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Most of the flutes on this page were custom made to the specification of our special customers. These are examples of the custom work that we have done. If you have an idea that might be considered "unusual," let's talk about how we might turn that idea into a very personal flute. Some of the considerations for specifying a custom flute are given at the bottom of this page.

Custom Flutes from Turtle Mound Flutes

Entries in Flute Makers' Competitions

Name Wood Fetish Key
Manatee - Musical Echoes 2011 Black Palm Sassafras "Middle" Am
Tawodi (Red-Tailed Hawk) - Musical Echoes 2010 Brown Ebony & Sassafras Sassafras "Middle" F#m
Tluhdatsi Hawinaditluh Gadohi (Underground Panthers) - Musical Echoes 2009 Spalted Hackberry Mesquite "Middle" Dm
Uktena (Mythical River Serpent) - Oklahoma Flute Festival - 2008 Spalted Hackberry Walnut & Cocobolo "Middle" Ebm
Wadaduga ("Dragonfly") - Musical Echoes 2008 Red Cedar Canary Wood & Walnut "Middle" Em


Other Custom Flutes
Name Wood Fetish Key
Sooty Tern Cherry Sassafras "High" Em
Daksi ("Turtle") Eastern Red Cedar Mun Ebony "Middle" Am
Nuhda ale Nuhda ("Sun & Moon") Alaskan Yellow Cedar Cocobolo "Middle" Am
Awohali ("Eagle") Sassafras Cocobolo "Middle" Am
Tluhdatsi ("Panther") Red Cedar Cocobolo "Middle" Am
Yona ("Bear") Red Cedar/Yellow Cedar/Cocobolo Purpleheart "Middle" Am
Peace Dragon Eastern Red Cedar Silver Maple "Middle" Abm
"The Zoo" (6 Animals) Eastern Red Cedar Olivewood "Middle" Gm
"Middle" Gm
Gule Disgonihi ("Dove") Sassafras/Cocobolo Silver Maple "Middle" Gm
Dalala ("Woodpecker") Red Cedar Pine "Middle" Gm
Daksi ("Turtle") Red Cedar/Yellow Cedar/Cocobolo Sassafras "Middle" Gm
Peace Dragon Spalted Hackberry Tulipwood "Middle" Fm
Wadaduga ("Dragonfly") Red Cedar Red Cedar, Walnut & Myrtlewood "Middle" Fm
Totsuwa ("Cardinal") Sassafras Bloodwood "Middle" Fm
Golanuh ("Raven") Red Cedar Cocobolo "Middle" Fm
Zuni Bear & Zia Sun Ash/Cocobolo East India Rosewood "Middle" F#m
Griffin Bocote Osage Orange "Middle" F#m
Horny Toad Red Cedar/Cocobolo Cocobolo "Middle" F#m
Nuhnohi Udeti ("Roadrunner") Alaskan Yellow Cedar Tesota "Middle" F#m
Kawonu ("Duck") & Kiakklo Black Cherry Mesquite "Middle" F#m
Wolverine Spalted Hackberry/Purpleheart Honey Mesquite "Middle" Em
Sogwili ("Horse") Black Walnut/Oregon Myrtlewood White Ash "Middle" Em
Tluhdatsi ("Cheetah") Black Walnut White Ash "Middle" Em
Kokopelli Red Cedar Padauk "Middle" Em
Tsalagi Tsuniyuhwi
(The Cherokee Clans)
Red Cedar Tesota "Middle" Em
Uktena (Mythical River Serpent) Black Walnut Padauk "Middle" Em
"ECHOES from the TRAIL" Red Cedar Honey Mesquite "Middle" Ebm
Totsuwa ("Cardinal") Red Cedar/Purpleheart/White Ash Padauk "Middle" Ebm
African Lion Lignum Vitae/Black Walnut Mahogany "Middle" Dm
Dlayhga ("Blue Jay") Sassafras/Cocobolo Yellow Cedar "Middle" Dm
Kokopelli Alaskan Yellow Cedar/Padauk Padauk "Middle" Dm
Pochteca Trader Alaskan Yellow Cedar/Padauk Silver Maple "Middle" Dm
Yona ("Bear") Red Cedar Mesquite "Middle" Dm
Metamorphosis Alaskan Yellow Cedar Cocobolo, ebony & sassafras "Middle" Cm

Entries in Flute Makers' Competitions

The following flutes were custom made as entries in various flute makers' competitions. These flutes remain in my personal collection.


This flute was created as my entry in the Flute Makers' Competition at the 2011 Musical Echoes (at Ft. Walton Beach, FL; April 29 - June 1, 2011). The required theme, which had to be depicted somewhere on the flute, was the "manatee." Apparently the manatee, indigenous to Florida, was not common to the Cherokee as I was unable to find a Cherokee word for it.

This beautiful black palm flute is tuned to the "middle" A minor pentatonic scale. The festival theme manatee is captured in the sassafras fetish depicting a young calf raising its head from a lily-pad filled pond, carved from a piece of sassafras. Just below the nest area is the image of a mature manatee with its head above water, and it's body visible in the water. The black palm used in this flute comes from the Myanmar Republic (formerly known as Burma) in southeast Asia. The beautiful grain in this wood belongs to a very dense piece of wood. This little "A" flute is relatively heavy for its size. Extra care is needed when working black palm as it splinters very easily right up to the point where the finish is applied..  (April 2011)


(Cherokee for "Hawk")

This flute was created as my entry in the Flute Makers' Competition at the 2010 Musical Echoes (at Ft. Walton Beach, FL; April 23-25, 2010). The required theme, which had to be depicted somewhere on the flute, was the "red-tailed hawk." 

This beautiful brown ebony and sassafras flute is tuned to the "middle" F# minor pentatonic scale. The festival theme red-tailed hawk is captured in the sassafras carved hawk-in-flight fetish, an attacking hawk with talons extended burned into the flute body below the nest area, and the red-tail's fierce head carved and burned into the single-piece sassafras endcap. The chevron-shaped accent rings, which have drawn considerable comment, are a first for Turtle Mound Flutes, as is the hawk's head carving directly on the wood of the flute endcap.  (April 2010)

 (Tluhdatsi Hawinaditluh Gadohi)

(Underground Panthers)

This flute was created as my entry in the Flute Makers' Competition at the 2009 Musical Echoes (at Ft. Walton Beach, FL; April 24-26, 2009). The required theme, which had to be depicted somewhere on the flute, was the "panther." I chose to make this flute to tell the Cherokee legend of the "Underground Panthers".

The Underground Panthers
A Cherokee Legend

Long ago a hunter was deep in the woods when he saw a panther approaching him on the path. Uncertain as to the intentions of Tluhdatsi [panther], the hunter readied an arrow in case Tluhdatsi should attack. 

But as they came closer, Tluhdatsi said, "Osiyo [hello], tohitsu [how are you]?"

"Osda [good], nihina [and you]?" replied the hunter.

After an exchange of pleasantries, Tluhdatsi suggested, "I see that you too are hunting. Perhaps it would be beneficial for us to hunt awi [deer] together." Sensing no danger, the hunter agreed.

After awhile, the man and the Tluhdatsi came upon a small doe. When the hunter readied an arrow and prepared to shoot, Tluhdatsi calmly spoke: "Tla [no], she is too small. We'll find another." On they went...

It wasn't long before a nice buck appeared in the clearing ahead. The pair circled to the downwind side and cautiously approached their prey. Just as Tluhdatsi sprang, the buck bolted and the attack was only partially successful. A struggle ensued and it was with great difficulty that Tluhdatsi finally killed his prey. As the hunter approached to gather awi, Tluhdatsi said, "No, the animal is mangled. Leave him. He will make a fine meal for awaholi [eagle], suli [buzzard], and others. We'll find another."

Sure enough, a short time later they came upon another buck. This time Tluhdatsi's attack was swift and true. Then Tluhdatsi wrapped his tail around awi and threw him over his back. He turned to the hunter and said, "Come with me back to our camp and we will celebrate the kill together."

The hunter agreed and off they went, deeper into the woods. After a time, they came to the side of a hill, when suddenly a door opened into the hill and Tluhdatsi entered, followed by his companion. Inside they found other panthers dancing around a fire. "Come, join us." they said to the hunter. He did, and it was a joyous feeling.

After a few dances, the hunter said that it was getting late and he needed to return to his village. So Tluhdatsi opened the door in the side of the hill and the hunter departed alone. As he approached his village, he saw great commotion and a group of his friends came over to greet him.

"What is happening? What are you so excited about?" asked the hunter.

"We have formed search parties to go out to look for you," said the leader. "You have been gone for days. We were sure that something had happened to you."

"Days? I don't understand. It has been just a few hours!"

Unable to explain the time discrepancy, the hunter returned to his village. But within a week, he died. You see, he had started to take on the characteristics of the panthers and could no longer live among people. If he had stayed with the panthers, he would have lived.

The hunter and the panther
stalk a deer.
The tracks of the panther and the
hunter's moccasins show the
trail to the panthers' lair.
At the panthers' lair, three
panthers are shown dancing 
around the fire.
The stalking panther, preparing to strike, is also depicted in the carved mesquite fetish..
The carved head at the foot of this flute shows the man's metamorphosis into the panther, exhibiting both human and cat characteristics (note especially the eyes, hair, and ears) . 
This flute sits on a custom black walnut stand that holds a plaque that tells an abbreviated version of the legend, along with images from the legend and "Tluhdatsi Hawinaditluh Gadohi" (in the characters of the Cherokee syllabary) burned into the stand's base.

This beautiful spalted hackberry flute is tuned to a deep, mellow D-minor pentatonic tuning. When viewing this flute, prominent are the carved mesquite prowling panther fetish and panther's head at the foot. Images from the legend are burned and painted down the length of the flute, as described above.

The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from deerskin. (March 2009).


(Cherokee Mythological River Serpent)

This flute was created as my entry in the Flute Makers' Competition at the 2008 Oklahoma Flute Festival (at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, OK; October 3-5, 2008). There was no required theme for this contest's entries, so I took this as an opportunity to create a flute I had envisioned while working on Kat Johnson's "Uktena" flute (see below). So I chose the legend of how "Tlanuwa defeated Uktena" as the story I depicted on this flute. Uktena placed first in the competition.

How Tlanuwa Defeated Uktena
A Cherokee Legend

This is the ancient tale of Tlanuwa, the great mythic hawks, and Uktena, a giant, antler-horned, river-dwelling serpent with a great crystal (called the Ulun'suti) in the middle of its forehead.

Long before the white man came to these lands, a pair of Tlanuwa had their nest in a cave high on a rock cliff overlooking the river where the Uktena lived. The gigantic Tlanuwa flew up and down the river and, while passing over settlements, sometimes swooped down to carry away dogs or even small children. The people could not reach the nest, and arrows only glanced off their feathers. The desperate people sought the help of a medicine man. The medicine man made a long rope out of tree bark, and tied loops at the end for his feet. He had the people lower him down to the nest, which he reached with great difficulty. There he found four young birds, which he threw over the cliff into the deep river. The great Uktena rose to the surface and devoured the young birds. The Tlanuwa were very angry when they returned to see the Uktena taking the remains of their young down under the water. So they circled over the river until Uktena showed his head. The Tlanuwa dove straight down; one caught the serpent in its talons and lifted it into the sky while the other tore it to pieces. The Tlanuwa carried the tattered serpent high into the sky until they were no longer seen, and the people never saw them again.

The fetish depicts a "juvenile" Uktena rising from a hollow stump, his tail emerging below the flute and wrapping around the mouthpiece.
The head of the "adult" antler-horned Uktena emerges from the foot of the flute.
In this view, the "adult" Uktena's body weaves in and out along the length of the flute, the tail finally emerging from beneath the nest area and wrapping upward near the mouthpiece, just ahead of junior's tail.
The gigantic Tlanuwa, talons extended, attacks Uktena's exposed body.
Here Uktena rests on his custom red cedar stand, the placard behind displaying the legend as told above.

This hackberry flute is tuned to a very mellow E-flat-minor pentatonic tuning. The fetish depicts a scene of a "juvenile" Uktena rising from a black walnut hollow stump. "Junior" is carved from South American cocobolo, including his immature antler-horns, with his bifid tongue from African padauk. his eyes are chips of turquoise and he has a small Ulun'suti (crystal) on his forehead. Junior's body appears to be passing upward through the flute's nest area, with his tail wrapping around the mouthpiece.

The head of the adult Uktena emerges from the foot of the flute. "Papa" is also carved from cocobolo with a padauk tongue, turquoise eyes, and a larger Ulun'suti on his forehead. Papa's fully mature antler-horns are carved from South American tulipwood. Papa's cocobolo body enters and leaves the body of the flute several times along the length of this flute, before his tail finally emerges near the mouthpiece.

The image of Tlanuwa, talons extended in final attack attitude toward papa's exposed body, is burned into the flute's body. In addition (painted imitation) hawk feathers representing Tlanuwa hang from a deerskin wrap near the foot of this flute. 

The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from deerskin. (September 2008).

As the Oklahoma Flute Festival was wrapping up on Sunday afternoon, NAF recording artist Jan Seiden, featured performer at this event, stopped by our tent and honored us with some beautiful music from Uktena. Find more photos of Jan in our write-up of this event on our Events page.



(Cherokee for "Dragonfly")

This flute was created as my entry in the Flute Makers' Competition at the 2008 Musical Echoes Flute Festival (Ft. Walton Beach, FL; April 25-27, 2008). The theme for that year's festival was the dragonfly, and all competition entries were required to display the image of the dragonfly somewhere on the flute. I chose to use the flute to illustrate the Zuni legend of "The Boy and the Dragonfly". This entry placed 3rd in this competition.

The Boy and the Dragonfly
A Zuni Legend

One time, long ago, the People were very unappreciative of their food, wasting it and throwing it around. So the Great Spirit decided to punish the People and sent the Corn Maidens away; the cornfields withered and died. The People became hungry and began suffering. Then, one day, a small boy was sitting at the edge of a dried up cornfield when he picked up a dried corn husk and fashioned a toy insect from it. When he finished, he tossed it out over the field and it suddenly came to life as a dragonfly, flying round and round over the dried up field. The dragonfly saw that the People were suffering and flew off to find the Corn Maidens to bring them back. When the Corn Maidens returned, the fields began growing again. The people were fed and were thankful, never again to disrespect their food. And the Great Spirit was again pleased with the People.

You can see the images from this story depicted in the photos of this flute below.
All entries had to show "ME 2008". The boy with a dragonfly on his finger.
Symbolic Zuni dragonflies arise from the cornfield at the base. These dragonflies have wings inlayed with pink coral.
The fetish depicts the dragonfly returning over an abundant cornfield.

This aromatic eastern red cedar flute is tuned to a very mellow E-minor pentatonic tuning. The base and dragonfly wings of the fetish are canary wood, while the dragonfly body is black walnut. The corn is painted green and yellow, while the features of the wings are burned in. Following the Zuni legend, a cornfield is burned in around the base with painted corn stalks. The symbolic Zuni dragonflies that arise from the cornfield along either side of the sound holes are burned into the flute and inlayed with pink coral wings. The boy's face has some subtle coloring that is painted, but is primarily burned in, as is his hand and the dragonfly sitting on his finger. The background sun is painted. The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from deerskin. (April 2008).

Other Custom Flutes

The following flutes were mostly custom made to turn a customer's vision into a very personal flute..

Sooty Tern

This custom cherry flute was made to fulfill a vision by my North Carolina friend Piro Papa. In accordance with Piro's vision, it is tuned to the "high" E (E5) pentatonic minor scale, an octave higher that the typical "E" Native flute. This makes the flute small, with an overall diameter of under one inch and length just under 14 inches. 

The theme for this little flute is the sooty tern, also called "wide awake", which Piro explains is a little bird that lives an amazing life in which it never touches down on land or water for most of the year, until it is time to nest. The flute shows seventeen images of the bird in flight over the ocean, which is depicted by a large wave that wraps around the foot of the flute with inlay of crushed abalone for the foam at the wave crest and inlay of blue lapis and turquoise representing the water. The fetish is the sooty tern with wings extended in flight, carved from sassafras and painted in the bird's colors - black on top and white on the bottom.

Piro uses his visionary flutes (see also his "Peace Dragon" flute below) in his workshops as a spiritual leader.

[Click here to hear a sound clip of this flute.] (April 2014). 


(Cherokee for "Turtle")

[Donated to the 2013 Native Rhythms Festival Silent Auction]

This aromatic eastern red cedar flute was made to donate to the 2013 Native Rhythms Festival silent auction. It is tuned to the Am pentatonic scale. The distinguishing characteristic of this custom flute is the incorporation of the festival's 2013 logo burned and inlayed below the nest area. There is a turquoise inlay sea turtle at the mouth piece, and turquoise "button" inlays between the playing holes. Near the foot of this flute is an underwater scene featuring another sea turtle. The sea turtle fetish is carved from Southeast Asian mun ebony (sometimes called "moon" ebony), with turquoise inlay separating the plates on the turtle's back and acting as the turtle's eyes. The fetish is tied to the flute with a deerskin lace. [Click here to hear a sound clip of this flute.] (October 2013). 

The Native Rhythms Festival has been held annually since 2009 at the beautiful outdoor amphitheater in Melbourne, Florida's Wickham Park to honor the Native American culture during Native American Heritage Month (November). This festival has been free to the public, including its concerts featuring both world renown performers, like 2-time GRAMMY award winning Robert Mirabal, 2004 Native American Music Award's Flutist of the Year Billy Whitefox, Mark Holland, Scott August, Jeff Ball, Jonny Lipford, and others, and up and coming new performers. The festival also features some of the best flute makers and artists and craftspeople in the country. Turtle Mound Flutes has been honored to participate as a vendor each year, and yours truly has served as the event vice chairman each year as well. Also check out Native Rhythms on Facebook, and "like" us there to keep up with festival activities.

 (Nuhda ale Nuhda)

(Cherokee for "Sun and Moon")

When a prospective customer wants a flute, not with an animal theme, but with the "sun and moon" as its theme, a little Internet search can turn up appropriate symbols. This Alaskan yellow cedar flute in the A-minor pentatonic tuning includes the Zia sun symbol (used on the New Mexico state flag) inlayed with Bali coral and a "tribal" moon symbol inlayed with crushed abalone shell and blue lapis. The fetish (block) consists of stepped blocks carved from South American cocobolo. On the top of the block are burned the Zia sun symbol and a crescent moon. (April 2011)


(Cherokee for "Eagle")

It's hard to give a single name to this flute that was custom made for my good friend Gary Beckert because of the variety of symbols incorporated into the design of this flute. These images reflect Gary's and his wife Reen's personal symbols. The Orca (killer whale) fetish, rising from the water, carved from South American cocobolo is Gary's animal totem, while the flying eagle burned into the flute below the nest area is Reen's. The "OM" symbol inlayed with crushed blue lapis at the foot has special and "secret" significance to the couple. ("OM" is a mystical or sacred syllable in the Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist religions. It is placed at the beginning of most Hindu texts as a sacred exclamation to be uttered at the beginning and end of a reading of the Vedas or prior to any prayer or mantra.) This beautiful sassafras flute is tuned to the Am pentatonic scale, the same as the flute Gary had made to give to his son. The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from tanned deerskin. (August 2008)


(Cherokee for "Panther")

This aromatic eastern red cedar flute in A minor was custom made for my good friend, Gary Beckert, to give to his son Scott on Father's Day. The carved South American cocobolo fetish and the burned image below the nest honor Scott's favorite animal, the "big cat." In this case, it's the endangered Florida panther, the smaller cousin of the cougar and puma. The prowling panther image burned into the flute body just below the nest is highlighted by an inlayed pink coral sun and fuscite tree leaves. Burned into the foot of this flute is the yin-yang symbol derived from the logo of Scott's landscaping business.  The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from tanned deerskin. (June 2008).


(Cherokee for "Bear")

This aromatic eastern red cedar flute was specially made for my SeCCI Cherokee brother Rick Runningbear, head editor of our tribe newsletter, the Cherokee Talking Leaves. Since this is Runningbear's first flute, we decided an Am pentatonic tuning would be a great place to start. The fetish is a black bear carved from South American purpleheart. A "running bear" is burned into the flute body below the nest area. Three additional bears, a "momma" and her two cubs, are burned above the direction holes near the foot of this flute. The leaves of the tree above this trio are inlayed with green malachite. If you look closely, you'll see that the nearer cub is fascinated by a butterfly sitting on the rock before him. The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from black-dyed deerskin. (March 2008).

 "Peace Dragon"

Kim from Ohio saw the "peace dragon" flute that I made for Piro from North Carolina (click here) and wanted a variation on that design. Kim's peace dragon is made from eastern red cedar, and is tuned to the Ab (A-flat) pentatonic minor scale. The dragon fetish is carved from silver maple and represents a dragon rising up out of the water. The fetish has little chips of turquoise eye inlays. The dragon image burned and painted in the area below the nest is like Piro's, but in green rather than blue. The traditional peace symbol is done in blue lapis inlay. Adding her own touch, Kim requested a dragon's eye at the foot of the flute. The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from tanned deerskin. [Click here to hear a sound-clip of this flute.] (June 2017).

 "The Zoo"

For this custom flute, I was asked to incorporate 6 animals into the artwork, each of significance to the customer: the bear, the wolf, the owl, the cougar, the hawk, and the sea turtle. For all of the animals on one flute, I lovingly call this flute "The Zoo". It is made of eastern red cedar, and is tuned to the "G" pentatonic minor scale. The fetish is a prowling grizzly bear carved from olivewood, and a bear's paw print appears at the mouthpiece as turquoise inlay. Just below the nest is the head of a howling timber wolf, howling up at a moon of inlay crushed abalone shell. Down between the bottom playing hole and the direction holes is a great horned owl, sitting on a fencepost. Then below that, below the direction holes, is a sea turtle. On one side of the nest area is the head of a red tail hawk, and on the other is a cougar's head.

 Finally, the lace holding the fetish to the flute is cut from deerskin.  [Click here to hear a sound-clip of this flute.] (August 2018)

 (Gule Disgonihi)

(Cherokee for "Dove")

This sassafras flute with South American cocobolo accent rings at the mouthpiece and an extended cocobolo end cap was especially made as a gift for my cousin Pat Wiechman from her husband Steve. Pat has had a long time sensation that her name was Grey Dove. This flute, tuned to the "standard" G-minor pentatonic scale, captures the dynamic spirit of the dove. The fetish is a dove in flight carved from silver maple. Another dove in flight is burned into the flute body below the nest area, and yet another is inlayed in crushed abalone shell just above the extended cocobolo end cap. Small turquoise chips are inlayed between the finger holes. The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from cocoa-dyed deerskin.  (November 2008).


(Cherokee for "Woodpecker")

This red cedar flute, tuned to the Gm pentatonic scale, was especially made for our dear friend, Dr. Frances "Frankie" Rinaldi, who painted the beautiful oil of the woodpecker illustrating the Legend of the First Flute found on our Legends page. The pine fetish is carved in the shape of the woodpecker's head and a rendering of Frankie's beautiful painting is burned into the flute body just below the nest. The lace holding the fetish to the nest and the wrap at the foot end are cut from black-dyed deerskin.  (July, 2007).


(Cherokee for "Turtle")

[Custom Ordered "Winged Turtle"]

This aromatic eastern red cedar flute was custom ordered by a fellow in North Carolina to give to his girlfriend for Valentine's Day. She loves turtles and angels, and he specifically requested a turtle with wings. It is tuned to the Gm pentatonic scale. The accent rings above the nest are Alaskan yellow cedar on either side of a wider South American cocobolo band. The ring near the foot (at the direction holes) is also yellow cedar. The "flying turtle" fetish is a sea turtle with little "angel wings" carved from sassafras. There is a sea turtle image burned into the flute body below the nest area. The turtle symbol burned in between the direction holes and the lowest finger hole has turquoise and pink coral inlay. There is also a pattern burned all around the back side at the level of this design. Just below this design is a woodlands wrap with beads and feathers at the end of the black-dyed deerskin wrap. The lace holding the fetish to the nest is also cut from black-dyed deerskin. The final touch in the images on this flute is a small angel just above the nest and drawn to be viewed by the player. (February 2008). 

 "Peace Dragon"

I was contacted by a truck driver from North Carolina named Piro about making him a "peace dragon" flute. He did not want a fierce, fire-breathing dragon, but one that was peaceful. We quickly settled on a flute of spalted hackberry, and when the time came to carve the fetish, I found a nice piece of tulipwood for the fetish. Piro likes turquoise, which I used for the dragon fetish's eyes. We had a challenge in coming up with the dragon image for the flute body. We finally settled on the dragon image shown in the photos above. Colors based on Piro's like for royal purple and royal blue. To further emphasize the "peace" concept, a blue lapis inlay near the foot of the flute portrays the 70s era peace symbol. Finally, a line of blue lapis inlay buttons separate the playing holes. The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from deerskin. [Click here to hear a sound-clip of this flute.] (September 2013).


(Cherokee for "Dragonfly")

Wayne Greenway approached me about a dragonfly-themed flute based on my '08 Musical Echoes competition flute, based on the Zuni legend of the Boy and the Dragonfly. This aromatic eastern red cedar flute is tuned to the F-minor pentatonic scale. Following the Zuni legend, a cornfield is burned in around the base with painted corn stalks. The symbolic Zuni dragonflies that arise from the cornfield along either side of the sound holes, and around the back, are burned into the flute and inlayed with pink coral wings. The boy's face has some subtle coloring that is painted, but is primarily burned in, as is his hand and the dragonfly sitting on his finger. The sun behind the dragonfly on the boy's finger is brightly painted. The base of the fetish is Oregon myrtle wood, while the dragonfly body is black walnut, and the wings are from a "blond" section of red cedar. The corn on the fetish base is painted green and yellow, while the features of the wings are burned in. The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from deerskin. [Click here to hear a sound-clip of this flute.] (June 2012).


(Cherokee for "Cardinal" or "Redbird")

How would you like a sister like this? Kaye Vivian ordered this beautiful sassafras flute as a birthday present for her sister down in Texas. Construction was timed for arrival on Nancy's birthday. The Totsuwa ("red bird" or "cardinal") theme has special significance for Kaye and Nancy: "One of our ancestors was a granddaughter of Chief Red Bird (Totsu'wha) of Kentucky, and that is the significance of the fetish/design. Nancy (my sister) actually discovered that link, so I know it will be special for her." This flute is tuned to the F-minor pentatonic scale and has Nancy's name in Cherokee (literally "Ne-ni-si") burned into the flute at the top of the mouthpiece. The fetish is carved from bloodwood, giving it the natural color of Totsuwa without artificial coloring, and the chimney should make it resistant to side drafts. The laces are cut from deerskin. (July 2011)


(Cherokee for "Raven")

This aromatic eastern red cedar flute was custom made for Al Edwards, a Columbia, MO resident of Dakota Sioux heritage. The flute body has a very interesting color split that leaves the top half the lighter blond color and the bottom half the more common reddish tone. The raven fetish with forward stretching wings is carved from South American cocobolo. The very symbolic raven with a man's reflection image is burned below the nest area, and a raven in flight appears at the foot of this flute. The flying raven is highlighted by a pink coral inlayed sun as he flies over an turquoise inlayed stream. The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from black-dyed deerskin. (June 2008).

Find Al's poem telling of his quest for this flute on our "Extras" page.

The Golana Flute arrived yesterday morning, so I must now ask for your forgiveness for not replying sooner. But I have been totally lost within and to, its wondrous voice and exquisite exterior. This Flute is simply AMAZING. The second that I saw This Cedar Flute, I could feel The Breath of its Life, its Spirit (or as the Sioux say: its Woniya [Whoa-nee-yah] ) call out to me, with its demand to be Taken, Caressed and Held. When I did take it into my hands, I could feel the warmth and smell its breath, almost hearing its need to Speak. Almost hearing it begging, pleading and threatening me:

"TAKE ME!!! and Don't you DARE - TO EVER, let me go!!!".

It was as if, at long last, A lost part of me had been returned. For this is my Spirit Guide, and that Raven, has so much, to say.

This Fetish is the Flute, and it feels almost alive. All I need do is take the Golana into my hands, close my eyes and breath. And that Flute will start to sing as if that Ravin who is perched within that nest guides my breath. I can feel the air being withdrawn from my lungs and swept forward. The voice of this Flute is just, so Mellow and ALIVE - all I need do - is breath, and it sings and sighs. THEN, when it is fully supported with my diaphragm and tongue it's throat and voice are simply breath taking. So heady - So strong - That I needed to take it from my lips, after only minutes of play ~ but couldn't. For this is like NO other instrument that I have ever held or played. And you know my history...

Thank-You ~ John ~ Thank-You

Al Edwards; Columbia, Missouri; 11 June 2008

 "Zuni Bear & Zia Sun"

It's not unusual to have a prospective customer come to me with an uncertain vision but with definite symbols that beckon. Such was the case with this custom flute for Susan. We settled on ash and cocobolo for the basic woods and the key of "F#" minor pentatonic.  Then when it came time to tune it, she agreed on a Zuni bear with East Indian rosewood for the fetish, with the heart line of turquoise inlay. Finally everything was complete but the artwork. After further deliberation, we agreed on a turquoise inlay thunderbird at the mouthpiece, and an inlay Zia sun symbol, which I did in pink coral (synthetic, federal law prohibits the use of real pink coral), surrounded by four animals, one in each corner: a bear, a wolf, a sea turtle, and a bison. To honor her work with the elk, there is a prominent one down at the foot of the flute. The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from tanned deerskin. [Click here to hear a sound-clip of this flute.] (August 2018).


I was asked by a flute circle friend to create a flute with the "Griffin" them from this piece of Central American bocote. At the time I only had some vague visions of what a griffin is. So after a little research, I discovered that a griffin is a mythological beast with the upper body, including wings and forelegs, of an eagle, and the hind end, including tail, of a lion. As the eagle is considered by some to be the king of birds, and the lion the king of beasts, the griffin becomes the king of all creatures.

This flute is tuned to the F# pentatonic minor scale. Many griffin images I was able find showed the eagle's head having large ears. So the fetish, carved from Osage Orange, includes ears. An image of the griffin's head is also burned into the flute body just below the nest area. A full body griffin appears near the foot of the flute. Finally, the lace holding the fetish to the flute is cut from deerskin.  [Click here to hear a sound-clip of this flute.] (September 2017)

 "Horny Toad"

To appreciate the story behind this flute, first read the story of the first custom flute that Texan Judith Fesler ordered from us (the Nuhnohi Udeti - Roadrunner) about a year earlier. This time it was a flute for her husband, Warren. This flute would also be F#, but this one would be eastern red cedar with cocobolo mouthpiece and accent ring at the level of the direction holes, and the theme would be the "horny toad". The fetish is also cocobolo and had to include the "horns" from which this lizard gets its name.

The scene near the foot of this flute was Judith's personal request. The "horny toad" eats ants, and the one in the image is snacking on a few. But in the food chain, the "horny toad" is the prey of the roadrunner, Judith's flute theme. So on the back side of this scene, a roadrunner stands in the background contemplating the "horny toad" before him.

Finally, the lace holding the fetish to the flute is cut from deerskin. (April 2009)


Judith Fesler; Kerrville, Texas; 22 April 2009

 (Nuhnohi Udeti)

(Cherokee for "Roadrunner")

Texan Judith Fesler requested this custom roadrunner-themed flute in the key of F#m. The flute body is Alaskan yellow cedar with accent rings of tesota (sometimes called "desert ironwood"). The carved, running roadrunner fetish is also of tesota. Judith wanted the accent rings and fetish to be of the same wood ("Being a woman, I want matching things."). Roadrunner images are burned into the body in three places, with a more elaborate scene near the foot with a rattlesnake and a pair of fuscite inlayed saguaro cacti. The sun beyond the hills is inlayed with pink coral. The two-tone deerskin laces were also specifically requested. (July 2008)


Judith Fesler; Kerrville, Texas; 17 July 2008


(Cherokee for "Duck")

This flute was custom made for Kat Johnson (Utah). Kat's husband is an archeologist and together they explore the mountains of Utah in search of ancient petroglyphs (rock paintings).

Although I call this flute Kawonu (Cherokee for "duck"), it is really a tribute to the legendary Zuni keeper of the creation story called Kiakklo, depicted in petroglyphs as a duck-headed man. According to legend, Kiakklo was sent to find a place for the Zuni to settle. When he became lost in a snowstorm, his voice cracked and made the sound of a duck. The duck hears his calls and guides him by the sound of the ceremonial shells worn around his neck. The deities decide that Kiakklo is to be the keeper of the creation story, but that duck must always accompany him. Kiakklo now returns every four years for the initiation of young boys, at which he chants the Zuni history (Chimikyanakowa).

Kawonu is made from a piece of black cherry that Kat's son had been saving to make a gun stock, but sent to her to make into a flute instead. She entrusted that sentimental piece of wood to me with her vision of a flute honoring Kiakklo. The images were to be taken from photos that she had taken of petroglyphs on her outings. (Click on the images below to see a larger version.)

From near Mexican Hat, Utah

From near Cedar City, Utah

This flute is tuned to the F# minor pentatonic scale. The carved mallard drake fetish is from mesquite. The Kiakklo and Kokopelli images burned into the body were lifted from photos that Kat provided (see above). The ring around the carved duck's head at the foot of the flute is inlayed with crushed abalone shell, representative of the ceremonial shells worn by the duck in the Zuni legend. (July 2008). 

What did Kat think of her special flute?

Hi John,
My Kiakklo Duck Flute arrived safe and sound, but really hot and tired from the long trip. I let him rest on the shelf and cool off before I played him!
Well, John, you did it again- another wonderful old legend of the Ancient Ones brought to life, and given voice too! And what a wonderful voice it is- the best one yet- deep rich mellow woodlands voice, telling the story of poor lost Kiakklo, and the sweet little duck who helped him find his home.
Everything about it is perfect, from the painted duck head with abalone necklace (Part of the legend involves Kiakklo putting a necklace of sparkling, tinkly shells about the neck of the Duck) to the beautiful painted duck block, and last but definitely not least, the perfectly executed woodburnings of the Kiakklo petroglyphs, carrying forward the legend. I feel honored that you made this special flute for me.
Many, many thanks,

Kat Johnson; Ivins, Utah; 19 July 2008


This custom flute was made for our friend Bill up in Ontario, Canada. The theme for this spalted hackberry flute with purpleheart mouthpiece, endcap, and diagonal accent ring is the wolverine. My research was unable to turn up a Cherokee word for "wolverine", so we'll stick with the English.

There are two wolverine images burned into the body of this flute, one a peaceful wolverine's head below the nest area and the other a snarling full wolverine just above the purpleheart endcap. A wolverine paw print is inlayed with turquoise in the endcap, along with a small decorative turquoise oval on either side below the nest. The lace holding the fetish to the flute is cut from deerskin. 

Finally, Bill also asked to have a custom inscription burned into the body of his flute: "Hold a true friend with both hands". What a beautiful sentiment.

This flute illustrates how a custom flute can be fitted for a person with shorter arms and smallish hands. The mouthpiece area has been shortened to bring the playing holes up closer to the player's mouth. Lower key flutes also have the lower holes spread out to be harder for smaller hands to reach. On this flute those holes were pulled closer together by adjusting their sizes. In spite of these modifications to a standard layout, this flute has a beautiful clear voice. [Click here to hear a sound-clip of this flute.]

(October 2012).


(Cherokee for "Horse")

Gary Hage of Ocala, Florida (Florida's horse country) asked me to make this beautiful E minor pentatonic flute in black walnut with a Oregon myrtlewood mouthpiece and extended endcap. The mane on the white ash horse's head fetish is actual horse hair donated by my sister's horse Ozzie. About this horse she says:

The 'blonde' hair came from my old Arabian gelding that I call Ozzie. His registered name is something like Azur Protent. He was born in California, in 1987 and I got him when he was 6 months old. He came along with me when I moved to Texas. His bloodlines are Russian, and he's a big horse. Ozzie is a gray (almost white) horse. He was born brown, as most grays are, and as he aged he turned gray. Now, the old guy is almost totally white, except for a few blond spots on his mane and tail. He's what I call a typical Arabian, ride them one day and they're perfect, ride them the next day and they spook at every leave blowing in the wind. But, of all the horse breeds, their personality is closer to a dog's than your standard horse.

Oh, a little story about Ozzie. When I first moved to Texas, I had him separated from the mares and foals in a pen by the front gate. To keep the gate open to drive in, we'd swing it back to Ozzie's fence and hang a chain over the fence post. Well, Dad thought it would be cute to teach Ozzie how to take the chain off and close the gate for us. And, Dad did a good job teaching him. After you would open the gate, about the time you'd get back to the car, Ozzie had the gate pushed shut on you. 

Gary is partial to Arabians and this flute is full of them! The scene between the nest area and the top hole wraps completely around the flute depicting four white Arabians running in front of a lake, while at the bottom of the flute is a horse rearing in silhouette in front of a massive lightning strike. A small horse's head is also burned & painted just above the mouthpiece. 

Flaws in a piece of wood can offer the maker the opportunity to further decorate a flute. In this case, rather than try to hide a worm track on the back side of the endcap, I chose to inlay the track with crushed turquoise, creating the effect in the above photo. There is also a small flaw on the backside of the mouthpiece, also filled with turquoise stone inlay. This all gives a flute its unique personality.

The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from deerskin. [Click here to hear a sound-clip of this flute.] (June 2012)


(Cherokee for "Panther" or "Cheetah")

This black walnut flute was custom ordered for Sarah, a local student who plays the classical flute, by her parents as a Christmas present. Sarah and her mother stopped by our booth at the Indian Harbour Beach Art Show at Gleason Park on November 15th. When she got home, she told her dad about our flutes. He acted less than enthusiastic, but got a hold of us about making a custom flute for Sarah for Christmas. Time was tight, but Dave came by to pick up his daughter's present two days before Christmas.

This E-minor flute has a double theme with a "new design" flying eagle, carved from white ash, for the fetish and burned cheetah images on the flute body. It seems that the Cherokee use their word for "Panther" to describe a number of big cats, so I call this flute Tluhdatsi. The lower image is bounded by double woodlands wrap with beads and feathers. The wraps and the lace holding the fetish to the nest are black-dyed deerskin. (December 2008). 


This aromatic eastern red cedar flute was custom ordered by Jay McMaster, the developer of the Indianola Condos, which sit adjacent to the west of the park in which the Musical Echoes festival is held each April. On the condo grounds is an ancient sacred mound, which has been retained in dignity and at which a ceremony is conducted during the Musical Echoes weekend. Jay asked me to make a Kokopelli-themed flute that honors Indianola, and that he can play over the mound.

The carved Kokopelli fetish is of South American padauk, and flute playing Kokopelli characters in various poses are burned into the body below the nest area and at the foot. The fire image is inlayed with pink coral, and the seated Kokopelli characters on either side of the "INDIANOLA" word are inlayed with turquoise. The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from a chocolate-brown dyed deerskin.

Jay also requested the custom flute stand, which is also made of aromatic eastern red cedar. (June 2008). 

 (Tsalagi Tsuniyuhwi)

(Cherokee for "Cherokee Clans")

Ani-Wodi (Paint Clan) Ani-Jisqua (Bird Clan) Ani-Waya (Wolf Clan)
Ani-Ahwi (Deer Clan) Ani-Gilohi (Long Hair Clan) Ani-Gatogewi (Wild Potato Clan)
Ani-Sahoni (Blue Clan - also called the Panther Clan)

This aromatic eastern red cedar flute in the key of E-minor was custom made for Larry Simmons (Louisiana) to honor the seven Cherokee Clans. Symbols representing the seven clans are burned and painted into the flute body. The turtle fetish is carved from tesota (also known as "desert ironwood"). The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from a light brown dyed deerskin. (June 2008).


(Cherokee Mythical River Serpent)

This black walnut flute was specially requested by Kat Johnson, a Utah enthusiast of Native American mythology and petroglyphs (rock paintings). She expressed specific interest in the feathered serpent (Quetzalcoatl) stone carving from Chichen Itza (on the Yucatan Peninsula), which is rendered in the carved African padauk fetish and burned in the body of the flute near the foot, and the Cherokee Uktena, a mythological river serpent, which is burned into the body below the nest and wrapping around the underside to the tip of the tail barely visible in the bottom photo above. You can see the Uluhsati (sacred crystal) inset in Uktena's forehead. [One who possesses the Uluhsati is ensured success in hunting, love, rainmaking, etc. - and the ability to foretell life or death in the coming year.] There are also three rings inlayed around the Quetzalcoatl image at the foot, one each in pink coral, turquoise, and malachite. This flute is tuned to the Em pentatonic scale. (March 2008).

Kat's reaction?

The Feathered Serpent just arrived, and let me tell you....I don't like it.............................I LOVE IT!!!! I hardly know what to say...I knew you were out-doing yourself and you did. It looks beautiful and plays beautiful too- completely in tune and very clear and responsive.
The design is great, and it was so much fun working with you. It is stunning, without being gaudy, and you had a better sense of enough is enough, and when to stop, than I did. It is just right, and I am sure of one thing- I'll never see another one just like that! Friend Chris said, "Why didn't someone think of that before?" Sure glad they did not.

Kat Johnson; Ivins, Utah; 4 April 2008

"ECHOES from the TRAIL"

This aromatic eastern red cedar flute in Ebm (E-flat minor) was custom made for my dear friend Joyce Bugaiski. Joyce is an outstanding artist. She agreed to do the cover art for a CD project I'm working on as my alter-ego, Johnny Kee. I'm calling the CD "ECHOES from the TRAIL", referring to the Cherokee "Trail of Tears". Between the stockades into which the Cherokee were rounded up, and along the almost 1000 miles of the trail, an estimated 4,000 of the 16,000 Cherokee died. When the deaths came while on the trail, a few friends and family members would hastily prepare a quick grave and briefly grieve of the lost loved one. Then they would have to catch up, because the procession didn't stop. The cover art depicts a small group mourning over the grave, with a flute player playing over the grave. On this flute,. I've recreated Joyce's image of the flute player and grave in pyrography. 

At the bottom of the flute is a map that wraps all the way around, showing the various routes that the "Trail of Tears" took across the various states. Most Cherokee were originally rounded up into stockades in the Chattanooga area in the extreme southeast of Tennessee (rightmost of the three map images above). They were held there during the hot summer of 1838. In the fall, groups of around 2,000 set out over various routes to make getting provisions along the way easier. The winter of 1838-39 was one of record cold, which contributed to the death of many of the people. Even Principal Chief John Ross lost his wife after she gave up her blanket to a cold child. The trail ended at Tahlequah in Indian Territory, present day eastern Oklahoma (leftmost of the three map images)..

The fetish is a block with a "grave" on top. The cross is made from live oak twigs. The laces holding the fetish are cut from deerskin.

I've included Joyce's JBugaArt logo along with the Turtle Mound Flutes logo on the back of the flute in respect to her original artwork from which I created the flute player image.

 [Click here to hear a sound-clip of this flute.]  (June 2016).


(Cherokee for "Cardinal" or "Redbird")

This aromatic eastern red cedar flute in Ebm (E-flat minor) was special ordered by Missouri's Donald Burrus. Don purchased a Dalala ("Woodpecker") flute in Em from our website and wrote to tell us that it had become his favorite flute. He said he liked the deeper pitched flutes but was concerned about reaching the finger holes, as his hands are not large. We agreed to go half a step lower to Eb and I worked with the spacing to make it no harder to play than his Em. The accent rings near the mouthpiece are white ash and purpleheart, with a white ash ring at the level of the direction holes and a purpleheart end cap. Don wanted both of the burned cardinal images to be colored, so we agreed to paint rather than inlay the birds. Other highlights of the two images are also painted. The fetish is carved from African padauk for its natural red color, and the laces holding the fetish are cut from deerskin. (August 2008).


This beautiful Alaskan yellow cedar flute with triple accent rings (near the mouthpiece), extended end cap, and carved fetish, all of African padauk, was made with a Kokopelli theme envisioned by Donald Burrus from St. Louis. It plays in mellow "middle" D minor pentatonic scale. Don's reaction upon receiving his custom flute was, "I am amazed at how you were able to craft exactly what I wanted."

The artwork on this flute features of a Kokopelli burned & painted into the area below the nest, playing notes into a dream catcher. This image replicates a tattoo that Don sports on his shoulder. Along each side of the flute is a row of seven Kokopellis in alternating red and blue colors in various poses.

The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from dyed deerskin. (March 2009)

African Lion

This flute was a challenge from our friend Bill in Ontario, Canada to make a flute with the African lion as its theme. On a whim, I bought a piece of lignum vitae typically from the Bahamas (where it is the national tree) or Jamaica (where it is the national flower) from an exotic wood supplier. According to Wikipedia (, lignum vitae is:

... the densest wood traded (density: 1.23 g/cm3); it will easily sink in water. On the Janka Scale of Hardness, which measures hardness of woods, lignum vitae ranks highest of the trade woods, with a Janka hardness of 4500 lbf (compared with African Blackwood at 2940 lbf, Hickory at 1820 lbf, red oak at 1290 lbf, Yellow Pine at 690 lbf, and Balsa at 325 lbf).

I took the challenge to make Bill's African lion flute from this piece of lignum vitae, with added black walnut mouthpiece and endcap. The flute is in the pentatonic minor key of D, which accentuates the weight of this very dense wood. The standing lion fetish is carved from mahogany. There is the pyrographic image of a lion pair, male and female, below the nest and a standing, prowling male just above the direction holes at the foot. This flute is also adorned with malachite inlay, including a paw print at the foot, "buttons" between the playing holes, and ovals on either side below the nest.  [Click here to hear a sound-clip of this flute.]

(July 2013).


(Cherokee for "Blue Jay")

California's Art Friedman wanted a flute with a blue jay theme, but he wanted it to be the west coast Stellar's Jay. The result was this sassafras flute with cocobolo mouthpiece and extended end cap in the key of "middle" D minor. Three images of Stellar's Jays are burned & pointed into the body of this flute. The one below the nest area is of the style of the North Pacific peoples. Near the foot is a jay sitting on a pine branch. Finally, a smaller Jay in flight is located just above the mouthpiece. The fetish is carved from Alaskan yellow cedar and painted in the colors of the Stellar's Jay. The laces holding the fetish are cut from tanned deerskin. (March 2009).

Pochteca Trader

Our most loyal supporter, Kat Johnson of Ivins, UT, ordered this, her third custom flute from us, as her "vision flute." This mellow D flute is Alaskan yellow cedar with a padauk mouthpiece and endcap. The "sandal" fetish is carved and burned from silver maple.

Along with her archeologist husband Boma, Kat is enthusiastic about the ancient peoples of what is now the southwest U.S.  I'll let Kat describe the abundant symbology on this flute for you...

Between AD 900 and 1150, Chaco Canyon was a major center of culture for the Ancestral Puebloans (also known as the "Anasazi"). The Chacoans quarried sandstone blocks and hauled timber from great distances, assembling fifteen major complexes which remained the largest buildings in North America until the 19th century. There is evidence of sophisticated archaeoastronomy at Chaco, with the "Sun Dagger" petroglyph at Fajada Butte a well known example. Many Chacoan buildings were aligned to capture the solar and lunar cycles, requiring generations of astronomical observations and centuries of skillfully coordinated construction. Both political upheaval and climate change led to the eventual abandonment of the canyon, beginning with a 50-year drought in 1130. Many modern Pueblo people trace their ancestry to Chaco Canyon.

The massive Pueblo Bonito complex was built in the 10th Century, as both a trading and ritual center. Pueblo Bonito is divided into two sections by a precisely aligned wall, running north to south, through the central plaza. A Great Kiva is placed on either side of the wall, creating a symmetrical pattern common to many of the Great Houses. Interior living spaces were quite large by the standards of the Ancient Pueblo. The site covers almost two acres and incorporates at least 600 to 800 rooms, In some parts of Pueblo Bonito, the tiered structure was four and five stories high. Most of the rooms in Pueblo Bonito were used for storage of trade goods, rather than permanent dwellings. The image of Pueblo Bonito is burned into the bottom area between direction holes and "bottom" finger hole.

Chaco Canyon was a trading center in a network of centers, roads and trails extending down to Mexico and back. Turquoise was mined in New Mexico and Nevada, and brought to Chaco Canyon for processing into beads and other trade objects. The Mesoamerican Pochteca Traders brought goods such as shell and macaws north to Chaco Canyon to exchange for turquoise. That is why the image at the top area between nest and "top" finger hole is that of the Pochteca Trader, with his burden basket and scarlet macaw. The fetish is a detailed trader’s sandal, and his sandaled footprints wind around the length of the flute, representing his long journeys.

Culture, stories and ideas are spread by people, and people love to travel, both then and now. The Mesoamerican Pochteca may have been the origin of the Kokopelli figure in rock art- not a with a “humped back” at all, but a burden basket full of goodies for trade. The Pochteca traders played their flutes to announce their arrival at villages along their routes. And, in reference to the intensely male physical appearance of Kokopelli, the traders would have been very happy, after a long journey, to arrive at the pueblos and see the ladies there!

Kat Johnson; Ivins, Utah; December 2008

 (December 2008).


(Cherokee for "Bear")

This aromatic eastern red cedar flute was specially made for Gary James. Gary found a red cedar Yona in the key of D, with a purpleheart fetish, on our "Flutes for Sale" page. But, after I explained that the finger hole spacing on that flute might make it hard for someone with smaller hands to play, Gary agreed to a custom flute that uses my "new design" that locates the lower finger holes closer together. Gary wanted to customize his flute with a mesquite fetish and a set of bear tracks running up the length of the flute. These tracks start on the back side at the foot and wander up and across the finger holes, and then along the side to the mouthpiece, diminishing in size as they go. Segments of this trail are visible in some of the photos above. The fetish is a black bear carved from mesquite. A pair of bears, one standing, are burned into the flute body below the nest area. Three additional bears, a "momma" and her two cubs, are burned above the direction holes near the foot of this flute. The leaves of the tree above this trio are inlayed with green fuscite. Painted highlights are featured on both of the images. The lace holding the fetish to the nest is cut from tanned deerskin. (September 2008).


This flute is another arising from the imagination of my loyal supporter Piro in North Carolina. He asked me to create a flute depicting the concept of metamorphosis, and immediately I saw this as the classic example of a caterpillar changing into a butterfly. This Alaskan yellow cedar tuned to the "mid" C pentatonic minor scale was the result. [NOTE: Many people call this a "low C" but the fundamental is actually the bottom note of the "mid" range scale.] The fetish is made of three woods: the base is cocobolo, the butterfly body is ebony, and the wings are thin slices of sassafras, decorated with pyrographic outlines and colorful acrylics. Piro insisted that the wings be angle up at 45 degree angles. Starting just below the next and working around the flute body downward to just above the direction holes are 7 images of the metamorphosis of the caterpillar at the top to the newly emerged monarch butterfly at the bottom, depicting the creation of the cocoon and the gradual escape of the butterfly from it. The image at the very foot of the flute was provided by Piro, representing his concept of metamorphosis. The lace is cut from tanned deerskin. (October 2015).


Specifying your custom flute:

If you would like a custom-made flute that brings your vision to life, we'd like to work with you to create that special flute just for you. Some of the options in specifying a custom flute include:

  1. Wood for flute body. About half of our flutes are made of aromatic eastern red cedar, although I usually have on hand a variety of other woods. Other popular woods that I often have available include Alaskan yellow cedar, black walnut, sassafras, hackberry, and cherry. From time to time I can get others, such as mulberry, persimmon, etc. If there is another wood that interests you, let me know and I'll see if I can find it.

  2. Contrasting flute body highlights. If you desire, I can also provide mouthpieces, end caps, and accent rings of a contrasting wood. In addition to the woods available for the flute body (see above), I can get smaller pieces of more exotic woods for these contrasting highlights, such as cocobolo (very popular), purpleheart, padauk, canary wood, mesquite, white ash, silver maple, etc.

  3. Tuning. Our flutes are normally 6-hole and are tuned to the "standard" mode 1-4 pentatonic minor tuning. Five hole flutes (mode 1) are available on request. We currently are making flutes in the range from "middle" D through "high" C, with plans to extend this range upward to "high" E and downward to "low" B in the near future. When selecting a key, remember that the higher you go, the closer together the finger holes become, so that someone with large hands may not be able to play the higher key flutes. And the lower you go, the wider the finger hole spacing becomes, so that someone with small hands may not be able to reach the lower holes on the lower key flutes. Most people can comfortably reach the holes to play flutes in the range of about "middle" E up to "middle" Bb. I can also modify the finger hole placement some to make the lower holes a little easier to reach.

  4. Theme. Although most of our flutes are animal-themed, we're open to other themes that you can envision. Some of the non-animal themes already created are shown above in the Seven Cherokee Clans, Kokopelli, and mythological serpents. We're constantly adding new animals to the variety that we honor, and welcome your requests for those not already shown on our pages here.

  5. Images to be burned, inlayed, painted into flute body. We typically burn images of the theme animal (or other subject) in two areas on the flute body. First is the area between the nest and the top finger hole. The other is the area between the bottom finger hole and the direction holes near the foot of the flute. These are large areas into which images can be easily laid out. Many flutes also have a smaller image or inlay just below the mouthpiece.  Where appropriate layout for a particular image can be achieved, almost any other part of the flute is open for artwork as well. Color can be added through either crushed stone inlay or paint.

  6. Extras. This can include anything from the addition of beads and feathers, to deerskin wraps, or even a carved head at the foot of the flute.

  7. Wood for fetish. The woods listed above for flute bodies and highlights are also available for the carved fetish.

  8. Image for fetish carving. Typically this is an animal or other representation of the flute's theme. Animals may range from a head only to a full-body image.

Cost of a custom flute:

Naturally the cost of a custom flute will depend on what you are looking for in that flute. Prices are comparable to our standard flutes that are listed on the "flutes for sale" and "more flutes" pages, and go up from there for "extras" that affect the cost of materials or required labor. Quotes are provided when a complete specification for the flute is agreed to.

Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site.