Let’s Talk Tools

So lets talk about what kind of tools you will need.  Making a hand crafted flute takes time and patience and there is definitely a learning curve.  The tools you will use are very important to the process.  There are some basic tools you will need and I will cover most of the important ones you will need.  I personally buy many of my hand tools from a company called “Lee Valley Tools” (www.leevalley.com), WoodCraft.com or even specialty places like McGuckin’s Hardware in Boulder Colorado.  They are quick to ship and have every type of hand tool you could ever want.  In Jackson Hole selection is limited and Home Depot’s and Lowes in my opinion are not the best places to search for high-end hand tools, although you can find much of what you need at both of these big box stores.


  1.   Marking Pens and Pencils – Get yourself a box of good quality #2 pencils with a good sharpener.  Also you will want to find  really good quality WHITE colored ink pen.  This may sound silly but having a good quality pens and pencils for marking and a good quality sharpener to keep a good sharp lead point on your pencils is important.  When you are marking on wood it is sometimes difficult to make a really good mark  or line that clearly defines where to cut, gouge, chisel and plane.  Some woods will render a cleaner mark than others because of grain differences.  So a ”Good Quality Pencil” , “Good Quality White Ink Pen”,  and a “Good quality Sharpener” is a must.  If you plan to work with darker colored woods such a walnut you see the need to get yourself a white marking pen.  Try to find a pen with a fine tip to it.  If a colored pencil you can sharpen it as you would your #2 pencils.  A good white marking pen makes it a lot easier to see what you will be cutting on darker wood.
  2.   Tape Measure – Invest in a really good quality tape measure.  You will be using it a lot.  I use a standard tape, but you can buy them in metric measurements if desired.  In addition to the tape measure get yourself a good quality stainless steel straight edge of about 6 -12 inches in length.  Find one that has standard measurements on one side (down to 1/64″ markings) and metric (in millimeters) on the other side of the straight edge.  You will use both sides of this measuring device especially when you get to laying out your Windway area of the flute.
  3.   Straight Edge – A longer straight edge with markings of at least 24″ in length.  I use one that is 36″ in length so I can make straight lines from one end of a flute blank to the other without moving the straight edge.  Remember many of your flute blanks will end up being 28″ – 30″+ depending on what key your flute project will be.  I also recommend you buy yourself a small stainless steel ruler that has both standard and metric measurements on it.  For standard you want down to 1/32″ and metric you want it in millimeters.
  4.   Angle Square – You will need a good square so you can make exact 90 degree markings on your flute blanks.  One that I like is the standard Rafter Angle Square as it is easy to use and simple to hang up on your work bench when not needed.
  5.   Hand Clamps – There are many types of clamps available today.  But I like and I use Wood Handscrew Clamps.  Because your flutes are for the most part never wider than a couple of inches thick you will only need to purchase clamps with a 6″ jaw length which renders a 3″ maximum opening.  In my opinion you should have at least 6 (8 is better) of these types of clamps as you need that many to properly glue your flute blanks together.  This size wood clamp should cost around $15 -$16 dollars each if you buy 4 or more at a time.  You can never have too many clamps and if you take care of them they will last you a lifetime.
  6.   Wood Glue – There are many types of wood glue out there and many opinions on which ones are the best but to keep it simple – I use “Titebond III” which is a waterproof glue that is easy to use, easy to clean up and has a good working time.  You will use it sparingly so do not buy too much at one time.  I know some other flute makers that like Gorilla Glue – but be aware it is a mess to work with and if you get it on your hands it is not easy to get off.
  7.   CA Glue or Instant Bond Glue – In addition to your standard wood glue you will want to have some of this in your shop.  You can use this instant bonding glue to fix cracks, splits and other hard to reach areas that need to be bonded.  Both CA (from Satellite City) and Titebond have a great selection of quick bonding glues.  When you are working with older reclaimed wood species this is one of the best products you will have in your shop.
  8.   Sandpaper – I use five different grits of sandpaper and I buy my sandpaper in bulk or at least in the Contractor Sized packages.  This is where a Home Depot can come in handy as they usually have good pricing on large package sizes.  I use the following grits: 80, 100, 150, 220, and 340 grit.  Be sure to buy the best quality sandpaper you can afford.  The better the quality the longer you can use a single piece.  Each sheet of sandpaper gets quartered so each sheet will give you four pieces and each piece will also fit your standard size sanding block.  I would also recommend you get yourself a good quality sanding block.  Usually they are made of a hard rubber and are easy to load your pre-cut sheet into.  Finally get yourself a package of #0000 steel wool and maybe even some 600-800 grit wet/dry paper.that will be used during the finishing process.
  9.   Chisels & Gouges You will definitely need a good quality set of chisels and gouges for your crafting of your flute bodies.  You will use gouges for carving your flute bores and good quality chisels to make your Windway area.  It is important to note here that you DO NOT want to cut corners when buying one of these tools for your collection.  Also you DO NOT need to buy a whole set.  Just buy the sizes you will be working with.  I like Hirsch Chisels and Gouges as they are very well made and easy on your hands.  I like their # 7 and #9 straight gouges in 20 mm widths.  Each one of these will cost you around $30 per gouge. You will also need to get yourself at least three good chisels.  I use most of the time a 1/4″ width, 3/8″ width and a 1″ width chisel.  These will be used mostly when you are working on and shaping around your windway area of your flute.  Again, spend the money to get the best quality chisels you can afford to.  Remember if you take care of them they will last you a lifetime.
  10.   Exacto Knives – Get yourself a good set of Exacto knives with a good selection of blades.  These knives will come in very handy when you are working to fine tune your Windway area.  These are a must have.
  11.   Collection of Hand Files – You will need to get yourself a selection of hand files.  A set of very small files are a must as you will need them when crafting and fine tuning your Windway area.  Larger files in flat, angles and rounds can be used all the time.  Again when buying your files buy them individually and take care of them.  If you just throw them around in your toolbox and such you will dull them very fast and then have to replace them or just suffer through working with tools that are not sharp.
  12.   Hand Planes – This is one of the most important hand tools you will purchase.  Again – buy the best quality hand plan you can afford.  I hand plane the entire flute body prior to sanding and drilling of the playing holes.  The better hand plane have better quality steel in their blades and the body of the plane.  Higher quality steel will hold a sharper edge to the plane blade.  You can buy a high quality plane made by Veritas or Stanley has one too.  Both of these are available from Lee Valley Tools.  I like the Veritas plane but is is $145.00 at Lee Valley Tools.  But there are other hand planes that you can find for less money.  The key with your hand plane is keeping the blade sharp.
  13.   Dremel – Do yourself a favor and get a new dremel or dremel like tool with a long shaft attachment.  These tools are worth every penny.  You will use them extensively when you start crafting your fetish blocks.  You will also use them to help fine tune your flutes during the tuning process.  Our fetish blocks tend to be a bit whimsical and we use our Dremels all the time in crafting them.
  14.   Sharpening Stones – This is very important – you need to have the best sharpening stone set you can afford to buy.  Dull chisels and gouges are not only dangerous they will most definitely screw up your project.  Keeping your chisels and gouges sharp is one of the most important things you will need to do.

Other items are tools such as honing guides that you can buy that will help you with the sharpening process and they will help you keep a consistent sharp edge on your tools.  Bottom line is that when it comes to hand tools spend as much as you can afford to buy quality made tools.  Having the right hand tool will make the process much more enjoyable for you.  Dull or improper tools will render a poor quality product and get you hurt.

Power Tools

If you do not already have some of these power tool you will eventually want to get them in your shop.  There are some really cool power tools out there but these are some of the basics you will find in most well equipped shops.  Keep in mind that none of these are inexpensive adds to your shop.  But if you plan to buy one of these power tool listed below buy the best you can afford to buy.

  1. Drill Press – Bench Top model will work but a larger floor model is preferred.
  2. Band Saw – at least a 10” capacity
  3. Cordless Drill
  4. Scroll Saw
  5. Table Saw
  6. Jointer
  7. Planer
  8. Plunge Router
  9. Lathe
  10. Sanding Machines
  11. Vacuum Systems
  12. Air Cleaners/filters

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