It’s totally tubular! How to cut PVC pipe for string teaching aids
Many string teachers have been using PVC pipe to aid students with the learning of bow hand shape, basic detaché bowing, and more.
As I demonstrate these strategies at conferences and professional development workshops, many people have questions about what size PVC I use, how to cut the pipe, etc. so this post will cover exactly that!
There are different sizes and specifications for PVC pipe. Some is used for drainage (thin walled) and some is meant to withstand water pressure (thick walled). The thin walled PVC is most economical and will work best for pedagogical purposes. It’s also easier to cut and lighter.
Thin walled vs. thick walled PVC
Here is what I use:
1/2 inch PVC, cut into 5 inch segments
I use these use for bow hand shapers and also dowel rod bowing. The tube is larger than the bow stick or a pencil and helps round the fingers, shaping the hand to hold the bow. This is great to use as the very first bow hold strategy.
1 inch PVC, cut into 4 inch segments
I use the 1 inch PVC and affix it to the to violin, viola, and celli using a rubber band to practice detaché motion with the bow.
Pricing & Availability
I purchase pipe at my local home improvement store. Prices are usually very similar.
- 1/2 inch thin-walled PVC is about $2.25 for 10 feet (120 inches). Cut in segments of 5 inches, you will get 24 tubes for $2.25! (That’s under 10 cents a piece!)
- 1 inch thin-walled PVC is about $4.00 for 10 feet. Cut in segments of 4 inches will yield 30 tubes. (Under 15 cents each.)
How do I cut it?
First, I use a sharpie and measuring tape to pre-mark the cut lines. Pipe comes in 10 ft. (120 inch) pieces and it divides nicely by 4 or 5. The best way to cut PVC tubing is to use ratcheting PVC cutters. These provide a clean cut with zero mess and without burrs or sharp edges. The ratcheting action makes the cutting fairly simple, although you will want to use gloves to protect your hands from possible blisters. I would personally not let students use these cutters.
Watch this short video to see how I’ve cut PVC tubing:
You will want to purchase decent cutters as you will be making a number of cuts. It might also be a good idea to get together with string teachers in your area to share the cutters. You will hopefully use the cutters one year and simply reuse the pipes each year!
More to come on teaching strategies using the PVC pipes…
Teachers: What else do you do with PVC pipe in your classroom? Share your ideas in the comments below!