Scorched PVC perches, also known as torched or burned PVC perches, are made of ordinary PVC piping that is scorched or burnt.
The process gives plain smooth PVC perches some texture and the look of
wood. Emerald tree boas much prefer these textured naturalistic perches and look much nicer perched on them.
Scorched perches still give you all the benefits of PVC by being easy to clean, decay resistant, and low in cost.
How the first scorched perches came to be: I first thought of this technique years ago after building my first arboreal enclosures using plain smooth PVC
perches. I noticed that despite the Emerald Tree Boas having a lot of perch space to perch, they would only perch next to the wall
of the enclosure so they could hold on to the uneven rough surface of the perch holders. The Emeralds would never perch out on the middle area of the perch itself.
I realized that the Emeralds simply didn't like perching on smooth perches and weren't completely comfortable.
I had spent a lot of time fabricating long perches for the Emeralds. However, what good is all the perch space if the Emeralds don't use it?
I didn't want to switch to another material due to all the time and expense already invested in the PVC perches. I considered sanding the perches but that just didn't seem optimal.
I finally tried scorching a piece of PVC. The color was perfect
and after scorching a larger area I noticed the scorched area started to resemble the bark on a branch. The PVC also became limp during
the scorching process and I experimented with
bending and twisting the PVC with large pliers while it was soft. The PVC didn't cool that quickly once heated and the shapes would not hold. I then tried holding the desired shapes with pliers while running cold water over the PVC to lock in shapes. This worked very well.
pleased with the first
scorched perches, I added a few to the Emerald Tree Boa enclosures. Not only did the perches look like wood, the Emerald Tree Boas would readily
perch anywhere on the perches and away from the walls. A little uneven surface and more texture is all the Emeralds wanted to feel secure and I got a
what I wanted too, a perch that looked like wood. It was fairly dramatic how much the Emeralds'
perching behavior changed...they were noticeably more comfortable and happier.
Today, years after having first shared the technique on corallus.com and the chondroforum,
scorched perches are in wide use by both Emerald and Chondro keepers. I'm proud to have contributed something to the arboreal community
that makes the captive experience for Emeralds and Chondros a little more comfortable
So how do you make a scorched perch? It is fairly simple overall. Your primary tool will be a basic hand-held propane torch found at
any hardware store. You can buy a complete set-up with the torch attachment and the propane for $20-$30. I like to use a flint striker (see picture)
instead of a lighter to light the torch. The striker should be available next to the torches at the hardware store. If you plan on bending or denting
the perch to add texture, you will need a large pair of pliers like those pictured below.
The scorching should be done outdoors with excellent ventilation. The PVC will let off some strong fumes when it is heated and you don't want to inhale the gases. It is helpful to have a slight breeze blowing that blows the fumes away. I recommend that you set yourself up in an area where you can
have a garden hose running. This way you will have water to cool the pipe off while you hold a shape with the pliers. Running water over
the softened PVC will lock in a shape quickly.
The PVC pipe can be cut in advance or you can scorch longer sections and then cut to fit. The PVC will shrink when scorched. Therefore, if you cut
the PVC in advance, make sure that you add about 1/4 inch per one foot of length to allow for shrinkage. If you do end up with a perch that shrank
too much, you can always heat it up and stretch it slightly to the desired length.
Once you are set up, light the torch and dial it to a medium flame. Begin heating the PVC using a back-and-forth motion with the tip of the flame. The PVC
will heat up and then turn a golden brown color. Keep the torch in motion. The scorched effect does not happen instantly when the flame touches and if
you try to do it too fast you will just get a black burnt perch. So it is best to go slowly and let the PVC heat up slowly until it turns a nice
brown color. It is very similar to roasting a nicely browned marshmallow It takes a bit of getting used to, so it would be a good idea to practice on a test piece first.
Once you have heated and scorched about a foot or so, you will find that the PVC is soft. At this point you can use the pliers to crimp, dent, bend,
twist, or stretch the PVC. While holding a shape you like, you can then run it under the water to hold the shape. In my experience the best
shape modifications that the Emeralds like are subtle. A mild twist or dent here and there is fine. The Emeralds don't like a really twisty bent up perch.
Try to keep in mind what a natural branch looks like for an example.
That's really all there is to it. After you are done scorching the perches it will be necessary to wash the residues off the perches.
Scrub each perch down with soap and water using a good scrub brush. Rinse them well and they are ready for action. Here's a couple of pictures
showing the effect you're after.
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