Friday, July 26, 2013

If You Can't Take the Heat...

We're in the thick of the summer months now, and we had a question on our Facebook page asking about piccolos and heat.  When the temperature is high, they may seem to "misbehave" or be rather "uncooperative."  Why is this?  Well, the major component to keep in mind is that wooden piccolos have bodies made of a natural material that expands and contracts with temperature changes.  Granted, you will feel the most drastic changes when the temperatures are in the extremes.  For instance, imagine that you are at home, and the temperature outside is well into the upper 90s (Fahrenheit) or above.  You sit down to practice in an area that is not air conditioned, and your piccolo and headjoint will not go together.  What should you do?

If you find that it is so hot that you cannot get the headjoint on your piccolo, don't force it.  It's simply a case of the wood swelling (or expanding) slightly because of the high temperature.  Give it some time and try to let the piccolo "cool down" a bit before you play it.  Once the air around the piccolo is cool enough, the wood of the piccolo will contract, and you will be able to play it.  Also, keep in mind that you do not want to expose the instrument to an extreme temperature change.  If you are outside performing in the heat, you would not want to come into an air conditioned room and start practicing immediately.

Maintaining even temperature (and humidity) is important for wooden instruments.  In fact, it is key!  The swelling and contracting of wooden piccolos can happen with wooden flutes as well.  So, if you have a wooden instrument, treat it with care, and don't take it to extremes in terms of temperature changes.  It will thrive in comfortable and consistent temperatures and humidity.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Repair on the Road

Repair Technician Rachel Baker (far right) at 2012 NFA Convention

We've been busy getting ready for the NFA Convention, so we thought it would be a great time to stop in and chat with Powell's Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, to ask about her role in the show.  Rachel attends with a group of Powell's sales and marketing team and works at the booth, speaking with customers, showing flutes, and...

Repairing flutes?  How would this be possible off site?  Does she repair the flutes at the booth throughout the show?  We wondered about all these questions, so we thought we would ask her.  Essentially, when it comes to repair at the NFA, there are two areas she addresses -- customer repairs and booth inventory.

When it comes to customers, Rachel often times gets requests to do repairs at the show.  People are there from all over the country, so it seems like a good time/place for repair.  However, since Rachel is out of her shop at Powell, her repair resources are limited.  Her basic rule of thumb when it comes to what is possible at a show is "anything within reason -- nothing drastic."  So, with a limited "travel toolbox," Rachel is able to make a couple of adjustments to flutes.  She can replace a pad, fix one major adjustment issue, adjust loose springs and spring tension.  She could also replace a missing key tail cork or tail felt.  Essentially, she can do "little bits" that would be part of a COA, but definitely not a complete COA or overhaul.  She also brings a mandrel and burnisher to fit headjoints.  So, if a customer buys a new headjoint and needs to have it fit, that is possible.  She can also fix any headjoint fitting issues with their current flute and headjoint.  Rachel brings a couple of headjoint corks as well, so if someone needs theirs replaced, that can be done!

So, the show goes on for several days, and the flutes and piccolos are played again and again...  Does Rachel get bogged down making adjustments to these?  The answer to this question is no.  As Rachel says, "That's why I spend so much time before the convention getting everything ready -- so I can pay attention to customers as opposed to instruments."  That certainly made us smile!  She says that sometimes, people will come to the booth and want her to take a look at their flute to see if it needs an overhaul or repair.  But, in general, her time is devoted to any customer visiting the booth.  She truly does spend an incredible amount of time prepping the inventory so that it is adjusted, ready to go, and (most importantly) securely set to function properly and without any issues throughout the show.  We thank Rachel for her meticulous and diligent work.  If you are coming to the convention to try Powell flutes at the booth, rest assured that they are ready for you!

The flutes are in tip-top shape so that Rachel can attend to customers!