Repairing Your Native American Style Flute

How to fix a crack in a wooden flute

So you sat on your flute, or your dog grabbed it for in impromptu game of fetch… or maybe your toddler used it for a sword fight . However you ended up here you probably have a broken flute because life happens and flutes are delicate. No judgment, I’ve seen it all. Just please, save all the pieces!!!

Do you need to fix your flute?

Let’s talk about what kind of damage needs to be fixed and what is better left as is.

You’ve probably seen an old rustic piece of furniture, it’s covered in dents, stains, scratched and each of these “flaws” tells a story of the life of the piece. I have seen some old flutes of ours that have all kinds of wear and to me it tells a story of a well loved and used instrument. I personally don’t think it’s necessary to sand dents back out. If you are particularly offended by the idea of your flute becoming dented over the years, consider purchasing a hardwood Premiere flute rather than a cedar Basic flute. Cedar is soft enough to easily dent with a fingernail so it will end up with a patina of a life well lived.

Now a crack on the other hand, that will cause the flute to sound pretty terrible, change the tuning or even stop it from playing at all. In this post I’m going to demonstrate how to repair a badly cracked flute. This fix will work on a flute by any maker. As you are probably well aware (hopefully) if your Stellar flute is damaged we will repair it for free. Maybe you just prefer to fix things yourself or live out of the country and don’t want to deal with return shipping fees and long shipping delays. I don’t blame you. This fix is simple and can be done at home with a few supplies you can find online or at your local hardware store.

Flute Repair Supplies

Lets gather some supplies, for this repair you will need:

  • Tightbond II wood glue
  • Several rubber bands
  • A damp paper towel or rag
  • A few Q tips or something else to dab glue with
  • Gloves (optional)
  • 220 grit sandpaper (optional)
  • Tiniest can of oil-based polyurethane varnish available (optional)

It’s a good idea to either cover your work area with a drop cloth or work on a surface you don’t mind getting glue on.

If your flute has been smashed or has a crack but all the pieces are still attached, you will need to find something cone shaped to gently spread the crack(s) apart. I used a toilet paper roll that I smashed into a cone shape, it worked great! Of course we have wooden mandrels at the shop to spread flutes, but you really don’t need anything that fancy!

Super hightec flute spreader (aka toilet paper roll)

Do this slowly so you don’t cause the cracks to grow or break apart further.

For this type of damage, it is really helpful to thin your glue down by adding a little water and mixing, this will help it to seep down into the cracks more easily.

Use a Q tip or a paintbrush to apply glue to the cracked areas and allow it to seep into the cracks for a minute, apply more glue if necessary.

If your flute is in several pieces paint glue on the mating edges and carefully piece it back together.

If you have used a cone to spread the cracks, remove it and gently squeeze your flute back into shape, trying to close the cracked areas.

Some glue will extrude from the cracks, this is a good sign that you have applied enough, while holding the flute together, gently wipe the excess glue off the outside of the flute with a damp rag.

Use a rubber band or several rubber bands to hold the flute together and then use your damp rag to remove as much extruded glue from the inside of the flute as you can reach, careful not to spread the cracks open again.

Leave the flute to dry overnight.

Once dry remove the rubber bands. Often there will not be any further cleanup necessary, the flute should be back to normal, voice wise, but you have the option of taking the repair a step further.

If you have chosen to buy sandpaper and polyurethane, you can sand the outside of the flute in the cracked area to remove any dry glue or unevenness and then using a paper towel wipe a thin coat of oil-based polyurethane varnish on the sanded area. Allow to dry overnight and sand and repeat until the desired finish is achieved. Note that if you are repairing a non-Stellar flute, you may want to research what finish was originally applied or sand and coat the entire flute for a uniform look. You are not in danger of effecting the tuning by sanding with 220 grit sandpaper, it is too fine to remove enough stock.

Congratulations! You should now have a functional flute with a little more character than it originally had. If your cracks show and they bother you, consider decorating your flute with acrylic paint covered with polyurethane.

Until next time,

Keep on fluting!

-Lily

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