Introduction: 12 Inch Floating PVC Fossil Sifter

This DIY is meant to show you how to make a 12" fossil material sifter out of simple materials at home. In the photo, there is a 1 foot and 2 foot version, Instructions for the 2 foot are identical with the exception of 24" legs instead of 12" and the need for a larger screen and more pool noodles. I want to emphasize that this build requires a bunch of sharp tools and sharp pieces to be assembled. Please help children and use caution! Once completed, this design does create a very SAFE final product that i'd hand to any child that is old enough to sift for fossils.


  • 7 feet of 1/2" PVC pipe (sold in 10 foot lengths at home depot for under $3)
  • 4 - 1/2" PVC T junctions
  • 4 - 1/2" PVC 90* elbows
  • 1 hollow pool noodle (just over 4 feet)
  • 12 11" zip ties
  • Plenty of 5-6" zip ties
  • 1/4" galvanized mesh (comes in 2 feet x 5 feet rolls)
  • 6 feet of nylon rope
  • 1 bungee clip


  • Saw capable of cutting PVC (we used a compound miter saw
  • Diagonal cutters (for cutting mesh & zip ties)
  • Pocket knife or razor (for cutting pool noodles and rope)
  • Lighter (for searing the end of rope)
  • Ruler

Step 1: Cut Your PVC

    I made our cuts with a compound miter saw. PVC is soft and can be cut with a hand saw pretty easily.

    1. Cut 7 one foot sections of PVC from your 10' single piece of 1/2" PVC piping
    2. Cut ONE of the sections into 4 3" sections
    3. You will be left with:
    • 6 - 1' sections
    • 4 - 3" sections

    Step 2: Assemble the Frame

    1. Create your 2 inner legs with 2 1 foot pipes and 4 T junctions. Tap them together with a rubber mallet
    2. Create your 2 outer legs with 4 90* angles and 2 1 foot pipes. Tap them together with a rubber mallet
    3. Build your inner frame by joining the 2 inner legs with the 2 remaining 1 foot pipes. Tap them together with a rubber mallet
    4. Add your 4 3 inch connectors to the inner frame's remaining T junction holes. Tap them together with a rubber mallet
    5. Add the two end legs to the connectors, forming the entire frame. Make sure this whole thing is assembled tightly.

    Note: The emphasis on tapping together on each step makes life easier later as the PVC bottoms out in the junctions. Make sure your junctions are properly lined up before tapping or they are more difficult to adjust.

    Step 3:

    Using diagonal cutters, snip your galvanized mesh down to 1 foot by 1 foot. IT WILL BE SHARP AT EACH POINT YOU CUT!

    Step 4: Secure the Mesh

    1. Use 4 5-inch zip ties (1 per side) to get the initial attachment to the frame. By doing this first, you keep it from rolling up on you and cutting you. Make sure the zip tie ends are pointing OUT. This is so you can cut them and cover with pool noodles later to prevent cutting hands. To make this step easier,I laid the sheet and frame on the concrete garage floor and stood on it so it was flat. This kept it from rolling up
    2. Using 3 more zip ties per side, finish attaching the screen to the frame. Again, zip tie ends out!
    3. Cut off the ends of the zip ties with cutters. Remember, cut zip ties are very sharp.

    Step 5: Cut Your Pool Noodle

    1. Measure and mark out 4 1-foot sections of pool noodle
    2. Cut each section across
    3. Slice each section like a hot-dog bun so it will fit over the frame. Do not cut all the way through! Only into the middle.

    Step 6: Attach Pool Noodles

    1. Slide the 4 sections over the middle parts of the frame. These should cover the cut zip tie ends and the sharp ends of the screen
    2. Using 11" zip ties, fasten the noodles to the frame through the screen. Be sure to put the zip tie ends in toward the center. DO NOT CUT THEM! they will be sharp and will cut hands if you do.
    3. Pierce the end of the zip tie into the pool noodle and weave it along the pipe. This keeps them from hurting cold hands in the water!

    Step 7: Create Your Safety Rope

    1. Cut a desired amount of rope to attach your sifter to a belt loop. We used 2 arm lengths (about 6 feet) of nylon rope
    2. Melt both ends of the nylon rope to sear it together. This will keep it from unraveling.
    3. Tie one end to a hook clip and fasten a zip tie around it to keep it from untying
    4. Tie the other end to a corner of your sifter frame and wrap another zip tie around it to keep the rope from coming untied.

    Step 8: Enjoy Your Sifter!

    In the photo, the 12" has green pool noodles and the 24" has blue. To create the blue, just extend the size of the legs, pool noodles and screen.