Kids’ Toys from the Hardware Store: PVC Pipe Construction Set

PVC Pipe AssemblyDykes and hardware stores seem to go together like, well, dykes and softball.* I therefore thought I’d start a new weekly series for us lesbian moms on kids’ toys you can buy or make based on simple items from the hardware store. (*Yes, I know I’m overgeneralizing. Personally, I’m not at all fond of softball and find my preschooler’s plastic tee ball a challenge.)

This first installment will show you how to create a cheap but fun construction set out of PVC pipes. It’s a wonderful toy because it can turn into anything your child can imagine. My partner made one for our son as a holiday gift, and he builds everything from musical instruments (think Blue Man Group) to spaceship controls. (The usual cautions about small children and stick-like objects apply.)

You’ll need:

  • A 10′ length of 3/4″ PVC pipe. Cost: About $2.00.
  • PVC connectors for 3/4″ pipe: an assortment of straight connectors, elbows, and Ts. Get at least one connector for every length of pipe cut. (See first step below.) Cost: About $0.25 each.
  • Mitre BoxA mitre box and mitre saw (backsaw). (You could also use a bench vise and saw.)
  • Tape measure or ruler.
  • Medium sandpaper.
  • (Optional) Several colors of electrical tape.

Here’s what to do:

  • PVC PipesDetermine the lengths of pipe you want. It works best if you have several groups of pipes, each of the same length. Try four 12″ pipes, six 8″ pipes, and six 4″ pipes.
  • Measure the first length and mark with a piece of tape, a small scratch, or a permanent marker.
  • Secure pipe in mitre box.
  • Cut the length.
  • PVC Pipe AssemblyCut the remaining pipes of the first length. (You can mark the pipe, or just use the first cut piece as a guide.) Measure the next length and repeat until all the pipe is cut.
  • Sand ends of pipe to remove rough edges.
  • Optionally, put bands of electrical tape around each pipe, using a different color for each length.