I was never big on using stands. I’ve had a few of those Styrofoam things, and I’ve cut some half-rounds out of a cardboard box or two, but I rarely ever kept one for very long. Then, a few years ago, I bought a plane at an auction that came with a homemade PVC stand. I eventually sold that plane, but the stand was so handy that I held on to it and have been using it regularly ever since.
A few years later, I was building a P-38 and decided that a custom PVC stand was just what I needed to help me transport it. With a trip to my local “home improvement store” and about $10 later, I had all I needed for that stand with lots of spare parts for another. Shortly after that incident, I was building a giant-scale plane that was too big for my little stand, so I made a larger one.
I quickly became a big fan of these PVC stands! It’s no wonder really; PVC pipes and joiners are dirt-cheap, extremely light and very easy to work with. And with very few exceptions, you have a lot of leeway when it comes to the exact size of your cuts.
With a little ingenuity, you can make stands for holding you plane while you work on it, for storage, for transporting to and from the field, or you can even make a nice chair to sit on.
So let’s take a look at what we have to work with.
The first component is tubing. 3/4″ is as big as you’ll need for most jobs, but 1″ could be used for really big stuff. My local home store sells a 10ft length of 3/4″ PVC tubing for about $1.50.
Home improvement stores will also sell most of the fittings you’ll need, and these will only run about 50 cents each. I say, “most” because you may want to use some more versatile fittings which most home stores do not carry, but those are available on line and are a little more expensive. However, tees, elbows and crosses can be combined to make almost any contraption you can think of.
Other, easily obtainable connectors include end caps, straight couplers and reducing tees.
The next thing you will want is some padding. Foam pipe insulation works great for this and the home store in my town sells a bag of four, 3 ft lengths for about $1.48.
As I mentioned earlier, some fittings that can be very handy, like 3-way, 4-way and 5-way joiners. These can be found on line and range from $1.50 to $4.50 each (Note: My home store does not carry these, but yours might).
Stores that carry PVC plumbing will also carry a special 2-part glue specially designed for PVC. The first part is a primer that is applied to both parts with a supplied brush and allowed to dry. Then the glue is brushed into the connector, the pipe is installed and you will have a bond that will last until the sun goes supernova. The bad thing about this glue is that it only gives you a few seconds of working time, and once it has set, you will not be getting those pieces apart again.
Truthfully, the joints are tight enough that in many cases glue is not even necessary, but I find that if I skip the glue altogether, the joints have a nasty habit of falling apart at the worst possible moment! So I prefer to clean the ends and rough them up with a little sandpaper, then assemble the whole thing to make sure everything is aligned and wick a little Thin CA into each joint. It is also a good idea to test the stand out before gluing to make sure that you don’t need to resize any of the pieces of tubing.
I usually start out by cutting several short joiners. These should be a little more than twice as long as the diameter of the tubing, so for a 3/4″ tube, joiners of 1 5/8″ to 2″ will work. Only a few of the pieces will need to be fairly accurate – those would be the pieces that determine the height you want, or the width or length, but try to keep any matching pieces accurate – like the short joiners I mentioned above can be any length, but if you make one 2″ long, make them ALL 2″ long. The reason for this is that the fittings have a built-in stop, so if two lengths of tubing are the same, you can bottom out the joiners and have two equal subassemblies.
Once the short joiners are ready, you’ll need to cut several others to whatever dimensions you’ll need. You can do the trial and error method, or you can spend some time doing math. Remember that you’ll have to figure the length of each fitting minus the amount of tubing that gets inserted into each fitting – sometimes the trial and error method is easier!
With all of the tubing cut to its (hopefully) correct length, you can now assemble your stand and check that it will suit your needs. You may find that even after careful calculations, a few pieces may need to be re-cut (no big deal since this stuff is so cheap).
If everything looks good, add some padding and check again as the padding will tighten up some of the spaces. If it all works, go ahead and glue everything in place.
As you can see, the work stand above can easily be modified to become a stand for transporting your plane by simply adding four more uprights for a wing holder. Also, metal hooks can be screwed into the uprights to hold rubber bands for securing the plane if you so desire.
With a little imagination you can come up with a wide variety of stands to meet just about any application. The first one above I have found very handy for all different size models, the second is an all-purpose stand and the third is a wing holder.
A word of caution… These stands are not sturdy enough for use with running engines and should only be used for holding or transporting planes!
That’s about it! So the next time you’re in need of a special holder, whether it be a work stand or a garage hanger, think PVC!