When making red wine, there's really two methods for cap management: punch downs and pump over. For the home winemaker, punching down the cap with your hand or tool is the most realistic. Punching down the cap back into the juice is very important as it help extract good color and tannins as well as it stirs the lees and yeasts at the bottom of the fermentation vessel keeping things even.
Punch down tools can range from your hand, a spoon or a fancy stainless steel device at the pretty penny cost of around $80-$100. Here's a few of the standard one for sale at MoreWinemaking.com
I didn't really feel like dropping that kind of money but I'm also really tired of use my steel spoon which doesn't reach the bottom and thus my hands and finger tips get horribly stained.
Making a PVC punch down takes about $4 in parts and some creative thinking which I'm happy to reveal.
I used half inch PVC pieces so it would fit in my smaller fermentation bins and still move the lees and grapes. You'll need x4 tee-joints, x4 elbow-joints, 6-8 ft of 1/2" PVC tubing. The handle length can vary based on what's comfortable for you. For the handle, you'll also need x2 caps or plugs.
First, lay out the pieces so you're clear how it'll look. Space out the pieces to the desired distance. I chose to leave a half inch between the pieces so the punch down portion would be small enough to fit and move lees at the bottom of my brutes.
For my half inch distance between pieces, you'll need another half inch on each side for the PVC to tighten on to. Thus, cut a 1.5 inch piece of PVC in between the tee-joints and the elbow-joints and 4.5 inches in between the elbow joints.
Next, use PVC etching to prime the pieces then PVC glue to make it stick together. Do the two end piece first so assembly later is easier.
Next, prime and glue the middle parts with a tee-joint in the center facing up. This is where the shaft will be.
Finally, add your shaft and handle.
Let it set for a few minute to completely dry. I would submerge the end into a bucket of still water to make sure there's no air leaks. You don't want must getting inside and grow some funky stuff.
Like any tool, make you keep it clean and sanitized before using it on your must.
The half inch shaft is light and flexible for a manageable 32-gallon brute of must but you could increase yours to whatever you want. Hopefully, this illustrates the beauty of PVC and a little creativity can go a long way.
Anyone that has improvements to this design or other ideas, please feel free to share!