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fipple flute making - step by step

fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Yuri Terenyi » Tue Jan 07, 2014 10:24 pm

I have had a request to describe my tools and way of making fipple type flutes from someone in a place where money is not sloshing around very freely. Since I make these using mostly self-made tools, and the whole thing is made on what you could call a shoestring, I started a series of photos for him. Then I thought there will be probably many others interested, so here it is for your criticism.
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Yuri Terenyi » Tue Jan 07, 2014 10:32 pm

The tools I'm about to use for the drilling out. The spade bit leaves a rather smooth surface as it is, but I still prefer to ream it out for a truly mirror-smooth surface. The demo is for a cylindrical pipe, but the principle is identical for, for example, baroque recorder profiles. You just need to work a bit more on the reamers.
Attachments
005.JPG
The profile of the eventual drill bit. A normal spade bit, rounded off everywhere, to avoid too rough inner surface.
004.JPG
Same in profile
003.JPG
The tip head-on.
It has to be noted that it has been sharpened and re-sharpened time and again, so by now it's rather short. But still serviceable.
The shank, by the way, is left 4mm only for the first dunno, maybe 15mm or so, the rest is taken down on a sander to maybe 3.5mm. To avoid too much friction.
002.JPG
The D-bit. Held in an old drill jaw. (by hand. You can't see, but there is no drill attached.) 4mm diameter, made in this case from the shank of a 6mm spade bit. (because tool steel in this size is difficult to get where I am.)
001.JPG
The reamers I'm about to use. All made from old discarded files picked up from junk shops.
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Yuri Terenyi » Tue Jan 07, 2014 10:46 pm

The lathe I have has the 3-jaw chuck slightly beating. Well, you get what you pay for, and I couldn't pay much when I got it... So I have to make things a bit differently. The result is that I do not use a steady even.
Step-by-step:
Turn down the piece of wood to cylindrical, the normal way, between two points.
Grip the cylinder firmly in the jaw.
Turn the end smooth, and turn a centerpoint using a pointy kind of tool. I make these from files, once again. (files are too hard steel for normal turning, however, for this micro-turning they are fantastic. I have yet to have one breaking, after many years of using them.) By now you will notice that however careful you are, the stick will beat slightly.
Now stick the tailstock point into the centerpoint you just turned, and trim up the beating, so the whole thing is very slightly tapered now, and running smooth.

The D-bit making, if you are about to do it. Get the rod of the required diameter. Grind away exactly half of the thickness from the tip for some 5-10mms. The exact halving is exteremely important. If it's thinner, it will drag down, if fatter, up. In either case you end up with the bit wondering out of the true center. The closest you get to exact half, the better.
The chisel I use for starting the bore is made exactly the same way, but the tip is round rather than off-centre pointy.
Attachments
006.JPG
The look of the starting point.
007.JPG
Starting the bore.
008.JPG
The chisel for starting the bore. Made from an ordinary needle file.
009.JPG
Same again.
010.JPG
The reamer as it looks like when withdrawn from the bore.
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Yuri Terenyi » Tue Jan 07, 2014 11:16 pm

I didn't take photos of the actual pilot hole drilling, and then the enlargement by the spade bit. There simply isn't much to picture there.
Once the wood is bored and reamed out, it goes between two centres. The one gripped in the jaw is simply a piece of wood, wetted with some water for the purpose. That makes it grip the wood being turned better. It's an idea to re-wet the point now and then. In reality you will find that occasionally the wood will loosen up and start revolving. Just tighten up the tailstock.
Attachments
001.JPG
The two centres.
002.JPG
Same, with the blank gripped in between.
004.JPG
Self-explanatory.
005.JPG
The tools for cutting the window true.
006.JPG
Same from another angle.
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Yuri Terenyi » Tue Jan 07, 2014 11:21 pm

The knives and chisel above are all made from files. The one with the what looks like plastic, but is in fact bone, handle is made from a chainsaw file, the chisel from a small triangular one, and the other knife from a larger kind of needle file.

Now, the box in which all the windway cutting takes place. I think the photos are really self-explanatory. By the second photo you see a few small wooden shims of different thickness. These are the ones going on top of the upper block that grips the pipe being worked on. The hold-downs are cams made from a hard wood. Both upper and bottom blocks are lined with leather.
Attachments
011.JPG
010.JPG
009.JPG
008.JPG
007.JPG
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Yuri Terenyi » Tue Jan 07, 2014 11:31 pm

The cutting of the windway. Read the pictures back to front, I keep on forgetting that they appear in reverse, the last one should be the first one.
Attachments
017.JPG
016.JPG
014.JPG
The first cut, just to establish the channel. At this stage the channel is a tiny bit wider than the window already cut, the idea is that you widen the window to the exact width of the channel at this stage.that
013.JPG
An important tool the wire brush. Sounds silly, but it is.
012.JPG
The file that cuts the windway channel. An ordinary bastard cut file (looks funny because it has been re-sharpened, using diamond very thin discs). The important thing is that the two sides are ground flat, to the exact width. I also use some grease on the sides, helps to prevent drag.
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Yuri Terenyi » Tue Jan 07, 2014 11:38 pm

Cutting the windway roof and the bottom of the labium (lip.)
Since I am making a curved labium, the process is described as well. But if you are after a straight one, you need to take the windway roof somewhat higher, so the underside of the labium can rise until it clears the curvature.
Attachments
018.JPG
Position of the file when cutting the windway rood.
019.JPG
Position of the file when cutting the underside of the labium. You will notice that the cutting ridges are smoothed out towards the handle. This is the reason. So they don't enlarge the windway roof in undesirable ways.
020.JPG
The look after the underside of the labium (lip) has been filed. Be very careful at this, as only a couple of strokes will get the edges up to the required level. The two edges of the underside of the labium should be (for instruments of soprano-alto size) be about some 0.8mm or so below the underside of the windway roof. (at the edge, that is.)
022.JPG
The chisel. Or rather, the scraper, really. The edge is at about 80 degrees or so. Made, once again from a needle file.
023.JPG
What it looks like after the rough cutter work, before the finishing refinement.
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Yuri Terenyi » Tue Jan 07, 2014 11:45 pm

The "file" for the final shaping of the windway roof. The photos say it all, really.
Attachments
024.JPG
The tools to make the "file for shaping the windway roof. A shaped piece of hardwood, a double-sided tape, and snap-off craft knife. Oh, and sandpaper. I use P120 for the rough shaping, and finer for finishing.
025.JPG
The shape of the windway roof "file".
026.JPG
Double-sided tape in position.
027.JPG
Just so you see how to peel off the backing strip.
028.JPG
Sandpaper stuck on...
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Yuri Terenyi » Tue Jan 07, 2014 11:49 pm

How to make a file.
In fact, I found this tool rather helpful in quite a bit more applications. You can make it to any profile, shape, size and roughness you like.

(The cork in the last photo is simply holding the file in place, that's all.)
Attachments
029.JPG
Sandpaper cut off on the top and one side, still hanging out on the other.
030.JPG
031.JPG
The file ready to go.
032.JPG
The file in position for the windway roof.
033.JPG
Once again, the "file" is much deeper in for the underside of the labium.
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Yuri Terenyi » Tue Jan 07, 2014 11:56 pm

The finishing stage.
I forgot to mention, you cut the bottom of the labium after enlarging the cutup (the distance from the windway to the edge of the labium) to its final size.
Attachments
034.JPG
Undersides of both windway and labium finished. What you see down the barrel looks very much like the finish, except the labium is a solid wall.
035.JPG
The tools to carve the top of the labium. You met them before. Good old files.
036.JPG
What you should see looking down the barrel. The bottom of the labium is some 0.7-0.8mm lower than the roof of the windway. Obviously, the smaller the instrument, the narrower the gap, the larger, the bigger.
037.JPG
General look.
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Charlie Schultz » Fri Jan 10, 2014 9:09 am

This is really great Yuri, thanks for posting! What kind of woods do you recommend?
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Yuri Terenyi » Fri Jan 10, 2014 8:31 pm

Well, this is essentially a recorder, the whole process, that is. Some folk flutes of this type a very considerably simpler, but I won't go into that.
Now, as to the wood, all woods used for recorders are of course the right ones. Historically in Europe before the influx of exotics from African and Latin America the high quality ones were made from boxwood, the cheaper and also the large sizes from hard maple. Plum also has been used, and some other fruitwoods, though for recorders, as opposed to whistles it doesn't seem like these other fruitwoods were particularly favoured. And, of course the ebonies, rosewoods and so on are very well suited. The idea is to have the wood very dense and very stable.
The above example was made in a native New Zealand wood called black maire. It's not logged, you have to have a friendly farmer willing to cut down a tree or a branch at least. (in NZ native wood felling is actually while not completely illegal, is so complicated that there is virtually no logging of it. All the logging (and a very considerable amount that is, too) is done using introduced species.) But any farmer is allowed to cut the odd tree on his property for his own purposes, and it isn't strictly illegal to sell some of it, if it's kept to minimum. The pipe actually is one side of a double pipe I am making on order, so isn't strictly speaking a recorder, but the mouthpiece is the same type. (but not the bore, virtually no recorders have a straight cylindrical bore.)
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby John Peterson » Thu Jan 16, 2014 1:20 am

Really interesting post. Thank you for taking the time to do it. I have never drilled a bore using a D bit like this, but I think you have inspired me to experiment!
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Steve Senseney » Fri Jan 17, 2014 3:32 pm

Thanks!! I have done poorly accomplished flutes and whistles.

I appreciate you reamers, holders, files, and jigs.

Nice pictures and explanations.

Next attempt, I will have better ideas!
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Ionut Batrinache » Wed Jan 29, 2014 11:21 am

Thanks you for the tutorial.

I want to make a romanian caval from plum wood, that needs a almost square window. Do you think that i could drill a big hole and file down the corners of the window? I don't have carving knifes, i have to search for some old files and make my own knifes like you.
The labium would be easier to make by filing?
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Yuri Terenyi » Wed Jan 29, 2014 9:24 pm

Some makers use filing, but all in all, carving is probably preferable. It's simply cleaner. On the other hand, if you are not comfortable with really fine detail carving, filing is acceptable. You can make flat files the same way as outlined above (the stick and double-sided tape method) Just make sure that you finish using reasonably fine grade sandpaper.
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Ionut Batrinache » Thu Jan 30, 2014 4:03 am

I will try both methods and see what works for me. This if i will be able to bore the wood without a lathe...
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Timotej Kovačič » Tue Feb 04, 2014 11:59 am

This really is great. The first instrument I ever made was a fife and it made me fall in love with the craft. The lack of readily available tools scared me off, but I've always dreamt of building baroque oboes and clarinets. This is a really interesting post and really inspiring. The moment I get my hands on a decent lathe and a grinder, I'll be sure to take cues from your work. Thanks a ton!
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Yuri Terenyi » Sun Feb 09, 2014 10:14 pm

To finish it off. The block and some other thoughts.
I make the part that takes the block slightly tapered. The block's body it turned on the lathe to fit snugly into the pipe's recess. No play allowed at all, the fit should be up to engineering standards.
The other part is the wooden slip that actually forms the floor of the windway. It is simply a thin slip of cedar, planed on all surfaces (I use a block plane, held in the hand and push the wood across the blade sticking upwards.) The width should be such that you can push it into the windway's passage, but not too heavily. Snug is the word.
The body of the block now has to have a surface planed into it, to take the slip. The surface, needless to say, needs to be an exact match to the slip.
Attachments
001.JPG
The turned block pushed in position. Still way oversize.
002.JPG
The two components, the block itself, and the top slip, which will form the floor of the windway.
003.JPG
The top slip pushed in. It should fit snugly all the way.
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Re: fipple flute making - step by step

Postby Yuri Terenyi » Sun Feb 09, 2014 10:30 pm

Now, the slip needs to be planed to the thickness where the block together with the slip can be pushed somewhere between half-way and three-quarter way in. (well, definitely not less than half-way, and not more than when they disappear.) The reason is that as you apply the glue, you push them in to jam them up. This serves two purposes: aligns the two true to the actual windway's orientation (yes, there can be stuffups there. After all, you are cutting the windway channel by eye.) It also creates a clamp to press the two together.
The glue I use is shown on the photo. Selley's is a local NZ manufacturer. They used to make "dishwasher proof" kind, but discontinued it. They assure me that the "shockproof" brand has all the features of the dishwasherproof one, too. In many years of use I never once had any problem with it.
The next steps are not shown, but are obvious. Once the glue is dry, you push the whole thing out, and keep on shaving away at the floor of the windway until it meets the expectations. In this case the floor has to be curved, to match the roof. Also, it is a good idea to make the opening tapering, from a wider opening at the blowing end to a narrower one at the inside end. The thickness varies depending on what kind of pipe you are making.
All of the above relates most closely to the recorder. I am hopeless at whistles, so really cannot tell what needs to be made differently. But the actual working process should work for any fipple type instrument, you just need to adjust the design to your needs.
A last thought. I sink all my instruments in an oil bath. The oil is raw (repeat, RAW) linseed oil. The raw bit is very important. It means this oil will penetrate the wood, which is the aim. It also will not completely dry for quite a while. The boiled kind dries practically in an instant, and leaves a ghastly gunk covering your instrument. Better to avoid.
Because of the oil (I leave them in for a few days) the wood need time to settle down. The longer, the better. The block, if installed too early, will nearly certainly become loose soon afterwards. By now I make the block complete with the slip, but minus the real top surface finish, in the body of the pipes while they dry. Periodically I give the blocks a push. You'd be surprised how much the sink in further into the body across time, until finally the wood stabilises, which is the time to make the truly final adjustments to the windway floor surface.
(By the way, the pipe featuring in this lot is a different one, in this case a tabor pipe made of almond.)
Attachments
004.JPG
The block planed to take the slip.
005.JPG
Block body and slip showing off.
006.JPG
Block body and the top slip glued up, and pushed into the body of the pipe.
007.JPG
The kind of superglue I use.
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