Jumbo Sax Tootophone





Introduction: Jumbo Sax Tootophone

About: I'm a refugee from Los Angeles, living in backwoods Puerto Rico for about 35 years now and loving it. I built my own home from discarded nylon fishnet and cement.

The jumbo sax tootophone is a reed instrument.  The mouthpiece is the basic tootophone made of an insulin syringe.  (See my instructable   https://www.instructables.com/id/Tiny-Tootophone   to make the mouthpiece.)   This instructable deals with making the x-ray film body.  

I wanted to make a long horn, which involved bending itself up and down a few times to make it more compact and playable.  The areas where the pipe doubles back upon itself use an interesting solution for making the necessary bends.  There is undoubtedly more turbulence in the bends of this instrument than there is in the smooth bends of professional instruments.  It only costs a couple dollars to make, though, and it is so much fun to play that I'm willing to cut it a little slack in my critique.  

The use of rubber bands in combination with clothespins is also an interesting technique for holding the rolled up plastic while gluing it all together with silicone rubber.  They make adjustable, elastic clamps.  They would undoubtedly come in handy for other projects, and maybe deserve an instructable of their own -- simple but effective holding devices.  

Silicone rubber makes an excellent glue for this material.  I use hypodermic syringes with plastic tips for precise application of the silicone.  

Be sure to hear the audio sample of the jumbo sax tootophone in the last step.  

Step 1: Cleaning the X-ray Film

I got free rejected x-ray films from our local hospital.  You can get the image emulsion off of the film right away with a little water, a metal scouring pad and some elbow grease.  The scouring pad leaves scratches in the plastic, which may or may not be a problem.  

You can save yourself a lot of work by just letting them soak in water for a few weeks until the emulsion lets go of the plastic.  You can then wipe it off with a sponge, and the plastic is free from scratches.  

Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from whatever chemicals may be in the emulsion.  I saved the wash water, in hopes of someday reclaiming the silver in it, but have gotten nowhere with that idea yet.  

Step 2: Rolling the Tubes

Rolling up the plastic is just like rolling up a tube of paper, except it is much more springy, and it wants to unroll.  The tube diameter slowly increases from one end of the roll to the other.  I eyeball engineered the whole thing.  

In this case, I wanted the small end to fit inside a 1/2'' CPVC "T" fitting.  It was a little hard getting it rolled up that tightly, but it can be done.  

To keep the plastic from unrolling, I came up with the idea of rubber bands and clothespins to make easy tension adjustments.  This simple clamping devise would probably be useful to lots of inventors.  

Step 3: Gluing the Plastic With Silicone Rubber

Where sheets of plastic overlap, you can inject clear silicone rubber between them as a glue.  Silicone rubber doesn't stick well to some plastics, but it sticks like crazy to this kind. 

When the full grease gun cartridge of silicone is too awkward to maneuver, I use it to fill smaller syringes I get from the pet store.  They are used for feeding baby animals, I think.  The tip is conically shaped plastic.  You can cut it with a knife in different locations along the cone to get different size extrusions.   Inject the silicone from the big cartridge into the back of the syringe.  Leave some air in the front of the syringe, which will be expelled when the plunger enters from the back.  When filling the syringe, fill it all the way to the back of the syringe, so as to not trap air when you insert the plunger.  

Note the washer around the syringe, which is used to give more area for the fingers to press against.  Be careful to not press too hard too long with your thumb on the plunger or you may get thumb pain.  More pressure can be gained by using the palm of the hand on the plunger and squeezing the hand.  

Once you get some silicone injected under the edge of the film, use some masking tape to hold it down firmly until the silicone dries.  Large paper clips are also useful for holding layers of film together.  

Step 4: Making the Bends

The rolled up sections join at their ends to make something similar to a "U" joint.  It is not a perfectly smooth channel inside for redirecting the air flow, so there is bound to be more turbulence than in professional instruments.  Since I don't have two physical samples, I can't test how the sounds from each would compare.  I did't hear anything bad resulting from turbulence, though, so I just kept going.  I didn't have any better ideas as to how to make the bends.  

The ends of both tubes to be joined are cut down one side a bit further than the diameter of the tube.  Then there is a side cut to half way on either side of the first cut.  The cut looks like a "T".  

When cut, the two flaps spring outward.  The flaps from both tubes are brought together and held with big paper clips for gluing, creating a large oval, instead of the two circles.  The section that plugs the end of that oval is a longer, elliptical shape.  Two holes are punched in the sides of the oval and a straight wire is inserted through them.  The elliptical plug section bends to go over the wire and spring out against the inside wall of the oval area.  Once you hold it in place with a little silicone, it is going nowhere.  Remove the wire and patch up the glue job.  I like the way the plug curves, hopefully making less turbulence for the flow of air than a flat cap might create.

At the other end of the joint area, you will find two basically triangular holes that need to be filled with some cut pieces of film to prevent air leakage.  I used tweezers to hold the patches and the syringe to glue them in place.  

Condensation builds up inside of wind instruments, so it helps to make a little drain hole at the bottom of the bends for water to escape from.  The tiny drain holes don't affect the sound much.  

Step 5: Various Assembly Shots

These are just some shots of assembly details.   The jewel-like effect of this material suggests other possible uses for sculpture, or lighting fixtures.  

Step 6: CPVC Mouthpiece Attachments

CPVC water pipe is like PVC water pipe, except it can be used with hot water.  The 1/2" diameter CPVC pipe is smaller than 1/2" PVC pipe.  I use it because the caps that the syringes come with fit nicely inside 1/2" CPVC.  The caps, with holes cut in them for air flow are held in place with a #9 rubber "O" ring pressed between them and the walls of the CPVC fitting, using another section of pipe to push them in with.  

By opening and closing the open hole in the "T", one can get wah-wah effects and adjust the pitch of notes.  

Some of the parts assembly shots are borrowed from my Tootophone Sax and Trumpet instructable.                     https://www.instructables.com/id/Tootophone-Sax-and-Trumpet .  The jumbo sax tootophone uses one "T", one 45 degree bend, and one short straight piece of pipe to connect them.  I drill a little breather hole in the 45 degree fitting.  In effect, that prevents the wah-wah hole from ever being completely closed, which can create some playing problems for some notes.  

Step 7: String Shoulder Strap

The jumbo sax tootophone is not very heavy, but it is a little bulky.  A strap is handy sometimes so on can let go of the instrument and do other things with the hands. 

I found an appropriate attachment point that let the instrument hang the way I wanted it, and put a nylon cord loop at that point to tie onto with the strap.  The loop is attached just by fraying the ends of the cord and working the loose fibers into a tangled mess inside the silicone.  That way, the string can't pull out of the silicone.  And like I said, silicone sticks like crazy to this x-ray plastic.  

Tie the string shoulder strap, as long as you need it to the loop and you are ready to go.  

Step 8: Playing Tips


The above link is a Youtube video I made for the basic tootophone, the same as the mouthpiece for the jumbo sax tootophone.  One nice thing about tootophones is that you can break the bodies down, or add on to them to get different voices.   In the video, with just the mouthpiece, you use the hands to enclose a ball of air at the end of the tootophone body and create the wah-wah effect by opening and closing one's fingers.   

The jumbo sax tootophone uses the open hole in the "T" fitting and one finger to play it and create the wah-wah effects.  

Try to keep the reed dry while you play.  Saliva gums up the works and makes you stop playing to blow it out.  Bend the lower lip in over the lower teeth and rest the reed on the dry, outer side of the lip.  

Playing fluency comes with practice.  The high notes are the tough ones.  Practice a lot and you build up the facial muscles needed to get them easily.  

Tootophones are played by ear, so listen carefully to the sounds you make to polish up your pitch precision.  

Step 9: Hear the Jumbo Sax Tootophone

Click on the icon below, that looks like a dog-eared piece of paper and it should open an audio MP3 file.    Hope you enjoy it.  



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    28 Discussions

    I love how creative you are! What you do is simply amazing! Keep it up!


    4 years ago

    I love this! I would like to know if controlling the tootophone without hands is easy enough like the kazoo. I would love to incorporate this in my one man homemade instrument band.

    1 reply

    Yes, you can play any melody with just the mouth. The hands help out (more open for the high notes; closed for more resistance and the low notes), but they are not necessary. It is not a kazoo. It is played a lot like singing, only without using the vocal chords. The Adam's apple goes up for the high notes, and down for the low notes, like singing.

    Jumbo Tootophone, aka the "Poor Man's Contrabass Saxophone"

    I like it! this is more my style!

    I love the "Tootophone" concept and the jumbo sax looked interesting, but I was disappointed at the tone. Just a bit too tinny for a sax. I think this is because of the x-ray film, and I have issues with that as well. I think the only thing going for it is the recycling aspect (not a small thing!) and the gorgeous sic-fi/modern art look to the instrument when completed. Other than that, obtaining it and cleaning it is bothersome.

    The film is what makes the sax tinny, I am thinking that a PVC sax might develop the deepness that the x-film one lacks.

    6 replies

    Any time you make a change to the body, you make a change to the sound. I would like to hear a tootophone orchestra someday with a variety of voices, like a human choir.

    I know the tinny quality you are talking about. Personally, I find the Jumbo Sax to be the least tinny of the varieties I have made. I have made some with PVC bodies, and they are still tinny. So, I would say the film is not what makes the tinniness, although the body material does affect the sound.

    Changing the reed material from x-ray film to silicone rubber, for example, cuts down on the tinniness, but has side effects, like limiting the range of high notes. It creates some incredible base notes, too. I guess, for one thing, that the silicone reeds are heavier and

    The Jumbo Sax, with all the length of body didn't really perform as I would have expected -- with deeper, more resonant base notes. Compared to my smaller sax tootophone, the jumbo sax's maximum volume is lower, while the note range is similar. Perhaps the muting affects certain frequencies more than others, because I find it less tinny, also.

    I was just speculating on the source of the tinny-ness. It appears that the reed is the key to what kind of sound you get and the body of tubes is then just a resonator for it. I can't say because I have a tin ear (sorry, could not help it) and know little of making music.

    The orchestra idea is a great one, especially given the diversity of designs possible--one person producing a low note instrument, another mid-range, another high, etc.. Like Karaoke, no musical ability really needed other than the ability to follow a tune with others. It would make for a fascinating concert!

    Yes, the tinniness probably is in the reed. If you play the mouthpiece with no body extensions of any material, it is tinny. I find the regular "bamboo" reeds to be stiffer material, then the plastics, then the rubber. I lean toward the plastic ones, mostly because I find them easier to play than the bamboo reeds. The rubber reeds have a tendency to shift sideways, which can kill the sound.

    It all probably has to do with denseness, springiness, and perhaps the impact of the reed material on the mouthpiece, as sort of a percussive overtone to the "pure" note vibration. Maybe the mouthpiece material has something to do with it, too, if there is a percussive overtone.

    So now we have three different reed concepts: bamboo, plastic and rubber, with each imposing different constraints on the sound produced. I think we can agree that the best is bamboo given that it has been in use for centuries. That said, the bamboo is the most difficult to use, the most expensive, etc.

    Why not combine the stiffness of the plastic with the mellow-ness of the rubber? I am thinking of that silicone stuff (name escapes me for the moment) that is popular here. Maybe use the plastic as the shaper and stiffener and the rubber as the dampener, which is what is needed as "tinny" is high frequency.

    We think similarly. My favorite reeds are actually of combined materials, x-ray film laminated with a layer of silicone rubber. The silicone sticks well to the film. I squeeze some out on the film, cover it with paper, which lets the silicone vapors escape through the paper, and roll it down with a printmaking roller until it is a minimal layer. When the silicone dries I use water to dissolve and rub off the paper. The reeds are less tinny than straight x-ray film, but still tinny.

    I have only tried laminating to one side of the film. It would be a worthwhile experiment to try laminating both sides.

    I don't think that "tinny" is just high frequency. Like most instrumental sounds, there is the dominant frequency and also overtones. A flute can create high frequencies without sounding tinny, so I would suspect the tinniness is in the overtones.

    Sometimes I toot while wearing ear protectors while working. The volume is muted, but the notes are cleaner in a way, too. Perhaps, the higher overtones tend to be deleted by the ear protectors more than the lower ones.

    I wish I had more different materials to experiment with.

    By the way, bamboo has been around probably as long as humans have been, but plastics and synthetic rubber are new materials, so length of use is no measure of which is best. As far as bamboo goes, I don't like it that you have to moisten it and keep it moist, that it splits, and that you have to keep replacing it. The sound is nice, but I usually prefer to think along the line of "different but not necessarily any better or worse".

    I played around reshaping a regular sax reed to fit my tooters without a great deal of success. Anyway, even if seen as a family of tinny instruments, tooters are so cheap, fun, and I think easy to play that they should definitely have a place in music. If they are more compatible with other tooters than with standard instruments then one can adapt to that. Let there be tootophone bands.

    I'm glad you can imagine it. I wish other could too, especially locally. The band is really slow materializing.

    At least when the aliens, zombies, and whatever else befalls us, we will have instrument makers.
    I played the piece for my 80 year old mother to see if she knew it.
    She said it sounds familiar. Is it Bennie James? I said I don't know, sounds like two women talking to me. :)
    Nice Job!

    1 reply

    Thanks. If you want to play too, here is where to start: https://www.instructables.com/id/Tiny-Tootophone

    As kids when we were allowed to carry pocket knives we used to make something similar called locally a Kek whistle made from a cow parsley stem and a blade of grass. It didn't last long and sounded more like a duck caller but it worked on the same principle.

    1 reply

    Thanks for the info. Someone else mentioned something similar made from a goose feather. I guess the shaft of the feather is a hollow tube. All the reed instruments probably evolved out of similar humble origins.

    About reclaiming the silver out of the emultion:

    An uncle of mine did exactly that for a living near 20years ago, the process involved lots of hazardous chemical and heat wich eventualy brings ultratoxic fumes, sum all this with a poor ventilated room and you can imagine what you get.

    My uncle whas diagnosticated with some sort of very rare disease known as Castelman Disease that i think is very related to those years of sylver hunting.

    If you wan't to do it for fun and just for knowledge and personal satisfacition i think a well ventilated area is a must. Just dont get greed in the process (the sylver fever)

    1 reply

    Thanks. I think I may just mix all the waste water with cement and make a nice rock out of it.

    I think daylight savings is already starting to affect me. I thought this said "Jumbo Sax Toothophone"...

    2 replies

    Damn dyslexia.. I was laughing at a book in the kids section in the library the other week.. "Erotic Animals" Then it was pointed out to me that it was called "Exotic Animals"