My future as a flute making

My future as a flute maker

Happy St. Patrick’s Day Everyone. Paddy is badly needed to drive the non native Burmese Pythons out of the Everglades and all over Florida. I can think of a few other snake-like things that he should also drive out. All of these other snake-like objects are named Ron.

On Wednesday I was diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome on both wrists, mild to moderate on the left and moderate to severe on the right. Both sides candidate for surgeries. For now I am trying the wrist braces along with abstinence from the flute shop. Currently I am still taking orders for my keyless flutes in D and C, especially the Folk Flutes. I am pausing on orders for keyed flutes. Same for Low flutes and low combos. I am no longer offering retrofits of rings and slides. Repairs such as cracks I am recommending that people go elsewhere, unless its from something recently made. The condition is making my fingers hurt all the time and my fingertips to go numb on the pad side. There is the chance that the pause could be permanent.

I still need to make a living and so I have three things I am pursuing. Two are woodwind related. I will be curating key sets including my own design, a typical mid 19th century block mounted design, and one copied directly from a set of Pratten keys. I will have these for sale to other makers.

Another will be my substack on wind instrument making content.

Finally I am reviving my first item in the instrument making world. I began by making soundpost setters for the Violin family of instruments based on a set from Mirecourte (circa 1885). I was speaking with a maker today who informed me that his cello sps (actually he drove over the original one - I revived this briefly in the early 1990s) has been used to adjust about $100 million worth of cellos, including a dozen Strads that includes the Duke of Archento’s (well lah de dah!). This is not bad for something that I started at age 26. Apparently mine are the very best. So why not make them?

Too many flutes! In the past week I finished a batch of five Folk Flutes as well as four separate keyed flutes, all made in a cold workshop in a cold winter. No wonder my hands are sore! For the soundpost setters the worst part can be done with water jets instead of my old method of sawing these out of Starrett ground stock.

The writing is on the wall however. Soon it will be time to exit the flute market except for the occasional vanity flute, and give the younger generations more room to pursue this. Hopefully I can help my Canadian apprentice with this remotely. Otherwise much of what I know and much data will be found at my Substack for paid subscribers.

What is really needed from the new makers is focus on small-handed ergonomic flutes. This has been a wildly successful backbone of my career. Smaller holes actually make for a livelier instrument and undercutting along with other design parameters results in a big tone that improves as the flute ages. As far as what I continue making I will bias towards these flutes until there is an effort by others to do this - even basing this on my design and practice which I will probably open source via my Substack and encourage.

If these other sources prove sufficient or better I will revert to researching flute maker status. The Laurent Glass Flutes are high on my priority but so are some Limousin Chabrettes and other woodwinds. Fortunately I only have about 6 projects left in my queue: a pair of Irish flute combos, a trio of keyed flutes and a low flute combo. I have room in my schedule for a few small runs of Folk Flutes for a June delivery or later delivery. From June onward we will be visited by several waves of visiting musicians, and will be attending FiddleTunes as well as Lark Camp. I will hardly be in the workshop during that time span. In November I hope to attend the VSA in Baltimore followed by as much time as possible measuring the glass flute played recently by Lizzo. I am hoping Patrick Olwell can come up and help me - we’ve been talking about it. I will probably spend much of that time preparing.

If this all works, what orders or wait listers I receive may be the last I do business in this fashion. I look forward to devilving into a researching flute maker. Thus if you have been pondering a flute from me, I would suggest that you get on with it. As far as my Substack and the flute keys for sale, that will come later this spring or summer.

I have been staring down these Black Holes for 40 years, producing about 5500+ flutes and several bagpipes. If these were all set down end to end, these would stretch about 2.5 miles.

I need to go ice my hands.


Re: My future as a flute making

Casey, try sticking your hands in bowl of hot water for a while, also there
s a lot of wrist stretches you can do. Can’t stress enough, B6, get some bloody B6. Night and day when I started taking it and keeping up with stretches. Can give detailed description of stretches, just shoot me a PM.

Re: My future as a flute making

Thanks for the suggestion. I am already doing that, and usually the rest of me too. We have a big clawfoot tub from the old Pioneer Square Hotel in downtown Seattle.

Re: My future as a flute making

I am looking at that title. Meant to say “maker”. In its current form it begs the question “as a flute making what?”

I can think of a few answers!

Re: My future as a flute making

I’m a potential candidate for Carpal Tunnel syndrome - hereditary disposition on my moms side of the family. The surgery is generally a big success. Wish you luck and hope it interferes with life as little as possible.

And the very best with your various endeavours - you’re always so positive and such a variety of interests.

Re: My future as a flute making

You may also want to investigate the possibility of Ulnar Nerve issues. My daughter suffered for several years, being misdiagnosed as Carpal Tunnel. Some mild surgery on the Ulnars, and she was up and working in a few months. Not to raise hopes, but just something to check.

Re: My future as a flute making

Bummer to hear that Casey!

What about your 3D printed flutes? I was really excited about that project.

(Not that I myself could play them. My fluteplaying days are over, due to similar issues.)

Re: My future as a flute making

FWIW, an accompanist I play with has had CTS surgery on both wrists, and he now functions pretty much normally without pain or numbness. So the writing may be on the wall, but the janitor might come around and paint over it… 😉 In all seriousness, best of luck to you, and thank you for all your contribution to the tradition that we all love so much!

Re: My future as a flute making

Casey: I had bilateral carpal tunnel release surguries years ago. Both successful. You’d be in recovery with some physical therapy for a month or so, but well worth the down time. ’Tis now the arthritis. Alas!

Re: My future as a flute making

For those who haven’t played the Burns folk flute I highly recommend it. It has a tone like no other. Its my second favorite flute (only just) after my own flute. In fact I drove for around 6 hours just to test it for several hours against my own flute after hearing it in a session and I simply couldn’t make a decision. The bottom end in particular is more powerful than any flute I’ve heard.

Re: My future as a flute making

I do not know how much info you have but there is good medical tx for what you have. A good hand surgeon should be able to help both medically and surgically. If you have not done this don’t give up. The should be help for this. Dan

Re: My future as a flute making

Hello old friend! Me too, dual carpal tunnel, but I’ve opted to go without operations, for now, sleeping like a mummy and being VERY careful, hopefully. I survive. But, several other acquaintances/musicians we know have had success with operations and you wouldn’t know any difference post recovery. I don’t know anyone who has gone for the operations that hasn’t had success, though that’s at most half a dozen folks… I’m lucky mine’s not severe, no doubt hereditary, small wrists with a propensity to dislocate with some work, like chopping wood, where I’d have to suspend myself from the rafters to pop them back into place, but chainsaws and keyboard work no doubt contributed further to the problem. I’m being careful and the mummy like sleep has worked for now, toes crossed… I wish you well dear Casey, your works have given pleasure and inspiration to so many - and we wish you bottomless buckets of ice cream too… 😉 ‘c’

Re: My future as a flute maker

Curious, could this in any way be related to the Lyme Disease you’d suffered previously?