My thought is that building a flute is an important act-ceremony. I prepare myself and my workshop and offer my thanksgiving for the gift of wood, the disruptions caused when gathering the wood and for the flute itself. For me it is equally important to remember and acknowledge all the makers of this instrument, Native and Non-Native whose work has created a foundation for those of us today carrying on this tradition. ~ Hawk
When first making flutes over 20 years ago I had little wood working experience or knowledge. My family gave a flute to me as a gift and this was to be my teacher. In an effort to “improve” the sound of it I ruined it. My stubbornness caused me to persevere when trying to make it play again.
Once I had restored this flute, which took 6 months, I realized that the experience gave the knowledge of how flutes worked mechanically. Now I was interested in making a new flute. I visited a local shop which refurbished old hand tools and explained what I wanted to accomplish. It was suggested that to bore the body a bit and brace would work well. He advised that I use a drawknife and block plane to shape the flute. I have used these same tools ever since.
Using hand tools allows me to move at a slow and deliberate pace. I am able to notice the beauty of the wood–its grain patterns and other characteristics. Maybe more importantly because I want to be calm, centered and to not force the wood, hand tools allow for this approach. Grain patterns and directions dictate how the tool should be used. For example I may be using the drawknife shaving from one direction as the wood is turned I may have to change which end I draw from so as to not gouge out chunks of wood.
My state of mind as well as how the tool and wood interact effect the final outcome ~ the flute.
It feels important to mention that this is how I relate to the process of making flutes. There are many flute makers who use various methods and make wonderful flutes.
I select the wood using two methods.
First I walk in the forest with the intention of finding wood for a flute. Once found, I leave a gift of thanksgiving to the tree and those that relied upon it or whose lives were disrupted by my taking it. I generally will look for wood that is no longer growing, something that has seasoned in it’s environment. For many years this was my source of wood…
As my flutes gained more attention I began to receive gifts of wood in different forms from other people who either used it in their work or who knew I loved working with it.
Milled wood from cabinet makers, boat builders as well as sticks from pruned trees. Sunflower stalks and Japanese Knotweed also make great flutes.
As a child I attended the boys club. One of the adult supervisors had sanded a piece of wood for several days using the same piece of sand paper. When I questioned this he answered by handing me the piece saying nothing. I held the wood which was so very smooth and when I looked at it I literally could see my reflection. I remembered this when beginning my flute making and wished my flutes to feel the same way. Thanks Mr. Gennari!
When a flute is finished I again offer my thanksgiving for this gift of the Flute and for being able to build them.