PVC Pipe Organ

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Introduction: PVC Pipe Organ

About: 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 a lot of fun with.

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

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.

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

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

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!

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.

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    82 Discussions

    How long were the pipes?

    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.

    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?

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

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

    1 reply

    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.

    1 reply

    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.

    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?

    1 reply

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

    1 reply

    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.

    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.

    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!