Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Blue Tape, Part II

Pre-cut pieces for body and footjoint
Last week, we took a closer look at the blue protective film that is used in the repair and finishing departments.  In our previous post, we visited with Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, and explained how she uses the film.  This week, we stopped in to the finishing area and chatted with flute finisher, Lindsey McChord, about how finishers use the film.

The most noticeable difference with the blue film in the finishing department is that it comes in pre-cut pieces designed to fit the body and footjoint.  Each piece has a waxy, paper backing that is removed before the film is applied.  Finishers must cover the entire flute (including the keys) to protect it from scratches.  So, the pre-cut, pre-formed pieces of film are extremely helpful for the finishers.  We imagine it would be very difficult to cut pieces of film by hand to fit perfectly around the tone holes, so it is helpful for them to have these pre-cut pieces to ensure consistency and properly protect the flutes.

Lindsey told us that once the flute body is ready for the finishing process, it has already been polished, shined, and buffed.  It's important to keep it this way, so that it remains perfectly intact for the customer -- even in the process of applying the film.  That being said, the finishers do not want to get fingerprints on the body and footjoint when applying the film.  In order to apply the film without touching the instrument, the finishers use a folding fixture as you will see in the photos below.  The fixture can be used to hold the body and the footjoint.  There is a removable section on the end that can be placed in three slots -- 1 for the body, 1 for a b footjoint, and 1 for a c footjoint.  Once the body or footjoint is in place and held securely in the fixture, the finisher removes the paper backing from the film and applies the film to the body.  The finishers will then have to cut pieces for the key cups, which Lindsey says they do by first applying a piece of the film to the cup and then carefully cutting around the outside of the cup.  Once everything is covered, the flute is protected and ready for the rest of the finishing process!

Body in fixture, ready for film!
Applying the film, lining it up carefully to fit.
Lindsey points to the slot for the b foot (c foot slot is to the left of this).
Inserting the end section into the b foot slot.
Fixture is now ready to hold a b footjoint.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Blue Tape

We often times post photos of flutes in production or in the repair shop that appear to be blue, and we are asked, "what's the blue tape?"  Well, in actuality, it is a blue protective film that comes on a roll, much like a roll of tape.  However, it is not sticky -- it adheres to the metal like a static decal would to a piece of glass like a window.  The purpose of the blue film is to protect the metal from getting scratched or otherwise damaged during the finishing process or during repair.

When we see flutes in the finishing department, the protective film is on the entire flute body, footjoint, and keys.  We stopped in to the repair shop this week and spotted our technician, Rachel Baker, cutting a piece from the roll as she prepared to start on a flute that was in for an overhaul.  Rachel cut a piece and applied it to the back of the body, because she said that this particular area is what will come in contact with the repair mat -- so the protective film will help prevent scratches as Rachel works on the flute.  In the case of the film being used on the entire body and keys, pieces are cut from the roll, and then these pieces are cut again to the appropriate size and shape to fit the body and keys.  After a flute leaves the finishing department or the repair shop, the blue film is removed, and the well-protected metal is revealed! 

So, the next time you see what appears to be a "blue flute," do not fear -- it is merely a type of film covering the flute to protect it.  The film itself does not harm the flute in any way or leave any type of coloring.

Taking a piece of blue film from the roll.
Getting ready to cut it to length.
Cutting the piece.
Applying the piece to the back of the flute body.
Smoothing the piece down.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ironing Pads

We all know that ironing takes out wrinkles in clothing and other fabrics, but did you know that ironing can also take out wrinkles in flute pads?  It's not possible to iron pads with a traditional household iron, but there is definitely a pad ironing tool and a procedure for doing this properly.  We had the chance to catch up with Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, to find out more.

Rachel told us that felt pads are most likely to wrinkle, and it is a new felt pad that is particularly vulnerable.  Why is this?  Well, with a new felt pad, pressure is exerted on the pad once the washer and screw are in place. As the screw is tightened, the washer pushes down on the pad, which can then cause the area of the pad around the washer to wrinkle.  Wrinkles can be problematic when flute finishers and repairmen are using a feeler gauge to check for leaking pads.  The wrinkle itself may pull on the gauge when the key cup is closed, which ordinarily would mean the pad is sealing.  However, this is a "false gauging" because once the wrinkle is smoothed out by ironing, the feeler gauge may pull through, detecting that there is a leak. 

So, how does one iron a pad?  Surprisingly, the process follows the same basic principles as ironing fabrics.  The pad iron is a small, flat hand-held tool as you will see in the photos below.  It is dipped into a bit of water and then used to lightly dampen the pad.  The pad iron is then heated just a bit (and very very carefully) with an alcohol lamp.  If the iron is too hot, it can actually burn the pad, so heating the iron properly is key.  After the iron is heated, it is applied to the pad.  We watched as Rachel "swiped" it in a circle over the pad.  Then, you are done!  The wrinkles are gone, and the pad is smooth!

Wrinkled pad.

The pad iron and a small glass of water.  Iron will be dipped in water to dampen the pad.
Dampening the pad with the pad iron.
Heating the pad iron carefully.
Ironing out the wrinkles.
Done!  Pad is smooth again!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Keeping it Clean

Don't worry -- this can be cleaned!
We had a chance this week to catch up with our Customer Service Manager, Rebecca Eckles, and touch on an interesting topic -- cleaning your swabs and cloths!  We love out instruments, and we want to keep them clean.  So, keeping your flute clean means that you have to make sure the materials you use are clean as well!

Rebecca tests flutes for us here at Powell all day, so she goes through many swabs and cleaning cloths.  At the end of the day, she may find herself with a bunch of swabs and microfiber cloths that are certainly "well-used."  She told us that because she has so many, she takes them home and cleans them simply by putting them in the washing machine on the delicate cycle.  If she only has a few, she may do a quick hand-wash in the sink.  Either way, it is perfectly fine.  You want to make sure that you use a very gentle detergent in the washing machine (like Woolite), and do not use fabric softener.  If you are hand washing your cloths in the sink, you could also use something like Woolite or even a mild dishwashing liquid.  If your swabs are silk (like in the case of a piccolo), you definitely should wash them by hand in the sink.  Whether you are washing cloth or silk swabs and cleaning cloths, do not put them in the dryer -- simply let them air dry, and they will be perfect!

Now, we realize that you may not have a whole load of swabs and cloths to launder, but that is okay.  If you choose to put them in the washing machine, you can always put them in a smaller load -- maybe with some other dishtowels or something similar.  You may want to put the swabs and cloths in a mesh "lingerie bag."  Keeping your cloths and swabs clean will make a world of difference, and it is quite easy to do -- so don't be afraid to do it yourself.  Just remember, it's okay to wash them, but do not take them to the dry cleaner!