Native Americans have been creating traditional wood flutes from natural branches for centuries. The wood flute is a wind instrument and is one of the oldest musical instruments to exist in the Americas, along with traditional percussion instruments. The process of making a flute from a natural branch begins by selecting a branch that has no cracks and dividing it in half.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- Natural tree branch
- Wood glue
- Piece of wood
- Decorative strap
Select a natural branch that is 2 inches or larger in diameter. Choose a branch that has lost its green colour on the ends but does not have any cracks in it. Cut an inch off from both ends of the branch so they are even and flat.
Make an incision in the centre of one end of the branch. Line up a hatchet with the incision and gently hit the head using a hammer. The blade of the hatchet will split the branch in half, giving you two equal halves which will become the flute.
Attach one half of the branch to a vice. Select an end of the branch as the mouthpiece and mark it using a pen an inch from the end. Draw a second mark 1 1/2 inches from the first and another point 1/2 inch past the second mark.
Use a chisel to carve out the inside of the half of the branch you have marked. Do not chisel between the second and third pen marks that you made in the previous step. Chisel out the 1 1/2 inches between the first and second pen marks. Repeat this process with the other half of the branch. Both halves of the flute should each resemble a "U" shape and be 1/4 inch thick.
Use a screwdriver to push a hole in one half of the branch above the 1/2-inch section of the wood that you did not chisel out. Exert force to push the screwdriver through the wood. Repeat this procedure below the 1/2-inch section so that there is a hole that passes through the wood both above and below the section that is not carved out.
Cover the edges of both branch halves with wood glue and push them together. Leave them for several hours until the glue has thoroughly dried. Push the screwdriver into the solid end of the branch to create a mouthpiece section. Push a hole through the 1/2-inch section of the flute that is not chiselled.
Cut a shallow valley into the flute using a sharp knife between the two holes. The valley should be the thickness of the knife blade. Use the chisel to cut the underneath of a wooden block that is 1 1/2 inches by 1 1/2 inches. This piece of wood should fit flush against the side of the flute. Hold the chiselled piece of wood against the flute's second hole and mark the width of the hole using a pen.
Cut a ridge in the piece of wood using the knife. This ridge will create the necessary flow of air. Use the knife to cut away the wood at the mouthpiece end of the flute and shape it to a rounded point. This is the mouthpiece.
Create finger holes in the flute. Use a screwdriver and bore five holes into the flute an inch apart from each other beginning an inch under the second hole. Attach the wooden block to the flute using a decorative strap with beads. Ensure the wooden block is in place above the second hole and covers the first hole to allow and restrict the necessary air flow. Decorate the flute as desired.
Tips and warnings
- Sand, varnish and paint the flute.
- Ensure the natural branch that you select has no cracks in it.
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