For a person who learns how to make Native American Style flute, photos are one of the best educational resources. By looking at the elements of the flute made by other makers, you can easily learn what to expect and what should you make yourself. Today I explain 5 photos of flute’s nests – this is where the sound mechanism is located, and this is the heart of the flute that makes the instrument make sounds.
You should remember that Native American style flute has two chambers – the first one is called Slow Air Chamber – from it, a hole leads into the air channel, that directs the air stream into the True Sound Hole with a Splitting Edge – this is where the sound is produced. The entire sound mechanism area is often called “a nest”. Basically, the holes can be round or square, the air channel can be placed within flute’s body, or within flute’s block.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
Branch Flutes and Air Channels
Let’s start with some branch flutes and air channels built into the flute’s body.
On the photo above, you see a nest area of a branch flute I made some time ago. The air channel is made into the flute’s body. The air channel can be made either with flat chisel, or with a router bit. Personally, I use chisels :).
Check the list of basic tools for making Native American style flutes at home.
The True Sound Hole’s splitting edge is sanded down from above, too. Every splitting edge is (or at least should be) sanded from the bottom at 45 degrees angle. But when you make an air channel within flute’s body, and not in its block, you need to sand down the splitting edge from the top, as well. Otherwise, the flute may sound airy or it may be very silent.
This is because the air stream must hit the splitting edge properly and the air must be splitted equally.
If you wonder why some areas of this nest are yellow while other areas are white – well, first I laquered the flute with some shellac, but later on I needed to make some fixes, thus the laquer has been sanded down a bit :).
On the photo above you can see exactly the same situation – the air channel is build into the flute’s body, so the splitting edge is sanded down on the top, as well.
Once again, a nest in a branch flute. The photos above illustrate that the sound mechanism does not have to be perfect – it can have small flaws. Of course, the higher quality of the sound mechanism, the better the sound is. But even without perfection the flutes can sound great.
Nests With No Air Channel
Next, let’s take a look at some nests with no air channel built into the flute’s body.
This is a flute I purchased long time ago – this is how Jack Ferguson made the nest in a beautiful piece of walnut. I hope he won’t mind the photo… and the link :). Anyway, many, many flute makers make the holes round – they are very simple to make. But it’s tricky, sometimes such hole produces weak and airy sound. Sometimes, it produces clear and loud sound – I still haven’t figured that out :). Anyway, in case of Jack and his flute, the sound was very loud and clear.
The round True Sound Hole has a 45 degrees slope on the bottom. The air channel has been built into the flute’s block. Look below, please.
This is my own flute made of spruce. The hole leading into the Slow Air Chamber has been drilled and remains rounded. I used a dremel and diamond files to shape the True Sound Hole. In case of Jack’s flute and as well as in case of this flute above, the air channel is made into the flute’s block, and the splitting edge is not sanded down on the top.
If you decide to make a Native American style flute and the budget allows you, you should really get a dremel! (aff) With its cutting bits it’s a perfect and fast tool to make high quality true sound hole. I own a basic Dremel 3000 and it works great! While I still use a lot of handtools, and finish the TSH with diamond files, the basic cuts made with dremel or some similar tool are very helpful.
When you make your air channel into the flute’s block, there’s no need to sand down the splitting edge on the top – it should remain intact with the slope on the bottom side only. This way, when the hole has proper size, the sound of the flute will remain loud and clear.
For those who wonder: on the photo above the True Sound Hole is 6 by 9 mm, and it’s a flute with 20 mm wide bore in the key of F#. Personally, I never had the need to make my TSH bigger or smaller – most of them vary from 5×8 mm to 6×9 mm. Remember – the bigger the flute, the bigger the TSH; on the other hand the smaller the flute, the smaller the TSH.
After making dozens of flutes, I’ve noticed that building the flute’s air channel into the block makes tuning process a lot easier, and allows the maker to produce much louder and clear flutes a lot easier.
There is some math to making flutes, but when you simple copy the nests from above and make a 45 degrees slope on the bottom of the TSH, the flute should make a sound. The sound mechanism of the Native American flute may look complicated and difficult to make, but after first few flutes it becomes very simple!
If you’re a maker, how do you make your nests and sound mechanism? Share your thoughts in the comments, please.