The Flute Maker

Before taking my readers into the workshop I will relate a short encounter which illustrates how the public at large often takes for granted the existence of complicated objects that are not made of homely stuff like wood or clay. Before our sophisticated age of production lines and computer controlled machinery everything was made by hand, and hundreds of thousands of men and women throughout the land had their sleeves rolled up and were doing it. Now there is such a gulf of ignorance between the relatively few high-tec 'operatives' and the end user that the whole process of manufacture seems, to many, like magic.

A lady with whom I am slightly acquainted came to my workshop recently, asking to see a finished flute. I went to a cupboard, took out a case, put it on the bench, then opened it to reveal the latest instrument all polished and sparkling. After a little gasp she said "Oh what a lovely box, where did you get that?" I said that I had made it out of some walnut and that it was just one of my standard cases. After some more appreciative remarks from her about the wood and the aroma of linseed oil I suggested she might like to look more closely at the flute itself: "Oh but I don't know anything about them! Are they very difficult to play?" Pause. Then, "We have some dear friends who live next door to a violin maker. Isn't that fascinating! I believe he is terribly good and has simply years of work. Now I am sure he would love to meet you, and you could both talk about wood!" The lopsided conversation ran its dreary course during which the flute remained unobserved and mute. This is a story which will almost certainly be familiar to other makers in one of its many forms. I am afraid I cannot resist a slightly patronising chuckle!

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Photo of flute case made of walnut