Experimental PVC Shakuhachi Part 2

It's the very next day after my previous blog, which is certainly a personal best for me. I've actually managed to pretty much make the whole shakuhachi today so I'm feeling rather pleased with myself. Materials used:

1m PVC pipe (25mm dia) - the outer shell of the shakuhachi.
1m PVC pipe (20mm dia) - the insert to mimic the tapered bore.
1 pipe connector (25mm) - to form the mouthpiece.

Total cost: About 700 yen / 5 quid

First I glued and jammed the connector onto the 25mm pipe, then marked around to cut it off. (The other half can be used for another shakuhachi later).

Here it is with the end cut off, and the other end cut to the correct length.

Next I cut the 20mm pipe to the right length for the insert and cut out the shape with a mini hacksaw (see previous blog for details on how I designed the template).

Here's the finished insert. The little rings of pipe which I left attached are to keep the inner pipe pressed against the outer pipe - I put them in places where bamboo nodes can naturally form, to hopefully imitate the slight nodes in a jinashi shakuhachi (one which is made more simply, with no internal lacquer).

Here's the insert being wedged into the outer pipe...

Once it was in and flush with the bottom end of the shakuhachi, I started work on the mouthpiece, chopping away at it with a hacksaw, some sandpaper, a rasp and a small file.

Then I put some stickers on in the right locations for the holes (measured from my shakuhachi Yuu and scaled up). I moved the stickers around the flute a bit (keeping the same distance from the end of course) until I could comfortably fit them under my fingers.

The next step was to drill the holes in the shakuhachi. This all went according to plan BUT the flute was sounding flat! I think I didn't compensate for the two layers of pipe - effectively doubling the thickness of the wall and therefore the depth of the holes. So I had to make the holes larger... I ground away at them and checked against a tuner until it was pretty much in tune. It sounds nice, but the big holes make it a little harder to play.

I'm going to practise for a few days and then post a video...


  1. How beautifully clear and concise. A perfectly illustrated account of how to make an instrument of the air, reaching back over the centuries with minimal outlay - except in aesthetic sensitivity and musicianship! Brilliant!


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