Friday, June 27, 2014

Spare Parts?

Recently, our repair office received a call from a music store looking to order a key for their customer's vintage Powell.  For many musical instruments, it is common practice to call the manufacturer when you need a replacement part.  However, in the case of this Powell, it was not possible for a new key to be purchased and shipped in the mail as the shop had expected.  Inconvenient as it might be, there is actually a very good reason for this...

Key cups and arms
At Powell, we make custom flutes with custom parts to fit each flute individually.  So, its not possible for us to have stock parts ready to ship.  If a key needs to be replaced, it actually has to be made by hand in the stringing department and then fitted to the flute.  That being said, this customer would have to send the flute here, and our stringers would make a new key.  And, even before the key is made, the component parts to make the key would have to be made!

After our repair technician, Rachel, explained why we could not send out a "replacement part," it seemed quite simple -- a custom flute has custom parts, and only custom parts!  It's not possible to keep stock of something custom, because it is one of a kind.  But, we started to wonder about parts for regular maintenance, like pads and shims.  So, we asked her, "What if you need a pad replaced?"  Rachel said, "Oh, pads are 'soft parts,' so they are not custom.  Only the 'hard parts' like the keys and mechanism tubing on a custom flute would need to be made."

Rachel's example of "hard parts" and "soft parts" cleared things up for us.  She says its perfectly fine to take your flute to an authorized Powell repair technician for regular maintenance like a C.O.A. (clean, oil, adjust) since only the "soft parts" like pads might need to be replaced.  Also, pads and shims are made to standard dimensions, so in that case, they are all made to meet very specific measurements and can be easily purchased by repair technicians.

Soldering arm to cup
Finished key

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