Introduction: Leaf Bag Stand/Holder

About: I started using tools a loooooong time ago and never stopped. all the guards and safety warnings on today's tools and equipment are mostly a pain to me. Hot things burn, sharp things cut. Be careful or pay som…

Several years ago, I got tired of raking leaves and trying to stuff them into a big, unwieldy plastic bag. The opening of the bag would collapse or move just as I was trying to put a rake-full in and I wound up dropping more leaves than what went into the bag. Raking them up once was bad enough. I didn't like to have to do it two (or three, or more) times. And I only have two hands. Trying to hold the leaves on or against a rake while holding a big plastic bag open would be a challenge to an octopus, which I am not. Putting the bag in a garbage can works fine - until you try to get the bag out of the can when it's full. Then it almost takes a pry-bar to get it out.

In my experience, using a leaf blower is only useful to a point - if you use one at all. It seems that you wind up with as much leaves, twigs and dirt in your face and hair as winds up in the pile. Unless you blow them back into the woods they came from or into your neighbor's yard (which tends to make him cranky and hard to get along with - even if the leaves were from his trees). And you still have to gather them up and get them into an approved container that your local "Solid Waste Disposal Collection Unit" will accept. (It used to be just called "trash pick-up" in the days before political correctness became fashionable.) In my experience, yard vacuums are almost as bad. By the time you get the leaves, twigs and dirt from the vacuum's bag into a trash bag, you're wearing most of the dirt and quite a few of the leaves.

While I realize that some readers may be using metric measurements, they probably won't be buying the same leaf bags. Or they may not use them at all. Do they rake leaves, put them in plastic bags so they won't decompose for 100 years and use them to fill up their landfills in other countries? Or is it only in our crazy country that people do this? I'm curious.

Step 1: My Basic Reasoning

I wanted something to hold the trash bag for me (other than my wife. who isn't keen on being a trash bag holder), and I didn't want something that was going to cost more than a lawn sweeper, yard vacuum or a power rake. I just wanted something cheap that would hold trash bags, so I decided to make it out of PVC pipe. I had bought a bunch of 55 gallon plastic leaf bags on-line for cheap and I wanted something to fit them. When I laid one of the bags out flat, it was 36" wide by 58" tall (or long, depending on how you look at it). The bag was going to have to come up through the middle of the frame and be stretched over the top. Some of the bottom of the bag would have to rest on the ground and some more of the height would have to be pulled over the top of the frame to keep it in place while I was dumping leaves into it. I estimated that a foot for each ought to be enough, so it needed to be roughly 36" tall, which also made it a pretty good height to dump leaves into. The top of the frame would have to measure a little more than 72" (two times the flat width of 36") around the outside - maybe a little bit bigger so the bag wouldn't fall off (they do stretch, especially when you're pushing stuff into them). Because leaf rakes are pretty wide. I decided on a top frame about 22" x 14" (22 + 14 times 2 = 72) as outside dimensions. Then I added 1" to each side - about 5% for stretching the bag over the frame. (It turned out that was a little too much and I had to shorten them a little, but it's easier to shorten them than make them longer.) With lengths that short, I didn't think it needed to be very strong, so I just used 1/2" Schedule 40 (standard wall thickness) PVC pipe. It's cheap and readily available. The legs might need to be a little stronger, so I planned to use 3/4" for those. If your bags are a different size, you're going to have to change these dimensions, but the reasoning needs to be the same. If you want to use all 3/4" PVC pipe, it's almost the same cost. There's very little difference in the cost of materials and you don't have to search for the special 3/4" x 1/2" tees. My whole stand cost under $10.

Step 2: Materials:

10 feet of 1/2" schedule 40 PVC pipe for the top frame (you'll have about 4 feet extra in case of goofs)

four 1/2" "slip" 90° Elbows (also called "socket" ells - not the threaded ones) for the top frame

10 feet of 3/4" schedule 40 PVC pipe for the legs and feet

two 3/4" slip Tees (used at the bottom for the feet)

two 1/2" x 3/4" slip Tees (see picture) to connect the 3/4" legs to the 1/2" top frame

four 3/4" slip caps (optional) to cover the open ends of the feet

Don't bother getting any PVC cement - more on that later.

Step 3: Cut the Pieces

PVC pipe can be cut with a special PVC pipe cutter (see picture), or just about any kind of saw (hand or power) from a hack saw to a table saw. I like using a miter saw since I have one. I have a pipe cutter like the one shown, but frankly they aren't worth the money. None of them I've tried will cut the end square.

Any cutting method will leave ends that will have to be de-burred so that will allow the elbows and tees to fit.Scraping the end with a knife blade held at a 45 degree angle works pretty well or you can use sandpaper.

Since 1/2" elbows extend about 1" past the end of the pipe when it is fully seated, I subtracted 2" (1" for each end) from the two long sides of the top frame. So I cut two pieces 20" long for the long sides (which became the front and back). The short sides also had to have the tees for the legs attached in the middle, so I figured that they needed to be 14" - 2 x 1" - 15/16" for the tee = 11-1/16" long. Since the plastic bag will stretch (and it's a lot easier to make pipe shorter than longer), I cut them to 12" each, then cut each of those pieces into a 6-1/2" piece and a 5-1/2" piece. (On the original, I just cut them in half, but more on that later)

The 10' piece of 3/4" pipe needs to be cut into two 36" long pieces and four 12" pieces. De-burr the ends with sandpaper or by scraping the outside edges with a knife or sandpaper.

Step 4: Assembly

Take the short pieces of 1/2" pipe and stick them in opposite sides of the two 1/2" x 3/4" tees. Put a 1/2" elbow on the outside ends. It's best if the ends of the 1/2" elbows are more or less in line with each other, but the open side of the 1/2" x 3/4" tee is at right angles to them, but don't worry about getting them perfect. You can straighten them out as you go. That's just one of the advantages of not gluing things together. If you glue the joints, they have to be aligned almost perfectly.

Put the long front and back sections of the frame into the other side of one of the elbows so you have three sides put together. Flip the other end around so that the 5" sections are opposite the 6" sections and press the elbows onto the other ends of the 19" sections. You should now have a rectangle with an elbow at each corner and a tee more or less in the middle of the two short sides.

Now is a good time to check the frame to see how well the bag actually fits. In my case, the bag stretched too much and tore. Since I hadn't glued the frame together, it was a simple matter to take it apart and cut an inch off both the front and rear pieces and stick it back together. Now it fit fine.

For the legs, press a 12" piece of 3/4" pipe into each side of the top of the tee (holding it like a T) and a 36" piece into the bottom. This should give you a Tee that's just over 36" tall and 24" wide. Do the same for the other leg. If you want you can put a cap on the outside ends of the feet. (While I didn't bother, using the caps helps keep spiders and bugs out of it while it's in storage.) Now stick them in the open 3/4" side of the tee in the top frame with the legs aligned with the short sides. Assembly is now complete.

Step 5: Using the Thing

After stretching about a foot of the bag over the top frame, I started out using it like you would any plastic bag stand, with it standing up. I was raking up leaves, holding them against the rake with my hand and lifting them into the bag - still spilling quite a few that I was going to have to re-rake. Then I realized that I could just tip it on its side and sweep leaves into it - just like using a dustpan. Much easier, faster and neater. When the mouth of the bag started clogging up, I just stood it up so the leaves dropped into the bottom then leaned it over again. Pretty soon the bag was full and my leaves were all in the bag. I slid the top lip of the bag back off the frame, gathered the neck of the bag and put a wire tie around it and dragged it to the curb. Mission accomplished.

Then I realized another advantage to not gluing it - it can be folded up. When I realized this, I went back and replaced the equal short-sided pieces I had with uneven ones so the legs don't hit each other. It's not enough to make it off balance, but allows the legs to fold flatter. The whole thing still won't fold quite flat, but pretty close and can easily be hung on (or leaned against) a wall, taking very little space. Of course if you pull the legs completely off, it takes even less space, but it's easier to lose pieces.

Remember that PVC degrades in sunlight. If you store it outside, after a few years it will get very brittle and break while you're opening it, forcing you to build another one.