How I make flutes

The most important ingredient for any creation, is the love you give it. When you lay your heart and soul into what you're doing, the results radiate alike. When crafting flutes I consciously focus on giving them love and care during all steps of their journey, so they become instruments that open your heart and connect with your soul.

Step 1: Selecting the right materials

Not all trees want to become a flute. Some types of wood are excellent for furniture, others for building instruments. Western Red Cedar is most famous for making Native American Flutes. But many other types of wood are equally qualified, if not better.

My personal favorites are red Padauk and Walnut. Besides their magnificent looks and brilliant tonal quality, these woods are also blessed with strength and endurance. Cedar on the contrary is very soft so it is easily damaged after an accidental drop. But this very softness also gives it a very precious, loving voice on the midtone and higher range flutes.

Likewise every wood has its positive and negative aspects that have to be in balance. I handpick every single piece of wood taking into account all of its flutemaking characteristics, ensuring only the finest pieces are used for my instruments.


Raffaello holding a piece of black wenge wood in his flute workshop


All the flutes in my store have information on the wood I used in their description, and In have a page describing the most common wood types I use. Needless to say, every piece of wood has to be bone dry before starting to make it into a flute. If a wood isn't completely dry yet, I will let it rest in my workshop for months, and even years, before putting my hands to it.

Step 2: Drilling the sound chamber

Creating a smooth and straight sound chamber is essential for tonal quality. Here I use my "gun drill system" made from a customized wood lathe. This machine is the heart of my flutemaking process. It works by spinning around the wood blank and carefully driving a long drill into it. The result of a well-performed drill is a smooth and perfectly straight hole: the ideal sound chamber.


Raffaello drilling the sound chamber of a native american style flute on a wood lathe


This single-bore design doesn't require gluing two separate wood blanks together and next to being beautiful for its clean design, it's also better for stability. There is no seam where the wood could possibly open up, so taking your flute outdoors or hiking it up a mountain is no issue.

After the drilling process I use the lathe for turning the flute into its round shape, and sand it smooth.


Sanding a native american style flute on a wood lathe

Step 3: Creating a voice

The sound character, or voice of a flute is what really makes you connect  with an instrument. It's created mostly by the part you find below the totem: the shallow track, and the 'true sound hole' (rectangular). It can be shaped in many different ways, all producing (subtle) differences in sound quality and playability. It's an extremely precise process where a fraction of a millimetre can create the most enchanting voice, or break it into squeezing. Patience and a calm mind are key.

Voicing a native american style flute with a file


During this process I experimenting with different voicing techniques until I find each flute's most honest and profound character. In general you will find that my flutes have a very open, relaxed and natural voice. Each one has its unique presence and they always have the same deep level of connection.

Step 4: Professional tuning

When voicing is giving color to the sound of your flute, tuning is teaching it words and language to communicate with. I believe in speaking truth, and playing false notes on the flute feels like lying. My flutes therefore only leave my workshop when they are nicely in tune and give me a warm and honest feeling in my stomach. I do the tuning entirely by hand according to a set of quality standards.

Tuning is done by adjusting the length of the sound chamber, positioning the finger holes and precisely shaping them. Every new change influences all other parts of the flute, so it's a process of constant adjusting and readjusting, until a harmonic balance is reached.

I tune my flutes to an easy-to-play pentatonic scale, but also to a full chromatic scale. This means they can be played and improvised without any musical knowledge, but you can also use them for studying western sheet music and going beyond the pentatonic scale.

Step 5: Crafting aesthetic details

My intention when deciding on visual aspects is to create a beautiful yet simple instrument so the mind is satisfied, doesn't go looking for mistakes or judgments, and naturally calms down.


Mouthpiece of a Prana Native American style flute


The fetish, mouthpiece, and other details on my flutes are all made by hand. I use a handsaw and a dremel tool to rough out the shape, and then continue with chisels to make them into their final form. I use three to four different grinds of sandpaper to smoothen the entire flute including its details.

I listen carefully to how the flute wants to be shaped by taking into accordance the structural and visual aspect of every piece of wood, attentively combining it with other parts of wood, leather, etc.

After they have a characterizing voice, professional tuning and their final presence, I give my flutes the Prana logo.


The prana flutes metal logo stamp


Step 6: Applying natural oils & finishers

Applying oils and finishers is the last step in my flutemaking process. All finishers and oils that I use are made from natural & foodsafe products. I start with applying Prana bore oil (based on 100% pure almond oil) to the inside chambers of my flutes. This first layer penetrates into the wood, sealing the pores and acting as a protector against fungi and bacteria.

After the bore oil I apply multiple layers of natural hardwax oils (based on sunflower oil, carnauba- and candilla wax) that will build a long-lasting and wear-resistant finish to the exterior of the flute. This hardwax finish is safe for humans, plants as well as animals and will live the test of time. And last but not least, it will bring alive the natural beauty of your flute by providing a priceless, low-satin look to your flute.


Finishing a native american style flute with natural oils and finishers


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