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Project Children's Tabor Pipe
Reconstruction of a late medieval archaeological find
Status Initializing
Contact Molenaar
Last Update 2019-04-01

An Archaeological Find

The tabor pipe is a recorder that is played with one hand only. Clamped between the pinky and index finger, the other fingers can cover the three holes. The instrument was usually played in combination with a drum. This combination was called the "Pipe and Tabor". The original find from the Groenesteeg in Leiden is missing a part of the back, so just a small part of the thumb hole remains if you know where to look for it. The instrument is owned by the Archaeological Depot in Leiden (find 70033), where this instrument was measured.

The original find showed great craftsmanship and high detail, except for the block, which did not seem to belong. The was also an oblique hole through the head and the block to allow for a loop to be carried by a child without loosing it. This hole also looked haphazard and is probably added later.

Reconstructing it

After working out the measurements into a LibreCAD drawing, it was not difficult to make a 3D model in OpenSCAD and print it. This allows me to make a new block and tune the holes. The sound of centuries ago can be heard again!

My aim is to learn the technical difficulties and strategies for making this kind of instrument. Therefore, I want to make it on a pole lathe, and when that succeeds, forge a spoon drill to make the bore of a another one.

Interesting Measurements

Measurement in Rhineland inches

The units used in Leiden from the early medieval times are the Rhineland units. They are still known (The city hall still features a rod to calibrate rulers). The note "A" usually had a length of one foot (12 Rhineland inches). The "A" on this instruments is three octaves higher, so would use a pipe of 12" / 2^3 = 1.5 inch. To reach this note, you have to overblow the instrument two times, so the wave is standing three times in the pipe. The pipe therefore needs to be 3 x 1.5 Rhineland inches for the note "A". You can see this length in the distance between the centre of the blow hole and the second playing hole. This confirms that the instrument's lowest note is a "C", which is the perfect tuning for most children's songs in those days.