Friday, April 25, 2014

Flute Lip?

Silver Powell Custom

Flute lip, flute beard, flute goatee, flute tattoo, flute burn -- do any of these terms sound familiar?  After one of our sales associates inquired about a "black mark" under her lip and above her chin when she plays flute, we decided to do some research.  It looks as though there are many people, from younger students to professionals, who have experienced the "mark of the flute player."  Our sales associate asked why this happens, what she can do about it, and if there are any cosmetics she should avoid.  After looking into the topic, we realized that this may have to be the first in a series of posts to answer the questions, because it is a very popular topic with many variations...

Our sales associate said that she had experienced this mark her entire life, even when she started playing flute as a young girl.  She played on plated flutes, silver flutes, and is now playing on a gold flute.  The problem still occurs, and we have read that there could be a couple of causes -- the pH of her skin, chemicals in her makeup or facial creams and cleansers, or both.  Essentially, something (and most likely her skin) is reacting with the metal and causing a black tarnish mark.  We'll kexplain more as we continue our research, but this week, we thought we could tackle at least one of her other questions, which was, "Should I cover my lip plate with clear nail polish?"

Hmm... Well, we read several forum discussions where flute players suggested the clear nail polish, so we went to our repair technician, Rachel Baker, to get her opinion.  She said that she does not experience the "flute lip" other than at times when she plays headjoints that were just polished.  She said that she thought the nail polish might "feel weird" and flake off, too.  But, was it safe to do?  Can you really put nail polish on the lip plate?  The answer is yes and no.  In fact, Rachel told us that she gets several flutes in the shop that have small nail polish marks on the headjoint and barrel to help the player align the headjoint properly.  She said that when she gets these flutes in, the nail polish comes off when the flute is cleaned in the ultrasonic cleaner.  But, there is one caveat -- this is only the case with flutes and headjoints made from solid precious metals.  She said that if a flute or headjoint is plated, that is a completely different scenario, and she always advises to use caution because she says, "You never know what kind of plating it is exactly, how thick it is, and what is underneath."  In the case of anything plated, she says, "If you are going to put something on and take it off, there's a possibility that the plating could come with it."

So, if you have a plated flute and/or headjoint, you might want to consider some other alternatives to nail polish to help prevent "flute lip" marks.  We've read forums where people have used postage stamps (not self-adhesive), bandaids, or other types of gently removable tape.  If you are looking for a solution that is safe for you and your flute and are unsure what to do, you might want to call your technician before trying anything that might not be reversible...

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Appraisal

Flutes in for overhauls at the Powell repair office
We recently had a customer in the shop who wanted to get his Powell appraised, and the flute was quite old.  He was interested in selling it and wanted to get an idea of its approximate value (for resale).  Unfortunately, we are only able to give appraisals for insurance purposes.  This type of appraisal is based on a flute's specs and gives the flute's value so that the insurance company would know how much it would cost to replace the flute with one that is brand new -- in the event that the flute being insured is lost, stolen, or damaged to the point of needing to be replaced.

Appraisals for resale value are quite different than insurance appraisals.  The resale value is based on factors including the demand of the instrument, pitch, options, and condition of the instrument (pads, mechanism, and body).  So, we asked Powell's Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, her thoughts on overhauls for flutes that were ultimately going to be sold by their owner.  Our questions and her answers are below:
Questions: If a flute is in need of an overhaul, should the person do it before selling the flute?  If they go ahead with an overhaul, how will it help?  If they don't, what is the downside?
Rachel's Answers: It can go both ways. IF the flute is playable in its current condition, I usually recommend NOT doing an overhaul. This way the buyer can decide what type of pads, and who does the overhaul.
The downside of that is you will have to drop the price to factor in the price of an overhaul for the buyer. Also, they might not get the full sound of the instrument if it is in only mediocre playing condition, and this could make it harder to sell. 
So, there you have it -- a bit of an "chicken and egg" situation in terms of the overhaul question, but it certainly does make sense to wait on the overhaul and let the new owner have has his/her choices for materials and repair techs.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Flutacious! at Powell

Left to right: Amy Tori, Cynthia Kelley, Kathryn Brooks-Dean

This past week at Powell, we had the pleasure of hosting the Flutacious! staff -- Cynthia Kelley (Owner), Amy Tori (Director of Sales and Marketing), and Kathryn Brooks-Dean (Repair Technician).  The team gave us great feedback on our current products and also spent the week with our finishers and repair technician.

Finisher Karl Kornfeld with Kathryn
We had a chance to sit down with Amy and Kathryn between their sessions in the finishing and repair departments.  As mentioned above, Kathryn is the repair technician for Flutacious!, and Amy is working in their repair department as well.  Kathryn shared that she mostly sees flutes coming in to the shop for a COA or overhaul -- and this is actually the bulk of what our repair technician sees as well! She and Amy met with Powell's repair technician, Rachel Baker, to share best practices in everything from general repair to removing dents in headjoints.  When we caught up with Amy and Kathryn in the finishing department, they were working on pinning Signature flute mechanisms.  Of course, we know that the finishing process involves many more steps, all of which Amy and Kathryn had the chance to practice during their visit.

Amy, Rachel Baker, and Kathryn

Speaking with Kathryn and Amy during a break for lunch, we asked them about their most memorable experiences during the visit.  They were both quite impressed with the expertise of one of polishers, Aleks, in the care he took with his work and the precision in his polishing technique.  They also enjoyed their time with Rachel Baker, learning more about her work and, as Amy Tori shared,  "the way in which she has everything so well organized and has a particular method to working with so many flutes at once."  Amy also commented that everyone she met, from repair to finishing, had very defined processes for their work, and although their methods may have varied from person to person, everyone "knew exactly how they wanted things done."

Amy with finisher Karl Kornfeld

There were some very poignant statements that Amy and Kathryn shared about their experience at Powell.  Kathryn commented that she was "amazed at the amount of people working with their hands -- the true hand craftsmanship that goes into making these instruments."  Amy noted the correlation between repair and flute making as she witnessed it at Powell.  She shared, "When flutes come in to the shop, we think about what we will need to do the repair -- essentially, what we will do to fix a problem.  But, here at Powell, we learned that repair is not just about fixing a problem, it's about returning the flute to its original condition.  Being here, you really get a sense of how the flute is supposed to be after repair, because you get to see how it was made originally."

Friday, April 4, 2014

Padding the Powell Sonaré PS-750 Piccolo

PS-750 in Tuscan Umber
We've had a couple of dealer inquiries about padding the Powell Sonaré PS-750 piccolo, which is understandable given the very different "look" of the instrument.  It has square keys and a stainless steel mechanism.  So, how do you pad it?

Well, the answer is quite simple.  Powell Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, tells us that you "pad it like a normal piccolo."  The mechanism itself has square keys, but if you look on the underside of these keys, you will see regular, round, felt piccolo pads.  How are they held on?  Well, there is actually a circular groove cut into the key, essentially creating a "key cup" for the pad.  Also, the actual tone holes in the body of the flute are round.  Rachel says she uses the very same scoring process and shellac as with the Custom and Signature piccolos to help seat the pads.  We wrote a post on piccolo padding that you can read by clicking this link.

But what about the stainless steel?  Does that require a different heating process?  Actually, Rachel tells us that she heats them just as she would heat round, silver key cups.  She says that stainless steel transports heat the same way as silver, and heating these metals takes the same amount of time.  So, she says you simply, "heat it and float it" when you seat a pad on the PS-750.  For more details on this piccolo, click here to visit the PS-750 page on the Powell website.

Underside of square keys has a round grooved "cup" to hold round pads.
Closer view of underside of keys.

Round tone holes.
Close-up on the tone holes.