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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.

Workbench
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.
hey JnkyrdGuy,<br>I need your help. I have already made PVC flutes. But the softwares that I use like flutomat do not give accurate dimensions. So I end up making some holes little wider than I want them to be(I prefer .8 - 1 cm dia). Also the higher octave in my flute plays a little off the tune. I have low D scale flute currently.<br><br>I need Low E flute(indian Scale), In the designer I need to enter Low B as my desired scale(it must be around 65 cms long). PVC specs:- Ext. Dia 25cm, Internal dia 22cm. Need Low B scale(Low E note while 3 holes are open). also I need one with 7 holes, so that lowest note is easier to play.<br><br>Please see if you can provide accurate dimensions.<br><br>Thanks
<p>I've only made flutes that use dimensions calculated with flutomat and it's always been pretty accurate for me.You might want to recheck the PVC diameter and other dimensions then try recalculating. Otherwise you could just use trial and error: Make a couple flutes and for each one move the holes in the direction needed to get the diameters to something you're comfortable with while playing still in tune.</p>
The dimensions are accurate. And you can check different designing softwares to see what I mean, say flutomat and 'Whistle and Flute Hole Calculator' both calculate different hole separation for same flute.<br><br>I don't have much tools. I use different sized screw drivers to make initial holes and then use a separate tool to finish the hole so that it ends up as a clean hole. and honestly, I take about 3 hrs making a flute. So, I didn't want to waste 3 hrs of work. That's why I needed accurate dimensions. But I guess that is my last resort now.
<p>I built a flute with the instructions. I think it is best to read the details several times to get it right. It may be me, but I'm having a hard time getting a consistent tone. </p><p>I think perhaps a removable mouth piece may be good for experimentation.</p>
Is there a cork in the end of the flute in addition to the PVC end cap? If there isn't then that is most likely creating the problem. The distance from the end of the cork to the embouchure is really important but you can't get it anywhere near close enough with just an end cap like you're using. I've seen people make flutes with just a PVC end cap and no cork, but I could never get one to work.
<p>i test many times to see if certain things would work, but found no success so far, so far i have no clue what on earth im doing wrong, but im gunna try and try to see what im doing wrong. sorry to say that i have no clue what an octave is yet, but i'll find out, thats y they call it trial an error, i'll look up some things and see what i can find out, if i fail i'll say so, so wish me luck :&lt;)</p>
What kind of instruments help me to make/ drill holes in flute
<p>I used a hand-held drill and a standard twist drill bit set.</p>
<p>Awesome tutorial! This really helped me out, I've made three different size PVC / CPVC flutes so far and just made a tutorial of my own that adds a few more tips and examples for everyone here, I'd really appreciate it if you checked it out. Thanks again!<br><br><a href="http://mattwins.blogspot.com/2016/01/building-homemade-pvc-and-cpvc-flutes.html" rel="nofollow">http://mattwins.blogspot.com/2016/01/building-home...</a><br></p><p><a href="http://mattwins.blogspot.com/2016/01/building-homemade-pvc-and-cpvc-flutes.html" rel="nofollow">http://mattwins.blogspot.com/2016/01/building-home...</a></p>
<p>What do you mean by the angle?? As well, I was wondering about the tuning slide.. Does this mean you ave to like cut the PVC pipe in two?? If so how much do you cut it by??? (if I were to use the pvc connector.) What would be the right lengths?? Please help!</p>
<p>I have made several bamboo flutes, side blown not much imfo on side blown mouth piece, they all work. i'd like to improve the mouth piece if anyone has any suggestions or ideals , I'd like to hear from you</p>
Wow thanks i will make it on the weekends✌ i always wanted one&hearts;
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

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