Kyle Creed made his first banjo with a hatchet and a jacknife and a couple other tools he found around the barn.

He still has the banjo, back in Galax, Va., but yesterday he was at Wolf Trap playing his violin. He didn't make the violin. It is 200 years old, a copy of the Stradivarius.

Still, if you wanted a banjo you wouldn't have had to look very far. This was the opening of the 39th National Folk Festival three-day clap-along.

People were making music all over the place. The Sinclair brothers were plinking away on the hammered dulcimer, banjo and bones. Marvin Fodrell was yodeling at Children's Theater. Phil Wiggins was bending harmonica notes into amazing shapes for a mournful blues ballad.

As the afternoon deepened, people trickled from their picnic tables down the hill to the big striped tents and platforms. No one was working very hard yet. Thornton Spencer fiddled with the Whitetop Mountain Band, a cigarette hanging from his mouth. Henry Townsend, the great blues singer, strolled up, set his guitar case on its edge. It had "Henry T" written on it. His wife, Vernell, a gospel singer, perched on the case while Henry lounged on the grass.

Under a small awning, Arthur and Dorothy Hope, Tennessee woodcarvers, showed their poplar and cherry tableware, from salad forks to a curious stirrer-pourer-scraper called a spurtle.

"You rub it with olive to get a nice brown," said Dorothy Hope. She handed over a list of their products. "We wrote up this little jiddle-jaddle about our stuff," she said.

Everywhere you looked were people carrying guitar cases, banjo cases, violin cases, tape recorders. Beyond the dusty dirt roads all but drowned in green - saplings, vines, brambles, limp leaves - lost musicians crashed through the brush with their cases and narrow-toed shoes.

Listening to Albert Hash, a wildly imaginative country fiddler: a whole row of boys in jeans lying on the grass, bare backs glistening in the sun.

Lots of families. Small children sprawled on a plastic floor in a big tent while a young man with an electric jaw harp tried to get them to sing along with his song about moonshine. No one sang along.

In the creek, a dozen barefooted kids were building a dam, shouting instructions with breathless excitement. Obvious to music. Parents waiting patiently on the bank.A festival tradition.

By a little footbridge some people not on the program had a song swap. Felicity Mersereau, from Fairfax, delicately strummed her dulcimer with a feather. Played a theme from Aaron Copland. A man announced he was going to attempt his next number a capella. "You mean Acapulco?" called a hanger-on.

Craft booths: Tlingit carvings, Hopi and Seminole work, banjo making. Also a record booth and a T-shirt booth.

Workshops were to be held today and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. in four separate areas. Rumisongos from the Andes. Jerry McCain on the harmonica. Ukrainian Cheremosh dancers. The Cajun Balfa Brothers. The Southern Mountain Boys. Pine River Boys. Chinese Opera. Hazel Dickens. Speedy Tolliver, Rose Maddox.

And clog dancing, accordions, blues guitar, children's songs and stories, storytelling, Arab dancers, Joe McKenna the Irish piper, Scottish folk dancing, barroom songs, gospel songs, bluegrass, pickers, plunkers and who knows what else.

And. Tonight at 8 a concert featuring Albert Hash, Henry Townsend, Chermosh, Jerry McCain, the Balfas and the Southern Mountain Boys.

People were settling down now, maybe 300 of them, having done roaming from one area to another. A girl in a New Playwrights' Theater T-shirt started to dance uncontrollably as the Whitetop Mountain Band swung into "Arkansas Traveler."

Through it all, hardly looking up, Elvin King pared a walnut bird on his lap.On his counter were wonderful long wooden bowls ($20-$50) that he makes in about three hours.

With a chisel?

He shook his thick, graying beard. Pointed to a chain saw under the bench.

"Take ya a week with a chisel," he said.

Still, not so simple. His jackknife looked tired. The hardest part is finding the right wood, dry, long-weathered black walnut. He's been at it 14 years, selling carvings at his home in Sewanee, Tenn. Lives off them.

"I could make as much or more at a job," he said. "But 'twouldn't be as much fun."