This is a post that might not trip your trigger in details, but it does paint a larger picture of how one of my singing sticks comes to life, which you may find interesting. A good many are made and finished in fairly short order, and those are almost always more simple in design.
Then there are the 'specialty' flutes, flutes that have some unique, detailed design element that requires a lot of extra work and, correspondingly, command higher prices. I basically build only what I envision and feel, taking custom orders very, very sparingly. I can and will only work when I'm inspired and 'feel' I'm in a good spiritual place. On those days where I'm out of sorts, I just don't touch flutes. Not a good mojo and mix of efforts. Sometimes they come to 'life' in a reasonable amount of time....and then, well....
And so I had this Ambrosia Maple closed end flute that I blogged about....get this...February 18, 2009! OMG, here I was thinking I've had this flute a year and it's well over two. Talk about how time flies when you're stuck in "writer's block"! Find that post by clicking HERE. Eegads.
This is the flute as it has pretty much sat since then, with only minor shaping at the 'foot' where the woodpecker was going to go....
The above two shots show my pics of a Downy Woodpecker feeeding, up against what I was 'envisioning' for the flute. Originally the flute was going to be an F#4, but as I honed down the woodpecker and tweaked the tuning, it was much better suited for a G4, up a half step.
Voila, the flute finished off with the woodpecker detailed and painted. NOW came another big hurdle...what to do for the block? The main interest is the foot of the flute, and I didn't want a detailed block that would compete with the focus of the woodpecker. Conversely, I didn't want such a simple block design that it detracted from the focus...and so I sat with notebook and pencil and sketched. And sketched. And sketched.
I've done this with only a very few flutes, where I take scrap wood and glue up a composite shape of the pieces. Above you see scrap Bloodwood and Ebony, my actual pencil sketch (cut out) of the main tail sweep bordered by two 'wing' pieces, once of which you see cut out.
The three pieces weren't quite wide enough for the flute, so I glued on 'side bars' on the outer edge, knowing I'd sand their width down some. Too, you don't want a pure Ebony bottom exposed over the flue as such a design would lead to quick wet-out...so I thought I'd incorporate the red with the Bloodwood for a bottom choice. The bottom above was rougher than normal as a couple of pieces fractured off, but I knew I'd slap it on the belt sander and flatten it all before adding the Bloodwood.
With some shaping and careful sanding, the block took on an elegant sweeping design of a bird of sorts, with tail and wings, the Ebony and Bloodwood repeating the colors in the Downy Woodpecker. Only one thing left to do.....
The new G4 Downy Woodpecker flute fresh off the press as of today, as I write. Still a couple of more finish coats to put on, and the most minor of touch-up...goes to prove that I don't just whip these 'kids' out without a lot of thought and intentional thought! This one is close to a record, I'll admit. Worth the wait, though, eh? ;-)
Severe computer issues FINALLY overcome after almost a year...hope to get back to posting much more regularly!!!!!!
It was another snowy, travel-trouble winter here, much akin to the previous winter. 50"+ of snow, made all the more frustrating by my lousy snow-driving car with only front wheel drive. May this will be the year I can afford a reliable used 4x4 so I can tame the slippery mountain roads here! I can see it now, scrimp and save to barely be able to afford a 4x4, then next winter there will be only two 1" snows and that's it! HA!
Anyhow, in response to the snow and cold (I still have to work in the still-unenclosed carport), I decided to celebrate the warmer weather by pulling out what I call my "Cadillac" woods, very rare, special pieces that are one-of-a-kind, most pieces good for only one flute. Many moons ago I restored a gorgeous 1957 Cadillac Fleetwood that, while possessed by the Devil, brought me much joy and appreciation for a while. Hence my moniker of these flutes pictured...
Pics SHOULD enlarge when you click on them....this is but a sampling of some of the more unique pieces, starting with THE most stunning wood I've ever worked before...tilt it in a strong light and it's downright holographic. There is over $100 in wood, mostly for the extreme curly Hawaiian Koa, and for the Gaboon Ebony endcaps and block...
A4 Curly Hawaiian Koa and Ebony drone
A4 Black and White Ebony with Gaboon Ebony drone
Bb4 Redwood Lace Burl w/turquoise heartline inlay
D5 Curly (rare) Pink Ivory with figured White Oak block
What's black and black and, uh...black all over? The answer is now posted....
Ya know, Bill had a great idea with the oil spill....what a hiddeous Medusa that situation is becoming! No, nothing along the lines of injuries or things negative...just the production of my first Ebony flute.
Now, you may not be aware of how unusual that is, an Ebony flute. First and foremost you're talking $$$ as good Ebony starts at $75/ board-foot. Too, setting aside the expense, the sound you get from such a dense wood is in it's own little category.
And you may think Ebony is pure black, but that's not the case. Most Ebony has chocolaty ribbons in it, but when oiled and finished most of it goes very dark, indeed.
Meet "Nighthawk", named for the actual bird. This mid "A" (A4) is 20.5" long with a composite block of 3 thinner Ebony strips, with the end result being a bird silhouette that for me resembles a nighthawk.
The pictures are with the flute sanded and finished with one coat of Walnut Oil....I may re-oil and finish with wax, or may try a shiny poly coat on it, though Ebony can be fickle with finishes.
I suppose I need to qualify a 100% Ebony flute...the block actually has a 1/16" layer of Poplar on the bottom to help absorb a little moisture, as Ebony simply doesn't....should help this flute avoid super-fast 'wet-out' since Poplar will absorb some moisture. I coated the edge with a Sharpie to darken it!
The 'video' below is simply my means of attaching an MP3 file for you to hear the flute. My laptop speakers are horrid, so I will have to assume the sample sounds fine on your computer...just something I threw together and added in a little 'echo' for effect. Enjoy!
Finally, here my latest creation, one I've named "Spirit Horse". It's a closed end flute of Papua New Guinea Walnut, keyed to mid F# (F#4). It's got a beautiful voice, if I do say so myself, but as I write I've not made a sound file of it yet.
(click on pics to enlarge)
I don't have any deep hidden meanings in any of the designs, although the thunderstorm on the forehead is just that. For me it represents the Thunderbeings, and the supercell storms of the Plains. To the Native Americans, the horse of the west wasn't on the scene until the early Spaniards brought them. Once tamed, the horse transformed many tribal cultures, not only for transportation but also for hunting and certainly warfare. Spiritually, the horse represents freedom and power, a spirit that cannot be broken. It also represents safe passage into the 'new'.
When I finally decided to make a horse from the solid wood end, I immediately wanted it to look like it was at full gallop...I wanted that movement, that freedom, that unbridled spirit (literally and figuratively!)...and I had this abstract idea of color and designs instead of a 'normal' look, more representative of the Spirit/Dream world. (Too, it may have been a hold-over from painting the Hippie Flute!). But what to do for the block?
I certainly didn't want a second horsehead...and a regular sweeping bird didn't seem to work. I thought about an old style geometric block found on the oldest Plains flutes, but then I had this idea to stylize the mane flying in the wind...
I wasn't sure how to get the effect, but since I decided to keep the mane black, I knew I had some flat pieces of Ebony. I chose a basic block for the base, angled for aesthetics...could have made it 100% Ebony, but it absorbs no moisture and makes a flute 'wet out' under the block where moist breath travels. I cut four long rectangles of Ebony, and then used my oscillating drum sander to make the 'waves' for the flying mane, hitting the corners as well to round each over. Too, I wanted a tad separation between the tips of each piece, so I sanded a little off the sides of each tail. I actually made about 6 pieces, and then sat down and played with it like a puzzle. I wanted each to look different and not be aligned in the same way...I thought that would be easy but it took some real manipulation to get the four pieces I liked in a precise order. With a little glue and more sanding, the concept came to life.
I was orginally going to leave the Mahogany base natural, but the more I thought about it the more I liked the idea of reintroducing the turquoise, so I painted it. While I had ideas for doing other ornamentation, once the block was finished, I had that feeling of peace that my new 'kid' was just as it needed to be.
Another flute hot off the cold winter's press, and this is one fine playing flute. Closed-ends can be odd flutes to voice and tune sometimes, but this one has a voice that just jumps out of the flute. All solid at the foot, of course, woodburned and painted, the eyes of hematite beads painted black.
A whale of a flute...and it's no fluke! Well, part of it is, I guess...
(click on pics to enlarge)
I think it was 1.5 years ago that while walking Mercy on a trail I found a little 3-inch plastic Orca some child had dropped. At the time I thought I should make an Orca flute or make a block like the toy, as it had a neat shape. Basically, I just started messing around with ideas. I had a foot-long chunk of Sapele (suh-PEE-lee) that I mused could serve as the body for a very different style of flute, building the flute mechanism into the body itself.
I cut the large rectangle about a third up from the bottom, lengthwise. I routed only the thinner section, given my limited flute length, which makes the design like one of my flat-bottomed half-pipes. As you'll see in the photos below, to play this flute you roll the Orca over and blow through its mouth.
The fins and fluke are made of Bubinga, and only until a week ago I had no base on which to display the flute. I was originally thinking of driftwood, though I didn't have any on hand. But I did unearth a big piece of Manzanita root I'd forgotten about, and decided to scoop a big piece out of the top to look like a wave and hold the flute. Some hand-rubbed finishing set it off handsomely.
To hold the Orca in place, I added a small wooden peg that goes into one of the two top playing holes. The large hole in the photo below is simply the 'end' of the flute...air has to exit somewhere for these flutes to work. The bigger challenge was to design a block that was integrated into the flute and didn't use a leather tie...the answer was to take small thin pieces of wood, angling the inner edges to 45 degrees, thus building a snug slot for the block. Once I got the design working properly, I sanded down the outside so it blended beautifully.
With a simple pressure the block can be slid out easily...
The flute is a tad under 12" long, and is tuned to ultra-high Bb Verdi tuning (A432). The aerosol can gives a good size reference...
...and it was 'adopted' just last night! Haven't even made a recording with it yet, but that's on my to-do list before I mail it.
As a good friend suggested, could you call this an orcarina?.... :-)