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.

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