My husband threatened me with the table saw. Well, he might as well have. He offered to help me use it to cut PVC pipe. I know – it was all in a loving effort to get the water running to water my gardens on our acre. And he was going to be late for his fishing trip without being the least bit irritated with me.

Nonetheless, I took advantage of the couple of hours before he got home. I cut the PVC pipe with a hand saw. I had done that before, when I was building the PVC pipe frame chicken pen. For this current situation, he had shown me the day before which pieces we would need to cut, what scraps of pipe to use, and what pieces to shop for at D&B Supply.

The problem was that I had been without irrigation water for a few days. There was a leak in the main pipe from the well, and a small pond was forming in the dirt above it. My grown sons and 17 year old daughter had been available to dig out the slimy four foot hole to access the pipes. They had even designed special ledges part way down, to make getting in and out easier.

Ever the optimist, my husband then casually mentioned that, whenever I was up to it, he would show me what needed to be done next. With temperatures near 100°F and him still not having full use of his right arm, I knew I needed to do what I could. I also knew that I could count on his patient supervision.

One of the original pieces of pipe had cracked at the base of the threads, where it screwed into the main pipe heading to the whole sprinkler/faucet system for the yard. (We have a different well for house water) That whole section that it was part of, which angled further underground to connect to the main well line, would have to be rebuilt. The chicken pen frame hadn’t needed to be water tight, so this was a new level of PVC work for me.

Strangely at home in the PVC connector aisle in D&B, I found 2 and 1/2 connector pieces that I needed. I say “1/2” because the one that the drain valve faucet needed to be screwed into was too large where the faucet should be attached. Feeling like I was doing well on a practical exam, I remembered adapters can be useful in this kind of situation. Adding an adapter right there would not affect the total length of the section I was building.


It may or may not have taken me several minutes and a variety of comic visualizations to realize exactly what sort of adapter I needed. But once I knew, I still couldn’t find it because those parts were singly disguised (some people call it “packaging”) in little plastic bags. A employee was able to go right to it for me.

Back home, since I was cutting my PVC pipe pieces on the sly, I didn’t want to call and ask how to measure when I couldn’t see the ends of the originals inside their connectors. Total length was important so that it would fit the pipe puzzle, but I decided I could estimate the longest piece based on the angle of the 45° connecting piece. It must go into the bend. Besides, if I was wrong, there was a free end that could be trimmed.

Laura Blodgett

For the other pieces, I’m not too proud to say that I tried sticking my fingers into the various openings to feel edges. Alas, I am not ElastaWoman and I could not reach where I wanted to. Then, I remembered that I could just LOOK inside the newly purchased pieces. There were small lines of edges that would keep the pipe ends from inserting beyond that. I cut the rest of the PVC pipe pieces.

As I hung the little saw back on it’s nail, I noticed it felt uncomfortably hot. Was it just the 100°F weather? I thought I had smelled the PVC when I was sawing, but a smoking saw!? Being curious, I also touched the blade of another saw hanging there. It was cool. I smiled with satisfaction.

Laura Blodgett

I knew the next step was gluing, but a glance around my husband’s stereotypical inventor’s paradise was not promising. My one hope had been that he had left the primer and glue out, kind of where we had used it last, like everything else was “out.”

Then, inexplicably, I had a flashback in my mind’s eye of him walking to a certain stack of unlabeled drawers. Voi-la! (maybe that kind of flashback is common when people have survived stressful events?) Now, I had about 12 jars of goo to sort through. I was glad that the words “Purple PVC Primer” were in all caps on one of them. Right next to it were two choices for the PVC cement, and one of them was still spreadable.

The only part of the section I was building that was directionally important was how the 45° angle compared to where the drain valve faucet would go. Knowing how fast the glue grabbed and set, I test built the determining connection a couple of times before putting the glue on, to get a feel for it. I was supposed to turn each pipe as I inserted it, just a bit to spread the glue completely, but I didn’t have much time to turn it and it wasn’t going to turn very far.

The next thing I knew, I had a replica of the original section of pipe, sans crack. Closer comparison revealed it to be possibly 1/2 inch longer. Would this matter? I laid both sections on the garage floor and went inside for a snack while I waited for my  husband to come home and be astonished at my work.

Click here to read part 2.

Laura Blodgett

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