Playing Hole Placement

Laying Out Your Playing Holes

What I do to get my playing holes in the proper place is this…  I first glue my blanks halves together and let them sit in the clamps usually overnight.  This is not completely necessary as you can remove the clamps after a couple of hours if you wish.  But I do not do any work on the flute blank until 24 hours has passed.  Then I check to see if the flute plays a note of any sort.  To do this you can really use any small block of wood to cover the Focusing Channel.  Depending on the bore of the flute blank I usually have an idea as to what key I am looking for.  For example if I have a flute blank that is a 7/8″ bore I might be shooting for an F or an F# when I am done.  So the first thing I do is to decide if I want to include the 4 Winds Tuning Holes or not.  If I am going to add the tuning holes I will trim the bottom of the flute until I get within one key of where I want to be.  So if I am shooting for an F# I will trim the bottom of the flute to an approximate F.  If I am not going to use the tuning holes I will trim the bottom of the flute blank to within about (minus) – 10-20 cents (using an electronic tuner) of the note I think I want.  This means that the note is to the flat side.  Then I leave it alone.  Keep in mind that I am still dealing with a square flute blank.

Usually people want to know why I keep the note to the flat side and not tune it fully to the key and the answer is that as I shape the flute the fundamental note is going to change.  As you shave down your flute blanks the fundamental note will start to creep up.  Keeping it to the flat side makes it easier to correctly tune it later.  Now you are ready to layout your playing holes.  The next thing is to decide if you will be making a five hole or a six hole flute.  We build both and as far as how we measure for each it is basically the same.

Measuring for Holes with NO Four Winds Tuning Holes


Assuming you do not want the Four Winds Tuning Holes then measure the distance between the end of the flute and to the very front edge of the cutting edge.  Take the midpoint of this measurement and then mark the top of the flute.  Draw a mark using a square across the body of the flute.  This mark will be where your #3 playing hole will live.  For clarification I count my holes starting at the foot of the flute – the bottom hole is the #1 hole for me.  Now you can measure down the flute for the #2 and #1 hole from this starting midpoint.  A good measurement for a comfortable placement of your fingers is to measure on center 1 1/8″ from center point to center point.  So you should have your #3 hole at midpoint then 1 1/8″ down is the center of the #2 hole and the same for the #1 hole.

Next measure from the center of the #3 hole up the body of the flute towards the blowhole 1 1/4″ and make your mark.  This mark is where the #4 hole would be placed.  Then from the center of the #4 hole measure 1 1/16″ and make your mark for the #5 hole.  Measure again 1 1/16″ up the flute and make your mark for your #6 hole.  The top three holes are 1/16″ closer  together than the bottom three holes.  And, the distance between the #3 and #4 holes is the farthest distance between all of the holes.  These measurements are important and for just about most of the flutes we make these distances work real well and the holes are at a comfortable distance for most players.  If you ever decide to move the midpoint #3 hole for any reason do it to the up side of the flute.

NOTE: If you are building a five hole flute you will not be drilling the #4 hole but you will still want to keep these measurements to locate the #5 & #6 holes.  When we make a five hole flute we many times will use the area where the #4 hole would be in a six hole flute to put a bezel set stone.  We do not always set a stone here but it adds a nice touch to the overall aesthetic of the flute.

Now that you have your marks on the top of your flute you need to also mark the midpoint of the width of the flute blank and draw a centerline down the center of the flute so you cross all six of your hole markings.  At this point we always take a very small drill bit of about 3/32″ or 7/64″ and drill pilot holes at each of the measured spots.  Now you are ready to go ahead and start the shaping process.

You will want to shape your flute to just about the final shape before you start to tune your flute.  As you shape your flute down your fundamental note will start to creep up a bit and this is why you need to be to the flat side of the note.  Be sure to keep checking your fundamental note as you shape.  This is also a good way for you to learn how each thing you do to your flute affects the sound.

The picture to the right is a picture of a six hole flute we recently made for another customer (click image to enlarge).  Take a close look at the placement of the holes.  In this picture you can see we used the 4 Winds Tuning Holes for this flute.  When you use the 4 Winds Tuning Hole you will take your midpoint measurement from the center point of the top 4 Winds Hole (NOT THE END OF THE FLUTE) to the cutting edge.  The 4 Winds Tuning Holes is effectively the end of the flute.  The distance beyond these tuning holes is for aesthetics and it adds extra length to the overall flute.