Many years ago one of my fellow Mucky Duck Bush Band members – the late Barry Halpin – made a flute for me from PVC pipe. It was a transverse Irish Simple System flute (6 – holes) that worked on the same fingering as a tin whistle.
Several house moves later and that flute is long gone. But recently I came across Doug Tipple’s instructions on how to make one of these flutes and decided to make a couple.
The internal diameter of Australian PVC piping is a little different from the measurements that Doug gives, but using a tuner I found that Doug’s measurements give a good approximation. Using his metric sizes on some 20mm pvc tubing I made a couple of quite passable and playable flutes. Here’s how I did it.
First, I bought two one-metre lengths of 20mm white pvc tubing. I cut it to the overall length of 570mm
Then I attached a length of masking tape along the length to prevent tearout when drilling the holes.
I measured 525mm from one end and drilled a 9.5mm hole for the embouchure (for blowing). I stopped one end with a cork and blew across the embouchure to find I could make a fairly decent C# – The taking the flute back to the mitre saw I took a couple of salami slices off the end away from the embouchure until I could get a consistent D – the total length was now 563mm.
Then I laid out the holes with the following measurements as measured from the bottom of the flute:
hole one = 98mm (8.0mm drill)
hole two = 137mm (11.0mm drill)
hole three = 166mm (9.5mm drill)
hole four = 223mm (8.0mm drill)
hole five = 260mm (9.5mm drill)
hole six = 297mm(9.5mm drill)
Before drilling, don’t forget to centre-punch the marks so the drill doesn’t wander on the curved surface. And the drill needs to run slowly to avoid tearout and chipping the pvc. As you drill each hole, you need to test the flute against a tuner and make adjustments to the hole to bring it into tune by slightly extending the hole into an oval to make it sharper.
Once you have the holes drilled and in tune you will need to clean up the edges with a half round needle file
You may want to file the embouchure hole into a slight D shape to make it easier to make the notes. But that’s all there is to it. With a bit of patience and careful measurement you can build one in about an hour – this flute cost me a total of AUS$3.70!
Click here to hear a scale played on this instrument – please note that I am not a flute player!