On Becoming a Flutemaker: Following an Innocent Realization

On Becoming a Flutemaker: Following an Innocent Realization

On this first blog post, I will be sharing with you a little more about my Journey with Flutes and Flute making. It is a simple, yet meaningful tale on how the most profound experiences can emerge from apparently simple and innocent ideas.

For me, it happened around 10 years ago, during my particularly gray days as a Mechanical Engineering student. Little did I know that a seemingly childish realization would ignite a passion within me and lead me down a path that would forever change my life.


The Surprising Eureka Moment

As I grumbled through the intricate nuances of Fluid Mechanics and Differential Calculus, a contrastingly simple thought crossed my mind: "A flute is just a tube with holes". It hit me with such force that I couldn’t stop thinking about it, as if it was the most groundbreaking discovery. Needless to say – oh nasty Fluid Mechanics – my Academic Performance was not great back then :)

Suddenly, the Flute transformed from an enigmatic instrument into a concept so straightforward and elemental. In that instant, my mind was flooded with excitement and a sense of possibility. "Maybe I can do it," I thought.


A very symbolic gift

Since I can recall, I have always loved Music and other Performative Arts, being self-taught and a (mediocre :D) informal player of a few different Instruments.

I was lucky enough (and still am) to be surrounded by generous and caring people, and back then, in my early 20s, I was offered a Bamboo Flute from Erik the Flute Maker. It was a gift that would change everything. I marveled at its simplicity, yet profound character. The realization that it truly “was just a tube with holes” became even more profound. It was as if a door had swung open, inviting me to step into a new world, a world of reframing: it is us, Humans, with our remarkable Neo-cortical activity, that can see layers of social complexity on top of mechanically simple things, and decide to call it Culture, to call it Music, to call it Art.

Erik’s flute was a gem to me, I played endlessly… while joyfully thinking: “Here I am, playing Scarborough Fair, feeling so nostalgic, so sophisticated and civilized… on a giant hollow grass species. I mean, a tube with holes!”

I was always very much stimulated to put my hands on things, to experiment and see what comes out of it. So, making a flute seemed like an appropriate challenge. Next Quest: Find tubes!

Rui behind a wall


Starting with Bamboo: So many Advantages

And as so, I began my modest journey as a flute maker. I found a few plumbing pipes in my backyard and drilled some holes on them, hoping to copy Erik’s flute. Well, the first ones were not so good, I must admit, but they played and I was thrilled! Rapidly, I switched to Bamboo, as I resonate better with natural materials (even though PVC pipes can produce surprisingly great instruments).

Even though Bamboo is not Native to Europe, we have plenty of Phyllostachys Plantations here in Northern Portugal, so it was rather easy to find some well-seasoned canes. Starting with bamboo had its advantages. If you're wondering how to make a flute, especially a bamboo flute, it's a great material to start with. In short: Bamboo is already hollow – you can thank Nature to have made the hardest part already.

However, the process of crafting fine-quality flutes involves more than meets the eye. If you're looking for a guide on how to make a flute, let me tell you, it's a journey of discovery, and you should follow yours. I promise it will be fun!

To make a simple flute, a few basic measurements and proportions will work. However, to produce a concert-tuned instrument, that will play in at least 2 registers… well, that’s another story.  We have to take into account density, bore profile, conicity, wall thickness, cutoff factors, choke effects, and all sorts of other variables. Of course, everything can be mathematically translated, but – not neglecting the physics behind the instruments, and I always aim to produce the most well-tuned flutes – after practicing, you develop a very good “eye-to-ear” skill, and these things become second nature.

Once you see bamboo as a proto-flute, you will never see it as the same plant again. It is a marvelous feeling: to understand that Nature offered me a great D or G Flute, it’s only waiting to be crafted. The metaphor is to hear which kind of flute the material wants to become, and then facilitate its way. Bamboo is still my favorite material for Flute-making, and I have an appetite for both Transverse flutes with Exotic Scales as well as Native American Style ones!

 wood workshop, low light


Transitioning to Hardwoods: A Different Logic

Recently, with the valuable insights I had gained with bamboo Flute-making, and also as I could afford to pay for a modest lathe, really, I started making flutes with different Hardwoods. Transitioning to hardwoods presented an entirely different logic. If you're curious about how to make a flute from hardwoods on a lathe, it requires a completely different approach, but starting with bamboo is something I would absolutely stress as essential.

Having developed a cohesive understanding of flute making, I found myself in a different role: of a flute making Director. Now I am telling the material what it should be. It felt slightly bossy, I admit, but it certainly has its advantages, for instance, to maintain consistency. I can now make Whistles and Unique Concert Flutes more systematically.


What’s next?

Without much planning, I am now happy to say that I left my daytime job as a Research Assistant at the University of Porto (yes, in the meantime I concluded a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology, how random, right?), and am now a Full-time Flutemaker.

My journey has been one of transformation and discovery, and each flute I create is a testament to that path I have been through, a journey that began with a simple, honest idea: “A flute is a tube with holes!”


7th of July, 2023,



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