Stonelaughter Flutes is run by a 50-year-old Nottinghamshire father of 6 (Tom Kelsall) who makes Native American style wooden Flutes in his Sherwood Forest workshop. The Native Americans have been making flutes or similar instruments for hundreds of years at least; possibly over a thousand. They were used as a courting instrument – a “Love Flute” owing to their haunting sound and melodious, melancholy song.
The modern take on this ancient musical instrument takes many forms and interpretations, and there are many ways to make them; however the vast majority share one characteristic: they are tuned to a “minor pentatonic” scale which lends itself particularly well to the love flute role.
Stonelaughter Flutes are made of two pieces of wood, a channel carved down the centre of each one and the two glued together. Others are made by boring a hole down the centre of a single piece of wood. However made, they sound and look wonderful; there are polished ones, waxed ones, oiled ones and plain untreated ones. They come in a huge range of sizes – the size determining the base note which is played by the flute. They come in the Sub-Bass (down to C0 – the “C” note BELOW the bottom note on a piano) all the way up to the ultra-high sopranino (E7 – the 7th “E” note on the piano keyboard). Flutes at the extremes of this range are rare; they are difficult to make and of extreme size (small and large).
Stonelaughter Flutes are made in the range between C4 (Middle C on piano) and E5 (the second E above Middle C). These flutes are relatively (compared to the extremes) easy to make, and are within a range playable by most new and virtuoso players alike. And more importantly for Tom, they are (a) predominantly focussed on melody as opposed to accompaniment and (b) closer to the traditional range made by the older generation of Native flute makers.
Tom learned his craft initially at a workshop with another British maker; who taught him the basics of the job and gave a basic tuning formula to get him going. He then began the task of building up a capability to make his own flutes; developing a style and way of working unique to him. Since then he has been learning from a descendant of the Lakota tribe in the far Western USA – learning more advanced techniques and better tuning methods with greater flexibility. The flutes Tom makes now are the world away from those early efforts and are definitely worthy of the attention of serious players.