How to Stain or
"Wood-Grain" PVC Pipe

I've created some really interesting projects by making PVC pipe look like wood. And it's pretty simple using readily available wood stains.

     Here how in three easy steps...

STEP #1: To make the wood grain sand the length of the pipe and fittings with 60-grit sandpaper. For effect, sand at a slight angle, as well as up and down the length. If you really want to scratch the pipe for deeper wood graining, use 24-grit or a wood rasp.

     Sanding also cleans the pipe of marks and the manufacturers information, as well as sets up the pipe to take the stain. Then, lightly sand with 100-grit sandpaper to smooth the rough pieces and wipe clean with a dry rag.

Safety Reminder: wear a proper dust mask or respirator for this step!

STEP #2: Choose a stain. I prefer Old Masters Gel Stain, which you can easily wipe on and it dries quickly. But most any wiping stain should work. Even artist oil paint is fine.

     Don a pair of vinyl gloves before opening the can of stain. Apply the stain with an old rag. One thin coat is all you should need. To make it darker apply a second thin coat.

STEP #3: Let the stain dry thoroughly. When you’re satisfied with your stain job, experiment with a coat or two of clear polyurethane finish or shellac, if you want your project to have a glossy appearance.

     That's all there is to it.

     Think of the possibilities and the fun projects you can dream up. For example, PVC furniture that has wood appearance... a didgeridoo... a walking stick... a cane... a flute... flag pole... a bird feeder stand... and... well, the list is near endless!


     Dave, a recent visitor to the Workshop told me he "grained" PVC electrical conduit as follows...

     "I got a good result in painting gray PVC conduit after priming with a product called Stix.

     The top coat was a Benjamin Moore semi-transparent Alkyd stain with redwood tint that I had been using to stain pressure treated wood for a playset. These initial shots (below) were with one coat of the semitransparent stain, but on additional pieces I put a second coat and it darkens it up a bit.

     Overall, the brushstrokes on the PVC provide a 'grain' and I did not do anything else. This is fine for my application and you can see it blends reasonably well with the wood (but may not be suitable for other fancier, high-end applications).

     The caveat would be this is a low-tech application and I did not invest a ton of time in the painting technique since it's for the kids playhouse; there are spots I need to touch up, but generally I was pleased with the built-in 'grain' from brushing onto the conduit."

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