Introduction: Simple PVC Saturn V

About: I am a physics professor who likes to show my students how to build instruments/sensors/experiments for themselves.

I have seen a number of great sites that show how to make amazing and complicated models of Saturn V. But these are often expensive pre-fab models, or making projects take far too long to make than the time that I have, or require a really nice workshop that I don’t have, or are just too expensive. I decided to go simple and inexpensive, basing my model on pvc pipe with electrical tape for "paint." I know that this model sacrifices more than a bit of precision. However, I was fine with that trade-off. I made this for a big event that I organized at my university to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and people seemed to enjoy it. It’s also fairly robust, and can stand to be on display around kids.


4-inch PVC (schedule 40)

3-inch PVC (schedule 40)

1.5-inch PVC (schedule 40)

4-inch to 3-inch pvc adapter

3-inch to 1.5-inch pvc adapter

0.25 by 1.25 inch pvc molding

4.5-inch pvc snap-in drain (square holes; fits 4-inch pvc pipe)

Stainless steel mini funnels, 1.5-inch spout diameter, for 5 engines (

Stainless steel kitchen funnels, 1.8-inche spout diameter, for Command Module (

3/4 inch electrical tape

Aluminum HVAC tape, 1.88 inches wide

Hand saw or PVC pipe cutter (or ask store to cut it to size)

Pocket knife

Glue gun

Glue stick

Step 1: Cut It, Build It

The first and second stages are made from a single piece of 4-inch diameter pvc cut 25 ½ inches long. The third stage is made from a 6 ½ inch piece of 3-inch diameter pvc. The “spacecraft” section, which includes the lunar module and the service module, is made from a 4 ¼ inch piece of 1.5-inch pvc. The first/second stage is joined to the 3rd stage by the 4-inch to 3-inch pvc adapter. The 3rd stage is joined to the “spacecraft” section by the 3-inch to 1.5-inch pvc adapter.

The five F-1 rocket engine nozzles are five 1.5-inch spout diameter stainless steel mini funnels (used for pouring e.g. spices, perfumes, etc. into small bottles). These are hot glued into the holes of the 4.5-inch pvc snap-in drain. Do this on a flat surface and the model will sit flat upon completion. Insert this into the lower end of the first stage.

The fins are started by cutting squares from the 1.25 inch pvc molding. Then, use a knife to cut straight from the midpoint of one side to an opposing corner (no fancy measurement needed). Four of these may then be hot glued to the bottom of the first stage.

Step 2: “paint” It and Add "decals"

Instead of paint, I used ¾ inch electrical tape to duplicate the Saturn V paint patterns. It will not be perfect, but it will be fairly close. For the parts on which electrical tape will not apply smoothly (e.g. the tilted part of a pvc adapter) use a black permanent marker. The black marker also does well for the black parts of the fins.

To make the command module, hot glue (or epoxy, since this will be the most brittle bond) the 1.8-inch spout diameter stainless steel mini funnel onto the top of the “service module.” The metallic service module is created by wrapping the top of the 1.5-inch pvc with 1.88-inch aluminum HVAC tape.

For the various decals, duplicate them in a word processor on white paper, and cut these out as if they were actual decals. Use a common glue stick to put these in place. I used an old lab stand with a pegboard to make my own “launch gantry” for display. In the end, you should have a decent model of this grand engineering marvel.

Step 3: