Before you begin making a flute, there’s a lot of stuff you’ll need, more stuff you’ll find useful, and yet more stuff which just makes life a little easier. Then of course, you’ll need the right wood. Now – it’s true that given a stick and a good knife, you can probably make a pretty nice flute – but that is a completely different skill-set to the one I’m trying to get across… so when I say you “Need” this stuff, I mean to be able to do what I do, the way I do it. I’m pretty sure experienced carpenters will find other ways, “better” ways – but for now this works 🙂
Chisels – flat base bevelled; 7mm, 10mm, 12mm and 15mm wide for starters.
Gouges – various sizes from 6mm to 12mm should be a good start.
Pencils! Lots and lots of pencils (and a sharpener).
Rulers of various lengths; 4″, 6″, 12″, 18″, and 36″. A T-Square (various sizes is better but a single one with a 6″ rule is a start).
A vernier caliper with inside, outside and depth gauges, and a clamp screw. Buy high quality here – don’t stint.
Needle files – a full set based on a 6mm width; a full set based on 10mm width; and a similar set based on a 12mm width. Fine grade and coarse if you can find them.
Files; round, half-round flat and square – coarse and fine – full size. A set of rasps the same. A surform and spare grids.
A range of hacksaws. A tenon saw.
A short (9″) jack plane, a two-handed spoke-shave plane.
Wood glue – I use TiteBond III
Clamps (I made my own)
A range of sandpaper; high quality – ranging from 80 grit all the way up to 600 grit. Don’t stint here – get the good stuff it’s worth it.
Wooden mallets & hammers of various sizes.
Sharpening gear for all your tools – you need your tools REALLY sharp ALL the time.
A wood vice and some hardwood jaw-plates for it.An electric drill which will take bits 3mm to 10mm – nice and compact. Don’t bother with the battery ones, because the batteries are a source of constant frustration.
A hand-brace drill with bearings; again don’t stint here a cheap one is a complete waste of money. Needs to carry bits from 1mm to 7mm. This is the type which has a holding handle at the top and a side-mounted crank handle on a large circular wheel, with the chuck at the bottom.
A finishing oil and some beeswax-based finishing wax; cloths, rags and tissues.
A blowtorch and a set of 3 “tuning irons”. (Or a set of truncated reamers).
An adjustable guitar tuner which can vary the frequency “A” is based on by at least 5Hz, preferably more.
Knives. The more different types the better; high quality, sharp ones.
A nice big shed to put all this stuff into… 😉
Useful stuff and stuff which makes it easier
The stuff above, you can’t make a flute without, realistically. This stuff will either help in some way or will make stages of the job easier.
A 24″ lathe. A bandsaw. A planer/thicknesser. A table-mounted router (multi-collet sizes) capable of taking dome-shaped cutters from 8mm up to 1.25″ and also capable of presenting ovolo/round-over cutters. A press for accurately adjusting cutter depth.
A pyrography kit.
A dremel 4000 and a large range of attachments and bits/cutters/abraders.
A carpenter’s marking gauge.
Lots and lots of other stuff which you will instantly feel is “absolutely necessary”.
A very understanding and loving family.
The Wood Database – an absolutely wonderful resource.
Native American Flutes were (at least mostly, possibly exclusively) made with Western Red Cedar. Nowadays it’s acceptable to use a range of hardwoods and softwoods – to experiment to get the best sound, the durability etc of other woods. (Cedar is really soft and needs looking after very carefully). However, some woods are poisonous, some cause irritation; some are not structurally suited to this sort of use; some soak up moisture and swell…. etc etc etc. Thankfully most of this is known and you can get a lot of the information you need from the site above. I recommend choosing a hardwood at first; beech has no directional grain and cuts easily – cherry doesn’t turn your tools either. Walnut is simply gorgeous. DO NOT choose woods which are going to turn your tools (oak; ash; maple) until you’re practiced and able to use them properly; or woods which have poisonous or unpleasant sawdust – and NEVER choose woods which are not mouth-safe even after working.
Finally a word about the spiritual side of this work. If you want to do this RIGHT – you must smudge before you start work on your flute; smudge the wood, and the space you’re working in – give thanks for the wood and the opportunity to make life-giving music; and sing for the joy of life and of making flutes. Put your love, your passion and your life energy into making this beautiful instrument; and people who hear it will KNOW. If you want to do this just to make money, then this isn’t a labour for you. This is a labour of love and joy – and brings happiness to the player of your instrument.