Homemade PVC Flute

by Brenda Priddy
A simple flute similar to this one can be made from plumber's piping.

A simple flute similar to this one can be made from plumber's piping.

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While standard flutes are made from metal or wood, many inexpensive flutes for practice are made of plastic. A useful practice flute can be made from PVC piping used in plumbing. ABS pipes can contain chemicals that are unsafe to breathe, but a PVC or CPVC flute, when carefully crafted, can make real music and prepare a would-be player for an eventual upgrade to a standard flute.

Basic Materials

One common kind of PVC flute is pitched in G, and has a large blowing hole, or mouth hole, and six finger holes. To make one, you'll need a piece of PVC pipe that's about 16 inches long and 3/4 of an inch in diameter. You also will need an end cap that fits over the pipe, which you will secure with plastic cement. In addition, you will need a drill with a 1/4-inch drill bit, rough-grit sandpaper, a small, sharp knife and a 1/2-inch wood dowel rod.

Planning

Draw a diagram of the flute onto a piece of paper before starting; it's a good idea to draw it to scale so you can place it over the actual pipe when you're making the flute. Indicate on the drawing where the mouth hole will be and where the other six holes, which are for your fingers, will be. Indicate how big the holes will be and where they will be drilled on the pipe.

Drilling Finger Holes

Counting from the actual end of the pipe (without the cap), drill a 3/8-inch hole just under 7 inches from the end and the second 3/8-inch hole at 8 inches. Place the third hole a little over 9 inches away from the end, and 25 degrees up from the first two holes, creating a slightly uneven line. Drill the fourth hole (make it 11/32) at 10-3/4 inches, and in line with the first two holes. Drill the fifth (7/16) 11-1/2 inches from the end and up 10 degrees from fourth hole, and the sixth (5/16) 12-3/4 inches from the end, and in line with holes 1, 2, and 4.

Drilling the Mouth Hole

Place the end cap on the left end of the pipe, securing it with plastic cement. Drill a 7/16ths-of-an-inch hole about 5/16ths from the end, cutting through the cap and the base pipe. Drill through the pipe slowly to prevent the plastic from getting stuck in the drill bit. Allow the glue to dry 24 hours.

Cleaning

Push a dowel rod through the end of the flute to loosen any dust from inside the flute. You can also wash it in water. Use a small, sharp knife to smooth the inside of each hole. Use sandpaper to smooth any remaining rough edges. Make sure the flute is completely dust-free to avoid breathing in pieces of plastic when using the flute.

Playing

The flute uses a G scale, which contains the notes G, A, B, C, D, E and F-sharp. All of the notes except the F-sharp are played by placing the fingers in the middle of the holes. To make the F-sharp, cover all the holes but only half of the last hole. You can play two separate octaves by changing the direction of the breath blown across the mouth hole.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images