Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mechanism Wear

We recently had an artist ask our repair technician if a mechanism can "wear out."  We thought that was an excellent question, so we decided to find out more...

Our technician, Rachel Baker, told us that a mechanism doesn't "wear out," but it does "wear" over time.  The mechanism tubes are constantly rotating on the posts and the inner steels, which causes the mechanism to wear.  Specifically, as the mechanism becomes worn, it becomes somewhat loose.  This loosening creates extra side-to-side and radial "play" in the mechanism.  The side-to-side play comes from the mechanism tubing moving against the the post, and the radial play comes from the movement of the mechanism tubing against the inner steel.  You can read more about "play" in a previous post here at

As the mechanism wears, a couple of issues arise -- noisy keys, unstable adjustments, and unstable pad seating.  All of these problems can easily be solved by the repair technician.  In fact, worn mechanisms are always adjusted when a flute is sent to Powell for an ovehaul.  During an overhaul, the mechanism will be tightened and the keys fitted to restore proper function.

When do flute mechanisms begin to wear?  Well, it all depends on the amount of usage over time.  If a flute is twenty years old, but has been sitting in a closet untouched, there may be very little wear on the instrument's mechanism.  If you have a new flute and practice regularly for several hours each day, the mechanism may become worn faster.  The more use a flute gets, the more it will wear -- just like many things (tires, shoes, and the list goes on...).  There is no need to worry, though.  It is all part of the instrument's life cycle.  Plus, as mentioned above, a worn flute mechanism can be easily adjusted by an authorized repair technician.

Flute on the far left was made in the 1940s and has its original mechanism, which has just been adjust in an overhaul.  Two flutes to the right are Conservatories, which were both made after 2002.
Close-up on the body mechanisms of the three flutes.
Close-up on the footjoint mechanisms.

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