Making a "good enough" didjeridu to learn with - Ed Drury
When I first started teaching didjeridu classes in 1994, one of the first problems I had to solve was not a shortage of people who were interested, but the perception that they would have to spend at least $200 to get an instrument suitable for learning on. There were some alternatives for learners available from shops who sold painted pieces of plumbing pipes for $50. Still, my goal in setting up the classes, writing my booklet and doing workshops was to try to assure that anyone who desired to learn how to play would have an opportunity to do so and not be thwarted by the lack of an instrument, lack of instruction or lack of money. The "quick fix" was to make plastic pipes which were more attractive and easier to play than the ones available in the local shops for $50 and make them available for $15 to $20. Even then, I knew that there were even cheaper ways to get up and circular breathing. I had taught my self the initial stages of droning on my vacuum cleaner wands and made quantum jump in sound when I invested about $5 in a ten foot piece of ABS pipe from the corner hardware store. Even at that time, I already had a lovely traditional didj which I paid over $200 but was very hard to play by comparison.
The purpose of the information here is to make the prospective student aware of just a few inexpensive very basic methods available for making a learner's instrument with an investment of no more than $20 and less than a day's time. This means, I won't get into all the elaborate (and sometimes dangerous, or environmentally unsound) practices of trying to make the ultimate "concert" quality synthetic didjeridu. Nor will I touch on the sacred art of selecting, harvesting and preparing a traditional one. This means I will deal with materials both natural and man made, which easily modified into a pipe of about 1 to 2 inches in diameter and about 3.5 to 4.5 feet in length. And can be made playable quickly so that you can begin to learn before you write that first big check or give our that credit card number to start your collection of fine authentic Aboriginal didjeridus which we all want to have. While I've played most every kind of didj made from every possible material, the best didjeridus in the world are still made by the best players in the world, the first Australians and keeper of the musical traditions and spiritual life which is at the very heart of this most popular sound. The sound which draws you to these web pages popping up all over the world.
-Ed Drury 1999

PASTIC PIPE

 Most people find it easy to start with plastic pipe. It' reasonably inexpensive, washable, durable and really pretty good sounding. My local hardware store was happy to cut it to four feet in length for me and just charge me a 4/10ths of the cost of the ten foot sections that they sell for $5.98. However a larger home building supply place will usually sell this same pipe for under $4 for a ten foot section. I generally recommend using schedule 40 PVC white plastic pipe which is 1.5 inches in diameter. This pipe is commonly available. Here are some possible pipes you can easily find to use to construct your didjeridu :

Plastic Pipe I have used
Material Diameter Advantages, comments and tips                                                                
Scd. 40 PVC 1.25"  No need for mouthpiece, easy to circ breath on, hard to vocalize through
Sch 40 PVC 1.5"  Nice full sound, need to narrow one end with beeswax or adaptor
Sch 40 PVC 2.0"  Lots of beeswax to make mouthpiece,  great for vocals, takes a little more air
ABS 1.5" Same as Schd 40 1.5, thinner walled, lighter, good sound, more toxic
ABS 2.0"  See ABS 1.5 and Schd 40 2"
200psi PVC 1.5 Good one, as thin walled, not as toxic a mater as ABS, cheap 

 You can spend about an extra two bucks and get a 1.5" to 1.25 " female/female reducer coupling can be used for the mouth end and your work is basically done, your ready to blow. If you use 2" diameter pipe, you can get a 2" to 1 " female/female reducer coupling. If want to spend even less and have little softer more natural feeling mouthpeice, you can acquire some good beeswax and make a beeswax mouthpiece.

 Break off a comfortable-sized piece of beeswax and roll it in your hands until it is warm and pliable (you can put some in a zip lock baggy and put hot water, lay in hot sun or even place on a dish in the microwave for a couple of minutes, I have used all three methods) or flame to help soften it, and smear it on the flat edge of the node at the mouthpiece end, building up a mouthpiece of your desired shape (I prefer a rounded circle , experiment on own here) a layer at a time or roll into a snake and mold around the top.

     _____________________________________________________________
   /|                                                             
         
   \|_____________________________________________________________
   ^ mouthpiece (Beeswax or reduction fitting)
   

 A quick trip to the hardware store and you can get enough pieces to put together
didjeridus. Buy a few joints, some pipe and a even a ready to slip on mouthpiece as 
shown below. You can even get pieces to connect different sizes of pipe together
so you can have a bell. And you can just connect elbow to elbow to elbow together
to make a spiral shaped didj as in the one on the right hand side of the
table in the picture below.


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Bamboo

 First, select a good piece of bamboo - fairly well-cured (don't pick a piece that seems green - they'll be more prone to cracking) and without any visible cracks. Cut it to your desired length (I recommend between 3.5 feet and 4 feet for beginners).

Using either a straight-backed hand wood saw (e.g. a mitre saw) or a power table or mitre saw. You might want to score around the outside of the bamboo lightly with your saw first to reduce splintering it.

Cut the mouthpiece end of the didj right at a node in the bamboo.

Cut the other end of the didj right above a node (leaving the inter-node space on the didj, and cutting the node off).

At this point you need to clear out the nodes from the bamboo. It is important to not leave any significant pieces of nodes blocking the airway, but the goal is NOT to have perfectly smooth sides either, as the nodes add a certain quality to the sound. If you knock the nodes out until the passageway is round and fairly clear at each node, that should good. You can use a piece of steel rebar (the kind of steel bar they use for re-enforcing concrete - you can purchased a five-foot piece at a hardware store to knock the nodes out. Depending on the length and inner diameter of your piece of bamboo, you may also be able to use a broomstick.

Once you have your didj cut to size, you may wish to smooth the edges of the cuts - a pocketknife to round the edges, and a piece of medium-grit or fine-grit sandpaper is but one way which works very well.

At this point, depending on the piece of bamboo, you may be done - if you have a nice thick node at the mouthpiece end, and the inner diameter is not too large, and you round the edges out nicely, you may not need a beeswax mouthpiece at all.

If you do, which is likely, you'll need to acquire some good beeswax. Break off a comfortable-sized piece of beeswax and roll it in your hands until it is warm and pliable (you can put some in a zip lock baggy and put hot water, lay in hot sun or even place on a dish in the microwave for a couple of minutes, I have used all three methods) or flame to help soften it, and smear it on the flat edge of the node at the mouthpiece end, building up a mouthpiece of your desired shape (I prefer a rounded circle , experiment on own here) a layer at a time or roll into a snake and mold around the top.

     _____________________________________________________________
   /|                                                             
                         \/                    \/
Mouthpiece              node                  node            
                         /\                    /\                 
   \|_____________________________________________________________
   ^beeswax mouthpiece
    

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