How to Make a PVC Clarinet

By Darby Stevenson ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Respirator safety mask
  • 15-inch long 1/2-inch thickness schedule 40 PVC pipe
  • Measuring tape in millimeters
  • Pencil
  • Hacksaw
  • Sandpaper
  • Electric drill
  • Drill bits in the following sizes: 3.5 mm, 5 mm, 10 mm, 8 mm and 7 mm
  • 3/4- to 1/2-inch reducing PVC coupler
  • Soprano clarinet mouthpiece
  • Electricians tape
Amaze your friends by making a working clarinet from PVC in a single afternoon.

Clarinets have been in existence since the early 18th century. Clarinets have the widest available range of pitches and sizes among all woodwind instruments. Traditionally, clarinets are made of hardwood; however, today, there are inexpensive models made from plastic. If you'd like to experiment with instrument building, try your hand at a clarinet made of PVC pipe. A "D"-tuned clarinet can be made with a 375 mm piece of half-inch thick PVC plus a reducing coupler and soprano clarinet mouthpiece.

Put on the respiratory mask before drilling, as PVC dust can be hazardous. Measure 375 mm along the PVC pipe, making a pencil mark at this location. Cut the pipe with the hacksaw, being careful to cut a straight line. Smooth out the edges with sandpaper.

Measure 299 mm from the cut end of the PVC toward the end where the mouthpiece will be. Make a pencil mark on the backside of the instrument. Now measure 290 mm from the far end, making another pencil mark directly below the first one. These will be the holes covered by your thumb.

Measure 262 mm from the bottom and make a mark, this time on the front of the clarinet. Measure 234 mm from the bottom and make another mark. Make six more marks at 216 mm, 191 mm, 161 mm, 121 mm, 124 mm, 105 mm and 68 mm, always measuring from the bottom. These marks indicate the clarinet holes.

Put a 3.5 mm bit in the electric drill. Drill holes through the two marks on the back, being careful to stop when you've gone through the layer of PVC and reach the center of the pipe.

Change the 3.5 mm bit for the 6 mm bit. Drill a hole at the topmost pencil mark on the front side.

Use a 5 mm bit to drill a hole through the second mark down top on the front.

Replace with a 10 mm bit and drill the hold on the third pencil mark from the top front and through the second mark from the bottom front.

Use an 8 mm bit and drill holes through the fourth and fifth marks from the top on the front.

Use with a 7 mm bit and drill through the remaining two marks.

Push the reducing coupling onto the top of the clarinet where the mouthpiece will be.

Push the soprano clarinet mouthpiece into the coupling.

Tip

If the coupling doesn't make an airtight fight with the clarinet body, wrap two to three rounds of electricians tape around the top of the body and push the coupling on. If the mouthpiece does not fit the top of the coupling, carefully sand away some of the diameter from inside the PVC pipe with a piece of sandpaper. Your first clarinet may not be perfectly in tune. Experiment with more models by making wider or thinner holes.

About the Author

Darby Stevenson began writing in 1997 for his high-school newspaper, the "Alsea Valley Voice," which won him statewide awards for Best Feature Article and Best Personality Interview. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies and a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies from the University of Oregon.