Introduction: Ressikan Flute
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Inner Light" Captain Jean-Luc Picard lives twenty some years of another man's life in the space of twenty minutes. The alien probe that gave him those memories deactivates and upon opening it the crew finds a simple flute, the one that long dead man had once owned. Captain Picard would cherish it for the rest of his life as the only link to that forgotten past.
That episode is a fan favorite and the flute would appear in a number of subsequent episodes. When TNG ended and many of the props auctioned off the on screen flute was one of the most desired. The original prop didn't play, in fact it was almost solid aluminum. Patrick Stewart did learn to play the penny whistle for the episode, but was faking the motions while listening to a prerecord of another man playing the piece.
"The Inner Light" is my father's favorite episode of TNG, his favorite TV show. So for Christmas this year I decided to make him a replica of the flute, with one twist: this one plays. It isn't a perfect replica, but it captures the look and feel nicely while still managing to be a functional penny whistle.
Step 1: Last Chance to Back Out
A word of warning before we begin. I am a student at a technical college and have access to a full machine shop and dig through the scrap shed. All I used were an end mill, a lathe, a band saw, and a grind wheel; but if you don't have access to metal working machines this isn't going to work for you.
There is another option, however. You can simply buy a penny whistle and make a few changes. Repaint the body copper/gold to get the brass look, glue an aluminum tube over the neck, and attach some washers over the holes. Add the tassel and you're done!
I claim no credit for this design, you can thank the replica prop forums:
If you're sticking with me then we'll get on with it.
Step 2: Materials and Measurements
Below are my sketches of the flute. A few points on the terminology: the fipple plug goes into the mouthpiece and guides air flow to the lip. This produces the sound, the exact tone is modified by the body. The mouthpiece and body are two separate pieces, which we will connect with a hollow piece of aluminum.
The mouthpiece and body are made from hollow brass tubing and the fipple plug is made from aluminum.
I used the flutomat calculator to determine the exact location of the body holes and the fipple. It is intended for transverse flutes like a fife, not fipple flutes like this, but the physical principles are the same: http://www.cwo.com/~ph_kosel/flutomat.html .
Another source if you prefer, just remember that we are using aluminum and brass, not wood and copper: http://www.copper.org/consumers/copperhome/DIY/cu_pennywhistle.html .
Step 3: Cutting the Metal
Now that you have the measurements it is time to actually shape your metal to match them. Cut the tube to the desired lengths and file or sand off any burs. The fipple hole can be cut any length down the mouthpiece, it is only the distance down from that point that affects the flue's sound. Cut the fipple hole with the end mill and file down the lip. You'll have to bend the lip in slightly so that it is near the bottom of your fipple plug channel.
To form the fipple plug trim aluminum stock to the interior diameter of your tube on the lathe. Grind off a few millimeters on one side, which will be the top. Then cut a channel with an end mill. This channel ended up deeper than stated on the previous sketches, about 15-20mm. A deeper channel produces a louder flute, but a narrow channel produces a cleaner sound.
Forming the body is a simple matter of drilling appropriately sized holes in the correct spots. Be sure to go one size down from the recommended, it will give you some leeway to make changes.
Finally the mouthpiece and body are connected with an aluminum tube cut with the same inner diameter as the outer diameter of the brass tube.
Step 4: Adjustments
One the mouthpiece is done it will take some finagling to finish it. Here are the best tips I can give:
If the sound is too weak the window may be too small, it should be at least 6mm wide as should the plug channel. Make sure you filed the lip down, not up.
If the lower notes break into the upper octave too easily move the fipple plug up, away from the lip.
If the upper octave is weak try moving the fipple plug closer. There may also be too much space under the lip. Either bend it further down or replace the fipple plug.
As far as the holes go:
Larger holes produces sharper notes, smaller holes flatter notes.
Holes further down the flute produce flatter notes. Holes closer to the window produce sharper sounds.
Larger holes also produce a louder sound, while smaller holes tend to make a more responsive flute.
If the lowest note is flat you'll have to enlarge the foot. Try trimming a little off the bottom side at the end.
Step 5: Finishing Touches
You now have a brass and aluminum penny whistle, but it isn't quite a Ressikan flute yet. A few more changes have to be made.
First wrap a little string around the aluminum piece you have connecting your two pieces. Your string should have a small tassel on the end to look like Picard's.
Then take a few washers with the same inner diameter as your holes and glue them to the body. If you don't bend them to fit over the rounded tube you will need a liberal amount of hot glue, but either approach will work. Flat washers I've found actually make a slightly easier to play flute, as they are very easy to completely cover.
Now a complete fingering guide:
And the classic song from the episode, "The Inner Light"
Step 6: References
1. Chiff and Fipple on the Ressikan Flute: http://www.chiffandfipple.com/startrek.htm
2. Prop Replica Forums: http://www.therpf.com/f9/ressikan-flute-52858/
3. Copper.org: http://www.copper.org/consumers/copperhome/DIY/cu_pennywhistle.html
4. The Low-Tech Penny Whistle: http://www.ggwhistles.com/howto/
5. Flutomat: http://www.cwo.com/~ph_kosel/flutomat.html