Tool making

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Carving on a flute

Well hello to all of you who stop by here to see what is happening in my shop. In the morning we were out rounding up some parts from the home improvement stores. So with me having this “flute fever” we have been looking at some of the video’s that are out there for you to see.

One flute maker “blue bear flutes” has some exceptional videos that you really need to go see if you think you might want to make a flute or just buy one of his kits to do it yourself.

One of the interesting things is that the holes near the top of the flute need to be square. Now making a square hold can be done many ways, but the way Blue Bear Flutes does it is to burn the holes. So I need to make me a burning tool also.

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Making a tool work

So I found an old tool that went in what I think they call a “bit and brace.” Its this crank like thing that used to bore a hole in the wood. Well the bit already has a square shank that will a little metal work would do just fine.

So the hole is supposed to be just 1/4 of an inch. So I cut the shank down to that size and next time I’m in the shop we will heat up the tool and take it for a test run. Of course we need to already have some size hole already drilled. So now we get to play with some fire in a round about way.

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river cane or bamboo

As luck would have it I found some river cane at the 99 cent stores of all places. So I grabbed a few pieces to take this flute making for a test ride in a different direction. Now I need to go back and watch some videos and take some notes.

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Eagle Flute Ground-work

So with it being a Monday, I thought it might be time for an up date on how the “eagle flute” is moving along.

As you remember the aromatic ceder wood had a split that occurred when the flute was either transported or as the wood dried it just checked. So it was lucky that the split did not upset the finger holes, as this is a 6 hole flute.


5 hole flute

Yes I know I normally make 5, but why not be a little different?

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Adding wood to the flute

So I now have the extra wood drilled and glued in place. It was time to decided as to what I wanted to carve there. So why not carve an eagle head with its mouth open?

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the pattern

So the pattern could be transferred to both sides of the flute for aligning, we decided to carve a cardboard (matt-board) template first. So once we had the lines drawn, all we had to do was cut out what part we did not want.


drawing the pattern

Then we just transferred the pattern to the end of the flute. So with a well placed drill to start things off we will be carving the eagle head.

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Like grapes?


First flute

So it had to happen, being a wood carver how could I just round off a flute? So after you actually carve on the inside, why not carve on the outside. So get comfortable and I will show you more of how I make these things.

So the parts of a wood flute are (from left to right) the mouthpiece, the wind chamber, stop block, the fetish or totem on the top, the sound holes, fipple, sound chamber with the finger holes.

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inside the flute

So here I am with the finger nail file pointing to the totem or fetish. This is the part that makes the air about the thickness of a credit card to go past the fipple. The fipple is the odd shaped hole at the handle of the nail file.

I have found that the metal nail file is just coarse enough to give me the sharp angle that you want for a flute to sound good. Sometimes it does take some major adjustments to get everything just right. But once everything is working correctly, some flute makers actually carve out a space so the totem can’t move. Of course once the cut out space for the totem to set in, you will need to readjust your totem.

Then its time to shape the mouthpiece and the rest of the flute. While some put the flute on a lathe to get it round, you can also do it by hand with a spoke-shave like I did on my first flute.

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here is the grapes

Enjoying carving as I do, I like to hand shape mine. But for some of them I like to carve something in the end of the flute. Your carving can’t be to radical or have any holes in it as that will change the tone of the flute. So for my first carving, I decided to carve some grapes. Carving something that is already square, round is the most challenging.


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Clamps for the flute? (with pictures)

Well hello, here we are in California in the beautiful Temescal Valley where we grow poppy’s on the sides of our freeways after some rain. In fact some of the motorists actually stop on the freeway to look at the countryside. So the local newspaper printed an article saying you can’t do that.

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Clamping a flute

So for a long time it has been a joke that when you don’t know what to buy a wood carver, buy them a wood clamp. Well as you can see from the picture of one of my wooden flutes, they don’t have to be a big one. But let me take you back a few pictures to show you how I do things.

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Putting down the glue

Once you have both of the pieces ready to be glued, I like to lay them side by side so I know where to put the glue. You don’t want to have too much, but you don’t want to have any spaces where their is not any either. So I spread the glue with my finger so it gets a smooth coat everywhere.

I feel that a lot of glue on the inside of the flute sound chamber will not be that good for the tone. Maybe I picky, but I want my flutes to last for many years. I also use a good quality exterior glue, because of the moisture that collects when you play them.

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Escaping glue

Here is a magnified (darn this new Verizon “Droid” phone does a good job) picture of just how much glue that squirts out. This is just about the right amount, because you can count on some being on the inside also. Now some flute makers also run some sandpaper on the inside once it is all dried. I myself shine a flash light down the flute to see if it is necessary. I don’t feel small amounts can be that bad. Like other carvings it all in the prep work.

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The curing process

So here we have the finished flute that is set aside to dry at least 24 hours. However one of the interesting things about the glue is that it takes a long time to actually set up. This I feel is good so the glue sets in to all of the fibers. So it is set aside in the workshop “to cure” as I call it. Oh the other flute in the picture, has just had the air chamber drilled ( I like to use 3/8 to start).

Next I will show you how I actually shape the wood so it makes that unmistakable wood flute sound. Also making a “totem” or “fetish” and other technical terms.  Now all I have to do is practice how to play them like Carlos Nakai.



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Not all art is in a frame

While some people may think of a painting hanging on a wall somewhere when the 3 letter word “ART” is mentioned. But in fact art can be in many forms. Everything from houses, sculpture, buildings, clothing and glass blowing to name a few.


My first flute that I play

So recently I have become fascinated by the simplicity of a flute. From the closed kind that you blow some air across as in a pan-flute to the more complicated metal manufactured kind you find in an orchestra. Of course the actual flute itself is very old and  if you need that information you can look it up.

While in my youth I was exposed to the reed instruments like clarinet and saxophone. While these were nice and I did actually get fairly good at them, it was not what I wanted to do at the time. Because about this time a sport called “drag racing”was becoming popular. Not only was my own family involved in the sport, some of the more famous racers would show up at our house from time to time. Sometimes with their race cars, sometime without. Yes the car’s had the edge and would be a big part of my life.

Well to my Mothers disappointment the music in the house (at least my room) was replaced with some new music called “rock and roll.” But I was bitten by the “car bug” and me playing music was put on the back burner.

So after at least 50 some years, I have now discovered the flute again. But this time it is me and my wood working skills that are making the flutes. I took a class in how to make a Native American style flute and that was all it took. So I just copied a few of them over the years and all was good.


PVC flute that actually plays

But recently I have been looking at some videos on how others make flutes. So while you can make a flute out of plastic PVC, the use of wood is not only more challenging, but the sound is superior.

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Starting with some square basswood

So while you can use most any wood, I have decided to use some basswood because I will be carving on the flute when I am done and it plays like I want. I am also almost making the flute using hand tools. Just using saws to cut the wood to size is about all.

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Marking the wood to cut

So starting with some square basswood, it was ran through the band-saw to cut it in 2 equal pieces. So while in the past I have used a router to remove the wood, I wanted to use a hand rotary tool this time. In some of the videos they said it could be done and I wanted to use the most basic tools for this one. So it will take some time to do the next part using hand tools.

So you will know where I will be today 3-12-2017 if you come a knocking.


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Thursday night


Art in Main postcard

So it was Thursday night in Lake Elsinore and I was rolling around on my new (to me) scooter. It was time for the new 2nd Thursday of the month Art event. While I have been taking a rest from the usual Saturday night “Art on Main.” For my type of art (wood carving) being in total darkness was not a good match. With some of the allowable lights that we could use, I decided to wait for the time to change.

So while I had the first busking permit, I needed to take a break. The requirement that you had to be there 3 weekends a month did pose some creative juggling if you were also in other art groups that had meetings on Saturday’s. But like water, things tend to level out.

In my humble opinion, it seemed that more people were out on last Thursday than on some Saturday’s. Of the people who I passed out the postcards (provided by the city) liked the idea of it being once a month.

I did talk to some of the artists and others.

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Nancy McGraw

One of the artists was Nancy McGraw. I liked her little banner and being able to tap into the city’s electricity did help make things more visible.

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Art on Main sign

Also a new addition I noticed was some wooden sign boards set out on the sidewalk. I think these sign boards are a good thing because it tells passing cars what is happening. Not sure at what time they are placed, but it would be nice if they were there all day on the Thursday in question.

Of course we did see a lot of Studio 395 people/artists there also. Rhonda was there with her Mother sampling some of the Mexican food. The new pizza restaurant is moving along, which might be open by next month. Did see some new faces that were over in the dirt lot along with some of the regulars who are also in the dirt lot.

While I am in the flute making mode right now, I may come back to this Thursday once a month thing and maybe set up a small table with my flutes. While my Native American style flutes take some time to make, I thought I would maybe play them while I sat there.

Of course I did talk to a guy named Rob, that was at Guadalajara restaurant that was helping with the mixing board for the music there. They tell me “Lindo” was playing music there.

So what was my over all opinion? I think this once a month “Art on Main” could move into being a positive thing for all involved.



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Just one

just one

“just one” wood carving shop photo

“Just one” is the title of my newest wood carving. Right now here in Corona California its 46 degrees with rain in the forecast. So while the sun was shining, I was out in the work shop carving away at the new project. The project is purposely oversize because my hands are also a bit oversize.


“just one”

While this carving is made form the favorite basswood, it is also in-laied with some walnut to give the piece interest. Of course these photos show a work in progress taken right in the workshop. It is always good to have some pictures of the work in progress, just in case you would like to show someone the steps involved.


Heart shaped bowl

When finished it is just supposed to be a stand alone art piece. While my bowls will have some function (place to put your key’s and loose change) this will just have to sit on someone’s coffee table. I first think of the carving, then decided what it will actually be.

So that’s it for today, the sun is not out and I don’t feel in a creative mood. I will perhaps work on some of one of the mysteries that are in the works for my book that I am writing.


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