Introduction: How to Make an Awesome Syringe Shaku-flute

About: From time to time I like to design some unusual things using any crap materials. I am co-founder of Scheidenbach (the very first ukulele project of Russia), so I adore to strum ukulele. Quena and other ethnic…

Yes, I agree, that looks shocking, ugly and dubiously. But the sound you'll get is amazingly cool, I promise. Just check up mp3 test below. Certainly this is not a Shakuhachi nor Quena, but something between these ones. It's not easy-to-play instrument, but if you have some basic experiences with Quena playing you'll get a crisp and loud tone easily.

Working on this flute about two months, finally I've got an extremely simple construction, so you can make your own one in 30 minutes. No skills required, just a bit accuracy to prevent your fingers of a sharp blade. All you need to build the Syringe Shaku-flute is a sharp knife, scissors and scotch tape - no glue, no drill, no saws, no files and sand paper! Well, maybe you shall use the screwdriver, but it's not for sure, any coin will be okay as well. Other tools like a ruler, caliper or measuring tape will be okay as well, but it's not necessary at all. I use a scale, which is printed on the syringe's body, certainly that's unusual, but my units are milliliters instead of millimeters and that works great. Let's start. The material I used is standard 20 ml disposable syringes, new or used - that doesn't matter. It's cheap, robust and easy to cut with the knife, however the most important thing - the syringes are produced of a very flexible while strong polypropylene, it's absolutely waterproof, difficult to destroy and most important - you'll get an amazing loud sound thanks to its thin resonating walls. That's great because any other bamboo or PVC-pipe flutes are easy crushable and wet-sensitive while the sound is hissing enough..

Step 1: Preparing the Stuff

Prepare four 20 ml disposable syringes. Three of them should be connected to form a flute body. And the fourth one is required to make connecting rings. To be clear I numbered every part, so the instrument consists of body parts 1,2,3 and A,B,C,D additional parts.

Step 2: Making the Body Parts

Remove the plungers (Unfortunately I have no ideas how to use it). Cut off all the nipple tips. Strive to do it accurately and closely to the butt end. The resulting cut surface should be as flat as it possible. Be aware of a sharp blade! Now you have 3 body parts named as 1,2,3 and the 4th one, its collar-end should be removed as well.

Step 3: Making Additional Parts

Take the 4th syringe and cut it up in to four parts as it shown at the picture. Make a slit along the axis using scissors as figured. Resulting you should get four slotted rings - A,B,C and D parts.

Step 4: Connecting Parts 1 and 2

Shove the B part into the collar end of part 1 to mark overlapping area as you see at the picture. Pull it back, then cut off excess part as it shown and shove it inside again. The B part is a connector, holding parts 1 and 2 from their inner side. Keep in mind, you have to get a tight connection to minimize any air losing. For better results wrap the B part with a piece of transparent scotch tape twice. Connect parts 1 and 2 via the B part.

Step 5: Connecting Parts 2 and 3

Exactly the same way connect parts 2 and 3 using the C part (also cut off excess part to widen the slot), use the scotch tape to tighten the connection. Stretch the D part over the joint and don't forget about a hose clip - put it on as shown, move it to the joint place and tighten with a screwdriver.

Step 6: Mouthpiece

Now we shall do the most interesting thing. The mouthpiece. Open-end type flutes usually has no mouthpiece part at all, just a small U-shape or V-shape notch carved right in a bamboo or PVC pipe. Earlier I tried to do it the same way, however the pitch was too high and out of tune. That's why I had to invent this additional sleeve, it's necessary to keep the whole length of three syringes - so we get almost perfect C-key.
Firstly you have to sharpen slightly the edge of part 1 as you see at the picture. Use the same knife to do it, no file or sand paper. Take the A part, cut away a little stripe (about 1 mm) and mount it on the end of part 1 so that the slot was shifted over the edge approximately to 6 - 7 mm. Fix it with the hose clip. Later you can adjust this shift to get more hissing or more clear tone as you wish.

Step 7: Making the Tone Holes

Well, almost done now. Actually you could try to check the lowest note already, but do not hurry. If you have no practice in Quena or Shakuhachi playing - better start with higher notes, so it's time to make a tone holes.
Mark the holes position as figured at the picture, using the printed scale in milliliters. Start to cut with the light scratches, then repeat on and on until you get a through-holes. Never try to drill these holes, the polypropylene is not the best material for drilling - a lot of burrs are guaranteed. Sanding will not save the situation. That's why I choose the knife and rectangular tone holes.

Step 8: Trying to Play

As I said earlier, this Syringe Shaku-flute is not easy-to-play pipe. Sure, if you have some experience with Shakuhachi or Quena - just take it and play it right now, you're already know how to do it. If you can't produce any sound - don't worry, there are a lot of tips for newbies, try to search it, for example type "How to play Quena" in your browser, you shall find a tons of video manuals. Unfortunately I am bad teacher, but I can give just one hint - don't start with the lowest note, it's always difficult for newbies, begin to learn closing three holes with your left hand fingers - this way you should produce a clean and stable sound. The holes are large enough, so try to close them as tightly as possible. Have fun!