Thursday, August 29, 2013

Changing the Oil

You've probably sent your flute in regularly for a C.O.A. and have heard that you should not oil the flute mechanism yourself -- but why is this?  Well, we had a chance to catch up with Powell's Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, to find out more about why you should leave the oiling to a professional.

When we stopped into the shop, Rachel was in the midst of completing a C.O.A. on a silver Conservatory flute, so we though it would be the perfect opportunity to find out more about key oiling.  Rachel told us that you should really leave the oiling to your repair tech for a couple of reasons -- mostly centered around proper procedure and the properties of oil.  She said that when people try to oil the mechanism themselves, they oil from the outside.  Oiling from the outside usually results in oil getting all over the flute body, causing the adjustments to fall off.  When your repair technician oils the mechanism, s/he takes the mechanism apart to oil it -- oiling from the inside instead of the outside.
Adding oil to the outside of the mechanism is not correct!
Also, having your key mechanism oiled is essentially like having the oil changed in your car.  When you take your car in for an oil change, oil is not simply added.  First, the old oil is removed.  When it comes to oiling your flute mechanism, the same holds true.  You have to remove all the old oil before adding the new.  There are a couple of reasons why this is important as well.  You see, not all oils mix well -- some are more synthetic, and others are more natural.  Also, oil is "hygroscopic," meaning it attracts moisture.  However, oil and water do not mix well, either.  Moisture, in turn, is generally not good for the mechanism because it is not good for metal.  Moisture in the mechanism can cause sluggishness, lead to corrosion, and cause the mechanism to not function properly overall. 
Applying oil to the inside of the mechanism after old oil has been removed is correct!

So, in order to fully restore proper functioning in the key mechanism, all the old oil is removed.  Then, the mechanism is oiled and will be back to functioning properly so that all the rest of the steps in the C.O.A. process can be completed.  As Rachel says, "I can't seat pads and make adjustments without the mechanism functioning properly," and as we have read, that proper function stems from proper oiling -- which certainly is best to leave to your repair technician!

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