Introduction: Flarinet- a DIY Musical Mouthpiece

I've been a clarinet player for years and love teaching kids music. But, I've realized that clarinets can be really expensive, not so easy to play, and fairly fragile for younger children. So I started with a simple membraneaerophone design and streamlined it so that it could be made simply from everyday materials you'd find in the hardware store. The Flarinet (as I call it) mouthpiece is super versatile and allows you to play incredible clarinet sounds when you connect it to 1/2 inch pvc pipe. You can easily experiment by cutting new tubes lengths and drilling 3/8 holes to customize your own Flarinet. So let's dive in!

Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools

For the Flarinet mouthpiece you'll need these materials:

  • 6"x6" sheet of 1/16 inch cork board
  • 2 #20 Standard O-rings
  • 2 feet of 1/2 in PVC pipe
  • 1 foot of 1 in PVC pipe
  • 1 inch PVC pipe coupling
  • 1/2 inch PVC pipe coupling
  • 5/16 aluminum tubing
  • clear packaging tape
  • 8.5" x 11" clear transparency

and these tools:

  • drill
  • 5/16 and 3/8 drill bits
  • ruler
  • exacto knife
  • hand saw
  • #240 sandpaper

Step 2: Measure and Cut Mouthpiece Inner Chamber to Length

Cut a 4 inch section from the 1/2 inch PVC pipe with the handsaw. Take care to make the cut as perpendicular to the access of the pipe as possible. Carefully sand the cut end when finished.

Step 3: Measure and Cut Cork Sheeting

Cut a rectangle from your 6x6 cork sheet measuring 2 3/16 inches long. Cut three strips from this rectangle, two measuring 1/4 inch wide and one 3/4 inch wide.

Step 4: Layout Cork and O-ring Placement

Using the 4 inch length of 1/2 in PVC pipe, mark the following distances from one end as pictured above.

  • 1 5/16 in
  • 1 9/16 in
  • 1 11/16 in
  • 2 7/16 in
  • 2 9/16 in
  • 2 13/16 in

Step 5: Locate O-rings and Glue Cork Sheets

Apply a thin layer of contact cement to the three sections of pvc pipe pictured above. Also apply a thin layer of contact cement to each strip of cork. Roll on both #20 standard Orings such that they sit in between the contact cement rings. Wait 10 minutes and then carefuly roll on the cork strips so contact cement meets contact cement and the surfaces create a strong bond. The cork strips should keep the O-rings in place as pictured above.

Step 6: Measure and Cut Mouthpiece Outer Chamber

Using the handsaw, cut a 3 inch section from the 1 in PVC pipe. Carefully sand the cut with #240 sand paper.

Step 7: Drill Mouth Piece Intake

Mark a point on the 3 inch length 1 in PVC pipe 1 3/16 in from the end. Using the 5/16 drill bit, drill a hole through the PVC pipe taking care to only pass through one side.

Step 8: Measure and Cut Sealing Ring

Using the leftover 1 inch PVC pipe, measure and cut a small ring 1/8 inch long.

Step 9: Create Mouthpiece Cap

Take the 1/8 inch long PVC ring and insert it into the 1 inch PVC coupling. Press the ring in until it is stopped by the inner ledge in the coupling. You can use left over 1 inch PVC pipe to push in the ring. Now you have completed the mouthpiece inner and outer chambers as well as the mouth piece caps!

Step 10: Make the Circular Reed

Place a layer of tape roughly 3 inches in length over the transparency. Using the outer mouthpiece chamber, trace it's outer circumference. Cut out the resulting circle with a pair of scissors, making sure to cut inside the traced circle. You now have a Flarinet reed!

Step 11: Make the Mouthpiece Tube

Cut a 1 inch length from the 5/16 aluminum tubing. Sand the edges to remove the burrs and insert it into the outer mouthpiece chamber. The aluminum tube should fit snugly and not protrude past the inner wall of the mouthpiece chamber. Wrap the exposed end of the mouthpiece tube with blue tape to make it comfortable to play.

Step 12: Assemble the Flarinet

Take the circular reed and insert into the mouthpiece cap. The reed should lie flush against the small ring of pvc we inserted into the pvc coupling earlier. Insert the mouthpiece outer chamber into the mouthpiece cap such that the hole lies just beyond the end of the mouthpiece cap. Finally insert the mouthpiece inner chamber into the outer chamber just until it touches the circular reed as shown above. The mouthpiece tube should locate just above the upmost cork strip. Using a 1/2 pvc coupling attach the mouthpiece to the leftover section of 1/2 PVC pipe. Your Flarinet is now ready for playing!

Step 13: Tuning and Playing the Flarinet

Tune the Flarinet by experimenting with the pressure the mouthpiece inner chamber puts on the circular reed. You'll get a warmer sound and a more resistant instrument the closer the mouthpiece inner chamber is to the circular reed. Ideally the mouthpiece inner chamber sticks out just above the mouthpiece outer chamber. Blow into the mouthpiece tube and gently pull out the mouthpiece cap until the Flarinet makes it's first note! Now that you've got a working Flarinet mouthpiece, strike up the band! Take any 1/2 inch pvc pipe, drill holes in different sizes and places, and invent your own instruments! Try making the lowest note possible!

Step 14: A 3D Printed Flarinet!

Update! I recently created a 3D printed version of this design, cheer on for the full 3D printed Flarinet Band!