Thursday, December 12, 2013

What's in the Drawer, Part II - Steels, Etc.

Last week, we visited the repair shop and were mesmerized by the terrific multi-drawer organizing unit our repair technician, Rachel Baker, has for many of her supplies.  We wanted to know what else might be in there, and what all the supplies are used for -- so we picked another drawer this week to investigate...

We found a drawer full of steels and cork assembly parts (washers and nuts, specifically).  What are all these for?  Well, it turns out that they have many uses and have been collected over time.  The steels may be used to replace steels on older flutes, because new steels would not fit.  As the steels wear with use inside the mechanism tubing, the tubing can expand slightly, so steels that are made to fit today's flutes are (in general) too small to fit in an older flute.  Steels certainly can wear down over time, so the ones in this drawer will become new steels for older flutes.  These new steels will help the mechanism feel better and have less "play" (excess motion).  Steels in older flutes may also need to be replaced because they are susceptible to corrosion (since they were not made from stainless steel).  Finally, the steels in the drawer may also be used to fit keys on older flutes -- especially keys that are bent.  If the key is bent and the existing steel does not need to be replaced, the steels in the drawer are particularly handy for the process (because you don't want to bend the existing steel in the mechanism).

The cork assembly nuts and washers came from cork assemblies with cork stem plates that could not be used.  The cork stem plate is what you see when you look down into your headjoint.  It is usually very shiny -- sometimes so shiny that you can see the reflection of your eye looking back at you!  So, when these plates come in, Rachel will try to polish them.  But, if they are simply too worn to be polished, or if they have some sort or mark of visible solder point, she will removed the washer and nut from the top of the assembly and keep them.  Those washers and nuts are what you see in the drawer.  Why keep these?  Again, they might become replacement parts to fit cork assemblies on older flutes.  Also, she tells us that sometimes, people simply lose parts.  In these cases, it is very helpful to have a stash of extra parts that will fit!

Close-up on the drawer.
Close-up and comparison of one cork stem place that is too old to be shined up like the one above it.
Visible solder mark in the middle of this (older) plate.
Nut and washer can be salvaged!
Multiple cork assemblies from older flutes.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Cork Drawer

We stopped in to see Powell's Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, earlier this week.  As usual, she was working on COAs and overhauls, but we happened to see one very interesting drawer open in her supply organizer...  It was a drawer full of corks of all different shapes and sizes.  What are all these for?  We had to find out, so we asked her!

Rachel said that corks are used in different places and for different purposes on flutes and piccolos.  She went through five "categories" for us:
1) Tenon corks:  These are found on piccolos and wooden flutes.  A tenon cork is a strip of cork that surrounds the tenon completely.  It's used to hold joints together.
2) Bumper corks:  Bumper corks are found on the D# key and trill keys.  A bumper cork is a piece of cork under the key that keeps the key from hitting the body.
3) Adjustment corks:  Adjustment corks are very small, thin pieces of cork that are used to help the keys work together.  They are found more often on pinless flutes because of the way a pinless mechanism functions.
4) Piccolo tail corks:  Piccolo tail corks are small, narrow pieces of cork that are affixed to the key tails on piccolos.  They control key height and keep the tail from hitting the body.
5) Headjoint corks:  Probably the first cork that comes to mind when we think about flutes.  These are larger, cylindrical pieces of cork in the headjoint.  Their purpose is to seal the air, and their placement controls intonation between octaves.
The various corks mentioned above are actually all the same -- it's just that the cork is cut into different shapes and sizes depending on what the cork will be used for on the flute or piccolo.  Obviously, a sheet of cork is easiest to use when making corks for tenons, key tails, and adjustments, but it would not work well for a headjoint cork!  You can see the different shapes and sizes in the photos below.

Drawer of corks -- all different shapes and sizes.
Another drawer -- these are mostly used for piccolos.
Corks for different purposes.  Left to right: headjoint, piccolo tail, bumper, tenon, adjustment.
Large sheet of cork can be cut into smaller pieces for various uses.