Saturday, November 3, 2012

PVC Recurve Bow and other Projects

If you're going to make some PVC projects, what's the first thing you need to do?

 You need to procure some PVC.  And just what is PVC, you may be wondering?  It is that white plastic pipe stuff that they use for plumbing systems. Duh!  Anybody that is going to make PVC projects should already know that.

All right then.  What can you make out of the PVC?  Well, you can make furniture, a bed, chairs, all types of things.  I've even seen a raft made out of the stuff.  But in our case, we're going to be making a PVC recurve bow.

What?  A bow made out of plastic pipe?  How is that possible? Will it work?  Is it expensive?  Does it require sorcery, witchcraft, 24 singing druids or any other of the dark arts?

Nope.  Pretty much all it requires is some pipe and a heat source.  Some pipe like this.

 This is ¾ inch PVC pipe.  It seems to be about the best diameter for making a youth recurve bow and when it is all finished, it is supposed to have a draw weight of somewhere between 30 and 40 pounds.  You will want to get the schedule 40 type of pipe because it is thicker and stronger.  A 10 foot piece of this cost $3.78, I think, and you can make two, 4 foot long bows out of it. Pretty cheap entertainment, and a good project for you and your kids.  First you put marks all over it, kind of like we did in the picture.  Then you need to start heating it, smashing it and bending it.  Watch this video first however, this guy will show you exactly how to do it.

The guy in the video has lots of different videos on youtube showing how to make lots of different types of bows out of plastic pipe. We were going to make more than one, so I went to Wal-Mart and purchased a heat gun for $22.00, I think.  And I tell you what, that sucker comes in handy for quite a few different things besides making bows.  And also, we went ahead and made a wooden flattening jig like the guy in the video has.  It was super simple to make.  We took a board, 1 inch by 4 inches, 2 feet long.  At one end, we glued two small pieces of wood, ¾ inch high, just like he has in the video.  On the other side of the board, we glued two more pieces of wood onto it, 1 inch high.  With that one jig, we are set up to make bows out of ¾ inch pipe, or we can make even stronger ones outof 1 inch pipe.  Super simple.

Anyway, start heating and bending like the guy in the video did.  Pretty soon you'll end up with your very own handmade, exquisitely manufactured, perfectly shaped recurve bow, just like the one in the picture below.
Hmmmm, this one is not looking too exquisite, is it?  During the process of putting the curves in the tips, the bow got twisted and deformed.  My 10 year old nephew was the one making it, and he didn't want to bother with trying to heat the plastic again and straightening it out, he just wanted to try it like it was.  It wasn't really straight enough so that the string would stay in the right spot, so he put duct tape on there to keep the string in the right spot, so that he could shoot it.  And guess what?  It works pretty good, for what it is.

My 12 year old niece wanted one also, so we fired up the heat gun again.  After seeing the trouble that we had with the first bow when we tried to curve the tips of the bow, she didn't want hers curved.  It is just a flat bow with no recurve, but guess what?  It is nice and straight.  It works good too, it is just not quite as powerful.  Sunlight destroys the strength of PVC, so it is a good idea to paint your bow when it is finished.

Time to make another one.  On this one, we went ahead and put curves in the tips, but we didn't do it quite right and instead of a gradual curve, it ended up just pretty much bent in one spot, kind of like an L. We heated the pipe again, tried to flatten it, and put a better curve in it, but we still kind of messed it up.  Putting those curves in the tip is a little bit tricky.  Don't be surprised if your first one doesn't turn out well.

This is what it looks like when it is strung. It's ugly, it's not very even, and I'm not very happy with it really.  But it shoots OK, for a bow that cost about $2.00 to make.

Like I said before, the guy in the video can make all types of bows of PVC pipe.  He even has a video where he makes an 80 pound longbow.  That's kind of impressive, for plastic pipe.  Here is one where he makes a 50 pound takedown bow.

Check out some of his other videos to see what all he makes.

Now, what else can you make out of PVC pipe?  Look around on the Internet a little bit to get some ideas, or you can even buy a book that shows how to make all types of things.  I checked it out at the library once.  I was wondering if PVC pipe would make a very good shovel.  So we decided to find out.

My little nephew used the scroll saw to slice off one side of the PVC pipe, then we used the heat gun to heat it up, laid it on the ground and then he stepped on it to flatten it out. He used a grinder to shape the end and bring it to a point. Now that piece of PVC pipe is a very lightweight, very handy, garden type shovel.  It seems to be pretty strong, although I doubt anyone would want to dig very many foxholes or graves with one of these.  I would think that it would work pretty well in a flower bed or something like that however.

 I told them to try it out, so they dug around a little bit just outside the shop.  It was sandy soil, but it seemed to work well.  It didn't even try to bend or fold in half.  It might be handy to toss into a backpack or something.

What else can you make out of PVC?  Why don't you try it and see?


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