Step 3: Drilling Holes in PVC Tubing

The most important trick to getting a clean hole in PVC is to commit. The bit tends to grab and quickly rip through the pipe, but if you keep going, it will finish the hole cleanly. Stopping half way through is the kiss of death. It leaves large pieces of material which are difficult to remove without the momentum of the initial attempt.

I hold my pipes for drilling and cutting in a workbench which has two move-able table sections with a grove on their sides that can clamp together. If you don't have something like that, then a v groove or two pieces of wood spaced apart the right width will help to hold the pipe from moving around while drilling and cutting.

Which Drill Bit?
Either brad point or standard twist bits will do an equally effective job at a clean hole, but they are different. Brad point is easier to make an accurate hole with while they tend to be more likely to hurt the opposite side the pipe when punching through. The tip of the brad point has almost punctured the opposite wall on some of the holes I've drilled. I also tried using a drill press thinking it would be easier, but the feedback and control you lose with the drill press made it more difficult for me to use than a hand-held drill. It is a good idea to test out your drilling skills on a test piece before you invest time in your flute. It took me a few shots to get a clean hole the first time.
Wow thanks i will make it on the weekends✌ i always wanted one♥
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Can I do this with a 3/4&quot; pvc pipe?
3/4 inch pvc will work, but a smaller flute will usually be easier to play: They need less air to get a strong clean tone and the holes are easier to reach.
<p>Thanks for the post. It really helped. My flute sounds really good at the first note but the second hole is very weak. compared to the first and the other holes. It's funny I made a bamboo flute with the same measurements and the same thing happens. I don't know if I should mess with the embouchure since it sounds really good with all the other notes. Any thoughts? Perhaps it's the hole that is too big in comparison with the first?</p>
<p>If the other notes sound good then the embouchure probably isn't the problem. Might want to check that the edge of the offending hole is smooth inside and out. The larger holes can be more difficult to drill cleanly and any burs or roughness could hurt the tone. Otherwise, you can make that hole smaller while still playing in tune by moving the position towards the embouchure. This can make it harder to reach that hole but might be worth experimenting with.. you can use the calculator on this page (http://11wall-west.com/~ph_kosel/flutomat.html) to get the right position and diameter so the note still plays in tune.</p>
<p>one thing I noticed was that everything needs to be super clean and smooth because the flute is very very sensitive to little imperfections. Also I have a tin whistle of good quality with the same problem but it's less noticeable so I guess thats an aerodynamics thing. I will make sure to follow your advice. And one last thing. I am making a irish flute like the pvc but with oak wood. I already have it routed and holes drilled, now should I take advantage that I can see the hole from inside and make them super smooth? Can I kill the hard edges of the hole on the inside part? Thanks!</p>
<p>It could be worth trying different shapes for the edges of the holes, but I think most of the difference in tone comes from the different size of that hole which is made that way to make the note easier to reach and the flute more ergonomic overall. I'd probably keep the holes sharp and just make sure they're clean.</p>
<p>Thanks so much for the tips!</p>
<p>Thanks for sharing. I was wondering if you could help me with my idea for a project:<br><br>I play guitar (mostly acoustic), and have a singing voice that can peel paint. I'm looking to be able to play a woodwind instrument SIMULTANEOUSLY while strumming my guitar, even for simple melodies. So...<br><br>Think of a seal at the circus that squeezes the horns to play a song. What I would like to do is create a similar instrument out of PVC flutes/pipes, each pre-tuned to a single note. (No fingering involved.) For two octaves starting at G and ending at G, it would require 25 pipes, and includes all sharps/flats. Basically, it would have a piano layout, clamped together God-knows-how. (I'll figure that out.)<br><br>1) Originally, I thought I would create each &quot;flute&quot; only with those holes AS IF IT WAS BEING FINGERED FOR THAT PARTICULAR NOTE, MEANING I WOULD ONLY DRILL FOR THE NON-FINGERED HOLES FOR THAT PARTICULAR NOTE.<br><br>Does this make any sense, or is it more logical and simpler to use pipe length to achieve the desired note?<br><br>2) I want to achieve maximum tonal quality, the best sound bang for the buck, so instead of PVC, should I explore using steel EMT piping, electrical mechanical tubing, that they sell at HD &amp; Lowes? (It's the stuff they snake wires through.)<br><br>Thank you in advance for your ideas and experiences. I want to really think this through before getting started!<br><br>--Ira<br><br></p>
<p>I think a pan flute would make more sense for you. They aren't made the same way as a side-blown flute and don't quite sound the same: They have a closed end on one side and you blow into the other end -- they're more like blowing into a beer bottle -- but they would be much easier to rig up and mount for hands free playing. There are a bunch of instructables on them too with them made from all sorts of materials including household items like pens and straws that would be easy to mock up and test. You could hold a small one in a standard harmonica holder.</p><p>I wouldn't worry too much about the material. Anything reasonably hard and airtight will work about the same. I'd be more worried about the weight of steel tubes.. even thin walled they could be pretty heavy.</p>
Here's some pictures of mine. It's 16 3/4&quot; long, and I did a 28L4B Turks head in black and blue on it.
<p>Looks great.. I bet the braid makes it a bit easier to hold too. Thanks for sharing!</p>
<p>Ok this is verry NON-DETAILED. Like really... Just freaking tell us how long the pvc flute should be and where to place everything. </p>
How important is holes alines? Am I getting it right that I need to cut inside the mouth hole on the other side, not where is blown ? I'm making something between fife and flute from aluminum rod. Drilling in angle on steel is very hard. <br>rod sides are 3mm thick and inside is 12mm wide.
Hi! For an event for Science Olympiad I am making a PVC flute. I have to be able to play the C scale. I was wondering how to put in the b flat thumb key. I play the flute in band and I know from experience that I have to have that key in order to play a couple of notes. Any ideas on how to put it in and where? I don't want to mess it up too much and make a big mistake. Any suggestions would be FANTASTIC!!!!!
P.S. It is in a low octave. The lowest C is a middle C <br>
I attempted to create a PVC Flute in the key of C. For some reason instead of the nice flute sound I get an ugly, airy tone. I followed the instructions...any suggestions?
The shape of the embouchure is critical for playability and tone, so that's probably the best place to start. Recheck to make sure the edge of the hole is burr free, sharp and at the right angle. Finding the best angle and shape may take some experimentation which is a great excuse to make a couple more flutes in different keys! Also look for air leaks. This shouldn't be as likely a problem with PVC as it is with wood, but any cracks or air leaks will make the flute impossible to play. <br> <br>Overall, these flutes do tend to be on the 'woody' side compared to a modern metal flute that can get to the more pure sine wave sound that most people associate with the flute. If you're new to playing the flute it may just be a matter of practice.. it takes some chops to play well so keep at it!
I currently play a recorder, so this looks like a nice project for me to expand my skills. I suppose many of the principles described here could be used with other materials such as wood. <br>There are drill bits made specifically for plastic. They don't grab, and drill through smoothly. I've found that the type with the sharp point leave the smootest hole. <br>http://www.acrylicbirdcages.com/plastic_working_tools.htm
you can make a saxophone too, just omit the embochure and add a 45 degree angle joint and a tenor mouthpiece. (use larger stock for the sax and cut it a bit shorter <to tune of course> sounds just like the real thing) I have a bamboo saxophone and it is awesome, just used red hot metal rods to make the holes. Nice instructable! Everyone go grab a saw! There are tons of pipes under the sink!
Brilliant! Now... could you perhaps MAKE a mouthpiece, ligature, and reed? From scratch?
You could, but it's so cheap to buy them. Unless you plan to make a lot of them, it isn't worth the cost of casting materials.
Great Instructable! And thanks for link. @dung0bettle: Do you have notes on how to make the "bamboo saxophone"?
I have a friend who makes beautiful self-tuned bamboo flutes with a similar method.
Is his name William Miller?
ok, so I made a g flute, and when i try to play it, I get REALY dizzy, any suggestions? thanks!
You don't need to blow very hard or use much air to get a sound. You may just be breathing too often and/ or too deep and hyperventilating. This is easy to do when you start... you'll get more efficient with practice. <br><br>Breathing to play a wind instrument is not very intuitive in the beginning. Focus on where and how deep your breaths are and it will start to feel more natural in no time. And take it slow sticking to short playing sessions while you build up your stamina. It's a lot more work than you would think breathing in and out could be!
Thanks, that helps! :D
Hi! Is it possible to make a good flute with only a saw, sandpaper, and drills? (and PVC too, obviously!). I do not have any needle files (or ANY files, for that matter). I really want to make a flute like yours, but I do not have a lot of materials!
It's definitely possible. You will have to be even more careful when drilling the embouchure hole to make sure it's clean and angled the right amount. A few practice runs in some scrap would help a lot to get a feel for it.
its called an embouchure plate. not a lip plate.
it doesn't matter what you call it all that matters is how it works. and calling it the correct name isn't going to make it sound any different.
I need a little help in drilling or cutting holes in a section of PVC pipe that I'm going to make into an umbrella stand (to sit next to the front door for umbrellas, not the kind used for outdoor patio umbrellas). I need to cut different sized circles all around for decoration. Is it possible? Do I need to go buy a vice clamp?
Wow that's awesome, I&nbsp;play flute and would love one of these for school or other places where I can't take my real one.<br />
<strong>HELP: </strong>so from what I&nbsp;understood, the pipe you are using is 1/2 in.&nbsp;I can't manage to find what the length of the flute you&nbsp;are using is, and which one can make the most variation, and best sound. what diameter? what length? where did you drill <strong>your</strong> holes when you made it? if you would care to give these examples.. that would be greatly appreciated. <a href="mailto:sjoobbani@gmail.com" rel="nofollow">sjoobbani@gmail.com</a>
All the dimensions for the flutes I've built can be found here: <a href="http://www.cwo.com/~ph_kosel/designs.html" rel="nofollow">www.cwo.com/~ph_kosel/designs.html</a><br /> <br /> The G flute he describes is definitely my favorite. It can easily play 2 full octaves and sounds strong throughout that range.<br />
i'm sorry, this isn't very clear to me, where do you drill the holes.. and how big?
He gives the dimensions I used about 3/4s down the page in the table titled &quot;G flute from 1/2 inch schedule 40 pvc pipe&quot;. (I'd rather not reprint it here to respect his copyright.) It lists the distances of the holes measured from the end of the flute and the hole diameters. Hope that helps! I'm not sure how else to explain it.<br /> <br /> <br />
first off, thanks for this instructable its the single most informative flute making thing i've found! SOmething i've learned from my fiddling around; If you have a bench grinder it works superbly for shaping the wine cork the way you want it. It took was easy to control the removal and left a smooth surface area, give it a try next time your working with it i dont think you'll be disappointed! -Adam
I've played with flutes and recorders infrequently, not enough to be proficient. One problem I've had with flutes is being able to purse my lips, get and maintain the proper angle to the blow-hole, while being finger dexterous with the others. Recorders are better IMHO because the mouthpiece establishes the air angle, leaving one less skill needed to master. So can you advise how to make and add a recorder's mouthpiece to your instructable? thanks.
I have played a recorder for forty years, myself. I would suggest looking closely at a commercial model, and measuring everything.
I haven't made a recorder or whistle, but this site has good plans and instructions for one: <a rel="nofollow" href="http://guido.gonzato.googlepages.com/whistle.html">The 'Low-Tech' Whistle: How to Make a PVC Whistle</a>. <br/><br/>And this site shows how to make a simple PVC clarinet: <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.geocities.com/tpe123/folkurban/clarinet/index.html">The $5.00 Clarinet</a>.<br/>
Thank you for those other site links, Apart from the instruments, indicate how to make a whistle in a survival situation, easier than I thought.
I t dosnt even work
I have been cutting embo's for sometime. I prefer the oval vrs the round hole for more robust performance. Generally the blow edge and the opposite edge should be equal, in that if you built a straight flute with no embo' offset, a player could play left or right. My ovals generally are the same as the boehm design though this can vary from as little as a millimeter difference in length (8.7x9.7 to as much as 8.5x12mm) The undercut blow edge and sides are not uniform but blend. The angle of the undercut is very difficult to measure because of the curve of the tube but I generally start with a 10 degree blow edge. Some cutters prefer a straight cut and some use a rounded edge. I use a straight edge or "chamfer" and the sides are slightly rounded. Depending on how the 'tuning' process goes I can make adjustments to the embo' by adding more angle on the blow edge. So if you're not sure start with less angle. Just remember you can't add material. Rinse the embo with water before testing. You don't want to breath the dust. I use an exacto knife to rough out, a jewelers file and also some 350 grit paper wrapped around the shank of a drill of near diameter size using double sided tape. I recommend using norton paper as it is also water resistant and finer paper for the finish out. then lighter paper etc.
If you play the flute, a boehm system metal flute, perhaps, or maybe your baroque will help you, just look at how the embochure hole is made on those flutes and try to copy it. The whole idea behind it is that the edge of the hole that you blow on splits the air, creating vibrations, so you'll want that edge to be fairly sharp. I hope that helps.
I'm gonna revisit the embouchure question. I looked at a few websites and I can't seem to get a clear answer on the angle of the hole. If I'm looking at the pipe and the embouchure hole is to my left (this would be the side I would play from), then should I drill such that the drill bit tip is pointing towards me or away from me. You also mentioned "right angle" in your instructions, and I'm not clear if you meant "90 deg" or the "Correct" angle. Should the inside edges of the hole be parallel to each other, or should there be a 45 deg angle on one side and a 90 deg angle on the other side? Thanks for the help
I drilled the embouchure hole with the bit pointing straight at the center of the pipe since it is easiest to drill that way. Then I used a small file to bring the blown edge to the correct angle which is about 45 degrees between the edge of the hole that was just cut and the outside edge.
Is this in any way toxic to the human body?? I hear PVC is quite dangerous to humans when burned or processed.

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