Jason Strauss may very well be the Godfather of hooping. Not only has he been sharing his excellent directions on how to make a hula hoop for years, and how to make a collapsible hoop too, it was Jason who gave the editors of hooping.org their first hoops the night that we met him. Many others who have encountered Jason over the years have hoop gifting stories to tell. Vera made her first two hoops using these directions. Philo followed the same plan but not having a blow dryer he used boiling water. While the primary difficulty involved with hoop-making continues to be simply finding the right tubing, visiting our Hoop Making archives for more tips can help you out too. Here’s Jason’s instructions as they originally appeared online for years.
How to Make a Hula Hoop
by Jason Strauss
Almost as much fun as hooping itself, making your own hoops allows you to share the joy with others! I’ve made and given away quite a few of them, but in order to implement my Master Plan (to overwhelm the world with hoopy happiness), we’re going to need more people making hoops. It only costs $4-5 to make a hoop, and you can make ’em pretty fast once you get going.
The poly tubing usually used for irrigation is ideal for making hula hoops. Most hoopers use either 160 psi 3/4″ diameter pipe (my favorite) or 100 psi 1″ diameter. If you want a lighter hoop, or are making them for kids, use 100 psi 3/4″ tubing. (Note: 160 psi 1″ will make a very heavy hoop.) Tubing usually comes in 100 foot coils, and can be found at irrigation supply stores, and at some Home Depot and Lowe’s-type retailers. (Prices range from $15-25 per 100′ — enough for 8 hoops)
[Having trouble finding tubing? Hooping.org has suggestions.]
Other supplies you will need:
Ratcheting PVC cutter (the best way to cut tubing – see below)
Insert-connectors (1″ connectors for 1″ tubing ; 3/4″ for 3/4″ tubing)
Colorful tape (electrical tape works well)
hairdryer (to soften the tube ends – soaking in hot water also works)
Choose your hoop size – and cut. (My hoops are usually between 11’6″ and 13′ in circumference, but instead of measuring you could just make a loop that stands somewhere between navel and shoulder height.) You could use a hacksaw or a sturdy blade, but to make a safe, clean & easy cut, I’ve invested in a $12 ratcheting PVC cutter. It works beautifully.
The two ends will be connected with an inserted connector. These should be available wherever you buy the tubing. Make sure you get 1″ connectors if your tube is 1″ in diameter (and 3/4″ connectors only if you have 3/4″ tube).
At this point, you can add weight or noisemakers into the hoop. For extra weight (a better workout – and perhaps a bruised waist), pour in a cup of water or sand. For noise, pour in 20-30 small beans or corn kernels. (Note that you can’t easily get these things out once the hoop is made, and that you might not always want to have a noisy hoop….)
The tubing ends must be heated to make them pliable enough to accept the connector. A few minutes of focused hairdryer heat will do the trick, as will soaking the ends in hot water. (You can also carefully hold them over a stovetop gas flame, but you really don’t want to start melting the stuff.)
Quickly grab a connector, and push the two tube ends together over the connector. If it doesn’t go in, you need to heat it up more. The connector should disappear entirely within the tubing. As the tubing cools, it will contract around the connector for a strong seal.
I don’t think it’s needed, but I usually duct tape the seal.
At this point you could also apply some padding. Matt recommends wrapping copper pipe insulation; I like Rubatex pipe insulation that fits over the hoop.
Now comes the fun part: Decorating!
I tend to make colorful candycane stripes of electrical tape. You could also duct tape the whole thing, or leave it black. A huge selection of tape, from the mundane to the fantastic, can be found at identi-tape.com.
Three finished hoops, ready for action. Now for a quick hooping demonstration.
How to Make a Collapsible Hoop:
Since I’ve been getting quite a few requests for collapsible hoop-making instructions lately, here are the basics. In addition to what you need to make a regular hoop, to make a collapsible, you need:
Four connectors per hoop instead of one
Bulk bungee cord
uncoated coat hanger wire
a power sander (or a lot of patience)
several pairs of pliers and several hands
Fair warning on two points: First, sanding down the connectors produces plastic dust that you do not want in your eyes or lungs. Wear goggles, do it outside, wear a mask. Second, the final step involves wiring together the two ends of a very taut bungee cord. It ain’t easy unless you have some extra hands.
Here’s how it works: Measure off a length of tubing to your desired hoop size, and cut. Now make three more cuts, to give you four quarters. Make unique scratch marks across each of the four cuts, so that you know how the pieces should fit back together. Sand the ribs off of one end of each of four connectors. See note above & do this carefully. Sand it partially off, then try to fit it into the tubing. It should offer some resistance, and not be totally loose. Keep sanding all four until the sanded ends can fit snugly into the tubing.
Heat one end of each of the four tubes, and slide the non-sanded ends of the connectors into each, up to the halfway point, leaving the sanded ends sticking out. Using the scratch marks as a guide, fit the hoop together. Prepare an 8 inch long piece of coat hanger wire. Now open the hoop at any of the four points, and snake the bungee cord all the way around until it comes out the other side. Pull both ends, or clamp one end and pull the other. Pull hard. Harder! When it’s really stretched (this is what will hold the hoop together when it’s really spinning), overlap the two ends of the cord. Wrap the coat hanger wire tightly around & around the overlapped bungee cord. Really dig the wire into the cord. Keep wrapping, and squeeze the wire onto the cord with pliers. When you’ve got it secured, cut off the ends of the cord.
You should be able to pull the hoop apart with some effort, but when spinning at top speed it should stay together. (If the cord is not tight enough, the hoop will open up when spinning, and pinch you.) The hoop will collapse into four parallel arcs, perfect for travelling.
Want more hoop making info? Dig into our Hoop Making Archives.