Native American flute

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Project by Jim Jakosh posted 12-10-2012 05:49 PM 3617 views 5 times favorited 37 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a prototype on which I learned a whole lot about flutes. It is made from two long pieces of Cedar that were routed out to create the center opening. I used a plug turned from an old broom handle and glued it inside to create the two air chambers. After turning it, I added a mouth piece of Mesquite and turned it to match the diameter of the flute. The bird on top is made from spalted Beech. It is finished with shellac inside and clear matte spray on the outside.

I added the bottom shot at the end to show that this is kind of a Frankenstein flute. The bottom was originally the top. I started with some plans I pulled from the net that were pages on flute building from 1945. I liked them because they had dimensions but I could not get it to play any sound when I clamped the halves together so I plugged all the original holes and used the bottom for the top.

I found another site with flute facts and dimensions from John Stillwell. That is where I got the idea for the bird. I wanted to find how Bill Hayes from Pioneer Craft House in Salt Lake City made flutes when my friend Mike Wygmans ( a great instrument builder) loaned me a DVD for flute building and it was by Bill Hayes This was the best piece of information on flutes I have ever seen. It had a complete chart of tuning, but most of all it described the steps in the process so you did not get ahead of your self like I originally did.

My Flute does not play as well as I like. I have these overtones that take away from the sound of it and I can’t seem to tune them out. This tuning business is a real art!! I called in to Bill and he called back and we talked for half an hour on what I can to do eliminate the over tones and he told me of the things he found that they are incorporating into their flutes they now build.

I think it is a lost cause to get it to play F#. I tuned to that before any of the holes were put in. The thing I did wrong was to clip the Snark tuner on the end of the flute for this initial tuning by fibration and cutting to length. That plugged the air hole and changed the tone a bit and now the flute is about 1/2” too short from all the dimensions I see on other F# flutes. I found this out by playing it into a mike with a tuner on a laptop which gave the true notes. It plays G flat with all the holes closed so I suppose I could make it a G flute and open all the holes to make the right notes if I can ever eliminate those pesky overtones!!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

37 comments so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29877 posts in 2485 days

#1 posted 12-10-2012 06:23 PM

Man, you’re tackling a big field. With your skill you can handle it. Every year I spend 3 days next to a flute maker. The engineering that goes into it is amazing. My only problem is, his work iis outstanding but he can’t play to save his life. Spend 3 days next to a bad flute player, you’ll understand :-)

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 2439 days

#2 posted 12-10-2012 06:25 PM

Cool project. Good looking craftsmanship, but the nuances are lost on this poor, tone deaf woodworker.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View MShort's profile


1791 posts in 3565 days

#3 posted 12-10-2012 06:37 PM

Great looking flute Jim. I have this on the “to do” list. A fellow turner has made one and was showing me his router setup last week and is starting on his second flute. I am in Monte’s category,, I can’t play either.

You just keep cranking out the projects. Love the variety that you do. Later.

-- Mike, Missouri --- “A positive life can not happen with a negative mind.” ---

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

21306 posts in 3252 days

#4 posted 12-10-2012 06:43 PM

Guys, I can’t play either but this Indian flute maker in Arizona said anyone can learn to play music on a flute. I want to play by ear but I did have to learn about Keys, and sharps and flats,octaves and cents.
I can play taps on this one!! Not too many notes to copy!!

Mike, if you get to building one, see if you can find a copy of flute making by Bill Hayes. He even shows the fixture to hold the flute for routing the 2 chambers using a 7/8” core box bit. I’m going to make one for the 2nd one. He said that he uses a flue depth of .032” and the step for the sound hole should be .016”- half way in the air stream. He shows a 3” slow air chamber in the DVD but he said they are now going to 4” or 4.5” for less turbulence. The method for tuning is different than I though it would be but he says that is the way it is done so I followed it…..........Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10265 posts in 4199 days

#5 posted 12-10-2012 07:06 PM


I think you’re calling that Belt Hook a “Bird”...
... sorry… I can’t see a Bird in it…
... looks like a belt hook… a hook to carry it on your person when you’re not fluting… LOL

Taps… That’s a GOOD simple song to play!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View helluvawreck's profile


32083 posts in 3013 days

#6 posted 12-10-2012 07:12 PM

Jim, you have some very nice projects and this is one of them.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View drbyte's profile


806 posts in 4209 days

#7 posted 12-10-2012 08:12 PM

You should be able to get to the F# if that’s what you really want but G plays better with guitar and lots of other instruments. Shoot for F# on the next one (once started, you just can’t quit flutes). Amazing grace works real well and “The Rose” by Bette Midler is a really great one too. Keep at it. Your flute looks great! I have two sets of holes on a couple of my early ones too!!! Just gives them character! Keep on routing and tuning!!

-- Dennis, WV

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

21306 posts in 3252 days

#8 posted 12-10-2012 09:43 PM

Hi Joe, that little piece with the flat bottom and the chimney is always called the bird, no matter what the shape. I think it something the Indians called them that and it stuck. I made some flat ones with diffrerent shaped chimneys trying to get rid of those overtones but this one seems to be the best performer although not right. I got “taps” down pretty good by ear!!

Hi Dennis, you make me feel a whole lot better with your note!! I will make this a G flute in the next few days.
Good idea with Amazing grace. I can play it slow and keep correcting myself until I hit them all correctly!
I’ll start the next flute in the spring when I get back in the shop…if I don’t get side tracked on something else!!
....................Thanks, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View lizardhead's profile


652 posts in 2988 days

#9 posted 12-10-2012 10:09 PM

Jim: I’ve made several Flutes, and I play, so when you get out here we can share notes, Ah share notes no pun intended. Anyhow someone told you that anyone can play the flute and they are right, The Native American Flute is as easy as playing a Kazoo. I cannot read or hear notes so I never play the same song twice.

-- Good, Better, Best--Never let it rest---Always make your Good be Better & your Better Best

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 3384 days

#10 posted 12-10-2012 10:37 PM

OK, where’s the sound button so we can hear how good your flute sounds. If it sounds as good as it looks, you’ve got a winner.

-- Hal, Tennessee

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

21306 posts in 3252 days

#11 posted 12-10-2012 11:00 PM

WOW that is great Dave. I look forward to seeing you again and now we have more to do!!

Hal. it works but does not sound as good A I’d like!.................Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Bob Collins's profile

Bob Collins

2566 posts in 3830 days

#12 posted 12-11-2012 12:10 AM

Another great project Jim,

-- Bob C, Australia. Your best teacher is your last mistake.

View Doe's profile


1415 posts in 2977 days

#13 posted 12-11-2012 12:26 AM

It’s a beautiful instrument. Your work is amazing—I think you can make just about anything.

I’ll try to find the book; I play the metal kind of flute and think it would be neat to try to make one in wood.

best regards, Doe

-- Mother Nature talks, I try to listen

View rejo55's profile


190 posts in 2389 days

#14 posted 12-11-2012 01:00 AM

Jim, seems to me you nailed the F# like you wanted. You said it played Gflat with all holes closed; ergo, you have it. F sharp IS G flat.
I have a sneaky suspicion you play keyboards by ear and play on the black keys like I do, in the key of F#.
Beautiful job on the flute. (Your bird looks more like a scorpion to me ;) )

Thanks for the post, and have a good’un

-- rejo55, East Texas

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

21306 posts in 3252 days

#15 posted 12-11-2012 02:25 AM

Thanks Bob and Doe!!
Joe, someone else said that too about f# being G flat, but I was trying to hit F# right on with the meter. It was a real heavy F# like about almost +45 cents and G flat was about – 30 cents. I don’t play any instrument but often wished I did. I was going to make the bird look like an eagle with a walnut bottom and a clear sycamore piece on top like an eagle’s head. But I found this beautiful thin piece of spalted beech and that was that! It is like a scorpion’s tail….............Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

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