Bamboo Whistle

Well good morning to everyone, hope you are having a great day. So I do need to thank Charlie Mato-Toyela over at blue bear flutes for all of his videos.  If you have not seen one of his videos, you are missing some good stuff about flute making.

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Getting things hot

So while I am not really sure exactly what I am doing yet, I decided to make some small whistles out of the left over pieces of bamboo. Not only does it let me have some practice in making the important part of the flute, who knows maybe someone will want to buy a whistle. In the background of the picture is one of the flutes that were made form the left-overs.

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See the smoke, must be some fire

So one of the things I have found in making the whistles, is that a hole drilled first makes the heated piece of metal burn quicker. While I enjoy heating metal up, making a square hole seemed to be the easiest.

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the holes are finished

This whistle happens to be made from a piece of bamboo that does not have a node. So I will make a custom plug to made the air follow its path. The plug is made from some left over wood that came from my scrap bin. It will be cut to round with a slight taper on one end to make sure the air does not slip by.

To make the flat area for now I actually grind the area down with a small rotary sander to start with. Then to make a sharp line on the left, I do use a flat screwdriver which I heat up. That gives me my square edge.

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Back cutting the bamboo

That same screwdriver is what I use to back-cut the square holes with. Yes I would suppose the screwdriver will never be used as a screwdriver again. Don’t worry I have others including a nice Snap-on set.

So when I have the little whistles done, I plan to sand them sort of smooth and then maybe do some wood burning on them for some decoration.

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The New Drill Plastic Box

Well good morning to all, hope you are also having a great day. I decided it was time for some new drills in the workshop, so off to one of the big box stores to get a brand new set. I admit that I had a lot of choices and not being a metal person I did not know which I should choose. I read all of the different packages, asked other customers who looked like a “working class” like me. Where was a salesperson you ask? Well the days of a knowledgeable salesperson are soon going to be the way of a transistor radio.

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So with the choices under this thick tamper proof plastic, you could not touch them. So I chose the one that was in my favorite color plastic (red). I also like the words “Shockwave Impact Duty” but the thing that caught my eye the most was the word “metal” in red letters.

So I paid for my purchases, stuffed them into a California outlawed plastic bag and took them home. Well with one of my sharpest carving knives, I finally got the plastic off. Put the 1/2 drill back to where it was supposed to go in the cute little plastic holder.

While it is nice to read the sizes on the right side of the cute little box, the second row (on the left) is right in line with the front row on the left. I bet the person who thought up this design was really proud of it. Myself I think its a bad design.

Now I admit that I use drills in the shop on wood only, with some bamboo thrown in for good measure. But when I need to purchase another set, it won’t be the ones in a red plastic box. In fact I am so unhappy with the design of the box, I won’t tell the name.

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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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