Odell Borg - the History of His First Handmade Flutes

Posted on January 01, 2015 by Odell Borg

The Native Flute came into my life when I received one as a Christmas gift in 1988. I had never played an instrument before, and as I started to play, I was overwhelmed with the joy that playing an instrument brought into my life. It quickly became my close and comforting friend.

The inspiration to create a flute came in 1990 while I was going through a very difficult time in my life, when I had lost everything and I was struggling to rebuild myself. A good friend reminded me that I had always been a craftsman and why not explore making the flute, which seemed to bring me so much needed peace and comfort. Even though I had been fighting depression and lack of motivation this idea struck a chord with me.

At the time, I had a friend and neighbor who was a shipwright and a furniture maker. I approached him with the idea of making flutes and he generously shared his time mentoring me in the art of woodworking. He guided me through the process of learning to use hand tools, power tools and the art of precise woodworking. On my first attempt I created four aromatic cedar flutes in the key of “F#”. When first hearing their voice, I was overwhelmed with the blessing of having been able to successfully create the thing that had brought me so much solace. That is when I made the decision to bring the Native Flute into the lives of as many people as I possibly could.

I gifted one of these first flutes to my friend who had inspired me. She was very generous with her praise and was supportive of my newfound goal. Knowing my dismal financial condition, she made out a check so I could buy the basic tools I would need to get started. I set-up a wood shop in a small (very) one-car garage, which was adjacent to my studio apartment in Solana beach, California. It became the birthplace of my flute making journey. My first flutes were two-piece, split-style construction. They had a flat finish and a bullet shaped mouthpiece. I made them from square wood stock. The edges were rounded over and hand sanded into the cylindrical shape. The chamber divider for these flutes was made from a separate piece of wood; I soon learned that the moisture from the breath affected the wood divider, and would expand and split the flute body. The solution was to use cork instead.

As I became more skilled at crafting my flutes, I began selling them at street festivals, art fairs, music festival, and anyplace I thought people might be interested in learning about this special instrument. I traveled all over the west coast in my van and I quickly learned that most folks had never heard of the Native Flute and they often thought they were peace pipes or even pot paraphernalia. They were drawn to the natural beauty and heart-warming voice of the flute but they never imagined themselves being able to play them so made it my mission to teach everyone that came into the booth. After individuals were able to play a few notes, they were so enthusiastic that the flutes really sold themselves.

Amazingly, one of the first flutes I had created made its way back to me! It was some years after I had first began selling my flutes that I received a phone call from someone telling me that the flute I had made had split open. They sent it back to me so I could look at it and determine what the issue might be. When I received the flute I realized it was one of the first I had ever made. I felt blessed to receive one of my ‘first born’ flutes back in my hands so I offered to send its owner a replacement flute, which he happily accepted. Since then, this original flute has been a daily inspiration to me and a reminder of the amazing journey the Native Flute has taken me on.

In the beginning my technical and musical knowledge was very limited but my passion and appreciation for the Native Flute has carried me through many challenges for the past 25-years.

Crafting flutes is a very subtle art, and even the slightest variation in design or construction can have a significant impact upon the final voice of each flute. This creative process is a continued learning experience and a rewarding challenge, which serves me each day.

Play Lots and Have Fun -
Odell Borg