Make PVC Look Like Wood

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About: I live in suburban Pennsylvania with my wife and puppy. I pass the time building robots, photographing microbes and directing live TV. I enjoy learning any new skill that helps me Make! I enjoy even more p...

I came up with this simple trick to give PVC pipe a realistic wood texture when I built a few plastic didgeridoos a couple of years ago. It would also work for theater, home decor or backyard tiki-bars! Send an invite if you build that last one.

Step 1: What You'll Need.

- PVC, Any size you want.

- Heavy Metal File. Mine has Rasp and Double Cut sides. An 8-inch file like this costs $9 at any hardware store.

- 100 Grit Sandpaper

- Artist Oil Paint. You can use acrylic, but it may chip off unless you seal it.

Other Materials:

- Wire Brush, for clearing the file's teeth of PVC.

- Dust Mask, to prevent PVC dust from getting in your lungs.

Step 2: Sand the PVC.

SAFETY REMINDER: Wear a dust mask for this step!!

Remove the shiny coating and ink print on the PVC face with the sandpaper. If the Ink is giving you trouble, give IT some trouble... with acetone. Your PVC should have a nice matte finish.

Step 3: File Away!

Use the rasp side of the file to shred the PVC surface. Pull the file in many directions to give it an organic look. If the file's teeth get clogged, use a wire brush to quickly clear them.

CAUTION: This step will make sharp ridges on the surface of the PVC. Try not to slide your knuckles along the pipe until you have smoothed it out.

Once you're happy with the texture, use the double cut (smoother side) of the file to remove the shavings and sharp ridges on the PVC. Give the plastic a few extra rubs with the sandpaper.

Step 4: Add Some Color.

Find a nice oil color you like for your PVC wood. Wipe it on with a rag, making sure to work it into all the new grooves. You can use some faux finish techniques for extra texture, blotting the paint on in irregular patterns instead of bush strokes. Let it dry. That's it!

Step 5: Going Further...

As I stated above, I used this technique to make a few didgeridoos. If you like this idea, there are many Instructables on making one. You just need PVC and bees wax for a mouth piece.

I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Enjoy!

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670 Discussions

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zaphodd42kschmidt430

Answer 4 weeks ago

Hmm... It might take a little more force with the rasp file to make the grooves in the aluminum. But the paint would be easy... just use an aluminum primer and some Rust-oleum for metal. Is the aluminum structural? Is it holding up an awning or something? Can they be removed so as to apply this technique more easily? My first idea wold be to do this with PVC, then encompass that PVC around the aluminum poles.

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kschmidt430zaphodd42

Reply 4 weeks ago

They are posts holding up an awning over a patio. I originally was thinking about wrapping in some wood but then saw this.

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zaphodd42Grammiesgoodies

Answer 4 weeks ago

Yes. I use a clear coat acrylic protector from a company called Krylon, however I'm sure any company that manufactures spray paint make a clear coat. It is UV resistant and good for the outdoors. Check to see if you need to reapply your protector if you plan on your project living outside permanently. Also... make sure it is safe to use around animals if that applies to you. Whatcha makin???

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SolarEagle59

5 weeks ago

Awesome idea!!! I'm doing my home over in southwestern adobe style.I could use this technique to create round beams for my ceiling.I can also make a pueblo style ladder.For my genuine navajo indian blanket.I read one other simular post idea that came with yours.It said about heating the pvc with a heat gun and bending and creating and stuff.That would make look like a real ladder.Thanks much for your post.

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zaphodd42SolarEagle59

Reply 5 weeks ago

Glad you like it! Yes I use heat to make the PVC look a little more real as well. I find it makes it easier to turn on 2 burners of your stove and "rotisserie" the PVC just enough to get bendy. (If you use a heat gun, make sure to heat a large area of the PVC before you try to bend it, If you only have a small hot spot, it will bend and buckle and not look real.) And please look into protecting it with clear coat after you paint (of just make sure the paint is dry) if you plan on draping the Navajo blanket over it. I'd hate to think you get paint on your keepsake. Also... it's much easier to score the surface BEFORE you heat and bend. I'd love to pics when your done!!

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MHY1

Question 2 months ago on Step 4

Hey, awesome idea. I tried it but I can't get the black lines or the dark lines as you see in the wood. Tried drawing lines with a marker to sink in deep scratches....it did work a bit, but how did your get the black lines with one paint color?

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BrewbuzzardMHY1

Answer 8 weeks ago

The paint should be very dark brown. Work it into the scratches then wipe it off with a cotton cloth. If you don't wipe too hard the paint will stay in the scratches and the white of the PVC will retain some of the color and appear light brown or tan.

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Jake734

Question 7 months ago

I am painting paneling walls and drawer fronts in my older RV. I have a cheep plastic trim that I am hoping this method will work on.

Do you think this will work on plastic trim, as long as I sand and scuff up?

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jaxboyJake734

Answer 3 months ago

In the 1930's, a lot of the auto-makers used this same technique on the dashes and door panels of their high-end models to simulate wood, using enamel or lacquer paint. Of course, they didn't rasp the metal, but they used brushes to create fake grain, to great effect. You might want to just try using brushes only to try to create the same effect. However, the effect presented here is so much more effective, in my opinion, because it gives you the feel and the visual depth of the actual grain. Before you try this on your RV panels, however, I would try it on a scrap piece of plastic, so you don't possibly have a visual disaster on your hands.

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zaphodd42Jake734

Answer 7 months ago

I've tried this method on flat plexi with ok results. Take a look through the comments... I posted a pic for that result for user "tesla51p", Also.. Under "I MADE THIS" you'll see pics of other awesome things to which people have applied this. Check out FRKS1904 refurbished Nintendo64. It makes me tear up!! But I'll say go ahead!! Just make sure you use a sealant or clear coat to protect the finish if you plan on touching it allot like a drawer pull. Good luck. Share what you find!!

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CindyF87

Question 3 months ago on Introduction

Do you think I could get the same effect on the pvc pipe, if I use a wire wheel on my drill instead of using the rasp?

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zaphodd42CindyF87

Answer 3 months ago

CindyF87, Great question. I explored this idea a few years ago when it was asked and came to the conclusion that the spinney wire tool for drills does a great job removing paint and other surfaces in an un-even way. It will however NOT give you the great looking grooves you can achieve by hand rasping the PVC. It could be used as a "surface prep" step maybe... but you will have much more control over the look, placement, depth and disbursement of the grooves if you do it by hand... in my humble opinion. Hope this helps but PLEASE experiment! I love finding out what others have learned from this. Good luck, have fun.

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CindyF87zaphodd42

Reply 3 months ago

Thank you for answering me so quickly. I bought (and am returning) a small, flimsy garment rack for $10 and I had a long 1" diam. PVC pipe outside for years, so I cut it up, paid $4 for tee's and now I can hang some yard sale clothes on this rack, but eventually, I will be using your rasp and oil paint technique on it and keep it for those times I need to clear out my closet. I love what you did here so much, I shared your page with my facebook friends. Again, thanks. Oh, here is a pic of my pvc monstrosity and the store bought rack, oh, and my cats had to pretend I was the paparazzi. :) Not bad for a broad, if I do say so myself. LOL

IMG_20180812_204415.jpg
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zaphodd42CindyF87

Reply 3 months ago

HA! I'd say "They don't make them like they used to" but I guess I would have to say "They don't make them like YOU do." Once you get things painted, let the oil dry for a while, so as not to mess up the clothes you're selling, some say about a week. If you want faster results... acrylic paint is just as good and dries quicker. You can mix a few shades of brown for a realistic wood color. And then just make sure you use a clear coat spray protector so the paint doesn't chip off. It'll make it look liked polished wood as well.

Looks great! Send pics when it's done. And by the way... "Broads" (your word, not mine) are of the smartest and most creative makers I know!

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CindyF87zaphodd42

Reply 3 months ago

LOL...thanks kiddo...yeah, I tend to call females, myself included of course, broads. It's a lot nicer than some things women can be called...lol.

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Zuyo

Question 4 months ago on Step 5

Buen noche.. podría ser en un tubo de PVC color verde hoja el el efecto

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zaphodd42Zuyo

Answer 4 months ago

sí. podría ser verde si encontró pintura verde. o colorante verde.

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ReilyA

Question 6 months ago

Hey, I am using this method to make small archery bows for my sons wild west birthday party! Great tutorial! One question, How long does the oil paint take to dry on to the PVC? I'm trying to determine the best type of paint to use so I can whip these out quickly and easily. Thanks!