1 – Stuff you need, and Wood

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 ūüôā


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.2015-07-05 16.52.00-1
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.
2014-03-10 16.47.59A 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.
Leather strips.
Knives. The more different types the better; high quality, sharp ones.
A nice big shed to put all this stuff into… ūüėČ


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.2015-06-08 12.57.06
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.

Selecting Woods

The Wood Database – an absolutely wonderful resource.

2015-05-31 14.40.31-2Native 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.

Tags: , ,