Introduction: PVC Pipe Organ

Picture of PVC Pipe Organ

In this instructable I will be taking you through the steps of making a simple PVC pipe organ. We'll learn how to make the flutes, tune them, make a body for the instrument, and connect the pipes to keys. Please remember that you are only limited by your creative mind and time constraints in my case, this is only to provide a basic idea on how to make these and expanding upon these ideas is encouraged to make an instrument of your very own. (Builder's note) If you don't want to spend too much money, but want to try this out I suggest keeping the size of the instrument to a minimum, don't build a full pipe organ if you aren't willing to spend the money on some of the materials.

Important: Some of the instructions are put into the pictures, you will need to expand them to see.

You will need

1. However many lengths of PVC pipe diameter of your choosing (I went with 1", however a larger diameter resonates better.)
2. Wooden dowel the same diameter as the inside of your pipe (It needs to be snug inside of the pipe.)
3. Surgical tubing
4. Wooden Clothes pins (These will be your keys and are simply hot glued into place with a screw holding the surgical tubing into place.)
5. PVC end caps (You guessed it, same diameter as your pipe)
6. Sheets of wood for the body of the instrument
7. A hacksaw
8. A drill
9. A screw driver
10. Screws
11. Hot glue (Or epoxy if you'd rather.)
12. Dermal with wood cutting attachment (Optional)
13. Scroll or Jigsaw (Optional)
14. Random orbital sander

Step 1: Cutting the Dowel

Chose a length for the dowel (About a half inch is good for 1"  Pipes) and cut out as many as you've selected pipes (I went with 13 because I wanted 1 chromatic octave), then cut (Or sand) a slant onto the piece of dowel. (I do not have pictures of this, but it's an upwards slant just enough to leave a slight opening at the end near the cut of the PVC

Step 2: Cutting the Labium Lip

Picture of Cutting the Labium Lip

The slanted cut seen on some wind instruments (Like the ocarina or tin whistle) is called a Labium lip, it causes the instrument to vibrate and produce a tone. Here's how you cut one into PVC pipe.

Step 3: Tuning the Pipes.

Picture of Tuning the Pipes.

I used a note tuning program on my phone called gStrings (Poor choice of a name) to tune each pipe to a near perfect pitch, this will be by far the most time consuming part of the build. The shorter a pipe gets the higher the pitch gets and the longer it gets the lower the pitch, if you cut the labium lips exactly the same you can change octaves by halving or doubling the length of the pipe (Pitch doubles or halves when making octave leaps.)

Step 4: Planning

Picture of Planning

For this step you will be basically drawing up a design for your organ, be creative and plan out the spacing of each pipe so you can measure the size of the instrument. You'll also need to make an air chamber to connect all of the pipes to your keys.

Step 5: Cut the Wood

In this step predictably we're taking our design and cutting out the box (Or circle, or triangle or whatever shape you chose for your organ) and getting ready to assemble it. This is also a good time to figure out how you're going to secure your pipes to your instrument (I drilled holes and used caulk to hold them in place.) Mark your design onto the wood you're planning on using and cut it out with a scroll saw (Or Jigsaw if you have one.)

Step 6: Connect the Pipes to the Keys

Picture of Connect the Pipes to the Keys

Drill holes the same diameter as your surgical tubing into all but one of your pvc end caps, cap all of the pipes and leave one end of your air chamber closed, then drill holes for each of your pipes down the length of the chamber for your surgical tubing to go into. measure cut each piece of surgical tubing to go to the pipes then glue the tubing to the end caps on each pipe and the holes in the chamber themselves.

Step 7: You're Done!

Picture of You're Done!

You can pretty much do whatever you want with this thing now, paint it, sell it, expand it, have fun with your homemade pipe organ. Unfortunately mine isn't currently working very well, but that comes from poor planning on my part and when I get it up and running again I'll add a video of me playing it.

Comments

FosterL1 (author)2017-03-07

How long were the pipes?

eeziflofittings (author)2016-02-02

Clever! It's amazing what can be done with plastic pipework. We had a customer once ask for all sorts of different pvc pipe and fittings, not for the usual application though, it was to construct a piece of art using pvc pipe and fittings.

Léonardd2 (author)2015-11-07

Thank for this post it really is interesting. We are going to build the mini organ, but the problem we have is the sound. Do you have any picture of the dowel with the slant, and the dowel in the PVC pipe?

bernhardt00 (author)2015-06-10

I really mean if you start at middle C.

bugman113 (author)bernhardt002015-07-12

That I honestly could not tell you, my sincerest apologies.

bernhardt00 (author)2015-06-10

How long do each of the pipes have to be when you're doing a C octave chromatically?

BUBONICBLEEZY (author)2013-11-27

Also is it on the side with the labium lip or the top end? And what purpose does the dowel serve?

bugman113 (author)BUBONICBLEEZY2015-04-18

The dowel basically directs air flow to the labium lip, so it's on the labium lip end.

mcastorillo (author)2014-06-12

Is there a way a picture of the passage formed by the cut dowel and the inside of the pipe can be posted? My organ won't produce sound.

bugman113 (author)mcastorillo2015-04-18

Oh I'm a dick for not responding I can't take any pictures right now since it's not with me, also I'd have to take the whole thing apart, but I'll happily give you the references I used to build it and get some pictures up next time I have the thing sitting next to me.

DevinC2 (author)2014-11-30

I thought that length and diameter of the pipes affect the sound pipe organs made. So I was wondering what length and diameter should I do for C4/ middle C? How did you figure it out?

bugman113 (author)DevinC22014-12-07

Trial and error.

GentryD (author)2014-10-01

Could you please explain how and where precisely you attach the surgical tubing to the pipes?

bugman113 (author)GentryD2014-10-02

I had to drill a hole into the PVC end caps right in the middle, and simply hot glued them into the caps, there's probably a significantly more effective way of doing it though.

bugman113 (author)2014-07-14

If it worked for you it worked for you, in fact that labium lip looks a lot cleaner and precise than mine do. So do this way instead, it's probably better.

billbillt (author)2014-06-10

that is a very handsome dog you have in your picture.....

bugman113 (author)billbillt2014-07-06

Thank you very much.

knexbuilder12345 (author)2014-02-14

I think this is great and would really like to make this for a school project, I was wondering if there was any additional notes/pictures that might be helpful to my building it. Thanks!

None that I currently have, however I'd be happy to help you to the best of my ability along the way.

BUBONICBLEEZY (author)2013-11-27

I am uncertain on how and where exactly the dowels are placed in the pipes. How are they held in place and still able to leave an opening? How far down the dowels should I sand the slant? Diagonally from one end to the next? I think a picture is needed to show exactly what the dowel should look like and where and how it should be placed in the tubes but that was the only picture you didn't provide.

bugman113 (author)BUBONICBLEEZY2014-02-07

I'm sorry for not replying earlier, I didn't know I'd had comments. The dowels are placed in the same end as the labium, so with the smaller end of the slant on the dowel nearest to the Labium opening. I managed to hold them into place by wrapping a few layers of duct tape on them so that they would fit snuggly into the pipe, while still being able to take out if need be. As for how far you should sand the slant, all that matters is you have a small opening leading into the labium lip around the same width as it is, so once you've gotten it sanded down and that width has been achieved you've gone far enough. And yes, diagonally from one end to the Next. If you need any further clarification please let me know.

katanahikari (author)2014-01-15

I'm almost done with building this but I've encountered a problem with some of the surgical tubing. The clothespins seem to put somewhat of a permanent crimp in the tubing, which means when I open them I have to squeeze/reshape the tubing to allow proper air flow. I tried wrapping electrical tape around the tube to help keep its shape and it worked great for that but with the tape the clothespin isn't strong enough to entirely close the tube again. Any thoughts on how to proceed?

BUBONICBLEEZY (author)2013-11-27

At least a fully detailed description on this part of the procedure, I feel like it is pretty important if I want to make a functioning organ, could you please clarify? I would appreciate it a lot!

billbillt (author)2013-09-19

great

rattyrain (author)2013-07-26

It would be cool to make a handheld pipe organ that uses a bagpipe-style bellows

bugman113 (author)rattyrain2013-07-28

So I found out this is a thing... https://www.instructables.com/id/Build-your-own-Smallpipes-for-a-few-bucks-Membra/

bugman113 (author)rattyrain2013-07-26

That would be pretty boss.

bugman113 (author)bugman1132013-07-26

Next time on instructables!

AJMansfield (author)2013-07-28

This is a really great  project, and I really like it.
There are a number of significant improvements I could see making to this if I ever do it, that you may also be interested in trying:
- Use a better air source (an air compressor/pump/etc)
- Use better valves (found push-button valves of the right size, 1/8" or 3/16" stem, for under $2 a piece at http://www.clippard.com/products/directional-control-valves-buttons-mini)
- Salvage an old keyboard and mount the valves under the keys
- Make a classier case.

I will probably use some of the stuff from this instructable for another project that I have been thinking about doing for a while.

bugman113 (author)AJMansfield2013-07-28

The point of this when I made it was entirely conceptual so ascetics weren't particularly on the mind, it had to be functional before it could look good... That said I look forward to seeing what you come up with. If I were to try this again I'd make the keyboard look more like a piano with actual keys and add a compressor and things, but this was a first attempt more than anything... Not sure where I was going with that, but thanks for the comment.

kbyrne (author)2013-07-26

How does it play music? If the surgical tubeing is filled with air, what is the source of the air?

bugman113 (author)kbyrne2013-07-26

You blow into a tube that leads into the chamber that links all of the surgical tubing and the individual pipes.

kbyrne (author)bugman1132013-07-26

Thanks I did not know that. What if a fish tank pump was used and
the hose was pinched to regulate the air supply. Would that idea work with this type of machine? A pump like that is a dollar or two at second hand stores. Best kbyrne

AJMansfield (author)kbyrne2013-07-28

Or attach a fitting for an air compressor. (Make sure you use only pressure-rated components if you do, including valves and the lines to the organ pipes.)

bugman113 (author)kbyrne2013-07-26

The individual hoses are pinches by the clothes pins and all let out a bit of air like that, but the fish tank pump would probably work if it produced 1-2 PSI.

kbyrne (author)bugman1132013-07-26

It just needs the smallest version of the pump, one hose outlet type and a regulator before the organ. They have a rubber diaphram
and that might be a problem at 1-2 PSI, but might not. I like the devise
and may try that plus a automatic pump devise to keep my hands free
to play with sounds. Best kbyrne

tisaconundrum (author)kbyrne2013-07-26

If you watch the video he was blowing into the tube.

AJMansfield (author)2013-07-28

Shouldn't the planning have been done before we even started making the pipes?

bugman113 (author)AJMansfield2013-07-28

I mean if you have an idea for the shape of the organ that would be compromised if you made the pipes first, but I had planned on making a small octave instrument and also measuring how long the thing needed to be could only take place once I'd had the pipes cut and started fitting them.

AJMansfield (author)2013-07-28

Also, you don't actually say what you are adjusting on the pipes to tune them. Are you shaving the lengths, adjusting the collar, or constricting the airflow from the source on each pipe?

bugman113 (author)AJMansfield2013-07-28

You adjust the length of the pipes, which is why I put a lot of mention into the length of the pipes.

AJMansfield (author)2013-07-28

Do you know how you would go about tuning the harmonics of each pipe? It will sound much more like a real organ if you tune the first (and perhaps even the second, if possible) harmonic to the correct pitch, not just the fundamental.

ianmcmill (author)2013-07-27

Nice build ! But I miss the Arduino ;)

ianmcmill (author)ianmcmill2013-07-27

Or the compressor hooked to an Arduino.

hallen (author)2013-07-26

Could I get some measurements of your pipes? I do realize the lengths will vary slightly due to differing pipes, but I want something at least close to minimize waste from trying to discover the lengths for each note. Thanks!

bugman113 (author)hallen2013-07-26

I should probably note that the more identical you cut the labium lips the better, if they differ it can alter what length the pipe will be and in some cases if the pipe needs to be closed or not. The low C was the longest measuring in at 12 1/4", and the high C was about 6 1/4"; If I'd been more precise with the labium lips the high C would've been closer to half the length of the low one, but as I said try to cut the lips as close to identical as you possibly can.

patridged (author)2013-07-25

Could you break out all the detailed photos into individual photos with a description. The collage of pictures does nothing for explaining what is happening in each picture. Thanks.

al_packer (author)2013-07-25

As an aside, the professional pipe organs I've seen have an air chest. The fan blows air into this, and a weighted bellows at the top of the chest regulates the air pressure. It doesn't take much pressure, and there must be a safety valve (a weighted flap). The chest feeds the manifold; the manifold feeds the individual pipes.

al_packer (author)2013-07-25

A picture of the windway (the passage formed by the cut dowel and the inside of the pipe) is really needed here. Making those things correctly is one of the biggest challenges to the amateur organ builder.

erehwon (author)2013-07-25

I don't see any mention any air pressure source. How are you getting the air moving through the pipes?

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Bio: For as long as I can remember I've had an urge to build things, instruments, props (Especially props) it's a hobby I have ... More »
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