A couple of years ago I was commissioned to build a very special flute. I have made a post about this before but I wanted to update this article as there has been some very nice things take place this past summer directly related to this post. I completed the construction of a very nice flute for one of my favorite customers, Mary Blakeley, who lives in Idaho. This is one of the first flutes where I crafted the entire flute and fetish but did not put a finish on the flute prior to shipping.
Mary wanted to complete this process for her flute on her own and I was excited to see what she has in mind. This flute was crafted from a very interesting piece of Sassafras. Sassafras is very nice wood to work with and I like the tonal qualities of this wood. Generally Sassafras is kind of non descriptive wood and it does not have the flash that other domestic species can have.
This board was unusual because the grain patterns were very nice. The problem was – the board was twisted and bent and wow – I was not sure I would be able to make it work. After consulting with Mary she made the decision that this piece was the one for her so I agreed to go ahead and see what I could do.
Because I liked the grain patterns so well I cut the best sections out of the board and spent two weeks trying various tricks to help straighten the blanks out. After a couple of weeks and several different methods I realized that I was going to have to simply do my best during the glue up phase and make sure I had enough clamps on the blanks and a good solid coat of glue to boot.
Prior to glue up there were two things I needed to do. First Mary requested I write into the inside of the flute the name “GOD” in Paleo Hebrew which I did. I then sealed the name into the flute body and it is now part of this flute forever. Second, I scored the entire gluing surfaces by hand with a sharp blade to give us some extra bite for the glue. Prior to the glue up I inlaid a small piece of ironwood into the top of the flute. This inlay became the cutting edge on this flute and the contrast came out perfect. Then I clamped it up and as you can see we made sure we had enough on the blanks. We left the blanks in the clamps overnight to make sure we gave it ample drying time and later the next day we removed the clamps and the results could not have been better.
“Amazing but that is what God does with music. Most believers want to have their emotions manipulated with music but they don’t realize that to God, music is communication. He communicates to us through the music of creation, twinkling stars, rushing water, winds that whisper and winds that roars through the trees, crashing waves and babies cries. The native flute is so special because when we give it our breath, it give us it’s song and each one has a song all its own. Through it we can release the deep sounds of our being.”
We wanted to shoot for a lower C# which made this a very long flute, almost 30 inches in length. We used the four winds tuning holes and spent hours tuning the flute the best I could. A C# is just about at the outside abilities for a 1 inch bored flute. I was able to achieve the fundamental note and like all of our flutes I voiced it for the first time right here in Jackson Hole Wyoming, home of the Teton Mountain range.
The fetish was one of my custom made whimsical feather designs that was crafted from a single piece old growth walnut with a band of sapwood in it. The base of the fetish is the sapwood and the feather is the black walnut color. A chimney was created to help with prevention of the #6 hole from jumping to easily and the results were pleasing.
After many hours of frustration and several challenges that we were faced with this flute ended up being one my favorites that I have worked on in quite some time. Nothing came easy on this flute and there were several times where I thought it was going to end up in my fireplace. But with Mary’s constant coaxing and support this flute came out just beautiful. We shipped this flute to her some time ago and I awaited pictures from her once she had completed her finishing project. All in all a very nice project.
After Mary had received her flute she finished it herself with her favorite wood oil and beeswax The picture to the left is the finished flute at her home in Idaho. Mary did a real nice job on completing the project and now she is busy bringing the life of this flute to others where she if helping people heal from problems they face. Recently Mary sent an email to me about one of her first experiences playing the flute she now calls “Eternal Comfort”. In her message to me she was sharing an experience where she was playing this flute over a sick woman trying to bring comfort to her. Within minutes this lady had fallen to sleep. Above is a block quote from her email to me that is one of the best descriptions of how sound and music communicates to us. This is a project where I have received more from Mary then Mary has from me. This is a very special woman with a desire to only help others – we need more like her…
UPDATE: Recently I received a package in the mail from Mary. It was long like a flute but I thought how could this be. I had recently crafted a new flute for her at her request out of a piece of Black Willow I had been saving. Mary had a vision that her next flute was to be an eagle flute and so this is what we came up with. Again this new flute was to be shipped with no finish on the wood as she would take care of this herself. Could this package I just received be this flute I had shipped to her earlier in the year? So I eagerly opened the package and to my surprise it was a flute but to my great relief it was not the flute below. After looking at it carefully I suddenly realized that is was the very flute this article was written about. Mary was returning it to me as a gift – one that I had never received before in all the flutes I have made for people. Mary wanted me to have this flute and to do something new and exciting with it. To be truthful I am not sure what exactly that is but I have this flute in front of me and I see it every day. I think of Mary most days and I think of all the flutes we have shared over the past few years. Mary has a gift, a gift of love and sharing the word of God. A very spiritual women she is and I thank God everyday for our chance meeting many years ago.