flute_600

I’m getting started on my next build.  This project is a flute designed by Brandon MacDougall of Liquidguitars.com.

Brandon is well known in the CarveWright community and beyond for his beautiful guitars, violins, and other stringed instruments.  Not only do these pieces look beautiful, they also sound beautiful.  In order to manufacture these with the CarveWright, Brandon meticulously designs each part and also designs sleds (or jigs) to be able to make each part accurately and repeatedly.  During the 2012 CarveWright Discovery Conference Brandon shared much of his process of doing this.  This flute project is a sort of intro to Brandon’s techniques, and I’m going to build it and share the process.

The files for this project is available for purchase the the CarveWright PatternDepot.

The project comes with 3 MPC files for the advanced jigging project and 1 MPC for the simpler 2 sided carve.

The top and bottom flute files are fairly self explanatory, but the sled file is basically just a guide for positioning when you build out your sled.

I’ve uploaded the files to my memory card and now I need to locate some wood and run the projects.


Ok, I’m back.  After the holidays and getting things organized for the new year, I finally found time to get back into the shop.

To start this project you first need to build the sled.  So first I ran the sled.mpc file on a piece of MDF.  This file simply routed a line into a piece of MDF to show where to position my pieces for my sled.  The board size indicated in the file calls for is 28.5″ long and 5.398″ wide.  I cut my piece to be 5.5 and 32″ long.  The length isn’t important as long as it is at least 28.5″ long.  The reason for this is we are running all the pieces of this project with the “Place on Corner” option for positioning.  So, the carve instructions for sled are as follows.

  1. Choose board with a minimum size of 5.5″ x 28.5″ x .75″ and place in the machine. (TIP:  If using MDF, run masking tape along the bottom edge that will be travelling over the brass tracking roller.  This helps get a good bite for more accurate tracking.) 
  2. Stay Under Rollers = No  (The project is designed with plenty of extra to stay under the rollers.)
  3. Keep Original Size = Yes
  4. Position = Choose 3 – Place on Corner ( This will index the project to the back lower corner)
  5. Cut Board to Size = No
  6. It will then ask for the 1/16″ Carving bit. Insert the bit and make sure it touches off the bit plate and the board properly.

This will only take a few seconds to route the shallow line.  Once this is complete it is time to build the sled.  Using the lines we just routed, I measured and cut the pieces for the rails and end pieces.

I then used wood glue and screws to secure it all into place.

Again the sled is longer on one side because we will not be centering for this project.  We will be indexing on that corner again.  On the sled I placed an X indicating the corner we will be indexing too, and also drew an arrow on the other side of the sled indicating which way I’ll be placing the sled into the machine.

Now we need to cut our board to insert into the sled for out flute. You can just measure the inside cavity of the sled and you’ll have your size.  The main reason for doing sleds this way is to have it be reusable for making things over and over again.  Brandon, who is using his machines for production a specific products will design and build his sleds and then shelve them for when ever he has an order for that product.  Then he can go pull the sleds, and always have them ready to go.  Then just cut the blanks to fit and always index on the corner.  Even if the sleds swell or change shape slightly, they will still be usable.  For doing this kind of production this technique is great.

I made my blank slightly undersized on the width and pushed it into that corner marked with the X, then shimmed the gap to keep it from moving.  Also, a technique I learned from Brandon was to use screws as clamps to hold down your blank in the sled.  You can see them on the ends where they slightly pinch into the board holding it securely in place.

Now it’s time to load this into the machine and get it carving.

When I place it in the machine, I want to make sure I measure the Y dimension (width) in the same place as I will for the other side of the carve.  This is always a good idea when you are doing a 2 sided carve of any kind.  I used that extra length on the end of my sled to do this and made sure I was under both rollers.  I positioned right over the arrow I had drawn on that end.  Having a mark like this to align too helps when you need to repeat this action later.

Select the FluteTop.mpc from the memory card and follow the same setup instructions we used for the sled.

  1. Stay Under Rollers = No  (The project is designed with plenty of extra to stay under the rollers.)
  2. Keep Original Size = Yes
  3. Position = Choose 3 – Place on Corner ( This will index the project to the back lower corner)
  4. Cut Board to Size = No
  5. It will then ask for four bits.  The 3/8″ Straight Bit, the 1/8″ Cutting Bit, the 1/16″ Carving Bit, and the 3/16″ Carving Bit.
  6. Insert the bits and make sure they touch off the bit plate and the board properly.

It will use the 3/16″ bit to do the bulk of the carving, then it will follow with the 1/16″ bit to do the Liquid scroll design of Brandon’s, then the 1/8″ bit to drill all the holes, and then finish with the 3/8″ bit to do the flat area where the two halves will joint together.

BE SURE TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE SCREEN AND DO EACH BIT CHANGE BEFORE RAISING THE HEAD!

I say this because I did this on one of my carves.  In my anxiousness to see how the project came out, forgot to change the last bit and ended up with several hours of an unfinished piece.  Hopefully my warning will save someone some bruises from kicking themselves.

Ok, once the first side is done, it is time to pull the sled out and flip the board.  We are going to try to be very precise about this.  There are a couple ways to do this.

One way I did this was with pins.  With the board still in the jig, I hammered in a metal pin in the indexing holes drilled into each end.

Then, you remove the clamping screws and lift the board straight up and out of the jig and free of the pins.  Then when you flip, align the pins back in the holes and lower it back into the jig.  Be sure to flip width wise not end over end.

This should ensure your board is positioned properly for the second half of the project.

Another way to do this with a bit more precision is to use a slide caliper to measure the distance from the hole to the keypad side of the sled and align the holes to those dimensions when you flip it over.

Once your board is flipped and you replaced your shims and screw clamps, inset the sled back into the machine just as before.  We’ll want to get the same Y measurement, so this is where we’ll align on that longer end again using the arrow marker as an alignment tool again.

Now run the FluteBottom.mpc file using the same setup as the last two carves.

  1. Stay Under Rollers = No  (The project is designed with plenty of extra to stay under the rollers.)
  2. Keep Original Size = Yes
  3. Position = Choose 3 – Place on Corner ( This will index the project to the back lower corner)
  4. Cut Board to Size = No
  5. It will then ask for two bits this time.  The 3/8″ Straight Bit and the 3/16″ Carving Bit.
  6. Insert the bits and make sure they touch off the bit plate and the board properly.

Again, make sure you do the bit change here before removing the board.

When the back side is finished you are done with the CarveWright.  Now on to other tools.

I used a miter saw to cut off the ends of the board to free the ends of the flute.

Then used a small hobby saw to remove the tabs.  You can use a band saw or jig saw to take them off as well.  The tabs will need to be removed carefully and sanded away to turn the flute into a cilinder.

I used masking tape to do a dry fit and everything looks good and aligns perfect.

Now on to glueing and clamping. I just used a regular wood glue and spring clamps.

After the glue sets up I needed to do a little filling on a couple spots, where I had removed a tab and where the seams were slightly uneven.  Then sand, sand, and sand some more until it is nice and smooth.

There is many ways to finish this depending on what end result you are looking for.  I just made mine out of pine and planned on painting it, so I hit it with some spray primer.  Once that was dry I sanded it some more and was pleased with its smoothness and lack of seam.

The mouth piece will need to be shaped and tapered slightly to give it a nice edge.  This can be done with a small file.  You can also modify the flute for different scales by changing the hole positions and size.  This website gives you great calculators for figuring out how to do this. http://www.flutopedia.com/naflutomat.htm

Next I sprayed it with a high gloss Cherry Red that I had around.

Now it’s finished and ready for someone who knows how to play flute to play it.

This project is available in the CarveWright PatternDepot for $30 and also includes a simpler version of the carve.  The simpler version is set up as a 2 sided project with no jig and also carves out great.

8 thoughts on “The Flute Build

  1. I really look forward to upgrade my skills to something other than “flat” carve projects. cant wait to learn more and have fun at the same time. happy new year!

  2. I’m looking forward to this build! Brandon designs such cool items and this one will be fun to watch as it comes together!

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