How to Make a Native American Flute Out of Wood

Updated April 17, 2017

Wooden flute playing has been around for centuries. In 1931 five prehistoric flutes were found in Arizona. Ancient wooden flutes were made from tree branches, and the size of the branch and placement of the holes determined the tone. Today wooden flutes are made out of a variety of woods like maple, pine, cedar, elderberry, walnut and cottonwood. Making your own Native American style flute will allow you to have your own unique instrument with its own sound.

Decide what type of wood you would like to use and the size of the flute. Harder woods like walnut are more durable, but softer woods like cedar are easier to carve. The type of wood also affects the tone. Softer wood produces a warmer sound and resonates better than a harder wood, but a harder wood is less likely to chip and is better at withstanding elements.

Place the wood in a vice or holding device. Use the U gouge to hollow out the bore of the flute. Create a slow chamber and the main chamber. Carve the slow chamber with the U gouge approximately 2 inches long. Leave a 1/2 inch wall before starting to gouge the main chamber. Carve the main chamber to be the remaining length of the wood. The slow chamber is the end that you blow into, and the main chamber is where the sound is created. Use the drill to create a 1/16 inch air passageway from the slow chamber to the main chamber. Once the bore is hollowed out, use a table saw to split the piece lengthwise into two equal pieces.

Glue the two pieces together and put them in the wood clamps. Allow 24 hours for it to dry. The flute will still be in a square shape after being glued. Once dry, you want to shape the square edges. Use the wood scraper to shave down the edges. Be careful not to scrape over the windway. This may take some time, but you want to eventually achieve a cylindrical shape.

Measure an equal distance from the top and bottom of the flute for hole placement. You want the holes to be in the middle and not too close to the top or the bottom. Drill five or six holes depending on how many you want. Most flutes have five or six.

Taper the edge for the mouthpiece with the gouge. Once the mouthpiece is tapered to your liking and comfort, sand and smooth the mouthpiece. Once you have smoothed out the mouthpiece, continue to sand the rest of the flute until it's smooth. This may change the tone a bit. Follow by applying two coats of oil.

Things You'll Need

  • Piece of wood
  • Vice
  • U gouge
  • Table saw
  • Wood clamps
  • Wood glue
  • Wood scraper
  • Drill
  • Sandpaper
  • Citrus or linseed oil
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About the Author

Cee Donohue started as a comedy writer in 2004. She has written for "One to One Magazine" and the "South Hollywood News." Before moving to Los Angeles, Donohue attended the University of the Arts.