Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Repair Shop Overview

We've written about the steps our technician takes with overhauls and COAs, beginning with an assessment of the flute when it arrives (click here to read the previous post on the COA process).  But, have you ever wondered what happens next?  We frequently visit the repair shop and know that there are multiple flutes in repair at the same time, so we sat down with repair technician Rachel Baker to find out more...

Rachel told us that she usually has about 10 to 12 flutes in the shop at a time.  That is quite a lot -- so how does she keep everything straight?  Well, she gave us a quick overview, which you will see in the photos below:

Flute bodies, footjoints, and headjoints are all kept in order on stands with multiple pegs.  In this photo, the stand toward the back contains flutes in for an overhaul, and the stand in the front has flutes in for a COA.  Each individual flute takes up three pegs (one for the footjoint, one for the body, and one for the headjoint).

Each flute will also have a tray for the mechanism -- as you can see in the bottom right-hand corner of the photo below.  These trays have divided compartments so that the mechanism components can be easily organized.  Each tray has a piece of masking tape at the end marking the serial number of the corresponding flute.

Mechanism steels are small and could potentially be very easy to loose if they are not well organized.  Rachel has acrylic blocks that were made in the shop here at Powell.  The blocks have small holes drilled into them, and Rachel organizes each flute's set of steels, marking areas on the block with the flute's serial number.

Not every repair technician will have the same set-up for tools, but Rachel's looked very unique (as you will see in the photo below).  She told us that she built this tool holder with her father -- and the frame is actually mahogany!  The tools are held onto the top horizontal block with magnetic strips.  The secret behind this block is that it is actually a knife holder from IKEA.  Looks like Rachel has a very practical and personalized way of keeping her tools organized!

Finally, we asked Rachel how she keeps track of the "diagnosis" is for each flute.  She told us that each flute has its own repair paperwork --  a form indicating everything that needs to be done.  Once the flute is completed, the customer receives paperwork with a complete break-down of the repair work completed on the flute.  To schedule your repair online, visit 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Separation Anxiety

Last week, we looked at a few notes our repair tech, Rachel Baker, suggested for customers to make before sending their flute in for repair.  Of course, we realize that it can be difficult to part with the flute, even for a short period of time.  A bit of "separation anxiety" is understandable.  In fact, if you have ever felt worried about sending your flute off to the tech, we are here to help put your mind at ease.

We asked our tech what issues seem to concern customers.  She said it's not repair, but rather three main things: damage in shipping, temperature problems, and the flute getting lost.  We'll explain a bit more below:

1) Damage in shipping:  Customers may worry that their flute could get damaged in transit, but Rachel assures us that when she receives flutes, they make it here just fine.  She said that if you are carrying your flute around in its case, and it is fine in daily transit within the case, it should be safe for the longer journey.  Also, if you make sure to package it carefully and properly for shipping, it should be extra safe and secure.  You can read more about packaging your flute for shipping in a previous post at  If there are any problems with the case not fitting the flute securely enough, a case fitting would be done as part of the repair process.

2) Temperature:  This is definitely a valid concern, especially for those sending wooden flutes and piccolos.  Wooden instruments are particularly vulnerable when it comes to drastic changes in temperature and humidity.  If you can send your wooden flute or piccolo when the weather is more temperate, that is certainly best.  But, we know that emergencies happen and schedules don't always allow for customers to send their instruments in a mild season.  If our repair tech receives an instrument that has been shipped, and the temperature outside is very cold, she always lets the instrument warm up to room temperature gradually and carefully before beginning work.  If you receive your flute back from repair on a cold day, you will also want to take it in and let it warm up to room temperature before you play it.  Same can be said for metal flutes.

3) Lost packages: This is probably one of the greatest fears customers have -- and rightly so!  Pro flutes are very expensive, and more importantly, a musician's instrument is worth much more than any dollar amount.  So, customers should always have their instruments insured.  Many instrument insurance policies will also cover shipping.  If you have a policy, take a look and see if you can get shipping covered (if it is not already).  Also, make sure that your Powell flutes are registered.  We also have a previous post (on our Flute Builder blog) about registering your flute:

Of course, if you have any other questions or concerns about shipping your instrument to Powell, don't hesitate to contact us!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Note to Repair Tech

When you send your flute out for a COA or overhaul, your repair technician will certainly know what to do in terms of standard "procedures."  However, our repair technician asks customers to answer a few questions before sending their flutes in to the shop -- just to give her a general idea of their preferences.  In other words, she likes to know how the customer prefers a few things like fit and tension so that she can make the flute feel exactly the way they like it when it's done!

So, if your technician does not already ask, you should still share your answers to the following questions when you send your flute in for standard maintenance:

1) Are there any problems with the flute?  This would include anything happening with your flute that is not "normal."  You may have trouble getting certain notes out, or you may notice that some keys are harder to close than others.  Perhaps you have some sort of key noise or sticky pads.  The list could go on and on, but you probably get the point!  Let your technician know about any issues you might be having with the instrument.

2) How do you feel your headjoint and footjoint are fitting?  If your headjoint and footjoint are not fitting the way you would like them to, let your technician know.  Perhaps they are too loose or too tight.  Fit issues can certainly be remedied by the repair tech.  It's important to let the tech know, because flute players have different preferences when it comes to headjoint and footjoint fit.

3) How do you like the current spring tension on your flute?  Again, players have different preferences here.  Some players prefer a lot of tension, some not so much.  You can certainly feel the spring tension in your keys when you play.  If you think you would like more, less, or the same, let your technician know.

The technician will normally gauge tension and fit against his/her standards, so even if tension and fit do not need to be adjusted, make sure to indicate this.  Your tech will get a sense of how you like the flute to feel.  When the tech first receives the flute, s/he will evaluate it -- and your answers to the questions above will help in the assessment.  Once your tech knows your preferences, s/he can make sure your flute has the perfect feel when you receive it back from repair!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Powell Sonaré Repair

Powell Sonaré 505BOF
When we stop in to see our repair technician, we usually see the whole range of Powell models -- Signature, Conservatory, Custom.  However, Powell Sonaré flutes rarely come in to the shop here.  Why is this?  Well, Powell Sonaré flutes are mostly serviced by repair technicians at the dealer location where the customer purchased the flute or by other local repair technicians in the customer's area.  There are numerous dealers across the country who sell and service Powell Sonaré flutes and many independent technicians.  For Powell models, there are fewer dealers in comparison.  Each Powell dealer must have a Straubinger-certified repair technician since Powell models use Straubinger pads.  Since there may not be a Powell dealer close to every customer, or Starubinger-certified independent technician, many customers send their flutes directly to Powell for repair.

Although Powell's repair tech, Rachel Baker, doesn't see many Powell Sonaré flutes on a regular basis, we were still curious about differences in repair between Powell and Powell Sonaré models.  She told us that essentially, the repairs she does are pretty much the same -- replacing pads and adjusting the mechanism.  These are the essentials which she does on all flutes.  The only difference, she tells us, is time.  She says that the time it takes to repair a Powell Sonaré is less than it would take on a Powell.  Why is this?  Well, there are a couple of differences.  The Powell Sonaré models have felt pads and a different mechanism.  Specifically, the tolerances on the Powell Sonaré and Powell models are different, and this is what accounts for the difference in repair time.  You may notice tolerance levels in the "feel" of the mechanism.  Since Powell Sonaré flutes are designed for younger players, the tolerance levels do not need to be as high as they would on the Powell models. Mechanisms with very high tolerance levels will take much longer to adjust.

You will find a complete list of Powell and Powell Sonaré dealers on the Powell website at  Powell repairs may be scheduled directly through the website at

Powell Sonaré 505BOF (far left) and other Powell models in the testing room

Friday, January 3, 2014

Depending on the Case...

We recently had a flute in the shop with a bent G key -- which, unfortunately, came from poor fitting in the case.  The fit of the flute in the case is critical, because as we have seen, the body and/or mechanism could get damaged.  So, what exactly is normal, and what should you look for?  We took a closer look to find out...

The parts of the flute (body, footjoint, headjoint) should all fit snuggly in the case and not move around.  Between the body of the flute and the headjoint, there is a small block in the case to support the G key.  This block should be secure and create enough space between the G key and headjoint to keep them from touching.  Also, if you see "wear" on the velvet in the case, that is normal.  Over time, this develops as the velvet comes in contact with the parts of the flute.  If the wear on the velvet becomes excessive, you have two options -- repair or replace.  Parts of the case can certainly be repaired (see previous post at  However, depending on the amount of repair and the cost, one might choose simply to purchase a new case (we have flute, piccolo, and headjoint cases available at the VQP Shop).  When you send your flute in for a COA, you might also want to ask your repair technician to check the case fit.  Since the COA is a regular maintenance service for your flute, it's definitely a good time for a case "check-up" as well.

If you have a new case, you may notice that the case seems tight -- and it may even seem difficult to close.  This is also normal, because the case has been designed to hold the flute pieces securely.  Also, the interior of a brand new case has not been in contact with the flute over an extended period of time.  It has not gone through the "life cycles" of being opened and closed, and of having the flute taken out and put back in regularly.  The main thing to remember is that motion inside the case is not a good thing.  So, if you feel or hear parts moving when the case is closed, or if you see that parts have moved after you open the case, make sure to remedy the situation by having your case repaired or replaced as soon as you can!

Block under G key supports it and creates space between it and the headjoint.
Not a good fit here -- G key would hit the headjoint.
Areas of "wear" on velvet are normal.
Another photo of normal wear on case interior.
Brand new case -- no "wear" yet!
Another photo of new case interior.