James' xaphoon turned up today! For some reason it sounds like a loud angry duck when I get near it, but when played properly it sounds just like a sax! The Xaphoon is made by Brian Wittman, a Maui resident who invented the instrument more than 20 years ago:
"I have made over 15,000 such instruments in the past 20 years, all because of a single instrument I made on the whim of a child. The young lad lived with his mother in a tent in the woods, and heard me playing the sax (the expensive metal variety). He approached respectfully and then boldly asked if perhaps I had a little one he could play. Why not? I fiddled around and whittled a small end-blown block flute out of bamboo. Its tone was wheezy and small, and satisfied neither of us. I had a small grinding wheel I was using to shape some wooden boat cleats, and in sudden inspiration I applied the flute to the wheel and ground off the whole corner of the mouthpiece at an angle, re-shaping it to take a sax reed. The child was delighted and couldn't wait to have it, so I passed it on, but immediately made myself another, this time a bit longer, and I made the mouthpiece first so I could hear the pitch as I located the finger holes. Somehow by chance I ended up with a serviceable scale in E, and I couldn't put it down. I even played it one-handed as I drove into town, not noticing the speedometer was reading 80 until I heard the sirens."