When I first started agility, many years ago, one of the most alluring things about agility, other than the actual activity itself, was the PVC “stuff” I could build. It was like Tinkertoys, for big kids. All those fittings, angles, and even…chemicals! It appealed to the chemist in me, the engineer in me, and the kid in me.
My first full set of jumps was PVC. I built them all, spray painted them, and even found aluminum number stamped jump cups for them. Then, I got a little more notoriety in the agility world and figured I should upgrade and get more “professional”. I sold them all and got metal jumps.
Then, we moved to WA, and I sold all THOSE, and didn't get any more, as I wouldn't need them in WA. Well, then after a couple years I struck out on my own again, and had to buy more jumps, and I had these made for me based on a design I brought home from Australia:
I wanted something lightweight, NOT metal (safety trumps however “professional” the jumps may look), and different than the standard rectangular PVC wing design.
Well, although my time is limited, I do love a project. This year, with the Agility Hall expanding to include an outdoor grass arena (currently being watered by a lovely NW downpour), I need another set of jumps. And, instead of just red white and blue jumps, I want one jump from each country I've been to (or maybe plan to go to) to compete in agility. I had thought of purchasing a whole set of Launch The Dog jumps, but despite how cool they look, they're a little pricey for me *and* I just want a little more instant gratification – I want my jumps NOW! Plus, the contrarian in me wants them less and less the more and more other people have them 🙂
So, I've embarked on a project to build a whole new set of PVC wing jumps. Jumps that look a little flashier than the typical rectangular wing design.
I'm keeping a record of building this set of jumps, so that those who are interested can take the plans and use them for their own designs. So, I'll be including pictures, how-to, flub ups, and finished results, for all to see, in addition to the cost of each DIY jump. So, without further ado, here's my latest project!
I had to come up with a design for my jumps, so I knew what length to cut the PVC. I had a design in mind, but it really solidified when I found this piece at FlexPVC.com:
Here are the PVC pieces I ended up buying, all at FlexPVC.com:
Here are my initial designs, shown in order of earliest, to what I eventually settled on:
All the pieces are 1.25″ in diameter/size
I didn't get all the PVC I needed right away – after all, it's readily available at Home Depot. I DID order all the fittings I knew I would need, plus a few extra of each to play with, (and I'm glad I did, see my note above about schedule 40 fittings vs. furniture grade fittings).
I suggest you make a spreadsheet so you can calculate how many fittings you'll need, and how much PVC you'll need. Each piece of PVC I got was 10′, so I wanted to figure out how to use as much of a 10′ piece as possible with as little waste as possible, even if it meant mixing and matching what pieces I cut out of each 10′ length. Again, spreadsheets are your friend here. Once I realized that there were colored jump cup strips…I went a little crazy. But it's fun!
You're also going to want to figure out what colors of jumps you want, fittings you want, and jump cup strips you want. Yep, you can get jump cup strips in colors to, CHECK IT OUT.
You're going to want to clean the writing off the PVC. Luckily, you have lots of solvent on hand. However, I did find that acetone (a nasty solvent that you should take the necessary precautions with) worked best, so I used that, along with some steel wool. I tried the citrus cleaner based off of some internet suggestions but the acetone is really the way to go. Use your metal tray to catch the drips, and use clean steel wool or you'll end up just getting ink all over a clean piece of PVC.
Measure and cut the PVC first – it's much much easier to clean small pieces of PVC than long ones. AND, you may find you don't care to clean it at all – if there's writing on a foot piece, just rotate that piece so the writing faces the ground. If there's writing on an upright piece and you're going to put a jump cup strip there anyway, just rotate it so the strip covers the writing.
You don't really want to join your pieces yet, while the solvent has softened the PVC. Wait for them to dry!
Now, you get to see your handiwork. I forgot to mention one more piece I bought, which you'll want:
I use these to attach the jump cup strips to the uprights. They're super handy and don't strip like screws will.
Be ready to work quickly here as PVC cement bonds FAST. Carefully swab a bit of PVC cement (another nasty chemical) on the inside of one fitting at a time, and fit the pipe in to the PVC the way you want it to sit.
Keep working til you've got your jump all assembled:
Before you drill the holes to push the fasteners through your jump cup strips and in to the uprights, make sure that a jump bar of your chosen diameter sits at the right height! Then, drill and fasten your jump cup strips in.
I've now built almost 10 jumps, and I've got things down to a routine, so it takes me about 30 minutes from start to finish to build the PVC jump, including cutting, gluing, and attaching jump cup strips. Now, on to the wings. I wanted something that wouldn't blow over like a sail in the wind, and something flashy – my “theme” is to make a jump from each country I've been to!
I settled on a PVC mesh material. It's a screen mesh, and comes in different colors and widths. Perfect! I ordered it HERE.
I figured that with mesh in these colors, along with some spray paint (that sticks to PVC!), I'd be set for my flag/country jumps. I used a piece of cardboard as a template, and cut out the wing shapes, making sure to cut out a 1″ allowance for a seam that I could fold over. Rather than stitching, I used vinyl banner tape, that I got on Amazon, again, designed to stick to vinyl and plastic. Also got some grommets and zip ties (small ones and colored ones too).
So, I folded the edges of the wings over, using the tape to hem the edges. Then, I ironed the edges just to make sure the crease would stay. Put a towel over the pvc mesh or your iron will melt it!
Then, using spray paint in the same colors as the mesh shown above, I could make just about any flag! After the paint dried, I put grommets in at each corner, and drilled holes in the PVC strategically so I could thread a zip tie through and attach the wings. Each wing has four grommets in it, and for each grommet, a hole was drilled in to the PVC fitting so a zip tie could hold the wing mesh in place – with the exception of the zip tie that is underneath the bottom of the jump cup strip (look at Colombia below, you'll see what I mean).
So, at long last, here are the jumps I've finished so far. I hope you enjoy them, and that you can come up with your own creative ideas! All in all, the costs were a little tricky to track, but I'm pretty sure that each jump cost me less than $50 all told. I like to putter, so the distraction the building of them has provided me has been well worth it.
With Belgium and Germany and used black spray paint for the fittings. Also, I used spray paint on the jump bars – so tape and/or spray paint will probably be the route I go for bars. Even so, I think my new “international” jumps are pretty spiffy! They're sturdy enough that they don't tip over as easily as my other jumps, BUT, if the dogs hit them they WILL fall away, which is an important plus in my mind.
UPDATE! Here's a video from a student who modified my plans to make clip on wings!