Paper Mache/PVC Didgeridoo

This handmade didgeridoo (didge, for short) was made with a 4′ section of 1 1/2″ ABS plastic plumbing pipe, covered with paper mache and then painted. I finished mine in one day.

You buy the pipe at the hardware or plumbing store in standard 10′ lengths, so you will have enough material for two didgeridoos.

Since you have enough material for two instruments, you might want to check out this website, which gives you the math you need for another pitch. Who knows – maybe you could start your own didge band.

(Did you know that blowing a didge has been shown to help people who suffer from sleep apnea? Probably because you strengthen muscles inside your throat that you don’t normally use. )

Painting the Paper Mache
Painting the Paper Mache

A traditional didge has a mouthpiece made from bee’s wax. I didn’t want to bother with that – it sounded kind of messy. Instead, I used another item from the plumbing store, a rubber pipe connector. And this one item will give you enough material for two mouthpieces.

You can buy both the 10’  piece of ABS pipe and the rubber connector for less than $10.00, and for this amount you get two didgeridoos. Pretty nice, eh?

So, let’s get down to it.

Cutting the pipe.

First, cut your ABS 1 1/2″ pipe 4′ long, using a saw.

Next, use some sandpaper to smooth the rough edges that the saw made on the ends. Use a mask when you sand – you don’t want plastic dust in your lungs.

Now you need to find a way to hold the pipe up off your table so you can add paper mache. I found that it worked really well to place the pipe over the end of my garden rake. Then the pipe will stand up without falling over.

The cardboard from inside a used-up roll of masking tape was placed over the rake handle first, to keep the plastic off the dirty rake. (You’ll need to use a bit of tape to hold it in place).

The paper mache.

Now make up some paper mache paste by mixing about a cup of white flour with enough water to make it the consistency of heavy cream. Then dip one side of a strip of newspaper into the bowl of paste, pull it against the side of the bowl to remove the excess, and paste it around your pipe.

Continue to paste strips onto the pipe until it is completely covered. I put only one layer on my didge, but you can add more if you want.

To be honest, you could make a perfectly nice painted didgeridoo without the paper mache, and just paint the plastic. However, I hate painting on plastic myself. And the paper mache adds just enough texture to make the finished instrument seem a little more life-like. Besides, this is a paper mache blog…

The mouthpiece.

While your paper mache layer is drying you can  make your mouthpiece.

The mouthpiece will form a tight seal around your mouth so you can blow a raspberry into the pipe and make your didge sing. For the mouthpiece you’ll need a rubber pipe connector. Be sure you buy a connector that fits your pipe.

Rubber Pipe Connector
Rubber Pipe Connector

The connector comes with two metal thingies that are meant to hold the rubber connector to a plastic pipe. Since they’re ugly, we won’t be using them.

You’ll need to use a box cutter to cut your connector in half. The knife is dangerous, so you must be careful with this step if you want to keep all your fingers. I found that it was easier to hold it if I slipped the connector over the end of a piece of scrap pipe. Draw a line in the middle of your connector, and then cut the two pieces apart.

Cutting the Connector
Cutting the Connector

Now, being even more careful, you’ll need to shape the cut edge so it fits around your mouth. After the mouthpiece fits snugly, use some sandpaper to smooth all the edges. Use your mask so you don’t get rubber dust in your lungs.

Shaping the Mouthpiece
Shaping the Mouthpiece

The rubber connectors are made slightly larger than the outside diameter of your pipe, but we won’t be using the metal things that plumbers use to tighten them together. To make a tighter fit, use some masking tape or plumber’s tape around the very top of your didge, putting it on over the dry layer of paper mache. Keep trying the mouthpiece on to see if the fit is tight enough. Then put your mouthpiece aside until after you’ve finished painting your new didgeridoo.

Adding Tape to Make the Mouthpiece Fit
Adding Tape to Make the Mouthpiece Fit

Adding the design.

Painted Paper Mache Didgeridoo
Painted Paper Mache Didgeridoo

Now all that’s left is to paint your didgeridoo.

Before painting your design, lightly sand your paper mache layer so it’s smooth, and then give it an undercoat of gesso or primer. Then draw your design onto the didge and start painting. I used acrylic paint for mine.

You can look up traditional designs online, or just make up your own design to fit your own personality.

I noticed that traditional designs often use stylized paintings of reptiles, and the didges are often broken up into several different sections, with each section a different color. I decided that I wanted to use this general idea, but without trying to directly copy from the traditional Australian designs.

The most well-known reptile in the dry part of our state is the rattlesnake. Then I chose a blue-tailed skink for the top section. I don’t actually know if we have these little lizards here in eastern Oregon, but there were lots of them in eastern Washington, where I grew up.

The skink is protected from the snake by a band of sage green.

I actually chose the skink because way back when I was a kid, I was a bit weird. (Still am, of course.) Like all weird kids, I got to spend a lot of time alone. One of the ways I liked to pass the time during the summers was to turn over rocks and look for these fast, shy creatures. Even though the blue-tailed skink has that iridescent blue tail, I think you could live in the Washington Scablands all your life without seeing one if you didn’t go out looking for them. Even when you are looking, they aren’t easy to find.

Since scorpions and rattlesnakes also hide under rocks, I’m not sure why I survived my childhood. Perhaps the gods do watch after fools.

12 thoughts on “Paper Mache/PVC Didgeridoo”

  1. Hey Jonni greetings from brazil!
    I really like your site and your creations. Im didgeridoo player and want to know if i can make the didge with cardboard rolls of toilet paper and your paper mache clay. I know a tallented brazilliam artist that make didges whith cardboad but dont use the kind of “clay” you create. He use flour and heated whater to glue the stripes technique, “epoxy tint” and then bisquit on it. He takes aloooot of time to make like this one but in the end his art looks amazing whit a nicelly good sound.

    I want to know how can the clay hold on vibrations? Its important to be strong, hard and light to make a good and smooth sound. The most important of didge is how strength it could be. Thats what makes a good didge.

    I made a 3 didges whit simple paper mache along time ago and takes aloot of time to make hehehehe.
    One takes rusted because i use iron net to make body (i was very newbie on it eheheh), the other breake because i didn’t do hard mache. And the last one still good im my grandmas house.
    I want to know what kind of “paper clay” i can use to make the process faster without losing the quality of sound.

    • Its me again.
      I have more one question eheheh.
      Its some problem to have the drywall compound close to the skin?

      I didn’t explain how we make “epoxy tint” that we use inside and outside of the didges. To start we use a different kind of epoxy clay that sells in 2 tablets from the same size. Maybe other kind of clay epoxy works too. I didn’t test another ways yet. Whit this kind of epoxy when the components are mixed they didn’t make toxic fumes in the air.
      To make the “tint” you need to dilute the tablets in apples vinegar.
      In a cup or bow you put the tablets cutted in little peaces and cover them with the vinegar. Just enough to cover the peaces.
      Wait some 5 minutes and start to smash to turn all liquid like.
      Leave no grains on it.
      Use brush and paint what you want and wait to dry.
      Repeat the process 3 to 4 times or more…

      In the didge we use in the cardboard rolls inside and outside to make it stronger and impermeable. Its the first thing that we do. Then mach all the pieces and make a body.
      Here are the link of Renê Dalton that makes didges whit cardboard of toilet paper:

      Thanks and greetings from Brazil!

      • The joint compound will dry your skin, the way plaster or pottery clay can do. It may also contain chemicals that aren’t great for long-term skin contact. I use a knife to spread the pm clay, but if you must spread it by hand, use gloves.

        Those epoxy tablets sound really interesting. Do they waterproof the cardboard? I don’t know if we have anything like that here in the States.

        Renê’s instruments are quite lovely. Please let me know how your didge comes out – you’ve inspired me to try making a drum, but not until you’ve done the experiments first. 🙂

    • Hi Paulo. The strongest recipe on this site is the original paper mache clay. I haven’t used it for any kind of musical instrument, so I don’t know what kind of sound it would produce. You would want to spread it over your rolls in a very thin layer with a knife, about 1/16″ or 1/8″ thick. You might want to do a test run with just a small batch of the pm clay and put it over one tube, to test if it’s strong and light enough for you. That won’t help you test the sound, of course. The drywall joint compound is called Massa Corrida, but I’m not entirely sure that’s right. Ask at your local home improvement store for the pre-mixed stuff that is used to cover the cracks between sheets of drywall (plasterboard, sheetrock) on new walls.

  2. Pretty nifty idea, using paper mache. I just straight up painted my didge (after some sandind to the pvc) with acrylic paint. I have found out though if you mix white school glue with some water for paper mache it gives it a better grip on the original surface. Overall great article! Thanks a ton for resources loke this!!!

  3. Hey, I just commented on your paper mache flying pig and then I saw this. Can you tell me, how did the didgeridoo sound after you made it? Does it sound like a didgeridoo? If so, I have a project!

    • I recorded myself blowing into the thing, which you can hear by clicking this link. I think it would sound a lot better if I knew what I was doing. My grandson has great fun with it when he visits – the didge is about twice as tall as he is, and he can make some pretty impressive blasts on it.

  4. Hi… very cool site with lots of great tips. I have a question that I have not been able to answer… I thought with your expertise you might be able to help. My partner and I recently used rigid wrap to create a mold of my very pregnant belly. I would like to create a smooth finish and was considering paper mache since it is much lighter than adding more layers of plaster. My question: can I use paper mache over the plaster to create the smooth finish I’m looking for?


    • Hi Jessica. You certainly may cover plaster with paper mache. I would suggest that you first sand the plaster to make it as smooth as possible (using a face mask to keep the dust out of your lungs) and then seal the plaster with Verathane or varnish. Then just put on several layers of paper mache, which you can sand as smooth as glass, if you want. In fact, if you put the paper mache on the inside of your mold, using oil to keep it from sticking to the plaster, you could then remove it and smooth the paper mache, and you would have no plaster weighing down your sculpture at all.

      Good luck with it.


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