Friday, April 27, 2012

How to Build a PVC Frame for Craft Show Displays

This past weekend, I participated in the Funky Finds Spring Fling event in Longview, TX.  Before the show, I spent countless hours planning, building, and perfecting my display.

I spent several months designing my booth by pinning ideas to my Craft Show Board on Pinterest. I figured out exactly what I wanted and went from there on how to make it happen.

Once I figured out that my first few shows would be indoors,  I began researching different ways to build a frame for my booth, rather than using a canopy frame indoors.  I stumbled upon this diagram which looked perfect! Unfortunately I couldn't find any sort of blog or forum post that gave step by step instruction on this frame, so my husband and I figured it out ourselves and put it together.

At the show, I had several vendors come up to me and ask me about the display, and ask permission to check it out so they can make one themselves.  I decided to put together a "how-to" of sorts since this turned into such a popular set up!  To give you an idea of the finished product, this is what my booth looked like with the frame.

The frame is really very simple, and most people can probably figure it out just based on that diagram (like us).  Still, if you're like me, you'll probably appreciate a simple step-by-step tutorial as well as the tips, tricks, and first hand experience this post can offer.

What You'll Need

-13 pieces of 10' long, 1" wide PVC pipe
-10 "T" pieces of PVC
-8 "elbow" pieces of PVC
-4 1.5" "spacer" pieces
-Tape measure
-Jig saw or reciprocating saw
-Hand sander
-PVC cleaner (generic, optional)
-PVC glue (generic, optional)

How to Construct Your Frame

First start by measuring each piece of PVC.  You will need:
-12 5' pieces
-6 6' pieces
-4 1.5" pieces

Once you have measured and marked each of these pieces, secure them and saw each piece along the mark you made.  You've now got all of the pieces to build your frame.

You could stop there, but if you're going to spend the time and money to build your own display, you may as well do it right. Right?

So, now you'll most likely want to take a hand sander and smooth down all of the edges where you cut the pipe.  I know ours came out messy, but maybe that was a lack of experience?  Anyway, it was definitely worth our time to sand down each end to make them look smoother and fit together better.

Test Your Set Up

You can see in the diagram linked above how each piece should fit together.  Each wall will consist of 4 5' pieces attached with a 6' piece & 2 "T"pieces.  The corners will use 2 "T's", 2 1.5" spacers, and 2 elbows.

This next part was just personal preference, but we didn't want to risk losing any of our pieces, and wanted our frame to go up as quickly as possible during set up.  We decided to glue each long piece to a T or an elbow so that all of the short pieces would be attached to a longer (or harder to lose) piece of PVC.  We used a generic PVC cleaner and glue to do this.  Just make sure that you don't glue all the pieces together.  That would be a nightmare to transport! We kept ours in 5' and 6' lengths to keep it very easy for me to carry if I'm doing a show alone (I'm only 5'4, after all!)

Experience and Tips

This whole set up worked beautifully! It went together in no time and looked more professional (IMO) than a standard canopy frame, at least for indoor shows!  Even better? The whole thing cost us less than $70!  However, you may want to consider purchasing some sort of legs for the frame.  While this worked fine, and did not collapse, there were a few times it swayed enough to make me nervous. Particularly if you think there will be kids or pets at the show (and let's face it, that's a given), it would be a good investment to put legs (short legs-you wouldn't want a tripping hazard!) or corner supports of some sort on this to ease your nerves.  Another solution would be to run your tables alongside your walls, and possibly even secure them to the walls using zip ties or bun jee cords to add extra support.

The only real issue we came across, which luckily wasn't an issue at this show, was that once we had the entire frame constructed within our space, we realized that due to the way the corners are constructed, we went a few inches outside our taped area.  We'll be cutting an inch at least off of each 5' piece before the next show. I'd rather my frame be a tiny bit smaller than 10x10 than go a little outside of my space.  The next organizers may not be as easy going about this problem!

As for the "walls," we used 5' (they were actually very slightly smaller) sheer curtains, but you could also use opaque curtains, shower curtains, or even custom panels in yours.  These were just the best I found in my budget and time frame.  A few of them didn't reach the floor, so we just put some spare wooden dowels into the bottom so they'd hang straight.

Otherwise, the only other thing we'll change is that we'll consider painting the pipes. I didn't have time before this show, and it wasn't a huge deal, but you can definitely tell it's PVC pipe.  It will look much more professional once it's painted and you can't see the writing!  Now I just need to decide if I should go teal, lime green, or off white!

1 comment:

  1. Angie...the booth diagram you found is mine! I posted it on sewforum and craftster so many years ago! Glad it worked out for you. I can't believe so many folks have posted my diagram for a quick solution to craft fair set ups. Sure do wish I put my website on that diagram!