Branch Flutes

This topic contains 15 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  redoak 8 years, 11 months ago.

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  • #798285

    redoak
    Participant

    Spring is finally coming to Minnesota and branch gathering time is upon us.

    I’m looking for some thoughts on the wood condition of branches for flute making.

    What is the ideal state of “decomposition” a gathered branch should be in? Should they be more on the “green” side, cut to length, then stored to dry? If so it seems that most green branches would be found due to tree cutting, pruning, wind storms, ice storms etc. Many branches that I find in the woods are dried, and the wood seems to be stable, athough most of the bark is gone.

    Branch gathering appeals to me on many levels. Being outside, and hiking are two of my favorite things. Along with the fact that making a flute out of a fallen branch is as organic as it gets. I also live in a woods so my location is perfect.

    Steve

    #832887

    turaipo
    Participant

    My way:
    I gather only dry branchs,
    Found on the ground (from wind),
    on dead trees (still standing or down),
    and on the shores (driftwood).
    I don’t work with green branchs.
    (if you want to try this way, you may contact Jon Sherman, who’s know that very well.
    Moreover he’s one of the greatest man to know).
    As for the branch selection, well, some woods seem to last forever,
    staying strong, even on the ground, during years,
    while other rot in a few weeks.
    Driftbranchs are usually great cause water stop the roting process.
    Just take the branch which call you, and give it a firm hit on a rock,
    or on the ground if it’s hard enough….
    The best rotten branch detector… ;)

    Feel free to ask all the questions you want.

    QUOTE(Steve @ Mar 21 2009, 07:13 AM)
    Spring is finally coming to Minnesota and branch gathering time is upon us.

    I’m looking for some thoughts on the wood condition of branches for flute making.

    What is the ideal state of “decomposition” a gathered branch should be in? Should they be more on the “green” side, cut to length, then stored to dry? If so it seems that most green branches would be found due to tree cutting, pruning, wind storms, ice storms etc. Many branches that I find in the woods are dried, and the wood seems to be stable, athough most of the bark is gone.

    Branch gathering appeals to me on many levels. Being outside, and hiking are two of my favorite things. Along with the fact that making a flute out of a fallen branch is as organic as it gets. I also live in a woods so my location is perfect.

    Steve

    #832888

    hugo
    Participant

    Steve, go to Jon Serrman’s site http://www.dryadflutes.com and look under “Green Branches”.

    Jon explain in great detail about green branches, excellent information.

    Hope that helps.

    Hugo

    #832889

    redoak
    Participant

    Thanks Dale. I’ve been following branch flute threads on the other site, but just wanted some clarafication……By the way, you do a beautiful job on your flutes!

    And thank you Hugo for the heads up on Jon’s site. I’ve read Jon’s posts and I’m going to use some of the same products he uses to finish my flutes.

    #832890

    jon sherman
    Participant

    Hi Steve, Dale and Hugo!

    Steve, regarding the subject of wood finishing, I’m always looking for better products and methods and I’ve recently been trying walnut oil on my branch flutes, inspired by Hawk Henries use of it, and I really like it! It’s almost odorless and very light in color, allowing for more of the natural scent and color of the wood. Besides it being a very nice wood finishing oil, it’s also a healthy thing to come into contact with your skin (unless you’re a rare birds who’s allergic to it) so it’s very safe to work with. Any excess that gets on my hands I just rub onto my arms, as it drys quickly and doesn’t leave an oily feeling. I couldn’t do that with the Bioshield Hard Oil #9 I’ve been using, as it has in it’s ingredients metallic driers to speed up the polymerization. So, I may be transitioning to walnut oil for good. It also works great under a coat or two of shellac.

    BTW, I’ve gathered many fallen branches from the ground for flutes, although I prefer those with the least amount of decomposition. Last time I was at Zion (not the year I had the great pleasure of setting my booth up next to Dale, Amos and John of Fallen Branch but a couple years after that) there was a whole cottonwood tree that had toppled over and died near the flute festival grounds. I think the tree hadn’t been dead more than a few months and the rule of thumb is that a branch needs to air dry one year per inch of diameter. So I took back several branches, bored them out and placed them in my cardboard drying kiln. (Thank you Hugo for pointing to that info at my website.) :) When the branches stopped losing weight I knew they were bone dry and I could start voicing them. One I was able to make into a harmony drone: http://www.dryadflutes.com/44cottonwooddouble.html And another one ended up being adopted by Jan (tootieflutie): http://www.dryadflutes.com/35cottonwoodAsharpZion.html

    I like when I can leave the bark on. Sometimes, with the flutes I linked to, I can leave it all on. With others, I have to remove some bark to take the wall thickness at the tone holes down to 1/4″ or less. And then it’s fun to play with the contrast between the surface bark, inner layers of bark and the wood. Not only a visual contrast but a tactile one as well.

    As with Dale, I’d be happy to answer any more questions if I can.

    Warmest regards,

    Jon

    #832891

    redoak
    Participant

    Thanks for your response Jon

    I do have one question concerning the use of a drying kiln. I understand that you bore your flutes and drill the blow hole before putting them in the kiln allowing the blank to dry more more evenly inside and out. If I were to use the split blank method instead of boring, I don’t believe I could split, dry, rout, then glue because the blanks may dry different and not match up. So if I were to just dry the branch first would I use lower heat for a longer time to avoid cracking?

    And thanks for the tip on walnut oil. Always looking for new things makes life an interesting journey.

    Thanks
    Steve

    #832892

    jon sherman
    Participant

    QUOTE(Steve @ Mar 22 2009, 04:22 AM)
    Thanks for your response Jon

    I do have one question concerning the use of a drying kiln. I understand that you bore your flutes and drill the blow hole before putting them in the kiln allowing the blank to dry more more evenly inside and out. If I were to use the split blank method instead of boring, I don’t believe I could split, dry, rout, then glue because the blanks may dry different and not match up. So if I were to just dry the branch first would I use lower heat for a longer time to avoid cracking?

    And thanks for the tip on walnut oil. Always looking for new things makes life an interesting journey.

    Thanks
    Steve

    Steve,

    You’re correct about not being able to dry the wood after splitting it (or band sawing it as many do). The two halves will more than likely move so much, in different ways as each piece shrinks, to make it near impossible to glue back together. I’ve found that different woods vary as to how susceptible they are to checking, hardwoods more, softwoods less. But hard or soft, many of the dead branches I come across in nature have surface checked, at least a little. The reality is that as the wood shrinks it pulls apart at the surface because the inner heart wood is still green an there’s tension between the outer and inner. In boring it out first that tension is relieved and if I leave the bark on when drying, it’s now drying from the inside and the wood pulls together around the inner diameter as it shrinks. You can speed dry an unbored branch, but it may check as it does in nature, especially if it’s a hardwood. I would leave the bark on to slow down a too fast shrinking of the outer wood. I would also use CA glue to seal the ends to help prevent end checking. The light bulb kiln I use only gets up to around 125 – 130 F, so I don’t think it would cause much more checking than what would occur naturally. The important thing, whether air drying or kiln drying, is to weigh the branch periodically to determine when it’s dry. If a branch is voiced before then, as the wood continues to shrink it can mess up the flatness of the bird and nest as well as the tuning. Hope this helps.

    Jon

    #832893

    redoak
    Participant

    Jon your information has been very helpful!

    I am currently working on 3 flutes one of poplar and the other 2 of eastern red cedar, both from 1×4 boards. I’m hand gougeing the cedar and plan to limit my use of power tools in the making of future flutes. I find that using hand chisels, files, rasps, gouges, spokshaves, burning rods etc, is more of meditative experience than using power tools. I do of course understand why others use them. The process to me is as important as the result. So, while I’m learning I will continue to pick up branches for future flutes. In fact I just picked up some nice maple branches (bark on) from a grove of trees that are being tapped for sap……gotta love the signs of spring!

    Steve

    #832894

    tootieflutie58
    Participant

    QUOTE(Jon Sherman @ Mar 21 2009, 11:57 PM)
    And another one ended up being adopted by Jan (tootieflutie): http://www.dryadflutes.com/35cottonwoodAsharpZion.html

    Yeah, and I LOVE that flute, too! It has the neatest voice!! It is such a sweet flute! I keep it on my nightstand. :D

    #832895

    turaipo
    Participant

    Steve, beware with maple, I’m not sure the bark will remain on.
    I work a lot with maple, here in Quebec, and all the dry branchs
    I gather have lost of are loosing their bark.
    But maybe, with green ones, there is a way to keep it.
    So, again, ask Jon, cause he know the subject very well.
    Except with special trees, like oak, I never work with bark on.

    #832896

    jon sherman
    Participant

    QUOTE(Dale @ Mar 22 2009, 03:13 PM)
    …But maybe, with green ones, there is a way to keep it.
    So, again, ask Jon, cause he know the subject very well.
    Except with special trees, like oak, I never work with bark on.

    Hi Steve and Dale,

    This is Lindy, Jon’s wife. He’s asked me to keep up with his e-mail for a while, so he can keep up with the special order list.

    Anyway, this is from his web site, under Green Branches, http://dryadflutes.com/greenbranches1.html

    “…Shellac is great for filling any invisible leaks in the branch that may interfere with the sound quality and tends to brighten the tone by hardening the inner surface of the sound chamber. After the shellac, if any bark needs to be tightened down to the sap wood I’ll use CA glue for that purpose…”

    I can also tell you that while he always gives a lifetime guarantee, on workmanship. And he has had a few flutes come back for a tune up or a touch up here and there, no one has had a problem with the bark. But again this is probably because the branches are usually green so the bark is still tight to the branch, and between the oil, Shellac and occasional drops of CA, the bark is sealed and preserved.

    Hope this helps.

    Health and blessings,
    Lindy (Jon’s wife)
    P.S. Dale, we do hope to see you again one day soon at another event. :-)

    #832897

    Anonymous

    QUOTE(Dale @ Mar 22 2009, 06:13 PM)
    Steve, beware with maple, I’m not sure the bark will remain on.
    I work a lot with maple, here in Quebec, and all the dry branchs
    I gather have lost of are loosing their bark.
    But maybe, with green ones, there is a way to keep it.
    So, again, ask Jon, cause he know the subject very well.
    Except with special trees, like oak, I never work with bark on.

    I don’t know about losing the bark, none of mine has it, but most of my flutes are maple, and as a tone wood it’s amazing!!!
    I was thinking of maybe having a maple branch flute made, but now I think I have to look into it a bit more… lol.

    As far as the rest, there are a lot of fallen old bog trees and huge dead oaks here in Florida, and I was thinking myself of how to gather potential flute wood. Although honestly I’m not a maker yet, I’d have to have someone else make it…lol.
    Still, you guys have all provided a ton of good info on what to look for and what to avoid… thanks!!!

    PS, besides bog oaks and such, I’m also in major cypress and ceder country, if I find something really awesome I’ll post pics. Maybe one of you would want it to play with.

    #832898

    tootieflutie58
    Participant

    QUOTE(Jon Sherman @ Mar 29 2009, 10:43 AM)
    Hi Steve and Dale,

    This is Lindy, Jon’s wife. He’s asked me to keep up with his e-mail for a while, so he can keep up with the special order list.

    Health and blessings,
    Lindy (Jon’s wife)
    P.S. Dale, we do hope to see you again one day soon at another event. :-)

    Hi Lindy,

    Thanks for filling in for Jon. I have one of Jon’s flutes – A# Zion cottonwood. Wonderful flute! He’s also working in a Crepe Myrtle branch I sent to him.

    Hoping you will have a website soon (or steal a space on Jon’s) for your wooden vases and such. I’ve just seen a couple of photos but those are really nice!!!! :)

    #832899

    redoak
    Participant

    Thanks for the follow up Lindy!

    My collection of flute branches is starting to grow. Although most of what I’ve picked up have been fallen branches, I will keep my eyes opened for trimmed branches this summer as I want to exlpore the making of both green and fallen branch flutes.

    I’ll be in the woods today trying to add to my collection. When I go hiking now it seems that all I see is flutes, and walking sticks…..

    Be well,

    Steve

    #832900

    turaipo
    Participant

    I am actually making a branch flute, from a sumac branch,
    and I am taking pics of each single step of the process, from the forest to the final flute.
    I’ll put the full report online as soon as it will be finished.

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