Making Pan flutes
Pan flutes have to have a long history. They are so simple and logical in concept that many primitive people with very few tools have conceived the idea and built them from natural materials for thousands of years. Straight forward and linear, one can learn to play in a very short time. However like anything musical instruments there are degrees of playing. Just 'playing', and 'playing well', are two different things. To play, meant to me that you can make music on it and it sounds good. Others can play along with you and it sounds good. You may even have listeners that think you are great. This i what i call 'playing'. This leads to 'playing well'. Somebody who can 'play well' can bring tears to your eyes with the beauty of the music and the tones they are able to coax from the instrument. People like Zamfir have mastered this art, and the natives of Andes mountains seem to have a soul for it. I just 'play'. i do not presume to think i 'play well' because it takes years not months to do that, but mostly because i do not impress myself yet. Unless i can impress myself with something, then i do not consider my self very good at it, what ever it may be. I have no idea if what i am doing is correct or not proper method because just like everything else i know, i taught myself. With nothing to draw upon, it is difficult to know any more than what you experience yourself in the process of discovery. These steps do produce a very pretty sounding instrument. And it is relatively simple for anybody with just a little ability and very few tools, to make these things. They are portable and you can bring your music any where you go.
All the pan pipes start out here. You need bamboo. The stuff i use is around 5/8" inside diameter. Some is a bit larger and some is a bit smaller but 5/8" inside diameter seems to work best. From what you see on the left above to what you see at right above only takes a couple days of relaxed labor to produce. Do not use "green" bamboo. The bamboo should be dry and completely matured. If you can find bamboo with long sections then this is better for making music. The longer the tube the lower the pitch. In the photo above "D" is the lowest tone for this set of pipes. I lucked out with this one because i found one section long enough that i did not have to have a nodal restriction (and possible divergence from straight) and have to make the tube from two sections; cleaning out the node between the sections. The node is the little wall between the bamboo sections and the nodal restriction is the narrowing of the inside diameter at these areas. When we must use a tube made from more than one section, then i use a long drill to open the passage and a special tool i made to scrape out the constriction to a straight through diameter.
Notice the angle face and the sharp edge of the leading edge above left picture of the scrapper end. The scrapper is nothing more than a 3/8" diameter steel rod with one end sharpened to scrape out the inner walls of the bamboo nodal areas. Above right shows how the pressure is applied so as to bring the sharp edge of the scrapper over the inner node while rotating. I continue this scrapping until the area in the node is the same size as the diameter in the rest of the tube. Some times i wrap sand paper or emery cloth around a wooden dowel and use it in a power drill to sand out this area as well. When we have all this done we end up with something like the lower right. A bunch of raw material.
The ends of the bamboo will be sawed just short of the node, as shown in the photo at lower left. Getting rid of the excess material and making a nice rounded end for the bottom of the tube is done by sanding. I just do it by hand on a belt sander as shown below right. Then i stack all these rounded off sections in the holder above for sizing. I sort them by diameters, not lengths because i will saw them to the lengths i need later on, after the ends are sealed off with the paraffin. The larger diameters will be used for the lower toned pipes and the smaller diameter tubes will be used for the shorter, higher pitched pipes. The next step is to seal off the soft, thin and porous nodal ends.
Once the ends are rounded over as shown above i immerse them in hot paraffin. Notice how the bamboo actually boils, like something dropped in hot fat. This is the moisture being boiled out of the bamboo, as the water leaves, the paraffin takes it's place. I actually suck on the open end like a straw to create a low pressure in side the tube, causing the hot wax to ooze through and seal the bottom of the tube air tight and water proof. I do this to all the tubes before cutting them to the rough lengths needed to produce the tones they are intended to play. Immediately after sealing the end of the tube this way, i wipe off the excess wax and then pour a bunch into the open end so as to coat the entire inside of the tube with paraffin. I pour about an inch or two into the tube and start rotating it while slowly tipping it over the paraffin pot. As i turn the tube the hot wax sloshes around the inside and soaks in. As i tip the tube while rotating the wax makes it's way to the open end and pours back into the pot. When it arrives there i know i have coated the entire tube. And i wipe off the excess again and wipe the entire tube down to clean any remaining wax away.
As i need tools, i make them. Here is a saw jig i made to cut up the tubes for the pan flutes. Notice on the right hand picture, the graduations on the jigs Vee are letters instead of numbers? These letters correspond to the notes that a tube that length will produce. The jig has a cross member, making it look like a big cross or something to fight vampires with. This cross piece slides smoothly in the groove in my table saw. (below left) All i need to do is drop a piece of sealed-end bamboo in the Vee, align the sealed end width the letter that represents the tone i want, and just push it into the saw as shown lower right. Bingo, i get a tube cut to produce the tone i need. I usually leave them about 1/4 " long or more so i can do the "fine adjustment" with a sander. From here on out, the length of the tube will depend on my electronic tuner and i do not want it to be too short. It is hard to make a tube longer. I can always cut off a bit, but hard to cut 'on' a bit.

Since you probably don't have a nice little saw jig like mine, i have developed a table of information on how long to cut your tubes by measuring off the lengths. You may find this table helpful for determining tube lengths regardless of tube diameter. The difference in pitch due to tube diameter is slight.

Finishing the pan flute