the pipeline? yours seems greener. and more democratic.

About This Instructable



Bio: Learning to live with Fibromyalgia brought on be numerous injuries some old some quite recent. Currently under no fixed agenda, just going with the flow ... More »
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