Agaves are perhaps best known as a source of tequila. If allowed to live to their full life-cycle, certain agaves produce a large flower stalk which is perfect for making didgeridoos. They work so well because of their thickness, tapered shape, and resonance. The flower stalk turns to wood after about a year baking in the Arizona sun. Some of the extremely strong can survive numerous years through extreme heat, rain and cold and comprise my “old soul” collection. I am extremely careful in the harvesting stalks in the wild. I collect only those that are old enough to have dropped their seeds. This helps insure their future survival.
Collecting the best stalks is extremely rigorous — hiking up and down mountains, passing up many along the way, and only collecting those perfect for didges. For the didges with bells I have to pull off leaf after leaf from the base of the plant in order to expose the bulbous base (the part that would have produced tequila).
The collected agave stalks are later analyzed and individually cut to the length best suited for use as a didgeridoo. I carefully bore out the softer interior leaving the hard resonant wooden exterior. I then sand the inner walls to make sure the entire softer interior is removed.
The advantage of boring out the interior instead of splitting the agave is that the strength, integrity, and curves of the stalk are preserved. Although the method I use to bore out and sand the interior is time consuming, I strongly believe that the sound quality is superior.
The next step is attaching a wooden mouthpiece with various domestic and exotic tone woods and sealing the inside with an extremely strong epoxy resin. I then strip the thin bark from the outside of the stalk and sand the entire exterior to bring out the character of the stalk. This is followed by the final finishing of the exterior with either an epoxy resin or a french polish using an organic shellac that I make myself. After all these steps the didgeridoo is finally ready to play.
Many agaves I collect fall into my ”old soul” collection. I like to leave many of the cosmetic exterior cracks as well as bug and bee holes which add to the character of the instrument and give it a weathered and rustic appearance. No need to worry as all the cracks and holes that are visible are filled on the inside and don’t effect the sound quality. This also gives me the opportunity to place decorative stones in some of the bug/bee holes before the final finish is applied. These have always been my favorites and those of repeat customers.