This blog is dedicated to the sublime instruments called nose flutes and which produce the most divine sound ever. We have chosen to discard all the native models from S. Pacific and Asia, for they need fingering to be played. We'll concentrate on "buccal cavity driven" nose flutes : the well patented and trademarked metal or plastic ones, plus, by a condemnable indulgence, some wooden craft or home-made productions.

Sep 25, 2012

Historic Nose Flutes - The Nasalette: Building

Some historic nose flutes have totally disappear or haven't even been produced or commercialized. Our goal, here, is to reconstruct them, as close as possible to the original, with the help of the patent drawings and descriptions.

[Sequel of the post The Nasalette: drawing a template]

Historic Nose Flute - The Nasalette: Building the Nasalette

I am not a tinsmith, and it was even the very first time I worked with tin sheet. I made 2 Nasalettes: the first one was disappointing, dented, with some ugly weldings. More, the first template gave a nosecap too large. I also redesigned some pieces during the first try (it was an evolutive process). This explains why the (three) pieces shown in the first pictures are not the same that the (four) ones visible in this definitive template :

By the way, if you want to build a Nasalette, please download here my template in PDF format and offer me a beer next time you see me.

First try

I cut the pieces of (the first version of) my paper template and glued them on the tin sheet with latex glue (easily removable). I had to buy a pair of shears, and cut the metal pieces, then filed and sanded their edges.

Then I had to bend the pieces. I didn't have the correct tools for that. Tightening them in my vise and bending them by force, would have driven to damaging them, because of the grooves on his jaws. But I found a "thing" (I even don't know exactly what it is) which is smooth, square angled, very strong and very tight, and of the perfect size to be hold by the vice (let's say the perfect tool for bending small tin pieces!).
So I bent my pieces by hammering them around the "thing"

So, I got my first pieces...

... and began the difficult nose cap. First, I marked the beginning of the bendings (it is bent at one end, and rounded at the other...), and use smaller and smaller bottles to round the properly the cap.

I got a first shape, and then ended to form it with pliers.

Then, I had to weld. On my first Nasalette, the results weren't at the quality level that I expected.

And so, I got the "whistle" (already working while blowing it and clogging the mouthpart), by welding the airway and the mouth tube, exactly like on the patent (the front plate of the air duct a bit forward the one of the mouth tube). I closed the nose cap by welding too:

I welded the cap and the whistle, then added the little tube for passing the cord... and got my first Nasalette.

Well, as told before, I was very disappointed with the result. Ugly weldings, nose cap dented and worst: my Nasalette didn't whistle. Indeed, the nose cap was too large (I had forgotten to pinch it in an egg-shape!), and there was a huge air leak. Because of the Nasalette design, the nostrils are far from the air entrance, which forms a real angle. So, to much space around the nose leads to a huge air leak.

So, I decided to redesign the template of the nose cap (make it a bit shorter), and this time, not to forget the "egg shape).

Second try

The process for the second Nasalette was clearly the same, apart of that I had gained experience about the "bad tricks" of tin sheet as a material. I was able to make clean weldings, and to avoid denting the parts with my pliers.

This time, it worked! It was a bit weak, because of air leak (again!), so I decided to glue a felt pad inside the nose cap, in order to get a better hermeticity, and to improve the comfort.
Then I placed a elastic cord in the dedicated little tube, and attached the 2 ear wires I had made for the cardboard test.

To be continued!


On the same topic :

- Historic Nose Flutes - The Nasalette: Template
- Historic Nose Flutes - The Nasalette: Building
- Historic Nose Flutes - The Nasalette: Review
- Historic Nose Flutes - Couchois' Whistle: Template
- Historic Nose Flutes - Couchois' Whistle: Building
- Historic Nose Flutes - Couchois' Whistle: Review
- Historic Nose Flutes - Grierson's Whistle: Template
- Historic Nose Flutes - Grierson's Whistle: Building
- Historic Nose Flutes - Grierson's Whistle: Review



  1. Totally amazing! Congratulations with this, the 400th post on this blog!

    I guess this whole process is exactly how medieval metal workers would have done it, using anything around them they could use, including bottles, hooks, hinges and what have you!

    I just love the result, as this actually looks like the authentic thing to me. If you told me that you had unearthed William Carter's prototypes, I would believe it instantly!

    No matter how 'bad' the first try may be (I love it!), it clearly marks yet another progress in the history of nose flute making. Making mistakes, that may lead to something unexpectedly good and revolutionary new, is what working in the 'Lab' is all about!

    This is a bit of history brough (back) to life. It is the perfect celebration of 400 posts on the blog, 120 years after the first modern nose flute was introduced at the very defining Columbian Fair, commemmorating the 'discovery' of America 400 years earlier.

  2. Thank you Maikel! You noticed it's the 400th post :)
    Yes, I don't know how many years have passed by since someone played a Nasalette... but when I play it, I feel like hearing a sound from another age.

    certainly Carter used a welding iron and not a blowtorch, but apart of that, I didn't used any tool that wasn't in use 120 years ago. I think my Nasalette is a real replica.

  3. This exact replica of the original Nasalette is one of those things I really would like to get my hands on. It really is as good as it gets, just as wonderful a treasure as the neon-coloured perspex Froby from the Basque country or the Britannia silver Swan.

    There are two things I wonder about the Nasalatte: doesn't the nose cap hurt in any way? I can imagine that the edges, no matter how rounded, could do some serious harm to the nose or the face. Also, isn't the metal mouthpiece a bit like a lead cup that you drink from?

    To my knowledge, there is no wind or brass instrument that has an internal metal mouthpiece like the Nasalette. For instance, a trumpet or tuba both have a cupped quality metal mouthpiece that is only touched by the lips. The instruments of which the mouthpiece is inserted into the mouth, such as a bassoon or an oboe both have a (double) reed. Either way, with these instruments there is no danger of being poisoned or getting totally mad! How sure can we be about the Nasalette?

  4. Hello Maikel,

    No, the nose cap doesn't hurt, I have sanded the edge and the tin is 0.5mm thick (so it's not a blade). But it's not very comfortable. But if someone had the bad idea to slap it on my face when I'm playing, yes, in this case, it would hurt.
    No, I don't get no humidity from it in my mouth. Maybe it would happen if I'd played one hour non stop or so. But before that, the humidity in the airway would turn the Nasalette unplayable until dry (I know some wooden nose flutes that you cannot play longer than 15 minutes, because of the humidity...).

    Regarding your last point : the mouth tube isnot coming in the mouth, but just between the lips (let's say it is grabbed only by the last 5 millimeters). It is made of tin (soft steel : 99% iron, 1% carbon, covered with a super-thin coat on pewter). The covering pewter of my Nasalette has been sanded. Regarding the weldings, they 95% pewter and 5% silver (that is NOT lead!). Remember that all tin cans that contain food are made of tin plate coated with pewter and welded by pewter...
    Anyway, I do not intend to play the Nasalette very often, you know... It's an historic object, an historical research.

    But it is truer than true : it already begins to rust!!! :)