Friday, January 18, 2013

One Year Headjoint Exchange

Did you know that if you purchase a Powell flute with a Custom headjoint, there is a one-year Headjoint Exchange Warranty?  This would apply to Custom and Conservatory models (Signatures would only be eligible if a Custom headjoint is purchased rather than the Signature headjoint).  The Headjoint Exchange Warranty can be found on the Powell website and states the following:

Any Custom metal headjoint (standard on Custom and Conservatory flutes) purchased directly from Powell Flutes can be exchanged for another headjoint for up to one year from the date of purchase, provided the returned  headjoint is in good repair and has not been altered to fit your flute. The customer does have the option to exchange their original headjoint for another of greater value but is responsible for the difference in cost. The warranty is restricted to the original owner only. An owner desiring to make a headjoint exchange will be billed for postage for each trial shipment. Powell reserves the right to limit trial headjoint shipments to three shipments of one headjoint each within the year.  

If you purchased your Custom or Conservatory flute or headjoint from an authorized Powell Dealer, any exchange warranty must be handled through the original dealer. This warranty is only offered if the returned headjoint is in good repair, and has not been altered to fit your flute. The warranty is restricted to the original owner only. 

The headjoint exchange warranty is good for any flutes purchased directly from Powell.  If you purchase a Powell flute from one of our authorized dealers, you'll want to check with them and make sure they offer the exchange warranty.

We recently met with our Custom Service Manager, Rebecca Eckles, to disuss headjoint fit as part of this policy -- especially if the headjoint is too small.  So, imagine this scenario: You purchase a Powell Custom or Conservatory flute, and the headjoint you choose is a bit too small.  You have a year to decide whether you want to keep it or exchange it, but if you have any sizing done (making it larger in this case), it would void the warranty.  So, what can you do to keep the headjoint in tact?  You could use tape on the tenon, and there are several choices (scotch tape, Teflon tape, masking tape).  There are even copper strips available (we found some at J.L. Smith -  Tape is definitely a good option to keep the headjoint viable should you choose to exchange it later. 

If you do decide to ultimately go with one that is slightly too small (whether the one you originally chose or something different you've gotten in exchange), there are a couple of options you have.  You could continue to use tape as noted above.  There is also an option of having the headjoint tenon "plated up" to the desired thickness.  This process creates a "sleeve" of additional plating on the tenon to get a better fit.  You could also get a different barrel -- but you will certainly need to check with our repair department on this and the plating "sleeve" as well.  It's always best to check with our repair department if you have questions.  They are happy to help!  To read more about the full warranty on our flutes, visit

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Getting a Grip on Key Pads

A Powell flute has Straubinger pads, which for most keys are held in place by screws or bushings.  But, alas, there are some pads on a Powell that are held in place by shellac.  We visited the repair shop when Rachel Baker was just about to seat or "float" some pads into place.  Specifically, the C1 and trill keys on a Powell are held in the key cups by shellac.  It seems like it would be pretty straightforward, but we realized there was much more to it than we thought.  Rachel told us that the shellac needs something to grab onto, so the inside of the key cup and back of the pad need to be "scored."  Scoring is a process that makes the surfaces a bit more "rough" so the shallac can grip these surfaces. If the pad and key cup are not scored, the pad could fall out easily over time.

To score the pads, Rachel takes a tool with a sharp, needle-type tip and pokes holes in the back of the pad.  She does this whenever she replaces the pads held by shellac (C1 and trill as mentioned above).  The pads on these particular keys are replaced on a C.O.A. if necessary and always replaced during an overhaul.  She also checks to see if the inside of the key cup has been scored.  If not, she takes a scraper and scores the inside of the cup by making a few lines in the metal.  The shellac is then heated, and the pad is "floated" into place.  With the back of the pad and inside of the cup scored, the shellac now has something to grab onto, and the pad should stay securely in place!

About to score back of pad with the needle-tip tool.
Poking very small holes to score back of pad.
Scraper is used to score the inside of the key cup.
Making lines in the cup to score it.
Scored key cup and pad.
Heating shellac with an alcohol lamp.  Heated shellac will then be applied to pad to "float" it into place in the key cup.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Sticky Pad Remedy

We've spent some time talking about the causes of sticky pads, but what about the remedies?  Well, we caught up with Rachel Baker to discuss this topic and unraveled some interesting information...

Rachel told us that if your pads are sticking, they are already at the point where they should be replaced.  Often times, it is a combination of the pad needing to be replaced and the tone hole needing to be cleaned.  However, we know that it's not always possible to send your flute off for repair right away.  In some extreme circumstances, you may be warming up for a concert or recital and find yourself with a really sticky pad.  So, what do you do?  Well, you may have heard that you can use cigarette paper to clean the surface of the pad and remove the stickiness.  This is true!  Yes, you can certainly use cigarette paper in this instance.  Try to use un-gummed cigarette paper -- if you cannot find this, make sure to cut off the gummed edge before using the paper on your flute pads.  You should be able to find cigarette paper anywhere where cigarettes are sold (pharmacy, grocery, gas station mini-mart, etc.).  Un-gummed papers are often available through music dealers and/or woodwind specialty shops.

Now that you have the cigarette paper in hand and are ready to clean the pad, what should you do?  Well, technique is just as important as the material.  You may have heard "Close the pad and then pull the paper through so you can wipe the whole pad."  Well, that is actually not correct!  In fact, if you pull the paper over the pad, you risk ripping the pad!  So, Rachel tells us that the proper technique is to simply "press and release." Press the key down so the pad touches the paper, and then release.  It's that simple!  This can help alleviate stickiness without damaging the pad.  Then, when you have more time and can send your flute in for repair, make sure to let your technician know which pads are sticking.  And, as always, make sure to brush your teeth before you play so as to prevent this issue as much as possible!

Two types of cigarette paper.  The one on the left is gummed, right is un-gummed.
Better view of the un-gummed paper.
Close-up of un-gummed paper.
Snapshot of Rachel sorting replacement pads for an overhaul.