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 the sealing of inside using 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 epoxy resin and the didge is ready to be played.
Many from the “old soul” collection have cosmetic cracks as well as bug and bee holes which add to their character. These are filled with epoxy from the inside. I try to retain the character of the cracks on the outside. This is also the opportunity to place decorative stones in some of the bug/bee holes before the final coat of epoxy resin.