How to Make Native American Style Flutes

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Native American flutes are symbolic of peace and spirituality. Native Americans took pride in making and playing their flutes, and many still make these flutes like their forefathers did. A handcrafted Native American flute can be very expensive, but many collectors pay the price for the exquisite beauty and sound of these musical works of art. Make Native American style flutes that will capture the spirituality of the original occupants of our country.

Step 1

Start with a piece of red cedar about 24 inches in length. Cut the cedar lengthwise from one end to the other and place both pieces on an even surface. Bore a channel in each half of the cedar with a hand bore (available at a hardware shop) 1/2-inch deep on either side.

Step 2

Sand the two halves of cedar with 80-grit sandpaper and check to make sure the halves fit back together flush. Glue the two halves with wood glue.

Step 3

Carve the fetish for the top of your Native American flute from a block of cedar. Animal figures are most popular on Native American style flutes, but your fetish can be anything you like.

Step 4

Carve the mouthpiece for your Native American flute from your second block of cedar. Bore a 1-inch diameter hole into the mouthpiece from the front to the back, leaving just enough room to cut the slot for the mouthpiece.

Step 5

Cut the mouthpiece slot with the tip of a carving knife, breaking through to the bored air chamber. Cut another slot on top of the air chamber, centered and about 1/2-inch in length and width. Glue the mouthpiece to the end of the flute and let it dry.

Step 6

Glue your fetish to the top of the flute, placing it just in front of the exit hole for the air chamber.

Step 7

Drill six holes into the flute with hand drill or drill press. The placement of the holes, bore diameter, and overall flute length dictate the key of the flute. The hole placement for a key-of-C Native American flute is set at a distance to center. Hole 6 should be 10 11/16 inches from center; hole 5, 11 7/16 inches; hole 4, 12 1/8 inches; hole 3, 13 1/16 inches; hole 2, 14 inches; and hole 1, 14 15/16 inches. The overall length of the Native American flute in the key of C should be 18 1/8 inches. Run a long bit down the bore to remove any hanging pieces of wood after drilling the flute holes.

Step 8

Rub the wood with linseed oil, then finish it with a water-resistant wood stain or varnish. Let the first coat of varnish dry thoroughly and then apply a second coat. (If you want to paint Native American style decor on your flute, do that before you apply the oil and varnish, and do it with acrylic paints.)

Step 9

Decorate the finished flute with colorful beads and feathers to give it an authentic Native American look.

Things You'll Need

  • Red cedar wood, 24 inches long
  • 2 cedar blocks, about 3- by 5-inches
  • Power circular saw
  • Hand boring tool
  • Sand paper (80 grit)
  • Glue
  • Carving knife
  • Drill
  • Wood finish
  • Linseed oil
  • Beads
  • Feathers

Who Can Help

Keywords: make, build, native, american, flute

About this Author

Carl Hose has been writing since high school. His work appears in the zombie anthology Cold Storage, which he co-edited. His work also appears in Champagne Shivers, DeathGrip: It Came from the Cinema, DeathGrip: Exit Laughing, the horror anthology Loving the Undead, the erotic ghost anthology Beyond Desire, and issues of Lighthouse Digest. Hose's nonfiction appears in Blue Review and Writer's Journal.

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