Homemade Frames for
Camouflage Net Photography Blinds

      Camo netting is a flexible, portable means to make a blind, but sometimes you find yourself in a spot with nothing substantial to drape the netting over. So how do you hold it up? How about a frame that is light and portable just like the netting, costs very little and is very simple to make?

     The two lower right photos show a large and small version of the portable frames I made from inexpensive PVC water pipe. One is large enough that I can sit inside in my camo folding chair with three bags of gear. The other shows a smaller version for when I use my folding boat seat on the ground to get low. It still has room for a couple of bags of gear as well.

      What you are going to make are the two identical bundles shown on the far left. Each bundle is half of the frame. The left photo shows one of these bundles opened to show the 6 sections of pipe strung on a nylon rope, and one of the two cross beam sections that connects the two halves of the frame. How all this works will become more evident farther along.

      The materials you need are very simple-
  • (1) Two or three 10-foot lengths of 1/2-inch PVC pipe (depending on desired frame size) [ I recommend the 600PSI pipe - it has a thicker wall and is stiffer ],
  • (2) Eight 45° PVC elbow couplings (1/2-inch diameter to match the pipe),
  • (3) Two PVC T-couplings (1/2-inch diameter),
  • (4) One straight PVC coupling (1/2-inch diameter),
  • (5) about 20 feet of 1/8 or 3/16-inch braided nylon rope
  • (6) One or two rolls of camo tape (similar to duct tape), or you could paint the pipe black, or a dark shade of green, so the bright white of the PVC does not show under the netting.

  • The frame is shown here covered
    with Hunter's Specialty Camo
    Leaf Blind material in
    Advantage Max 4D pattern.
    By the way, the camo tape also comes in handy to cover shiny parts of tripod heads and various other things.

          These following materials are optional. If you want to have a point on the ends of the vertical sections so you can push them easily into the ground (often this is enough to make the frame stable) you will need a 3-foot oak dowel 7/8-inch diameter, four 1/2-inch #6 or #8 wood screws, and a means to shape the dowels. I was lucky to have access to a small wood lathe to turn down the ends. You might want enough 1/8 or 3/16-inch braided camouflage nylon rope for tie-downs (like a tent) and a few tent stakes. Of course, you will need camo netting (or some other kind of camo blind material).

          Deciding on the size of your frame is the next step. The dimensions and joint coupling placement for the various sections of the large frame I made are noted in this diagram. You are not limited to these dimensions, although the joint coupling placement will be the same. Figure out for yourself what space you need inside your blind and adjust the section lengths accordingly.

         For my two frames, I made a larger one that allows enough headroom for sitting in a comfortable folding camp chair for those long all-day sessions. I also made a smaller frame for when I need to be low to the ground, or for when I have to carry the gear a long distance and don't want to carry the extra weight and bulk of the foldling camp chair.

         Now for the easy part - making the frame pieces. Cut the PVC pipe to the desired lengths using a hack saw with a fine to medium blade. I've found a hack saw blade cuts the 1/2-inch PVC pipe like butter. Don't use a wood saw, as the teeth are too large and course for PVC. It won't do your handsaw's sharpness any favors either. The metal cutting blade of a hack saw will not be dulled by the PVC.

          If you are using the spike ends, you can install them now. The diagram at left shows how I made my spikes, and the photo at right shows a spike painted black and installed. Once inserted into the pipe, I secured each with a half-inch wood screw so it could never work its way out of the pipe.

         If you are using the camo tape to cover the pipe, do that now, as it will be much easier taping one section at a time than waiting until after it's assembled onto the rope. If you are painting the pipe instead, you might wait until the frame is assembled. It will probably be easier to paint it all at once instead of having to paint all the individual pieces one at a time.

          Next, drill the holes for the nylon rope, which will later be threaded through the pipe as shown in the diagram (but don't thread the rope just yet). You can also refer to photo one and photo two at left to see how the holes look. On each frame half one vertical piece gets a slotted hole, with a slot just large enough for the rope and a larger hole on the end to let a small knot pass through (while catching a larger knot). The other vertical piece gets a round hole just large enough for the nylon rope to fit through (photo two). Install the 45° elbows (one to each long section), then the T-coupling to one of the short top sections, pressing these on as firmly as you can. No need to use PVC cement on these.

          Now, knot one end of the rope so it will not slip through the small hole. Thread the other end of the rope into the small hole and slip it on through the other sections and couplings, stringing them onto the rope like beads, arranged in order as you see in the diagram and this photo, and finally out the long slotted hole on the last section.

         Next, assemble all the sections together with a snug press fit. Now pull the rope at the slotted hole fairly snug so it is stretched a little, and bend it up into the slot and mark the rope with a permanent marker right where it exits the slot. Next, tie a half knot near the mark, and work it closer to the mark until it's right at the mark (you may need to disconnect the vertical piece from the assembly, slide the rope out to tie the knot
    at the mark, and then slide it back into the slotted hole again
    ). This knot should be small enough that it will slide back into the pipe through the large end of the slotted hole, but will not slide through the small end of the slot. About 12-18 inches beyond this small knot tie a larger knot, perhaps two knots over top of each other to make it fat, so that it's large enough it will not slip through the large end of the slot.

         Now this rope, when pulled snug with the small knot locked in the slot (as shown in this photo), will ensure the sections will not slip loose during use. When the tightened rope is unhooked from the slot and the small knot is allowed to slip up inside the pipe, the rope will slacken, and the pipe sections can be pulled apart. But they will remain strung together on the rope, thus keeping them together in order, as shown it this photo. You'll never have to fumble with figuring out which section goes in what order again, nor will you loose a piece and find out you cannot assemble the frame at all. Once you've tested this out, you can cut off the excess rope beyond the large knot.

         The photo at right shows one section assembled, easily standing alone with the spike ends in the ground.

          Do the same assembly operations to the other half of the frame. Now press the straight coupling firmly onto one of the horizontal sections that connects the two halves. Then assemble both the top horizontal sections end to end and connect it with the two frame halves. Now the frame will stand alone, and you have the basic assembly completed, as shown in the left photo here. This right photo shows a more detailed view of the upper section and horizontal support. Don't forget that you can vary the depth (front to back) by using only one of the horizontal sections if you wish.

         The two photos at right show the large frame with a single net covering it (right), and then with two nets covering it (far right). My large frame cannot be fully covered with a single standard net piece. It will cover the top and front, but hangs down only a foot in the back. I use a second net to cover the back, which double-covers across the top. This makes the netting a little less "see through" on the sides and top. Optionally, I could make a set of camo material "flaps" or "curtains" to hang from the back frame half, as I did with the smaller frame I made, shown below.
          The upper two photos at left show the inside and back of my smaller frame with the netting installed. As you can see in the far left photo, the net does not hang down all the way in the rear. This is because this net is the one I cut a section from to make my camo drape. I had some extra camo material, so I made two small "curtains" or "flaps" which I leave slipped over the rear frame, using the frame something like a curtain rod. This blocks viewing "through" the netting from the front, something you always want to avoid. If you don't take this into account, then your movement inside the blind might be seen as a silhouette against the daylight coming in the rear of the blind. Birds will visually pick up on movement very quickly, a good rule to remember anytime you're trying to photograph wildlife.

          Since I showed the boat seat in the blind photo above, I thought I'd mention it here. I absolutely LOVE this seat. I have two of them. I bought this one while on a photo trip, to keep from having to sit on the wet ground. It's FAR better than any foldling "stadium seat" or "camping seat" I've found. It weighs no more than the typical folding stadium seat, and provides far greater lower back support. It's contoured for your back, and the bottom of the seat comes forward much farther under your thighs. This provides plenty of leverage to hold up your back when you lean back, unlike the stadium seats I tried, which rely on the folding hooks to latch onto the stadium bench for support. If you sit on a stadium seat on the flat ground and lean back, you fall right over. But you can sit flat on the ground with this boat seat and your own weight provides the leverage for the back support naturally.

    Looking for even smaller feather-light
    one-man blinds? Try this project.
         I later bought a second one of these seats with the Advantage Max 4D camo pattern for my one-man duckboat. I made a duckboat camouflage cover for this boat, which is featured on another page.