Most of the branches that I'll use to make a flute, I will have gathered green. Some, newly wind-felled or trimmed by arborists or gardeners, await the steel jaws of a wood chipper to be mulched into soil again under the leaves of other trees. Life is a circle in that way, for all us. In those green branches, though, the life force of the tree is still present, still protecting the branch from those wood chippers of nature ~ insects, fungus and the forces of biodegradation. This is when I like to gather a branch for a potential flute.
In a green branch, the unique colors of the specific tree are still clear and bright and the bark is still tight to the sapwood. The branch has not cracked or checked on her surface or ends. Her original qualities have not yet been lost. Qualities that will remain after drying in a kiln, as long as the branch is sealed properly. Any lichen growing on the branch can even be preserved, as in the English Walnut branch flute pictured to the right. By starting with a green branch the finished flute can still radiate signs that the dryad, spirit, or life force of a tree is inhabiting it, though now the leaves of that branch be music.
Once it loses her life force and has been given back to the ground, other "spirits" will start to inhabit the branch. The elements and the critters of biodegradation are the good earth's way of laying claim to the branch again. And that's fine, I've made, on occasion, some wonderful flutes from downed wood already claimed by the soil, inlaying the worm holes or surface checks with colorful stone. If the branch has been "dead" long enough, I won't have to worry about drying it, since the elements will have done that for me. The intent here is not to state that working with a green branch is a better way of making a flute. Just another way, with its own advantages, that honors the spirit and natural beauty of the tree.
What I show in the following pages are the steps I take in turning a green branch into a dry flute blank, ready to be worked as a native style flute after she has been dried in the kiln. How I make the flute after that is not the concern of these web pages. For those interested, there are several good resources that teach how to make a Native American style flute, available in book or DVD format, that can be found on the internet. And there are a few very good online forums where you can ask for advice or research the archives for every stage of the native flute making process.
I owe much in gratitude to the many flute makers who've been willing to share their knowledge. Also to the experience of wood turners and chair makers who work with green wood. The information shared in these few pages is a way of giving something back.
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Green Branches 2 Green Branches 3 Green Branches 4