Pipe Organ Pipes Introduction

As stated in the last post, I began my work on the pipe organ by experimenting with the pipes themselves.

Organ pipes come in many different materials, sizes, and sounds. Some contain brass reeds to sound like trumpets and horns, others are made of lead and tin, creating a pure and constant tone. I will only be explaining a third type, called flue pipes, as that is what I used on my organ, and are the simplest to build. Flue pipes work like a flute or recorder, and are commonly made of a hardwood.

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This picture may show a metal pipe, but the design is relatively the same to a wooden pipe.

1. The resonating pipe. This part of the pipe determines the tone the pipe plays when blown. The shorter it is, the sharper the pitch.

2.The upper lip. The most important part of this section is the lower edge, where the wind-sheet is cut in half. half of this airstream is left to resonate in the pipe, and the other half is released into the atmosphere.

3. The languid. This flat section pushes air to the front edge of the pipe. It is slightly shorter than the diameter of the pipe, allowing air to only leave from a small sliver.

4.The lower lip. This section works with the languid to push the air into an even, flat stream. The distance between the lower lip and the upper lip is called the mouth height.




Here are some pictures of actual real organ pipes:


All organ pipes rely on how large the wind-sheet is and how large the mouth height is. Generally speaking, larger pipes have larger wind-sheets and longer mouth heights, but every pipe in my experience needs to be individually sounded.

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To make my very first prototype, I cut up an old school id card and some used flashcards. I made this using a tutorial I found on youtube, by a guy making an organ out of cardboard. Sadly this first prototype did not even make a sound. In hindsight, I realize that the upper lip can not just be folded up like that, and would have done better if I had fully removed the flap.

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I continued my experimentation by creating rectangular pipes. And these actually played pretty well! As you can see, I was varying the width to height ratios.

With my success at making a playing pipe, albeit a poor quality one, I had to decide how I should make the pipes for the actual organ. My options included:

Wooden Pipes:


  • Easy to build
  • Sound great
  • Have a nice, classic look


  • Very Expensive

PVC Pipes:


  • Cheap
  • Have a decent sound


  • Look cheap

As a broke high-school student, I felt the low cost per pipe of the PVC outweighed their looks. I began my work on the PVC pipes.


Inspiration/Introduction to Pipe Organ

I was introduced to the idea of making a pipe organ in a couple ways. Unlike being inspired by one thing, many different inspirations kind of piled on top of one another and pushed me to make a commitment for the project.

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Around the summer of last year, I began to follow an engineer-turned-woodworker on youtube named Matthias Wandel. His channel includes a variety of different project and tips that he come up with. As I devoured his hundreds of videos, one stood out to me especially. In college, Matthias created a wooden pipe organ with four octaves of pipes. This interested me partly because its just a cool idea and mostly because I had a musical void that needed filling, as I opted to drop my wind ensemble class to join an engineering one. I began researching more, going onto his website for for information.

After I watched Matthias’s video, I wondered if I could possibly do it myself. I had what I thought was a large amount of tools (a chop saw, two cordless drills, and a skill saw), and a I was expecting a good couple hundred dollars from a summer job I was doing. However, I did not go through the idea that summer.

Other inspirations include Wintergatan’s viral marble machine, which to me was a perfect example of a musical instrument on a budget, and a book called Organ Building for Amateurs by Mark Wicks. This book was written in 1887, a fact that many others and I only discovered after the author made unhappy remarks towards then-created electric actions.wintergatan-marble-machine.jpg

I don’t remember if I committed myself to building the organ, and started by experimenting with pipes, or if I began experimenting with pipes, which spiraled me to commit to the whole organ. Either way, I starting researching and experimenting with organ pipe designs. I will continue with this topic in the next post.

Stay tuned!

Alex Kristoffersen’s Project Blog

This blog will include write-ups, progress reports, and general tangents of mine. I may not post consistently, and save large amounts of new information for one post.

My first posts will be about my homemade pipe organ project. As I am nearing full completion currently, I will have to go back and write posts about my past experiences. I will try to give an accurate description of the troubles and successes I had as I was making the organ. I will post a lot of pictures and credit those that helped me!