Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Headjoint Fit

We all know how important the headjoint is on a flute, and obviously, so is the headjoint fit!  Our repair department and flute finishers are all quite familiar with fitting headjoints -- whether it is for a new flute on its way to a customer or for an instrument coming in to us.  For flutes coming in, a customer may send the flute for repair and need a headjoint fitting or s/he may have purchased a new headjoint that needs to be fitted to the flute.  What are the scenarios we come across?  Well, it's pretty straightforward.  Most of the time, the headjoint is either too loose or too tight in the barrel.  In the case of the headjoint being too loose, the headjoint is placed on a gauged arbor to expand the tubing.  If the headjoint is too tight, the headjoint tenon would need to be carefully sanded.  (The tenon on the headjoint is the bottom portion that goes into the barrel).  Flute finisher Karl Kornfeld states that "the fit should be smooth and even, especially since the headjoint is used for tuning.  You should not have to force the headjoint into the center joint, and the headjoint cannot turn while you are playing.  The fit should be even around and down the length of the tenon so that it doesn't snag going into or coming out of the barrel at any point." 

Of course, there are additional culprits that could lead to a "bad fit," and this would include physical damage.  If a flute headjoint is damaged in any way and loses its perfectly round shape, it would not fit properly.  We visited this scenario in a previous post on a dented tenon.  In that situation, the headjoint tenon would need to be re-rounded to gain its original shape.  However, damage does not always occur from the outside...  In fact, a headjoint tenon could be damaged by the inside of the flute's barrel.  If the inside of the barrel has a burr or is otherwise not completely smooth, it could cause deep scratches to the headjoint that would lead to improper fit.  In this case, the technician would need to smooth out the inside of the barrel to begin the headjoint fitting process.  Note -- if your headjoint has some light scratches on the tenon, that is probably normal from everyday use.  If you have any concerns, make sure to consult your repair technician.

So, we've seen some challenges to tackle in headjoint fitting -- too loose, too tight, physical damage such as dents and scratches -- but there is a very commonplace issue that could lead to either a temporary improper fit or possibly even damage.  This issue is very simple -- dirty tenons and barrels!  Headjoint tenons and the flute's barrel can accumulate all kinds of dirt and grime from everyday wear and tear.  As things get dirtier and it becomes harder to assemble the flute, some people are prone to grease up the headjoint tenon with something like cork grease or other lubricating oils and creams.  Don't do it!  The creams, greases, and oils will build up on the tenon and inside the barrel, attracting more dirt, dust and grime.  If it becomes difficult to assemble the flute, forcing the parts together could lead to damage.  So, make sure to keep your headjoint tenon and the inside of your barrel clean.  What do you need for this?  Well, just a simple, untreated microfiber cloth.  To clean the headjoint tenon, simply wipe the outside with the cloth.  For the inside of the barrel, cover your finger with the cloth and gently wipe the inside of the barrel.  Our videos below will demonstrate this simple yet extremely important step in keeping your flute happy and healthy!
Video 1: Cleaning Headjoint Tenon

Video 2: Cleaning Barrel and Body Tenon

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