Life

I Made My Own DIY Sex Toys from a Hardware Shop

Turns out you can get a pretty good haul on a £14 budget.
Simon Doherty
London, GB
Simon Doherty
photos by Simon Doherty
London, GB
October 11, 2021, 8:30am
A woman sits next to DIY sex toys from a hardware shop
Photo

The best sex toy I’ve ever owned was free. It was a single bamboo cane I found on the floor of a hardware shop (they said I could have it). I got good use out of it until I left it at a party one sad morning. The regrettable loss left a hole in my heart, and also got me wondering: Can DIY sex toys work just as well as the more expensive ones from sex shops

I went on a mission to find out, enlisting the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to sex toys – Poppy Scarlett, who owns London-based sex toy boutique Self & More – to help. She once asked her Instagram audience what BDSM toys they use; “probably 20 or 30 percent of people were using DIY tools at home,” she recently told me at a shibari studio in south London. 

My journey started at a large hardware store. I grabbed some clothes pegs (£2.45), a long wooden dowel rod (£1.45), some sandpaper (£3.45), ten bamboo canes (£3.75) and a metal spatula (£3). A friend I told about the article mentioned cable ties, but an experienced sadist told me that’s dangerous – it can apparently cause nerve damage. 

I asked a member of staff if I could buy a single bamboo stick, rather than the pack of ten. “I can’t make that decision,” he replied, smiling. “You need to go and ask Customer Services.” He paused, then as I walked away, said: “If they don’t let you, you’ll have to whip them and tell them they’re naughty.” Thank you, sir. 

DIY sex toys from a hardware store

The author's haul from a hardware store. Photo: Simon Doherty

On Sunday, I went to a sex party and managed to line up three willing bums and use the solid dowel rod – a cylindrical wooden stick usually used for joinery – on them. But the scene soon moved on to a swing and the stick lay neglected on the floor for the next 20 minutes. The scene then morphed back into impact play (the official term for where people strike each other for sexual gratification), but disaster struck: The stick just snapped in half. 

“It was a good tool to use,” the woman responsible for the final blow said. “But bear in mind after an hour of continuous use it will definitely break, so for £1 that’s what you get.” Lesson one: If there’s no flex on an impact play toy, it’s not going to work.

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“When you're buying a sex toy,” Scarlett told me, “you're paying for materials, but you're also paying for the knowledge and craftsmanship that has gone into the creation of that toy. People who create impact and sensation play tools have honed their art. They've already done the hard work in figuring out which materials aren't going to splinter or break and are safer to use.”

Next Friday I was stood at the entrance of a members-only sex party in east London. A bouncer – a man the size of a small bear who looked like he’d spent most of his adult life locked inside a gym – was searching my bag. He took out the metal spatula, glanced at it, then back at me, then at it again. Silence. Finding it difficult to conceal his confusion, he ushered me through.

Self & More owner Poppy Scarlet

Self & More owner Poppy Scarlet: "One of the fun things about using household objects is that it gives you the potential to look at something around the house and feel horny and playful."

A tall blonde woman wanted to sub, so after negotiating boundaries and safe words (we went for the classic traffic light system: “orange” means continue the scene, but tone it down; “red” means stop immediately), we played with the clothes pegs. “I prefer the pegs over nipple clamps,” she told me later. “They’re more intense. Pegs hurt when you pull them off and you can use them everywhere. It did feel really good.” 

“With the pegs,” chipped in another sub in green ADDICT pants and a collar that said “SLUT”, “is string them together to make a ‘zipper’. You can put them up the side and pull them out all at once like ‘vvvzzzzttt’. Or really slowly – one at a time.”

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“One of the fun things about using household objects is that it gives you the potential to look at something around the house and feel horny and playful,” Scarlett said. “When guests come round you can have a smirk in the back of your head – only you know the secret kinkiness behind the object lying about. I think that's part of the appeal.” 

We used the spatula, but I couldn’t get into a rhythm with it. The cane, on the other hand, worked a treat – tap, tap, fake tap, taptaptaptap. Stroke. Taptaptaptap. Blow. Taptaptaptap; then cool the surface area with ice from your drink. “That cane really hurt,” the sub told me. “It was good. As long as you’re stroking after, it’s intense then it’s good.” 

Impact Play Session at a BDSM Studio 2.jpeg

An impact play session at a BDSM studio.

She reckoned it was still better to use a cane from a sex shop, though. “I would say it’s more accurate so it makes safety easier,” she said. “Accuracy is very important because you don’t want to hit the spine or the kidneys. Using the cane is an art form.” 

Scarlett echoed this idea, also pointing to safety considerations. “Canes are advanced tools that can leave pretty nasty marks, owing to the small surface area and relative hardness of the toy,” she warned. “They should be avoided by beginners or people with little experience with impact play. Bamboo is a tricky material to work with because it can splinter very easily.”

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I headed to a BDSM studio in north London the next week to continue the investigation. In the interest of journalism and fun, I got triple dommed by two women and a man. I was face down on a bench with one sat on my head, while the other two went to town. The metal spatula felt decent and produced an agreeable thwacking sound against my skin, but it was only good for warming me up – then it just didn’t hurt enough. The pegs were lined up my side and moved around using a feather tickler, twisted and pinged off one by one. That hurt, in a good way. 

“Green?” the guy asked, pinning the back of my neck down with the sharp end of the cane. I said yes in a strangled voice. “Right, increase the intensity by 20 percent,” he instructed the others. “You’re doing really well,” I was assured by the woman playing the good cop, as the snap of the bamboo rained down on my body until it bent out of shape and, like the wooden pole, broke. It might have been cheap, but it just didn’t last.

“For the first half, most of the impact play was the spatula,” the dom explained later. “Then hitting you harder and harder and harder with the canes; just when you went ‘argh’ and arched your back, we dropped the speed and intensity. Once someone has reached that point, you don’t have to hit them hard at all to get the same effect.” 

One of the women at the studio subbed using the sandpaper. It was softly scraped against her skin and put out on a surface for her to lean on. “Oh my god, so good – I loved it,” she said. “When I was bent over the glass being pushed into it, it felt like a really different sensation. And when someone makes you kneel on it, that really hurts.” 

It looks like DIY toys can be fun, so you can just head to a vanilla shop and buy a haul like mine for £14.10 if you’ve booked an Airbnb and forgotten your toys – just make sure you know what you’re doing and if not, seriously research safer play practices so you can minimise any potential harm. From a long-term perspective, though it’s better to invest in the right tools for the job. A bamboo stick from Homebase won’t last long once it starts getting used to discipline people.

@oldspeak1