Remove Sound Wave Obstructions from Your Flutes
by Scott Loomis
Do you have a Native American flute that looks fabulous on the outside but just doesn't produce the clear notes you want?

     You may be able to do some simple finishing and refinements to improve the sound quality. If your flute was not finely finished on the inside, it will sound airy or breathy. To check the interior chamber, hold the flute up to the sun or a lamp. Let the light shine through the finger holes while you look through the end of the flute. If you see wood splinters or other debris hanging from the holes or elsewhere inside the flute, you may want to sand and polish it. This is fairly simple.

  You'll need the following:

     A dowel 3-4" longer than the barrel of your flute (3/8" for most sizes of flutes works well)
     Steel wool ("0000" grade)
     Optional: Power drill
     A light oil wood conditioner (see below)
     A clean cotton cloth

     Unwrap the "0000" steel wool cloth. This grade of steel wool cleans but does not remove any wood. It just makes it easier for sound waves to travel through your flute unobstructed. Staple the end of the steel wool cloth to the end of the dowel, making sure there's no part of the staple sticking up from the dowel or protruding through the dowel. If necessary, use a hammer to flatten the staple. Wrap the steel wool around the end of the dowel until it fits the interior diameter of your flute's chamber snugly. Cut off the excess. Squeeze it securely--do not staple this end. If you have a power drill, insert the other end of the dowel into the bit end of the drill. Insert the steel wool-wrapped end into the flute chamber and start with a low drill speed to clean the chamber, making sure the drill rotates in the opposite direction as the steel wool wrap (otherwise the steel wool will unwrap). If you do not want to use the drill, use your hands to twist the dowel vigorously in the opposite direction of the wrap for the full length of the chamber. Pull the dowel in and out the full length of the flute several times. Continue until all debris is gone. Now vacuum or blow the debris out of the chamber.

     Now attach the clean cotton cloth to the dowel in the same manner. Dampen (but don't soak) the cloth with the wood conditioner (see below for information on selecting conditioners). You don't need the drill for this step. Just coat the chamber interior lightly with the conditioner. Let it stand for a half hour (time enough to plant a few bulbs or chase the deer out of the garden). Wipe off any excess.

     Play it! Hopefully this combined with last week's tip made your flute play better for you.

Yours in respect and harmony:
Scott Loomis

     Thanks to all who responded to last week's tip. We promised we'd let you know where to find wood conditioners and beeswax:
  Wood Conditioners
     Be sure to use only non-toxic (FDA approved), highly refined oils. I use Bemis Wood Conditioner, #500 from Bemis Manufacturing. Another fine conditioner is Butcher Block Oil from General Finishes, available from Woodcraft (800) 535-4482. Or visit a cutlery store or your local hardware store. Be sure to ask for an FDA-approved safe oil since you'll be putting your mouth on it.
     I use Bioshield #32 "Floor and Furniture Hardwax". I order from BIOShield Eco Paints, (800)621-2591.

     Do you have questions about caring for or playing your Native American flute? We'd love to hear from you. Email: webmaster@loomisflute.com

Copyright 1998 - 2010 by Linda Hugle
All rights reserved
Updated December 2009 - catNcap Enterprises