A tabor pipe is technically an ‘end blown’ flute. Tin whistles and recorders are well known examples. Holes along the length are covered with the fingers to produce various musical notes. A tabor pipe has just three holes, two on top and one underneath covered by the thumb. This allows it to be played with one hand, leaving the other hand free to beat a tabor – a small drum suspended from the arm or hand.
I have several tabor pipes in various keys, made of both wood and plastic. A friend recently loaned me a professionally made aluminium pipe in the key of ‘A’. I loved the sound but one had to blow really hard to obtain the notes in the second octave, which made it awkward (and exhausting!) to play.
I felt that I could make a better one. A plastic pipe in ‘A’ currently costs around £50, aluminium ones substantially more and only to special order. An outlay of £42.85 (including carriage) for sufficient aluminium to make several pipes seemed a good investment.
A flute works by directing a stream of air to the end of a tube, causing a vibration to be set up that produces a musical note.
The components consist of a length of tube (the actual pipe) and a mouthpiece body that contains a central plug and an inner sleeve. The sleeve has a slot along its length that forms the airway. Because the plug was tapered, a central hole was drilled and tapped and the taper turned on a screwed mandrel. A screw was made to plug the tapped hole on assembly. The airway is directed slightly upwards and this meant that the sleeve had to be tapered both on the outside diameter and inside the bore; bit tricky but was achieved without mishap. Photograph 2 shows the finished components ready for assembly prior to tuning (by reducing the overall length in small increments), drilling the finger holes and shaping the mouthpiece. Photograph 3 shows the finished pipe.
The end result was extremely rewarding, I love the sound and all possible notes are easily obtained. In fact it plays as well, if not better, than any other pipe that I have paid good (and sometimes much!) money for.
All the work was done on a small lathe in my garden shed workshop.
We’re often amazed by the variety of projects that customers use our metals for. Thank you Mark for sending in this impressive and very interesting instrumental addition to the blog.