Burning Rod 101

panbreaux
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panbreaux
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Joined: March 28th, 2008, 12:41 pm

May 25th, 2010, 4:02 am #1

the burning rod is one of the most useful tools for making transverse flutes and note holes in any other type of wooden or bamboo flute. you can make much larger versions for burning out the nodes and "paper" inside bamboo. this also heat treats it from the inside out forcing the sugars to the surface. i was setting up to teach a class and needed a few extra rods, so i took a few pics to show how you can make one of your own and how it works.

i started off with a section of 5/16" hot rolled steel and a 1/8" 6011 welding rod. you can use just about any type of steel or stainless for the handles and tips. don't bother with brass or other soft metals for the handles. brass and copper is ok for the tips. soft metal shafts bend too easy when hot. if it's hardened steel you can anneal it. search the metal working forum if you don't know how to anneal hardened steel. i've used everything from vw camshafts to harley kick stands.




center punch the round stock and drill a 1/8" hole to around 3/8" depth.




smooth the end of the welding rod, bevel the tip of the round stock about 30 degrees and test fit it into the hole you drilled. it should fall out on it's own when held vertical.

DO NOT MAKE IT PRESS FIT!!!!!!





now beat the end of the rod square slightly away from the tip. the tip or the rod should just start to go into the hole about 1/16". if it slides in wack it some more. yes you are going to insert a square peg into a round hole. trust me it works.



saw off the round stock about 5/8" long.



dislocating pinky finger when your hand slams into the vise is optional..



knock the flux off, clamp the rod in a vise with about 3/4" sticking up and make sure it's tight. place the round stock onto the end of the rod and wack it a few times to seat it into place.




round and smooth the small end. then grind the round stock to about a 15 degree bevel. this is where the tip tends to get pulled off. if it does repeat the beating on the end of the rod so it fits tighter.





now we get to the fun part. mark the location of the hole. heat the small end until it's glowing and burn through the flute body perpendicular to the flute body. rotate it slightly with not much pressure. if it stops smoking, reheat and repeat.




this is where it gets potentially dangerous. the first few times you heat the large end make sure it's done outside pointing in a safe direction. if for some reason the fit was too tight and it compressed some air when hammered on it will blow the round stock off like a flaming rocket with the crack of a .22lr. if done inside it will always land behind a pile of flammable material that isn't easily moved.

you also won't have anything handy to pick it up if you could get to it. blame it on murphy. i'd also suggest you have some safety glasses and other suitable safety gear for most of this.

this is why we don't press fit. repeated heating and sap/carbon build up will weld it all together in before you finish the first flute.



burn in a little at a time allowing it to cool off before checking the pitch of the note. enlarge it a little at a time until you're within a few cents of your target. pitch rises and falls with temperature. if it flames up blow it out. you should have lots of white smoke billowing out.

on this particular flute, middle eastern scaled transverse, the holes are a bit large, so i needed to burn clean through and still enlarge them some more by hand.




the new addition with the rest of the family.

"Human beings are almost unique in their ability to learn from the experience of others.....and in their apparent disinclination to do so......" Douglas Adams
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Orien M
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Orien M
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Joined: January 25th, 2007, 8:48 am

June 22nd, 2010, 3:07 pm #2

Cool tools! when I was trying (with erratic success) to make bamboo flutes, I just used hot nails of various sizes...your tools are much nicer, they look very controllable, and actually I bet the thin handles keep the heat from creeping up to your hand, too.

The conical shape allows you to make adjustments to hole size?
My handmade knives and tools on Etsy... http://www.etsy.com/shop/OldSchoolTools
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panbreaux
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panbreaux
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Joined: March 28th, 2008, 12:41 pm

June 23rd, 2010, 1:17 pm #3

the handles will start to get a little warm on the big ones after using it an hour or two, but nothing you need a glove for if you're accustomed to working with hot metal. most times the big ones are locked into a drill bit extension for node removal and boring.

the coned ones act more like drill bits, but they do give a bit more ability to control how a hole is burned. i burn my note and embrochure holes close to where i want them, then file and sand them into tune. you can get really close to pitch if you go slow.

the only problem with tapered note holes is they don't flow efficiently. the air has to rise in a stable column, maintaining a certain amount of back pressure. beveled top and bottom with straight walls is optimum. you can make an undercutting burning rod for slipping through the note hole to burn a bottom bevel in. i prefer to hand file mine.

the problem with note holes on most flutes is the makers paid more attention to the outside of the note holes than the inside edge where the air flows across with the most resistance.
"Human beings are almost unique in their ability to learn from the experience of others.....and in their apparent disinclination to do so......" Douglas Adams
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Phil66
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Phil66
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Joined: February 26th, 2011, 4:50 pm

February 26th, 2011, 4:50 pm #4

As beginner I keep finding more and more information here to help me in the making of my first flute. 
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lennyharp.paleoplanet69529
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Joined: December 19th, 2005, 1:34 pm

March 1st, 2011, 3:36 am #5

Yes this forum is a gold mine of info. Panbreaux, These are nice tools and since I do not have any burning rods yet these will be a project to work on soon. Thanks for the clear instructions and photos. I use jewlers files and fine knives to work the inside of the holes. I spent about 5 minutes with Hawk Littlejohn before he died and had him make me a flute and learned a lot about the cleanness aneeded to have good airflow, especially around the sound hole and finger holes.
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Guest
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December 12th, 2011, 4:25 pm #6

Hi Panbreaux!

How long are your burning rods (both the ones you use to burn out nodes, and the ones for burning toneholes)?

Thanks!

Greg
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panbreaux
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panbreaux
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Joined: March 28th, 2008, 12:41 pm

December 20th, 2011, 12:55 pm #7

i think the standard length of a welding rod is 13". to burn nodes i install one or more of my 12" drill bit extensions. on most standard size transverse flutes you can burn the nodes from opposite ends so you should be able to burn them out without using a bit extension. a round file on a long handle will remove the nodes on straighter pieces, but you won't get the added benefit of heating from the inside. heat from burning the nodes relieves some of the internal stress to help prevent them from expanding as much when you heat treat the outside. in a lot of ways it's similar to normalizing steel when forging a knife.
"Human beings are almost unique in their ability to learn from the experience of others.....and in their apparent disinclination to do so......" Douglas Adams
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Bernie
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Bernie
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Joined: October 5th, 2014, 9:22 pm

October 5th, 2014, 9:21 pm #8

Hi guys!

I'm very happy I found this forum and it helped me a lot for making my first flutes.
Unfortunately the image from this posting have disappeared.

Does somebody have a copy of the images and could repost them or send them to me, please?

Thanks a lot!

All the best,
Bernie
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