Kid-Size Construction Kit From PVC Pipe

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About: Retired from biotechnology company, PhD in Biochemistry (MIT).

Make a kid-sized construction kit from PVC pipe and pipe fittings! All you (the adult) need to do is cut the pipe, and then turn it over to the kids. (Younger kids will need some help.) The children will be able to build the framework for playhouses, tunnels, etc. Throw a sheet or blanket over the frame and the kids will be playing for hours. There is even an instruction manual written for kids. The manual provides step-by-step instructions for over twenty construction projects in pictoral form. Alternatively, the kids can be creative and do their own thing.
There have been thousands of Instructables already for projects made out of PVC pipe. However, this one is different due to its jumbo size and the kid-appropriate building instructions. For a smaller-scale kit see “PVC Pipe Multi Toy - Absolutely Simple".
Now for the disclaimers: I consider this kit to be a reasonably safe for kids. There are no choke hazards, no glues, and no solvents. However, accidents can happen so please be careful. Adult supervision is required. For example, NO CLIMBING, NO SWORD FIGHTS, NO SUCKING ON THE PARTS, etc., etc. etc.

[ ] I accept full responsibility and will not hold the author or Instructables liable in any way.

[ ] I do not accept full responsibility.

If you checked the first box … Thanks, please proceed! ; o)
If you checked the second box … Please stop here.

Supplies:

Step 1: Parts

Parts needed:
• 9 x 10 foot lengths of 1/2” PVC pipe. Note 1/2” PVC pipe is about 7/8” (22 mm) in outside diameter. It comes in two wall thicknesses. (See the second photo.) I prefer the thicker-walled version. It is stronger and less likely to break, but it is heavier and takes more effort to cut.
• 10 x 1/2” slip couplings (no threaded holes) – I call these “Is”. (See the third photo.)
• 4 x 1/2” slip right-angle elbows (no threaded holes) – I call these “Ls”. (See the third photo.)
• 10 x 1/2” slip Tees (no threaded holes) – I call these “Ts” (14 x are shown.). (See the third photo.)
• 12 x 1/2” slip side-outlet elbows (no threaded holes; these may be hard to find) – I call these “Ys”. (See the third photo.)
• 1 x large, 2’ x 3’ (60 cm x 90 cm), laundry bag for holding it all. (The longer pieces will stick out.)
• Optional: colored vinyl tape – red, blue, yellow, green – for tagging the pipe segments.

I bought all of these parts (except the laundry bag and the tape) at Lowes for under $40. Other building-supply stores should have the parts, too. You may have to look around to find the 1/2” side-outlet elbows.

All of this is for the jumbo-sized kit. You can get by with a smaller version of the kit. Use the Instruction Manual (Step 4) to pick the projects you want to do, and make a scaled-down parts list.

Tools needed:
• pipe cutter or hacksaw for cutting the pipe into segments (See Step 2)
• file or sandpaper for smoothing out the cut ends

Step 2: Cut the Pipe

Cut the pipe into the following segments:
• 6 x 48” (121.9 cm) – I call these “#4s”
• 8 x 35.5” (90.2 cm) – I call these “#3s”
• 12 x 23.5” (59.7 cm) – I call these “#2s”
• 14 x 11.5” (29.2 cm) – I call these “#1s”
You can cut these from the 9 x 10-foot pipe lengths as follows:
4/3/3; 4/3/3; 4/3/3; 4/3/3; 4/2/2/2; 4/2/2/2; 2/2/2/2/2; 2/1/1/1/1/1/1/1/1; 1/1/1/1/1/1/–.
There will about 4 feet left over.
Note that the #1s, #2s, and #3s are a little smaller than the expected fractional length of the #4s. This is so that when, for example, you join a #1 and a #3 together with a T, the width of the joining piece is compensated for.
One way to cut PVC pipe is simply with a hacksaw. There several other ways. See the Instructable “PVC 101” for a great discourse of working with PVC pipe. I (unlike the author of “PVC 101”) strongly prefer using the type of pipe cutter that is designed for cutting copper pipe (see the second photo). This type of cutter takes only a little practice – you screw it on with the cutter on the mark; carefully inscribe a circle around the pipe (make a circle, not a spiral!); screw it slightly tighter; then repeat, around and around until you have cut through the pipe. With this inexpensive pipe-cutting tool, you can hit the marks spot-on, the cuts will be perfectly square, and there is absolutely no saw dust! A pliers-type pipe cutter would work, too, but the cuts won’t be as perfectly square. No matter how you cut the pipe, smooth the edges afterwards.
Optional: Tag the pipe pieces by wrapping a band of colored vinyl tape around the middle of each. Use red for the 4s, blue for the 3s, yellow for the 2s, and green for the 1s. That way they will match the diagrams in the Instruction Manual.

Step 3: Comments

In this PVC construction kit, everything holds together by friction. The holes in the pipe fittings are actually slightly conical not cylindrical. The fit gets tighter as the pipe segment goes in.
If the fits are too tight, which is likely at the start, try the following: re-smooth the ends of your pipe segments, and lubricate the ends by rubbing them with paraffin, candle wax, bee’s wax, soap, or even Vaselene.
If the fits become too loose, try wrapping the ends with one or two turns of 3/4” vinyl tape.

Step 4: The Instruction Manual

Here I show you a few pages from the Instruction Manual and give you the whole document in Word and in PDF form so you can print it out. At the start of each page, there is a schematic diagram of the finished product, a list of the pieces needed, and a difficulty rating. Next there are three or four step-by-step diagrams for how to proceed. The pipe segments are color-coded: red for the #4s, blue for the #3s, yellow for the #2s, and green for the #1s. The letters, I, L, T, and Y, indicate what type of joint goes where. I have tried not to over-instruct; e.g. the builder will have to figure out the proper orientations of each joint.

Step 5: Enjoy!

5 People Made This Project!

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40 Discussions

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KathrynF22

Question 6 months ago

I am so excited to give this kit to my grandchildren for Christmas but I can't find the Y half inch diameter PVC pipe fitting. Can you help me out?

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MattA135

7 months ago

Hello, thanks for the plan. I love this. In this project you said you use the thicker PVC but it looks like you're using sch 40. That is the standard thickness right? SCH 80 is the thicker stuff. Just want to make sure I'm buying the right stuff. Did you use sch 40? That is the most common. Thank you.

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PamW57

1 year ago

Thank you for the most creative idea for my grandson's 8th birthday. It's so great to see him not absorbed by his IPhone and using his imagination to make an amazing fort. Even the 3 year old got involved.

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SteveM396

1 year ago

Such a great idea! Please send me the manual!

Thanks in advance.

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DHagen

5 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for the liking this. The manual was made in MS Word using the Draw tools. I couldn't down load the file, now (new policy?). Send me an email, and I will send you a copy of the master file, which you can add to.

8 replies
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JanaS48DHagen

Reply 2 years ago

Making this for my little builder. I would greatly appreciate the manual. When you have a moment please email to jcoker.sams@gmail.com. Thank you in advance.

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KerriK5DHagen

Reply 2 years ago

this looks great! I've collected all the pipe and cut to the specifications, would you email me the manual please? Kkleinlmt@gmail.com I'd love to start building tomorrow with my kids!

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Simplydesirae DHagen

Reply 2 years ago

Doing this for my nieces this Christmas. I'd love to include the instructions. Thanks for all the hard work.
Simplydesirae@gmail.com

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CjlhosteDHagen

Reply 2 years ago

Hi. This is lovely - am making 3 sets for my sons for christmas. Can you please email me the manual? Catherinejstanley@gmail.com.
Thanks so much!

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TarynC2DHagen

Reply 3 years ago

Thank you for creating this! You have saved me so much money and given my family so much joy! Could you please send the manual? Thank you! tarynclawson@yahoo.com

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vadema1220DHagen

Reply 3 years ago

Love this, want to do this for my grands for Christmas, could I get the manual? I would rather not post my email on line so is there a way I could message it to you?

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DianaO5DHagen

Reply 3 years ago

Please send me the manual......dianabeachbum@gmail.com.

Thank you!

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mrtrailerDHagen

Reply 4 years ago

I don't see an email address. How can I get a copy of the manual? This project is amazing! Thank you!

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Margot long

2 years ago

this looks great! I know he kids are going to love it! Please send me a copy of the manual. Pampchef1@aol.com

I am really looking forward to watching the kids put this together.

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jim58davis

2 years ago

i just made it. Bought most of the parts at Home Depot and they cut the pipe. I need the manual. How do I get it.

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hasacks

2 years ago

this is great! could you please email me the manual as well? hasacks@gmail.com. thank you!! my kids are going to love this!!

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zimmermj

2 years ago

This is very cool. I just cut all the pieces yesterday. Going to give it to my 6 year old nephew for Christmas. Could you please e-mail the instruction manual to me at zimmermantoddj@gmail.com? Thank you

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ZhaoanL

2 years ago

This is awesome. Could you please send a copy of the manual to zhaoanL@yahoo.com ? Thank you!

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bvrooster

2 years ago

I would love to have the manual for my 6 year old grandson. Please email to kingsmen13@cox.net. Thank you, Thank you!

Sylvia

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MichelleS176

2 years ago

This is going to be so much fun! Can you please send me the manual at msciarillo@yahoo.com, please :)

Michelle