Are you an awesome human being? (Or Unicorn) Of course you are! Then you need more blanket fort time in your life.
Blanket forts, in case you missed out in your childhood, are amazing structures constructed out of blankets, imagination, and anything you can use to prop them up. Traditionally, all my blanket fort constructions had serious flaws. Ceiling cave ins, couches sliding away, curious large breed pets bringing down the entire structure. Even broomstick ridge poles caving in and bopping me on the head! Yes, blanket fort engineering has been dangerous work. But no longer! With this very simple modular system, you and your kids can create insanely awesome and stable* structures!
- 1/2 inch Schedule 40 PVC pipe
- 1/2 inch 3 way FormUFit tee connectors
- 1/2 inch 3 way FormUFit elbow connectors
1/2 inch 4 way FormUFit elbow connectors
1/2 inch 45 degree FormUFit elbow connectors
1/2 inch 90 degree FormUFit elbow connectors
1 1/2 inch light duty plastic spring clamps
blankets or sheets
I got the generic 90 elbow and 90 tee connectors, and I wish I had got the FormUFit versions on everything. They look a lot neater and don't have logo stamps or burrs on them.
*Stable for blankets on top. Not people, heavy stuff or pets. Don't be silly, you're better than that.
Step 1: Plan
PVC is cheap, but wasted time and money is never fun! Take some time and do some math skills. You don't need to take advanced trigonometry class, but we are designing a modular snap together system. Things should snap together, after all.
You should think about the size of your structures. 1/2 inch PVC is only rigid at lengths 4 feet and less or so. If you need to make gigantic forts, level up the size of your PVC to 3/4 or bigger. How tall are you when on your knees? On your pockets? Standing up even? How tall are the kids? How tall is your large breed dog? Everyone is going to want to get into the fun, so make sure they all can.
How are your forts going to look? Monolithic cubes and rectangles? Pyramids? Cathedral with flying buttresses? Even the basic peaked roof house look is going to take some planning. Draw some sketches with some measurements to get an idea of how different configurations are going to look.
If you're using triangles, the Pythagorean Theorem is your best friend. I'll leave it right here:
A: Side length
B: Side length
C: Hypotenuse length
(A*A) + (B*B) = (C*C)
square root((A*A)+(B*B)) = C
If your using 45 degree elbows for your angle, then this is greatly simplified:
So for a 2 foot length of PVC for a side, the hypotenuse is:
square root((2*2)*2) = 2.8 feet ~ 33.75 inches
Quantity of Pipes & Fittings
What's your budget? Are you going to create a starter kit right now? An elaborate blanket fort maze to bridge the entire Greendale Community College campus? #sixSeasonsAndAMovie I'm going to make a starter kit now, and go bigger later.
Think about how many connectors you'd like to use, and how many pipes. FormUFit connectors come in 10 packs, so you can do a lot of building with just a few packs. I'm going to build a starter set now, and then level up my fort with more connectors later.
Based on the sketches of the different types of blanket fort shapes, estimate how many of each fitting type to buy, and what length to cut your pipes. Once you have this cut list, lets move on... to cutting!
Step 2: Cut the Pipes
Cut the pipes to length.
There's a few ways to do this. Ratcheting hand cutting tools make this easy. A hand saw is a viable choice, but you'll need to take some sand paper to the edges to remove lots of burrs. A miter saw makes quick work of cutting, but you need to make sure to have a fine toothed blade, or the PVC might explode on you. Be sure to hold the pipes tight against the fence and cut slowly. Clamp down the pipes if necessary.
I cut my pipes to the following lengths and quantities:
36 inch - 16 each - long sides
24 inch - 8 each - short sides / roof peak
33.75 inch - 8 each roof peak hypotenuse
12 inch - 8 each - puppet theatre extensions
6 inch - 8 each - roof to wall connector
Optionally, you can wrap colored electrical tape around the pipes to color code them for easy retrievability.
Step 3: Assemble!
I chose the following connectors, but there are lots more! I bought 10 each, so there is plenty of possibilities to build.
90 3 way elbow
90 4 way elbow
Assemble the pipes into the connectors to make cubes, rectangles, and peaked ridgelines. You can even make octagons with the 45 degree elbows!
Once you have the structure built, drape a blanket or sheet over it, and then clamp around the pipe blanket to secure it.
I made a basic house shape, and then later added longer pieces to make it a puppet theatre! This system would lend itself well to other neat constructions, such as green houses, photography backgrounds, lemonade stands and so much more!
Step 4: Play!
Blanket forts are awesome for the whole family, and now you can build one for everyone! Build tunnels, great halls, Unicorn stables, rocket ships - your limit is your imagination, and how many pieces you have!