Transforming PVC pipe to visions of birds

Retiree finds new hobby in unique, colorful creations


Finding a hobby after retirement is something many individuals struggle with. But Sheldon Etheridge, 71, said his retirement from 40 years with the Berkeley County school district gave him the chance to pack up and move to Lake Marion for endless water fun.

While working for the school district, Etheridge would spend his spare time building houses, and once he moved to the lake, he knew his extra time would be dedicated to doing something a little less strenuous but just as venturesome.

Etheridge discovered that his favorite leisure activity as a retired man is to spend time in his "man cave" creating pieces of artwork out of PVC pipe.

"It all started when I walked into a gift shop at the Chesapeake Bridge many years ago, and I saw beautiful birds made from PVC pipe," Etheridge said. "I took a picture and thought, 'I could do that,' and so, the new challenge began, and I've been making them ever since."

For about six years, Etheridge has dedicated his time and efforts to making birds out of PVC pipe. He said that to make the birds, it usually takes him a full day or two, depending on the size and number of birds he is making.

Etheridge said he likes to make several kinds of birds ranging from ducks and hummingbirds to his favorite, a shore bird.

To make the birds come to life, Etheridge uses the Fibonacci series, a mathematic sequence used to make things visually appealing.

The first step in the process, Etheridge said, is to start by sketching the ideas on paper. From the drawing board, he takes his designs and then draws them onto a long piece of freezer paper.

He then traces the pattern onto a transparent stencil sheet that he cuts into the shape of the drawing.

He then places the newly cut stencil sheet onto the PVC pipe, tapes it down and cuts the PVC pipe using a saber saw.

Once the pipe is cut, Etheridge applies a heat gun to bend the PVC pipe into the shape of the bird.

After bending the pipe and creating the bird he envisioned, Etheridge puts the final touches on his masterpiece and paints the bird using several different color patterns.

Whether it be blues and yellows, oranges and pinks or even Clemson and Carolina colors.

"When you live in a state with such rivalry," Etheridge said, "it's fun to paint the birds with Clemson and Carolina colors, too."

Etheridge said his wife is very supportive of his work, and she loves to help him come up with new ideas and birds to create.

"My wife has her honey-do list and finds pictures on the internet and asks me to make them," Etheridge said.

He said that when making a new bird for the first time, he scraps the first bird and has to try several times before getting a bird like he envisioned. The reason, Etheridge said, is because making the birds takes practice.

"Even though I've been making them for so long, I wouldn't say that I've mastered the art," Etheridge said.

However, he said with practice, he gets better each time and finds new ways to work with them.

"I really like to make the birds with props to sit on coffee tables, ones that go in the yard, ones that will sway in the wind and even incorporate them and make bird feeders," Etheridge said.

While he doesn't usually sell his work, Etheridge explained that he does like to donate the PVC birds to charities or benefits.

For more information on the PVC birds and how to purchase them, call Etheridge at (843) 779-9280.