Introduction: How to Make an Awesometastical PVC Flute

Picture of How to Make an Awesometastical PVC Flute

For a school project, we were assigned to create and perform a musical instrument. We decided, seeing as one of our group members plays the flute, to make a flute out of PVC piping. After a little bit of research, we came up with a process that was fairly easy to follow and created a flute that didn't sound half bad! This Instructable will take you step by step on your way to creating a PVC flute.

Step 1: Materials Needed

Picture of Materials Needed

The materials need for making the flute are as follows:

1) A length of PVC pipe ¾ inches inner diameter (15 inches works well, so you have room to mess up, or you can just go by about the length of your forearm, including your hand.)
2) ¾ inch PVC cap (to fit the pipe)
4) Pencil
5)Rubber band
6) Files
7) A saw to cut the PVC
8) Clamps
9) Drill Press
10)Electrical Tape in the color of your choice.

Step 2: Cutting the PVC

Picture of Cutting the PVC

There is no one length of PVC that we have figured to be the "best" length, or a length of PVC that plays and has the best tone. But know that the longer the PVC pipe is, the lower the flute will sound, and the shorter it is, the higher pitch it will be. This is because the shorter length of PVC gives the air less time to travel through.
When cutting the PVC, it is best to clamp it to the edge of a table with the section of PVC you wish to cut hanging off the edge. Make a small indent in the PVC with the saw to start yourself cutting, and then cut all the way through the PVC. The straighter the cut the better.

Step 3: Planning Out the Flute

Picture of Planning Out the Flute

Before you start to cut the holes in the PVC piping, it is necessary to first plan out where you are going to cut the holes. The diagram below shows where to mark, with a pen or pencil, spots on the pipe to cut the holes.

Step 4: Making the Flute

Picture of Making the Flute

Now once you have all of your holes marked out on the flute (including a thumb hole for your left hand under the spot where your thumb naturally falls), you can use a drill press (or just a normal drill) to cut the holes into the PVC. Remember, the mouth hole can be whatever size works best for you to get a sound out of. However, start smaller because it is easier to make a hole bigger, but you cannot make it smaller again once you have cut it.
Once all of your holes are cut, put the cap over the end of the flute where the mouth hole is and play into the flute to ensure that you can get a sound out of it and you can reach all of the finger holes comfortably. If you can great! If not, you may have cut the mouth hole to big, or you need to learn how to play the flute-- it can be tricky at first!

Step 5: Rubber Band Trick

Picture of Rubber Band Trick

If you plan to make more flutes in the future, instead of having to measure out all the marks for the holes again, there is a simple trick you can do with a rubber band. Simply stretch the rubber band out across your newly made flute so the ends of the rubber band meet both ends of the flute and mark with a pen or pencil where the holes are on the rubber band. Then when you want to go and make another PVC flute, simply stretch that rubber band on the length of PVC and you are ready to go!

Step 6: Finishing Touches (OPTIONAL)

Picture of Finishing Touches (OPTIONAL)

For a final step, you can choose to decorate your flute! You can either wrap the flute in electrical tape, color it with sharpies, or come up with some other creative fun way to decorate the flute. Remember when you are decorating it, don't cover up any of the holes or the end of the flute! We chose to decorate our flute with our school's colors, "gold" and blue.

Step 7: But Wait, How Does a Flute Make a Sound?

Picture of But Wait, How Does a Flute Make a Sound?

Basically, when you breath into the flute, your air stream travels down the piping. The air stream hits against the side of the flute, moving it and creating a sound. To change the pitch of the flute, you simply lift up fingers or cover more finger holes. This changes the resonate frequency creating a different pitch. To make the tone louder you need a larger resonator, or larger air flow, and to make the tone softer it is the opposite.

As mentioned earlier, the sound changes based on which hole are being covered. The way this works is that depending on which holes are covered, the open holes create nodes in the sound waves. These nodes change the frequency, which makes the sound different. This is why the pitch is higher when less holes are covered. The covered holes are colored in black, while the open holes are left white. As you can see, the node is right where the open hole is.


80750 (author)2017-12-13

What notes does it play?

80750 (author)2017-12-12

How do you play it?

80750 (author)2017-12-06

Sounds great. I will attempt this for my physics project for finals.

JayF49 (author)2016-09-04

Your plumbing link is broken

cwchoi (author)2016-04-23

If you don't have a drill, your multi-tool or swiss knife drill tool will work on PVC as well.

AlpeshP7 (author)2016-03-23

It is too make foolish job;
Spared a time to diffetant project. Its ¿

Pijuleone made it! (author)2015-09-09

Made it, and it works really good !
I used that website :

SuzanneD2 (author)2015-05-23

ChristineW1 (author)2015-04-13

Not helpful I am making a bamboo flute and I want to know why it isn't working

Snouty Creations (author)2014-12-27

The rubber band idea is really clever!

9623952200 (author)2014-10-14

i am trying to make it but does that matter if i will take pipe of smaller diameter

9623952200 (author)2014-10-14

i am trying to make it but does that matter if i will take pipe of smaller diameter

Jonas.B (author)2011-05-14

Did you tune the flute or did you just drill holes at random?

claudg1950 (author)Jonas.B2011-08-11

Dunno what he did, but if you go to the instructable called "Make 4 easy bamboo flutes for free" you will see that the author mentions a software called Flutomat, which allows you to calculate hole distances.
The direct link for flutomat is

robphippen (author)claudg19502012-01-21

I just found this nice alternative

JacobP2 (author)robphippen2014-08-11

What are the units this thing measures in?!

Jonas.B (author)robphippen2012-06-24

Nice! :)

solarbipolar (author)claudg19502013-05-31

dead link

claudg1950 (author)solarbipolar2013-06-02

Right. Now you can find it here:

solarbipolar (author)rainman0022013-05-31

dead link

box head (author)2013-05-29

Can you plz tell me where you put all the holes and what size and how long the PVC pipe was

Blobtroll (author)2013-02-06

What key (octave) does the flute play? i am working on this for a school project as well.

modelmanjohn (author)2010-03-26

Neat idea, but I heard that PVC over time can leach some kind of toxic fume, but I'm not sure. I wonder if your instructions would work on bamboo?

sinmantyx (author)modelmanjohn2012-07-13

When making PVC instruments, you should not use PVC but C-PVC. C-PVC is a little more expensive, but is classified as safe for water going INTO your home. PVC is only classified as safe for water going OUT of your home that you are not going to drink.

I doubt the danger is high, but just a very small increase in cost will eliminate the worry.

claudg1950 (author)modelmanjohn2011-08-11

Logic indicates that anything, over time, will leach less fumes, not more (if that wopuld be the case).
I suspect that PVC scare is grossly exagerated and, as someone pointed out, you are not going to warm or boil the flute while playing.
At any rate, though in most instruments material is essential for the sound, for some reason the flute seems quite imprevious to it. Flutes have been made of many different metals, wood, plastic and even glass, and no matter what, they tend to sound very much alike.
So I would say you may safely try with many different materiales, if you are concerned about PVC. Also remember that there are plastic home pipes designed to carry hot water and guaranteed for 50 years or so, so those should not emit any noxious element.

 It should work on bamboo as well as long as it is hollowed out all the way through (you can leave the last membrane in there as the cap). PVC fumes tend to be a problem if you are heating it up, your contact is pretty minimal using it as a flute.

If you have some bamboo, give it a try. Make sure you remove the membranes in the bamboo and either leave the last one (and measure from there) or cap the bamboo with something like a cork.

richeypaul1 (author)2011-05-03

That is a fantastic idea! So creative. It's amazing what one can do with a little PVC pipe. I'm sure a plumber can appreciate your creativity.

zascecs (author)2010-03-27

Next project, PVC saxaphone.


tripman (author)zascecs2011-02-08

did you make a pvc sax? im working in it but is not easy... do you have some idea? i made the structure but is dificult to make good sound, sorry about my tarzan english

Saturn V (author)zascecs2010-06-27

I'd LOVE that! I will subscribe to whoever is the first to do that.

1spartan95 (author)Saturn V2011-01-09

I would too!

zascecs (author)Saturn V2010-06-27

I'd better start making it then... =P


eulaliaaaa! (author)2010-08-24

She looks like my cousin!!!

mtm101097 (author)2010-03-27

Nice instructable (very informative)

 where do you go to school because my school in New Jersey( I'm not going to say where) is blue and gold warriors. thanks.

EastsidePrep (author)mtm1010972010-03-27

EastsidePrep is actually the school (Eastside Preparatory School, Kirkland, WA) account.  When students and faculty have projects that they want to share, we post them under this account.

Our mascot is the Eagle.

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More by EastsidePrep:How to Make an Awesometastical PVC FluteHow to Make a Single Octave Xylophone
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