Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Make a Native American Flute the Traditional Way

By Contributor ; Updated September 21, 2017

Native American flutes come in all sizes and shapes. Some Native American flute-makers prefer to construct their flutes from a single piece of wood, while others separate a piece of wood into halves and reassemble. Today, with the array of power tools available, doing this work is much simpler than it was before the advent of such woodworking tools. Making a Native American flute the traditional way is more time consuming and requires skill and patience, but the end result is often more treasured by flute collectors. Learn how to make Native American flutes the way they were made long ago.

Find a piece of wood for your flute between 24 to 25 inches in length. Red cedar is a good choice for a traditional Native American flute because it's easy to work with and produces a flute of good tonal quality. Cut the cedar piece into two halves lengthwise.

Use a hand bore to hollow out each half of the wood. The bore tool is a metal, chisel-like tool that allows you to scrape and remove wood until you achieve the channel depth you need on each half of the wood (about 1/2 inch on each half).

Use a sharp carving knife to give your flute its tubular shape, taking care to taper and slot the mouth end. The diameter of the flute should be between 2 and 2.5 inches.

Use a spoon chisel to cut an upward slant into one end of the flute. This will form the portion of the flute's first air chamber that will direct air up through the flute's fetish when completed.

Sand each half of the wood with 100-grit sandpaper until the the wood is smooth.

Use a carving knife to cut holes into the top half of the flute. The hole placement should be set at a distance to center and as follows: 10 11/16 inches, 11 7/16 inches, 12 1/8 inches, 13 1/16 inches, 14 inches and 14 15/16 inches. These measurements have become standardized, although traditional Native American flutes were measured in relation to the owner's body, with the length being the distance from the owner's armpit to wrist, the holes a thumb's width apart and the length of the top air chamber the width of a fist.

Sand around the holes to remove any bits of cedar left over from the cutting process, then glue the two halves of the cedar together.

Carve a fetish and glue it to the top of the flute, right above where the angle cut made with the spoon chisel breaks through the first air chamber. You can use a simple block of cedar with no design, or you can carve an animal figure from the cedar block. A typical Native American fetish for the flute might be a woodland animal or a bird. Make the fetish as intricate or as primitive as you like.

Polish your flute with linseed oil and add feathers and a leather wrap around the fetish for an authentic traditional Native American flute.


About the Author

This article was written by a professional writer, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more, see our about us page: link below.