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
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)
5) Rubber band
7) A saw to cut the PVC
9) Drill Press
10) Electrical Tape in the color of your choice.
Step 2: 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
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. For more information on the placement of your holes, you can visit: http://www.friendlyplumber.com/pipe_flute.html
Step 4: 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
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)
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?
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.http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/woodwind.html
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.