Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"One man's trash..."

My neighbor heard me sanding and tuning flutes outside and came over for a howdy and an invitation. He is an assiduous landscaper and loves his botanical pursuits. That includes not only growing but grooming, and getting rid of the dead stuff.

He wanted to show me a large cedar tree that had been dead for 6 years or so, but was not lying flat on the ground (a good thing), as well as a smallish hickory tree that he girdled 2 years ago, also 'dead-standing'. All have great flute potential, so I'll be hacking them up in the next few days and see how they look.

But out of the corner of my eye was a large pile of limbs that he had piled up to prevent erosion...lo and behold my eyes lit up as I discovered some wildly shaped pieces that should make incredible branch flutes...some are going to be VERY challenging as I have to find the right area to put the 'nest' as well as the finger holes...and one has excellent potential for a natural drone (2-chambered flute). I picked out several select pieces and took them home to prepare them for further study by removing the extraneous stems and such and hitting the nubs on the belt sander:

(click pics to enlarge)

Looks like a mix of holly and boxwood (only a guess), thoroughly dry but most without any major cracks, which is a real plus. The large "Y" on the left will be the challenge to turn into a drone, with separate barrels going out each arm. However, unlike a 'regular' drone, they will not be the same note, which gives me lots of creative options. Do I run the playing side on the right and in a high key, and then make the drone barrel an octave lower? A musical fifth? Or do I put the playing holes on the left and make the drone barrel to the right a musical fifth or octave higher? Ah, this type of challenge really gets my creative mind going! Something different, that's for sure, assuming I can pull it off. I still want two separate chambers coming out at the mouthpiece, and it looks like I've got plenty of wood to do that.

With my fill-in TV work at News 14 and WSOC recently, I'm not in major flute-making mode, though I have chosen to focus on a crop of mid-range half-pipes close to F#. This is about as low as I can make a half-pipe (actually, E is), which is in a range that pleases the majority of ears wanting to 'hear' a native style flute sound...

The lighter tan flutes are spalted Maple...the two more brown ones are Sassafras (smells SO sweet when you cut and sand it!)...and the reddish quartet is some beautiful 'clear' cedar (no knots), Most of these are actually over Ebony bottoms, with one over Redheart and another over Poplar. These are sanded to the 280-grit level at the moment...assuming it stays dry, I'll whip up some simple blocks for 'em and start fine-tuning each one.

Hopefully it will be a quieter weather period today and tomorrow as the weather crew is short-staffed for new-equipment training...as well, it will make for sander-friendly weather!

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