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 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.
I am very grateful to those flute makers and green woodworkers who've been willing to share their knowledge. These pages are a way of giving something back. But more than anyone or anything, the trees themselves and their wood have taught me, listening to them over the many years of experimentation. Those years of learning what works and why, cannot be taught by me. It must be learned from the trees themselves. Each branch presents a unique challenge in finding its voice and without the experience of trial and error, no matter how many hard won "tricks of the trade" I give to you, it wouldn't be enough. Even if I divulged every tool and technique I currently use, making high quality unsplit branch flutes would still be the most difficult way to make a flute. But if you're bound and determined ~ and inspired ~ you'll find a way. Your own way that works for you, taught to you by the trees and by your desire to help them sing. I would not deprive you of that adventure. Or that inspiration!
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Green Branches 2 Green Branches 3 Green Branches 4