Thread: Burdekin Plum flute build
30th Sep 2017, 06:24 PM #1
Burdekin Plum flute build
I recently acquired some lovely Burdekin Plum blanks from a member here and thought I would chart the progress from blank to flute.
The flute took one day (yesterday) to turn, tune and begin to finish.
My design for a keyless Baroque pitched (415Hz vs modern 440Hz) is adapted from a 1600s Claude Rafi 385Hz tenor flute which resides currently in a Brussels museum. Rigorous external and internal measurements were made of it in the late 1970s.
Terry McGee, Australian flutemaker, made a faithful copy in the mid-80s using an authorised copy of these drawings and I acquired the flute a few years ago.
My own measurements plus a examination of Terry's copy of the drawings has led me to start making my own Rafi inspired flutes in different pitches.
This particular flute is a two-piece design with a removable tenon socket joint. It has a cylindrical bore of 18mm for a total length of around 640mm and sounding length of about 592mm. Sounding length determines its pitch. The original Rafi flutes overall length is around 670mm.
I chose appropriate blanks and put them against my drawings:
I was surprised to find it was very similar to turning Jarrah. Very rough, splintery and not fun at all! I might be spoilt by Rock Maple and Gidgee.
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30th Sep 2017, 06:32 PM #2
30th Sep 2017, 06:45 PM #3
More turning. I turn mostly by eye and calipers. Mostly eye.
By now the two pieces are just simple wood tubes.
I turn them down from around 8mm wall thickness to 3-2.75mm wall thickness.
At any time a crack or defect in the wood could easily explode the entire joint apart. I've had plenty of lovely flute joints pop apart in the final turning stages. They really explode! I was lucky yesterday: the Burdekin Plum is a good instrument wood it seems!
With some thinned linseed oil added to check the lovely colours:
Very thin wood at the end of the socket joint:
30th Sep 2017, 06:59 PM #4
Time to say bye-bye to the lathe...
Mark up the embouchure (blowhole) and toneholes:
And say hello to the drill-press:
All the holes are drilled undersize by around 25%. They'll be hand filed to size according to tuning needs.
30th Sep 2017, 07:09 PM #5
Hand filing is tedious and time-consuming but very important. Tuning can be altered with every stroke.
Start from the lowest note working up. Undercutting is the best way to try and achieve even sized/spaced holes.
In order to tune I shape and smooth the embouchure first and then thread wrap the joint so the flute is playable. Later once finished I will glue lapped cork to the socket tenon.
Once happy with the tuning (for now anyway, I'll probably change my mind later) I fine sand the holes:
30th Sep 2017, 07:15 PM #6
After fine sanding the flute bore the next thing is to wash off the dust and soak in a mix of Sweet Almond oil and Olive oil. Around 12 hours:
After that it's wiped down and set to dry. Then play, dry, oil. Play, dry, oil and in around a week it'll stabilise internally and usually require more fine tuning.
I'll post final pics of the finished flute in a week or so
30th Sep 2017, 07:44 PM #7
Thanks Vaughan, really interesting. Will you be playing it for us at the next Blue Mountains GTG?Those were the droids I was looking for.
30th Sep 2017, 07:45 PM #8
Vaughan, this is a really interesting thread - thanks for posting!
I'm surprised that your are using normal twist drills rather than Brad Points or other spurred drills to get really crisp entry to the holes. The exit wouldn't matter much because of the broomstick support.
30th Sep 2017, 07:46 PM #9
30th Sep 2017, 11:17 PM #10
30th Sep 2017, 11:31 PM #11
Honestly, I don't have bradpoints because I never see them for sale when I need new bits (I'm lazy maybe and need to go beyond the local hardware shop?).
I know they're cleaner but every hole on these flutes has a lot of extra material hand-filed away that I don't worry about tearouts. Plus I drill very low speed and with hard woods.
Indeed the dowel stick inside the bore helps limit the internal tearout and the tonehole undercutting done with files leaves a profile something like /'''''''''\ so never is it a problem (at least at my amateur level) if it does occur.
Look forward to the BM GTG
1st Oct 2017, 08:58 AM #12
2nd Oct 2017, 02:03 PM #13
A very interesting thread. I really enjoyed it. May even take a break from strings and try a simple wind instrument. I take it the sounding length and hole placement is akin to scale length and fret spacing on a strung instrument. Any pointers of what to read up on?
Anyhow beautiful instrument you have made.
PS if you want to give it a try out there is a music session at the Ori Hotel Springwood tomorrow 7pm. Mostly Irish and folk music. Anyone with any instrument is welcome.
3rd Oct 2017, 06:41 AM #14
The sounding length is measured from the middle of the embouchure to the end of the flute. The longer the length the lower the pitch; shorter equals higher. Overall flute wall thickness, and the size, angle and position of toneholes determines each hole's pitch. A shorter or larger length between it and the embouchure equal higher pitch of the note. Imagine a string vibrating between the two open holes.
A good book is Trevor Robinson's 'Amateur Wind Instrument Maker'. It has basic and advanced advice and some diagrams, etc.
After beginning playing a Simple System (modern concert flutes are usually Boehm system) a few years ago I started making futes with bamboo, Golden Bamboo is perfect, knocking out the nodes with a length of all-thread but saving one as an end-stopper above the embouchure. They sound very haunting and etheral but since I mostly play medieval, Baroque, classical and folk tunes the necessary Western tuning was too hard to achieve well with bamboo. Too much random variance in their 'bores' - so I moved onto PVC pipe.
PVC flutes are the easiest to make and to learn how to grapple with the eccentricities of flute tuning, Mark Shepard has a good book and also a webpage showing a way to make them:
The Plumber's Pipe (Making PVC Flutes, Make a Flute)
I recommend you try a few PVC pipe flutes first before wood.
3rd Oct 2017, 08:54 AM #15
Thanks for the reading list. Be something to study up on when I get finished with laying flooring and painting the house.
The Ori sessions are first and third Tuesdays of the month and also fifth if there is one that month.
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