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How To Make An Irish Silver Fipple Flute

How My Flutes Are Made

1-A I started making wooden flutes, for Irish music, 16 years ago after a trip to Machu Picchu, Peru. I learned to play the Irish Simple System "D" flute (6 holes) whistle while traveling. I am always open to new and better ways to improve the quality/process of flute making. I am very thankful for all the whistle/ flute makers who have shared their expertise with me and it is my hope that this tutorial will aid other flute makers.

There really are no trade secrets. Once someone has an instrument of mine, it's all there. I will usually answer any questions concerning dimensions and methods of manufacture to anyone interested. If someone wants to make exact copies of my instruments and try to undersell me in the marketplace, I wish them all the best. If someone, on the other hand, uses my instruments as a springboard for an original and unique improvement, I am honored to have been a stepping stone in the evolution of their whistle-making.

The Rosewood whistle by the late Glen Schultz Sr. and the African Blackwood Standard (Key of D) whistles by Chris Abell have inspired me in my flute making. I continue to be thankful for their influence on my instruments. Their instruments are of striking beauty and excellence. My aim at all times is to make the finest flute I can with the best materials, the best methods, and certainly to make instruments that will continue to function for many generations.


1-B The Silver Tube is only one part of the intricate part of the Fipple.

2-B This is the Irish Silver Fipple, Simple System "D", Flute (6-holes) tin whistle. The one with the silver ring in the center is a tunable flute.

3-B Measure a 24 gauge strip of silver at 1-inch wide x 1-15/16 inch long. This is used to make the silver tube.

4-B Using 1/2 inch round nose pliers, bend the sheet of silver into the direction of a cylinder.

5-B The bent silver strip is then put into a custom made Bending Vise to finish rounding the ends to form a cylinder.

6-B Both ends are squared with a file in preparation to draw them together for soldering.

7-B A light spray of Cupronil helps prevent fire scale while soldering.

8-B Flux is applied to aid the flow of the silver solder.

9-B Two small pieces of Easy Silver Solder are placed on the seam to be soldered.

10-B A torch slowly provides heat until the Easy Silver Solder melts and solders the two ends together.

11-B The silver tube is then plunged into a Pickle Solution that cleans fire scale off the the silver tube. The Pickle Solution is Griffith Pickle #GNP-40 R/C 45.141.

12-B A Custom Bar Ring Sizer, exactly 0.580 inches diameter is forced into the silver tube and then tapped with a Rawhide Hammer until the cylinder is round.

13-B The silver tube is placed on a Custom Mandrel and put in a metal lathe.

14-B The excess silver solder is removed.

15-B The outside surface is sand with 320 emery cloth to make it smooth.

16-B The end of the silver tube is squared and then an Upper Chamfer is made using a counter sink bit.

17-B The Custom Bar Rang Mandrel is inserted into the cylinder and the Bite Shape / Beak is sanded on the curved part of the belt sander.

18-B The silver tube is then buffed with Tripoli to remove small scratches and Rouge to create a high shine.

19-B Several tubes are made at one time.

1-C. Types of wood:

african blackwood
black wood/burmese
blood wood
blood wood / satine
bocote wood
boxwood (european)
cebil wood
cocobolo wood
cooktown ironwood
ebony wood
flame wood
gaboon ebony
iron wood
ipe / brazilian walnut / lapacho
lancewood (red)
maple / hard leaf
mopane / mopani
mun ebony
purple heart
rosewood / east india
south american or castello boxwood
vera wood
white acetal / polymer

2-C The timber for wooden flutes are very fine and dense. Timber either arrives in rough board form, 3 or 4 inches thick, or more commonly in the form of billets about 1"x1"x12" square. Usually when a fresh piece of wood arrives, its ends are waxed to prevent degradation. I usually acquire several batches of timber through out the year and I always draw on the most seasoned wood I have available.

Cutting the Blanks to size:

3-C NOTE: When cutting exotic hardwood, the particles and dust are toxic for breathing and may cause a skin rash. I use a Trend Airshield that is a battery powered face shield that circulates air while protecting my eyes and face. It is ideal for woodworking.

4-C Ripping billets to size on the table saw. You will save money if you cut your own blanks.

5-C Square each end and then center punch one end of the billet.

6-C Look for wood with an interesting grain pattern. Cut billets to 1"x1"x12". This will leave just a little extra waste. These two billets are ready for boring.

7-C If you are lucky enough to buy the wood cut to exact size of 1"x1"x12", then you may wish to try out several types of wood.

8-C The billet is marked on the end to find the center point with an awl and then put between the chuck and the live center.

9-C The end of the flute billet is tapered about 1 1/2 inches from the end to a diameter of one inch.


1-D Two inches from one end of the billet have been made round with a slight taper so that it will fit in the closed bearing of the custom made Spindle Steady. This will keep the billet centered for boring.

2-D The billet is clamped in the chuck and the tapered end is inserted into the closed bearing of the Spindle Steady. The bolt on the Spindle Steady is tightened to the lathe bed and the billet is turned by hand to see that it turns freely.

3-D The lathe is turned on at 1000 RPM and then a pilot hole is drilled first about 1" deep, this allows the gun drill to remain centered as it bores through the billet. The black vacuum hose leads to a narrow plastic box that picks up all dust and wood particles.

4-D The best drill bit for this purpose is a 1/2" #105 DeWalt Carbide Hammer Bit that has an Innovative tip configuration that limits walking and improves accuracy.

5-D The Gun Drill is attached to the tail stock. Compressed air comes down the red tube, and is fed down a hole inside the drill. As it comes out the tip, it takes away some of the heat generated, plus all the particles, blowing them back down a V-shaped groove in the top of the drill. They exit like shotgun dust and if not contained will litter the area for yards around. The tip of the gun drill is peirced through a foam block that acts as a barrier so all the particles and dust are vacuumed.

6-D Gun drills are remarkable - they are cunningly ground to have a strong self-centering instinct - and will routinely come out within fractions of a millimeter at the other end of a foot-long piece of dense wood.

They are available at:
Hyper Tool Company, 16829 Park Circle Drive, Chagrin Falls, Ohio 4423-4515.

7-D The handle on the tail stock as it turns will only go 4" and then it has to be cranked back and the tail stock has to be moved forward. The battery operated hand drill drives the hand crank on the tail stock back for the next pass. It takes three passes to bore all the way through a 12" long billet. After the billet is bored they are stored on drying racks.

8-D I used a 1"x4"x4' long board which has been drilled and a large number of 5" long dowels have been glued and inserted upright.

9-D This type of storage allows for easy organizing, selecting and transferring of wood billets while working. It also allows for air to circulate freely around and through the turned and bored billets, ensuring that they are seasoned with minimum stress and maximum uniformity.

10-D I have several storage units throughout the shop. This one is on the drill press and is handy for immediate access. All exotic hardwoods are carefully inspected, bored, air dried, and well seasoned. This helps to insure that the finished Whistle-Flute will play for many years with relatively low maintenance.

11-D At this step, the blank can be left as one whole piece for a non-tunable flute or cut into two parts for a tunable flute. A tuning slide allows the flute to stay in tune with other instruments.


1-E The billets were removed from the Spindle Steady Jig and a 1/2 inch reamer was installed on the wood lathe.

2-E The billet was reamed by slowly pushing it over the .500 reamer and then turning it around to ream completely through.

3-E One end of the billet was inserted on a specially designed jig. The small insert is .005 and fits inside the .005 ID of the billet. The next size cylinder step up is larger and measures the exact size .656 OD. This larger diameter aids when cutting the billet to size.

4-E The other end of the billet was inserted with the other part of the jig. It also has the same inside and step up measurements. This part has a center point hole at the end.

5-E The end jig and flute billet is installed between the chuck and the live center on the wood lathe.

6-E Some exotic woods are toxic to breath in the dust particles.

7-E The billet is rough turned round just enough to remove the excess wood.

8-E The top billet will become a non-tunable flute and the bottom will eventually be a tunable flue.


1-F Both ends of the billet need to be squared before putting it on the metal lathe.

2-F It speeds up the process if you make it rough round on the wood lathe and then transfer it to the metal lathe.

3-F The billet is transferred to the metal lathe and is cut 30/1000 off each pass until is slightly larger than .656. Just enough to sand smooth.

4-F At this point you have to decide if it is going to be a not-tunable flute or a tunable flute. Non tunable billet's are taken to a .656 OD and a finish is applied. The light-blue hose is a vacuum system that removes the wood particles as it is turned.

5-F A special carbide metal cutting bit is used to trim the flute to size.

6-F When the billet is cut down to the level of the jig end caps it is measured and is ready for sanding and finish.


1-G The billet is laid on the measuring jig and marked for cutting into two parts. The head part is slightly over 4.5 inches and the longer part is just over 7 inches.

2-G Both ends of the billet need to be squared before putting it on the metal lathe

3-G Both are reamed to exactly .500 ID,

4-G Both ends of the billet need to be squared before putting it on the metal lathe.

5-G The outside end of the billet is marked with a black marker so that it will be put back together with matching grain pattern.

6-G When putting it on the metal lathe I put the inside edge toward the chuck side.

7-G Both section are turned to exactly .656 OD.

8-G With the longer section complete it is ready to make the brass slide connection.


1-H Cut brass tubing inserts are cut to size:

LARGE TUBE STOCK #140 = (17/ 32") COMES 12" LONG 3 PER BOX.

LARGE TUBE = (OD - .512) (ID - .492)
SMALL TUBE = (OD - .492) (ID - .472)

2-H I cut enough to do several whistles at one time and the smaller pieces are used at the end of the flute.

3-H One end of the brass tube is sand to 90 degree. This is the end that will be inserted into the billet.

4-H The flute billet is cut to length.

5-H On the tunable flute the grain is matched.

6-H The inside is cut to accept the brass tube.

7-H On the end of the flute a small 1/4 inch tube is glued and then cut to the exact length of the flute. A 5 minute "Professional Heavy Duty Epoxy" glue is used.

8-H On the tunable flute the larger 3/4 inch long piece of tubing is inserted and finished with the end and the billet is marked so that the wood grain matches.

9-H The smaller tube is glued 3/4 inches sticking out. This will join the two halves of the flute.


1-I The non-tunable flute is sand smooth to 600 grit.

1-I Both parts of the tunable flute are sand to 250 grit.

1-I Then it is put together and sand to 500 grit.

1-I The last 600 grit sanding is hand sand in the direction of the grain.

1-I A piece of paper bag gives the final touch before applying a finish.


1-J The are three finish coats applied the first is Bulls Eye Seal Coat. A small square of clothe is used for safety.

2-J The first coat of sealer is allowed to dry and the it is lightly sanded and two more coats of Arm-R-Seal Gloss is applied.

3-J Two wet billets on non-tunable one tunable are allowed to dry overnight.

4-J The cylinder is polished using the Beall Polishing System. Some flutes are just buffed to a satin finish.

5-J The bottom billet is a tunable flute and from this point both are finished off the same way.

6-J This is the first of three times that the billets are buffed.


1-K The name is lightly printed in the wood of the flute.


1-L The exact measurements of the fipple end of the flute and the length of the head piece if it is tunable.

2-L Place the cylinder in the measurement jig, and mark the layout of the silver tube.

3-L Insert a dowel into the fipple end of the cylinder. This adds stability when trimming on the metal lathe.

4-L The wall thickness is 62/ 1000 of an inch. The thickness of 30 /1000 is removed to accommodate the silver fipple tube. The silver tube is sliped over the end and is a snug fit.

5-L The cylinder is placed in the measurement jig and the exact length is marked.

6-L The end is cut on the metal lathe to the finished size.


Long and smooth Windway Delivery gives a sharp focused delivery of air to the opening approaching the blade. Too high of a windway will sound airy. Too low of a windway will choke or not even sound.

A smooth floor is best on the windway.

A little turbulence in the roof at the right place can yield a sweet tone. It can also be created by rough cut surfaces.

Block Wall:
Can be rounded on low pitched whistles. Tin Whistles, consider putting some clear epoxy on the surface to make it smooth.

Lower Chamfer:
Actually a radius here is better than a chamfer. A proper cut here will make a more powerful tone.

Upper Chamfer:
This Chamfer must be present when the air column within the bore is in its exhaust phase, the depressurization of the bore will push the air stream coming through the windway upward.

Ramp, Blade or Labium:
If you look through the windway at the blade, you will find that on most instruments it is either in the center, half-way between the floor level and the center or right on the floor. You'll also find it above center on cheaper instruments. Slightly below Center or lower is the way to go though. In other words, you should see more of the top and less of the bottom. Don't over sharpen the blade!

Because this is on the outside, too many people give this too much attention. As long as it isn't too steep, you're ok. It, like the windway floor, should be smooth.

This, like the Lower Chamfer, is neglected in many designs.
A proper Undercut can enhance tone production and remove "airy-ness" in the sound. Lack of Under-cut usually causes the symptoms of a weak upper register. If you play the second octave and it dies out half-way up, it may be due to a poor undercut.


1-N The layout of the Channel.

Channel / Windway:
Long and smooth windway delivers a sharp focused delivery of air to the opening approaching the blade.
Too high of a windway will sound airy.
Too low of a windway will choke or not even sound.

2-N Information to consider when cutting the channel.

3-N The fipple end of the cylinder is inserted in the Channel cutting jig.

4-N A variable speed flex shaft with a 1/4 inch router bit is used to cut the channel. I just purchased a Milling Machine and Tilting Index Spacer that will replace this method of cutting the wind way.

5-N The jig is made so it fits at a 15% angle.

6-N The slot is 1/4 inch wide and cuts a 15% taper at the end where the Ramp is. The ramp angle is set will take shape with the aid of small files.


1-O The tools used to cut the ramp.

2-O Use a very sharp knife to make the opening and square off the Ramp.

3-O Using the layout jig to hold the fipple end of the flute, the flat rat tail file is use to make the ramp.

4-O File the Ramp and Blade-Over cut to a 15% angle and both sides of the channel are squared.

5-O The measuring jig is used to check the width of the channel.

6-O The silver tube is slipped on, to determine the size of the window.

7-O With the channel and Ramp square, place the jig into the duct space. Slide the silver tube in place and slip The "Jig" straight down into the duct opening between the Labium and the silver tube. (The jig is made of aluminum and measuring exact size of 0.150 X 0.300 inches). Finish sanding of the Ramp with 400 grit sandpaper and polish with Ultra Gloss polish by Hut.

(In the process of updating the content after this section)

79-P The silver tube is polished with silver polish and all parts are dry fitted and marked with a pencil for exact placement.

80-P Two part Epoxy Glue is put on the block and it is slipped into place then the silver tube is slid into place. All excess glue is wiped off.

81-P The glue is allowed to dry over night before trimming the end.


82-Q The flute is placed back into the wood jig to mark the total length and sound holes.

83-Q The end of the flute is cut with a 28 tooth saw blade.

84-Q The block is cut just a little longer than the silver tube.

85-Q The Bite is shaped on the curve of the belt sander.

86-Q The block is sanded down to the silver tube on the belt sander.

87-Q The raw edge of the silver tube is smoothed on the Shur-Brite grinder.


88-R Layout of sound hole jig and location of holes on flute. The size of the drills.

89-R Using the sound hole jig and different size brad point bits and metal cutting drills.

90-R The depth of the drill is checked before each hole is drilled.

91-R The holes are drilled first with a brad point drill bit.

92-R Then the hole jig top plate is removed and turned over to drill with the metal bits to the exact size for each flute hole.

93-R Each hole is measured to the thousandth of an inch.

94-R The jig plate is removed and the flute is slid out of the jig.

95-R The sharp edge of the sound holes are buffed off with a dowel covered with sandpaper. The sanding dowel is made by attaching double stick carpet tape around the dowel and then attaching 150 grit sand paper around the dowel.

96-R This sanding dowel is also used to clean up the edges inside the flute.

97-R A sharp knife is used to remove any wood tags that may appear in the sound holes.

98-R A half round file and fine grit sandpaper is used to put a small undercut on each of the sound holes.

99-R Use a soft rag to polish the flute body, and clean up the silver fipple with "Wright's Silver Polish.


100-S Glue is applied to the end of the flute.

101-S The silver ring is slipped over the end and all excess glue is wiped away.

102-S The glue is allowed to dry over night. The silver ring is not just a decoration - it supports the wood at the end of the flute.

103-S Glue is applied for the second ring to be added on the adjustable flute.

104-S The ring is slipped into place and excess glue removed.

105-S This ring also becomes a decorative feature of the tunable flute.

106-S As well as providing support, the ring hides the separation of the slide. The slide is open during the drying time on the tunable flute.

Oiling the bore (the inside) and outside will keep it in good condition. I suggest that you use an organic bore oil to stabilize the wood and protect the bore from saliva damage. Any bore oil sold by your music store will be fine; however, I recommend using Naylor Organic Bore Oil, which is used before the flutes are packaged. Rub your flute with a light coat of oil and let it sit for a while and then wipe it off with a dry cloth. Your flute will probably sound a bit different after you oil it but, will quickly regain it's normal tone. Eventually, the instrument should be oiled once every four to six weeks depending on many factors. These include relative humidity, hours of use per week, and the quality of the player's saliva. Oiling a newly made flute can improve it's tone. (If it is a tunable flute, no oil should be used on the slide pieces as they can become sticky and bind.)

108-S A fine quality oil is applied on the inside and outside of the flute every two to three months depending on how often it is played.

109-S For all wood flutes a few minutes of blowing into it will warm it up and a more mellow tone will occur.


110-T A BOSS Chromatic Tuner TU-12H Digital processing allows for fine tuning of the flute. Minor adjustments are made to the sound holes to achieve a clear note.

111-T To sterilize the flutes, they are wiped down with alcohol.


CARE OF YOUR FLUTE - It will last generations of pleasurable playing.


Playing your flute for a few minutes helps warm the flute. It's one of the best ways of maintaining a wood flute. Allow the flute to warm up to room temperature before playing it. As the flute becomes warmer, the sound will becomes sharper in pitch.


When you're not playing, it's a good idea to keep your flute in a flute bag or stored in a case, rather than leaving it lying around. Avoid sudden temperature or humidity changes, as metal and wood expand differently. A good, padded flute bag should help protect your flute from temperature changes and other potential dangers.


Oiling a newly made flute can improve its tone. Rub your flute with a light coat of oil (Old English oil) and then wipe it off with a dry cloth. Oiling the bore (the inside) and outside of the flute periodically will protect it, especially during the drier months of the year. Your flute will probably sound a bit different after you oil it, but will quickly regain its normal tone.

The flutes are ready for generations of pleasurable playing.

To see high quality silver fipple flutes, visit Silver Fipple Flute.

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