About a week before Christmas, I saw this incredible idea over on Today’s Nest for a fantastically cool Christmas wreath made from PVC pipes.
Sam made it sound so simple that we thought, “Hey, let’s make two of those before Christmas arrives! One HUGE one for our barn doors and one for Stefan’s parents, the people who are impossible to buy for because they have everything.”
What we totally underestimated was the amount of work that would actually go into making just one of these wreaths. The quick 10-step tutorial that Sam provided made it look like this project would only take a few hours of work…and it ended up taking about 40. We barely managed to get it painted before Christmas Eve. But somehow amidst all the pre-Christmas mania, we pulled it off.
Needless to say we didn’t get to make our own gigantic wreath yet…but we’re going to use 2011 to put our own wreath together slowly once we’ve gotten over the shock of our express job. But I have to say that this wreath is totally awesome and looks incredible when it’s done. And if you’ve got a bunch of PVC pipes laying around already (like we had), it’s also quite inexpensive. Even when you have to buy everything new, you’d never be able to get a wreath this size for less than a few hundred bucks if you bought it somewhere. And you wouldn’t have the satisfaction of knowing you built that awesome Christmas wreath yourself!
What you Need to Get Started
The following will build a wreath about 4 feet across. You might need more or less smaller-sized pipes depending on how large you want your finished wreath to be and depending on what you use in the middle to get started.
- 1 large 6-inch wide PVC pipe
- 2 4-inch wide PVC pipes
- 4 2-inch PVC pipes
- 6 1-inch PVC pipes
- Mixing bowl, plate or other round object to act as the center space (We used a bowl about 12 inches in diameter)
- Table saw, box saw, hacksaw, Dremel with PVC cutting disk or some other cutting device
- Sandpaper – a large grain and a smaller grain
- A box cutter
- PVC cement or other glue (we used Fix All which is in the caulking area)
- Grounding spray paint
- White or colored spray paint
- Clear coat
Building a PVC Wreath
The key to making this look good is a bit of chaos. Our first step was to cut a bunch of pipes in various sizes in 5-inch sections. We started with the larger sections and then added the smaller pieces as we cut them, laying everything out on the floor as we finished cutting each complete pipe into sections.
We cut a section of poster board into a 5-inch strip and used it as a guide to mark the sections. We found it easiest to get straight cuts by marking all the way around the pipe. We marked several sections at a time and then made cuts.
Sam recommends cutting the pipes into sections with a table saw or box saw. Unfortunately for us, it was close to freezing in our barn and we didn’t have the right blade for the table saw to prevent the tubes from shattering or the dangerous kick back, so we tried this out first with a hack saw. It worked pretty well on the smaller pipes but it took forever and our arms started to fall off after a couple of pipes had been cut.
No project can ever be complete without multiple trips to the home improvement store, so when we decided the ancient hacksaw we were using was just going to take forever to get the job done, we went out and bought a new hacksaw with a few extra blades. And also picked up a PVC cutting disk for our Dremel. That turned out to be the fastest, most efficient way for us to get the job done. In fact, it went so quickly that I could barely get the pipes marked for cutting by the time Stefan was ready to start cutting on a new pipe.
As I mentioned before, we were laying the pipes out in wreath formation as we cut them so we’d have some idea of how many we’d need and what sizes to cut next. We put down our center bowl and placed the two smaller-sized pipes around the bowl, creating the inner wreath first. Then we just created a pattern of sorts as we kept adding pipe sections.
Once we finally had the shape and size that we wanted, we had to start sanding everything. Just about any cutting method you use is going to leave some jagged edges. And the finished wreath will actually be a bit smaller than you think once you can actually place the pipes right next to each other without all the frayed edges hanging over the sides.
Start with a coarse sand paper first and start getting the really rough stuff off. We placed a piece of sand paper in one palm, grabbed the pipe in the other and first sanded the top, then outside and inside. This knocks most of the really rough plastic bits off but we also used a box cutter on the really tough pieces or where there were uneven sections. Then we used the finer grain sandpaper to smooth things out nicely. It doesn’t really matter if you make some scratches on the pipes. With grounding paint, a lot of that is covered up. Plus you only see a small portion of that once everything is assembled.
Once we had about one-quarter of the wreath sanded, we started gluing things together. As I said, we were pressed for time so we wanted to give the glue as much time as possible to set. We first glued the entire inner ring together, then moved outwards from there. At times we had to do a bit of rearranging as we went but for the most part, we glued the wreath together exactly as we had it laid out.
The pipes actually only connect to each other at a few points, so we used a Sharpie to mark the tops of the pipes where they would connect to pipes that were already glued in place. This prevented us from accidentally gluing the wrong pieces in place, we could see what we’d already done because of the black dashes and we could make sure that the structure of the wreath was sound.
Here in Germany the PVC pipes are gray and perhaps just a bit thicker than in the US. And they don’t usually glue them together. So PVC cement was not an option for us. These pipes are primarily used for drainage and just stuck together with couplings. Plumbing pipes are all copper. So we found a caulk-like glue called Fix All which supposedly can bond any two things together. You apply it with a caulk gun just like silicone and it bonded together fairly quickly. Just one line of glue was needed along each section where the pipes were touching.
Once we finally had everything sanded and glued, Stefan painted everything. He actually used a spray gun on an air compressor because the cost of spray paint alone was close to €100. It was actually the first project he’s used the spray gun on and it was a bit difficult to get inside some of the pipes, but I’m sure that would also be a problem with spray cans.
We were a bit stumped about how to hang this, because Sam at Today’s Nest didn’t actually mention how he mounted his so beautifully. But we decided to drill a couple of holes into two of the side pipes (use a tiny drill bit and then one large enough to accommodate the zip tie to prevent cracking the pipe) and use a zip tie to anchor the bow in place.
We used a wide outdoor ribbon and tied a knot in it, then pulled the zip tie tight just above the knot.
After that, all you need to do is add some colored Christmas balls and other decorations to the wreath. The gold balls in the middle ring are actually big bells. We glued them all into place so nothing would fall out but if you’re displaying this inside, I’m sure you can just place the balls inside.
And that’s it! What do you think?
We really loved how this turned out and the look of surprise on the faces of my in-laws was priceless. They clearly thought it was pretty awesome too. Despite it being pretty involved, it wasn’t a difficult project and we actually considered putting wreaths like this up for sale on Etsy. Needless to say it wouldn’t be cheap, but I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who would much rather buy this than go to all the trouble.
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