Circus Equipment DIY
Make your own circus equipment guide
Here are some directions that will guide you in making your own circus equipment. The following guides have been compiled from various sources and members of the youth circus community.
The instructions below are intended for adult circus educators. Youth must have adult supervision while assisting in the production of any of the props listed on this page.
Have a different technique or new idea? Email it to us to we can share it. firstname.lastname@example.org
Make your own:
Juggling balls (various types)
Materials:(all materials can generally be found at a big box hardware store, you may have to request that your local shop order the tubing but they generally can)
- Poly tubing (comes in bundles of 100 ft, costs around $25, will make you about 8 hoops)
(1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, or 1 inch depending on preference and what population you are making them for) Note there are different weights; generally you will come across 100psi (pound per square inch) and 160 psi. 160 is heavier and better for adults/beginners/workout hoops. 3/4 inch 160 tubing is a good place to start for a general hoop and you can figure out if you want it thinner, lighter, heavier, etc. If you work with very small kids or do advanced circus hooping moves you might prefer the 1/2 inch tubing. You can fill the hoops with water (or anything else really) to make them heavier.
- Ratcheting PVC cutter
- Insert-connectors (1″ connectors for 1″ tubing; 3/4″ for 3/4″ tubing, 1/2” for 1/2” 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 the tubing with the PVC cutter. Size depends on preference so feel free to experiment.
- The two ends will be connected with an inserted connector. At this point, you can add weight or noisemakers into the 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.
- 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.
- Tape the hoops! For a fantastic tape selection visit Identi-Tape
To watch and learn the art of hoop taping check out
For photos and more info on the process visit www.jasonunbound.com/hoops.html
Balloon Juggling balls
- Sandwich bags
- Funnel (optional)
- Fill sandwich bag (some prefer to use a balloon instead, in which case you will want to use a funnel) with rice- make it as large/heavy as you want the juggling ball to be.
- Cut skinny part of balloon off and wrap the balloon around the bag of rice or first balloon. Make sure that it lies smoothly; you may need to cut quite a bit off.
- Put as many layers of balloons as necessary/desired alternating where the opening of the balloon goes so that it stays even.
- Decorate with the leftover balloon pieces, stripes, and polka dots by cutting shapes out of balloons and layering them on, etc.
Origami Juggling Balls
Tennis Ball Juggling Balls
- Tennis Balls (collect used or out of commission ones from a local tennis center)
- Birdseed or other filler
- Something to cut the tennis ball with
- Super glue
An alternative method is to fill the tennis balls with water using a horse tranquilizer, there is no need to seal the tennis ball after filling it as the rubber creates a suction.
- Make a small cut in the ball (about 1.5 to 2 inches long) and squeeze the ball to make the gap wider.
- Use a funnel to pour the birdseed or other filler into the ball.
- Glue the ball back together with super glue.
- Wrap two or more 9-inch helium balloons around the ball.
Knit juggling balls
Knit juggling balls pattern pdf
Ball pit juggling balls
- Ball pit balls (Wal Mart or a large toy store should sell them)
- Rice, sand, any other filling you desire
- Hot glue gun/glue
- Tape, balloons, other decorative items
- Take a knife and cut a small slit in them
- Fill them with rice or sand (rice is easier to clean up and take more to escape the ball)
- After you have them filled to how heavy you want just use a little hot glue to close them up.
They look good and don’t roll well so it eliminates a lot of the chasing them when you’re teaching people how to juggle.
You can cover them in tape or balloons to make them more durable.
From Aileen Moffitt at Prescott Circus Theatre
By Andy Diehl
Green Club Project
Pattern by Jonathan Poppele
Digital edition prepared by Greg Phillips here
The document is presented in various languages and formats.
Wiffle ball clubs
- 3 pieces of 3/4″ hardwood dowel 19″-23″ long (available at any hardware store).
- 3 standard crutch ends with and inside diameter of 3/4″ (available at any pharmacy).
- 3 softball sized wiffle balls (available at most big sporting goods stores).
- 3 #8 x 1 1/2″ flat head screws.
- Screw driver
- Using scissors carefully cut a 3/4″ hole in one side of the wiffle ball. You can mark the proper size by placing the end of the dowel on the ball and drawing a circle around its’ base with a marker.
- Cut the 3/4″ dowel to the desired length. Longer clubs spin slower and are easier for body throws, but may be bulky.
- Push a crutch end onto one end of each dowel.
- Drill a small hole in the center of the other end of the dowel and push a wiffle ball onto it. Secure it buy attaching one screw threw the wiffle ball on the side the exact opposite from the 3/4″ hole.
- If you like you can also add some foam tape to the handle and cover it by wrapping it with electrical tape to pad the handles.
We are often asked where to get fabric to make scarves. In our experience, it’s hard to make fabric scarves much more cheaply than you can buy them, from Renegade or Higgins Brothers, for example. If you would like to make your own, look for chiffon and serge the edges of 18″ squares. Fine silk makes beautiful scarves to that are very floaty, but they’re expensive!
Here’s how to make something extremely cheap that will get you started:
- Plastic grocery store bag
- Cut the handles off the bag.
- Cut the shape of a square out of the bag in whatever size you prefer
- The plastic is a very similar weight to the fabric scarves that you can purchase.
Flower Sticks version 1
Written by Mike Davidson
- Old Bike Inner tubes, most bike stores will give you their popped ones for free
- 3 wooden dowels (2 the same size for the hand sticks and 1 a bit longer for the flower stick) make sure you get hard wood because otherwise they break really easily and also make sure they are straight when you buy them
- Old Tire Inner tubes, ask around at car shops. They normally just throw them out but if you ask they will often save them for you, just ask them nicely to put them next to the dumpster and check in every week or so.
- Staple gun
- Tape, electrical tape or spike tape both work well. Check outwww.identi-tape.com for lots of tape options.
- Take a bike inner tube and cut off the metal thing. Cut the inner tube into strips, they can be as thick as you want, but half an inch to three-fourths an inch is a good width. After you have these strips you’re going to need to wash them off to get the dust/powder off them. After you wash them we’re ready to start.
- You’re going to need three wooden dowels, one for the middle stick, it has to be longer then the two handles, and the two handles that need to be the same length. Take one strip of the bike inner tube and tightly wrap it around a wooden dowel. Start at the top and wrap down at an angle. You can overlap but some prefer it more flush so there isn’t much of a ridge. However, the ridge makes them easier and doesn’t take away from their looks so experiment and find what you like to play with. After you are done wrapping the stick tightly with the inner tube you need to staple the end so that it doesn’t unravel. After you staple it cut off the slack and use whatever tape you’re using to make the ends secure and cover the staple so you don’t catch your hand on it. The process is the same for making handles and the center stick so make all three the same.
- Making the tassels: I use old car/tractor tire tubes for this. If you can’t get some then any heavy material works. Cut two equal sections of the same size and weight. The sizes should be about 5 inches tall by 9 inches wide. This varies on personal preference, how heavy your material is, how heavy you want the ends, and what look you want. There are many ways to cut the tassels to do different cool looks but the easiest is just to fray the ends, cut lines down the rectangle so that the stripes are all still connected with about a half inch of material at the bottom. After this take the center stick wrap the tassel once around the end, with the frayed end out and just the half inch of material that wasn’t cut on the end of the middle stick. After one wrap staple to secure it. Now wrap the rest of the tassel about the stick, tightly. When you get to the end, staple it again; don’t worry about getting the staple right at the end of the tassel fabric. Now to make it look nice and to cover the staple take your tape, and following how you wrapped the stick, wrap tape around the non-cut part of the tassel. This makes the tassel tighter, and makes the staple safer. Now do the same to the other side. After that find the center with your finger or a handle stick and mark the center with a piece of tape.
Flower Sticks version 2
- 1 (5/8″ X 24″) hardwood dowel
- 2 (3/8″ X 18″) hardwood dowels
- A couple of yards of colored electrical tape (1/2″ wide) – The more colors used, the more colorful the sticks!
- 1 roll of rubber tape (available at electrical supply or hardware stores)
- Small standard roll of duct tape
- 3 (4″ X 12″) strips of felt that will match tape colors or recycled material (leather, jeans, fur, or other thick material that would look nice around the ends)
- 1 container of Fabri-Tac Permanent Adhesive (made by Beacon Chemical, Mt. Vernon, NY 1-914-699-3400)
- Find center of large dowel by measuring.
- Wrap tape on either side of center and put a strip of colored tape around center.
- Take the same colored tape as in center and, beginning from the outside center, wrap it around the stick in candy cane fashion leaving space for the width of rubber tape to also be wrapped around in candy cane style. Wrap the rubber tape around in the same way, covering the dowel with alternating rubber and colored tape. Do this on both sides.
- Wrap the duct tape on both ends in equal amounts for weight distribution (1/2″ – 3/4″ thick around both ends). Test weight distribution by balancing the center on a finger.
- Cut the felt or material rectangles into 1/2″ wide by 3″ long strips as shown below. A pair of pinking shears makes the ends look more decorative. Stack the 3 strips and wrap non stripped end of the felt or material with Fabri-Tac Permanent Adhesive around the duct tape so that the strips flap in a flowery display.
- For hand sticksAlternate colored and rubber tapes around two-thirds of smaller dowels in candy cane fashion. Wrap extra rubber tape around the end and at end of candy cane design. For the other third of hand stick, cover (in a candy cane style) with your choice of colored tape. Wrap a couple of extra times around the end.
- 2 long socks
- plastic sandwich bags
- Follow directions for making balloon or tennis ball juggling balls.
- Put one ball in each long sock.
- Tie a knot in the sock at the spot where you want to grip the poi.
Note: you can also roll up socks and use that instead of the balloons of rice.
From Lisa Carrino and Kevin O’Keefe
Stilt building directions provided by Wise Fool New Mexico from their bookWise Fool Basics
Stilt pants pattern from Women Walking Tall. Note that the instructions on this site are slightly confusing. You need to sew Seam B on each pant leg separately. Seam A is the seam that joins the two sides together and forms the crotch.
The instructions above are intended for adult circus educators. Youth must have adult supervision while assisting in the production of any of the props listed on this page.