Building a PVC Instrument

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*†††††††††† Phase II: The tubes

*†† What to buy

Surely by now youíve decided on a tube size.I would recommend 2-inch or 2Ĺ-inch pipe, but, again, itís your choice.Just remember that wider pipe means louder sound.You can buy either PVC or ABS; theyíre pretty much the same, except for color.PVC is white and ABS is black.

As for how much to buy, remember your length calculations.Add all the tubes up, and then add the length of your longest tube again (to adjust for wasted pipe).Round the figure up to the nearest ten (not tenth) and thatís how much pipe youíll need.

If youíve decided to use elbows, youíll need to count how many you need and add that to your list.

Again, I advise that you read the rest of this guide before you actually go out and purchase these items; you may need some extra things not listed here.

*†† Cutting techniques

I would recommend that you use a quality chop-saw to cut these tubes.Itís probably the best choice for speed, cut quality, and safety.The next safest option (albeit slower and lower quality) is hand sawing, preferably with a hacksaw.And as a last resort you can use one of those handheld power saws (you know, the ones the people on Rescue 9-1-1 use for removing pesky limbs).

If you do decide to hand saw these, remember to cut slowly and as straight as possible.

*†† Pipe elbows ó the beautiful burden

In building my own instrument, we found that pipe elbow lengths are excessively hard to calculate.Sure, one could attempt to calculate the length of these using geometry (or string), but the measurements are most commonly rather crude and inaccurate.†† My recommendation to you would be this:

Build your elbowed tube completely, except for the end piece.Estimate what length you have already (string works great for this) and find out what the end tubeís length should be.Add a good 5 or 6 inches to that, and cut the tube.Then cut it down until it matches one of the notes you want.

If you are building several tubes like the one you tuned, simply use relative measurements (i.e. ďThe next tube is three inches longer than the one I already made, so Iíll just copy it and extend one of the tube segments by three inches.Ē).

*†† Tuning

Though Iíve already gone over tuning in two sections already, Iíll reiterate.

To tune a tube:

1.      Cut the tube to the exact length shown by your length table.

2.      Check the tube against a known good musical source (piano works best, otherwise guitar/clarinet/cimbalom)

3.      If itís perfect, then yell ĎWoohoo!í and continue to the next tube.

4.      If itís too low, cut off a bit and try again.

5.      If itís too high, pretend youíre making the next highest note and tune it to that one.

1.      Once youíve got it right, RECALCULATE THE SPEED OF SOUND in your table (for procedure go to Phase I).This will certify that the next tube will be right on.


On to Phase III: The stand

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This guide is Copyright © 2001 Nathan True; All Rights Reserved.

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