Showing posts with label Flute Repair. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Flute Repair. Show all posts

Friday, November 3, 2017

Band Instrument Repair - FLUTE - The Foot Joint

Flute keys (Yamaha concert flute)
Flute keys (Yamaha concert flute) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The foot joint of the flute consists of 3 keys on a C flute and 4 keys if there is a low B on the foot. The foot joint keys are the property of the baby finger of the right hand. The keys are made in such a way as to be pushed in different combinations by the baby finger.

One of the weakest points on the flute is where the foot joint joins the body. This is called the lower tenon and can be easily damaged. The foot joint can become loose and cause air leakage and loss of sound or become too tight and be very difficult to remove or put on. This can lead to numerous problems. The fact is that the foot joint is long, almost 6 inches in some cases, and the tenon that supports its weight is only half an inch long. Supporting that much weight and length as well as being constantly put under the pressure of the keys being pushed down can tend to take it's toll if not maintained.

Like the body of the flute, the foot joint keys, springs and pads have to be maintained. Replacing, levelling, and seating all have to be done in order to have the keys seal correctly and thus allow the lower notes to play.

Almost all of the keys of the flute work in conjunction with one or more other keys. This means that when you press down on one key it may also cause one or more other keys to be pressed down at the same time. These keys have to be regulated so that when it is required that two or more keys close at the same time, it has to be the same time or you will have loss of sound and the flute won't play. Regulating the keys so that they work in this fashion is probably the most vital repair of the instrument. It requires a delicate balance of bending and levelling the keys as well as seating the pads better and adjusting spring tensions.

The final result of all of this should be a flute that is solid feeling, with no rattles or excessive key noise. No sticky pads or loose feeling keys. When you press the keys it should be very light pressure with a big sound and minimal effort. The last thing you want when you are playing the flute or any instrument really is to be fighting with the physicalness of it instead of just enjoying the artistic and creative nature of it.

To sum it up, you need to have respect for the instrument you are playing and give it the attention it needs. Care and maintenance mean that it will always perform the way it is intended to play and you will enjoy your creativity uninterrupted by physical glitches.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Band Instrument Repair - FLUTES

So you want to be a flute player. Well the best way to get the maximum results out of your learning and playing, is to keep the flute well maintained. I am a band instrument repair tech and I can tell you that some of the instruments I see are in pretty bad shape.

Drawing of a flute.
Drawing of a flute. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dents, dents and more dents. Flutes are a fairly sturdy instrument but the should not be used for play sword fighting or propping doors open or jamming in doors! I have taken a lot of dents out of flutes and straightened them out so their keys will fit over the holes again. However, dent removal is quite expensive and time consuming.

The head joint should be kept in good shape. The head joint tenon needs to be kept clean and free from dents and dirt so it will keep a good seal when fitted into the body. The head cork should be changed yearly to insure a tight seal also. This will insure the flute plays in key. The crown should fit snug but able to be used to adjust the head cork up and down for tuning purposes. Also, the lip plate needs to be kept in good shape and free from dents as well as cleaned very frequently. After all, this is where you put your mouth to play the flute.

A word on cleanliness of the head joint. In these times of Swine flu and contagious viruses and germs it is vital that you keep the mouthpiece clean. I use a spray 9 and isopropanol alcohol combination to insure the head joint is clean both before and after I play test an instrument I'm working on. I suggest you carry 2 small spray bottles with your instrument and keep it clean and sanitized at all times.

Next we talk about the body of the flute.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Band Instrument Repair - FLUTE - Body

Western concert flute 1
Western concert flute (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Now the body of the flute is quite intricate. There are 18 keys on the body of a C flute. The number of springs can vary somewhat but it is around 13 give or take.

The springs can be made of steel or copper or bronze. Steel is the best and easiest to work on. They have to be adjusted for the right strength. They can be too weak, which can cause closing problems and leaks. Also, they can be too strong which can cause the same problem. You have to get a feel for the exact strength and that can vary from flute to flute. Some springs need to be replaced and that in itself can be very tedious indeed. Also, for the first while, as a beginner in flute repair you stab yourself with these little springs and it really hurts to put it mildly!

The pads also need to be taken care of and need to be replaced or reseated. They are made of felt and covered with 2 layers of fish bladder. I have no idea why they use fish bladder. Pads can get torn or punctured or just plain worn out. They are vital and cannot leak or the flute will lose some or all of it's volume.

Pad replacement is time consuming. Each ad is held in with a tiny screw and washer or a nylon snap. They vary in size and thickness. Once you have put them in you have to iron them and reseat them so that they will seal completely. To reseat them you have to wet them with alcohol and then clamp each key and pad, then heat them and if possible leave them overnight. It's not always possible to leave them overnight so I tend to put them in a pad oven and cook them for a couple of hours. This helps make the flute seal air tight when being played.

Next is to balance and regulate the keys with their newly seated pads.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Band Instrument Repair - FLUTE - Balancing and Regulating the Keys and Pads

Flute keys have to close exactly on the tone holes to seal them from air leakage and then an exact tone can be produced. The only way this can happen is to insure the key is level and the tone hole is level and the pad has no holes or creases in them.

English: A western concert flute devided into ...
A western concert flute devided into many parts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is achieved by seating the pads correctly and then bending the keys and testing them continually until you get the best seal possible. We test the seal in several ways. One of the most common ways is to use a strip of cigarette paper. You place it between the rim of the tone hole and the pad and then close the key to see if the paper is grabbed or slips out. If it slips out, that means that air can get out of that space and thus you will lose sound and volume etc. I use a jeweler's eye loop to examine the hole more than I use the cigarette paper because I can get a closer look through the magnification and I find it quicker.

Bending the keys to make them level was at first very scary. You are working on a $300.00 and up instrument and you're taking a pair of flute pliers and bending the key to insure it is setting right over the hole. Yes, you occasionally break the keys right off. At first this is very unnerving but when you realize that you are suppose to be able to fix keys that are broken off, then it becomes no big deal. Once you realize that all the pieces of the flute had to be made and soldered together, you can rest assured that you can fix anything. We have recovered flutes that have been stepped on, sat on, jammed in doors etc., etc.

Alright so we took out all dents and bends, which is a science all on it's own. We made sure the springs are all intact and of the correct tension. We have checked and replaced and seated all the necessary pads. Finally, we bent and leveled all the keys and their pads over the tone holes so that we get as close to a perfect seal as possible.

Then we clamp the keys shut, to make a deep imprint in the pad, thus making a very air tight seal. We do this by first using a small pad iron to iron out any wrinkles from any new pads. Then you soak the pads with alcohol (this is one method). Apply the individual key clamps. Then you place the flute in a pad oven for a few hours. Pad ovens vary in size and shape. I use a long narrow leak light, which I put in the flute and then I put it in a wooden box. Some people don't use an oven.

After that, you'll get a great seal and the flute will play great. The volume will be great with no hissing or leaks.

After that if you give it regular hand cleaning and have someone a tech give it a once over every 6 months you get the best out of your flute and it will last a long time.