Splitting Edge Designs for Native American Flutes
This web page shows shows details for the design of the splitting edge
(also called the “cutting edge”,
and the “sound edge”) of a Native American flute.
First, here's a cut-away view of the inside of a Native American flute.
This image was provided by Don from Spokane WA.
Here's another cut-away view and an X-ray of the upper part of a Native American flute.
This image was provided by
This diagram shows 4 basic designs for the Native American flute fipple.
Click on one of the designs for a larger view.
- The terms "Top", "North end",
"Mouth end", and "Proximal" all mean
the end of the flute you blow in.
The terms "Bottom", "South end",
"Foot", and "Distal" are all used for the other end.
- "TSH" stands for "True Sound Hole".
- The measurement "Flue Depth" in these diagrams is made at the location
nearest the TSH.
In many cases, the flue does not have a constant depth along it's length.
The depth of many flues decreases as it nears the TSH.
- Diagram 0. Basic / Common Measurements shows dimensions
that are common to all the designs.
- The shape of the flue can be achieved in a number of ways,
which are not reflected in these diagrams.
The flue can be:
- cut into the body of the flute,
- cut into the block (also called “totem”, “fetish”, or “bird”),
- formed with a spacer plate, or
- some combination of these designs.
- If the top (proximal) edge of the TSH lines up with the top of the
sound chamber, the “backcut” measurement is zero.
Many flutes are constructed with no backcut.
- The measurement “TSH Length” is always between the
top (proximal edge) of the TSH and the face or edge at the bottom (distal end)
of the TSH.
- The Bottom Bevel Angle and Face Bevel Angle are smaller for angles
that are more “vertical”.
They both increase as the amount of wood that is “undercut” increases.
This is the reverse of the way that Russ A. Wolf measures these angles in
his excellent reference
Flute Shop: A guide to Crafting the Native American Style Flute.
- Measurements of the height of the Top, Face, and Bottom bevels
are always done perpendicular to the floor of the flute.
They are not done in line with the bevel.
Other Fipple Diagrams
Here are some interesting diagrams of fipples from U.S. Patents. In these diagrams, I added coloration to make it easier to see the body of the flute.
The first is from U.S. Patent 6,872,876 B2, which describes a type of ocarina ([Ahrens 2005]). This is a single bevel design, but the flat side is on the bottom.
Figure 4 of U.S. Patent 6,872,876 B2
... and here is an interesting design from Figure 1 of U.S. Patent 5,107,740, which is titled "Flute Mouthpiece with Adjustable Core Gap" ([Strathmann 1992]). The idea of the patent is to have a screw (#27 in the figure) that controls the depth of the flue and thus the tone of the flute.
Figure 1 of U.S. Patent 5,107,740