Friday, August 29, 2014

Not All About Looks...

This week, we stopped in the repair shop and had an interesting discussion with our technician, Rachel Baker, about pinned mechanisms.  Although the pins on a flute with a pinned mechanism are very small, they do "poke out" a bit, and some people simply do not like the look of this.  So, she has had customers ask if the pins could be made to be flush with the mechanism.  Whereas this look may be more aesthetically pleasing to some, making the pin flush with the mechanism would actually create many problems...

The pins in a pinned mechanism extend just slightly above the mechanism so that they can be removed (for repair and maintenance).  For instance, during a C.O.A., the repair technician must take apart the mechanism as part of the process, so s/he would need to easily remove the pins (follow this link to read our previous post on the C.O.A. process).   If the pins are flush with the mechanism, the repair technician would not be able to remove them.

Flute finisher Matt Keller also spoke with us about pins from the perspective of the finisher.  He explained that because pins are pushed into place, pushing the pin all the way through could damage the top of the key.  Pins are also tapered so that they stay in place.  The taper begins at the area of the pin that extends from the key.  This placement helps create stability.  If the pin were to be pushed down to become flush, the area around the top of the pin could loosen.

So, as you can see, the look of having the pin flush against the key might be appealing to some -- but it's position helps the mechanism function properly and allows your repair technician to safely remove the pin for repair and maintenance.

Red circle around the pin in position

Friday, August 22, 2014

How Well Do You Know Your Flute?

If you have been shopping for a new flute, you've probably come across many choices, options, and specs for different models.  What do they all mean -- and how do they compare with your own flute?  Even if you are not looking for something new but are curious about the features and manufacturing date of your flute, if you play a Powell you can find this information online!

The Powell website's online bible allows you to enter a Powell serial number and find the specs on that instrument.  For instance, we entered serial number 14543 and found the following:

It may be a bit hard to read, but the photo above is a computer screen shot with the search results, which are:

Serial Number: 14543
Completion Date:  9/16/2011
Specs:  Powell Handmade Custom 14K Aurumite flute with sterling silver mechanism, .016" tubing, soldered tone holes, A442, Modern Powell Scale, B footjoint with gizmo, offset G, French cups, split-E and Powell pinless mechanism.
Model:  Handmade Custom Flute

So, this tells us quite a bit about the flute -- the date of completion, model, body and mechanism materials, body thickness, type of tone holes, pitch, scale, and options.  For someone looking to purchase a new Powell, it may be difficult to remember all the specs if you are trying multiple flutes, so you could print these results to help in the decision making process.  If you are searching for your own flutes, you may find information you did not know previously.  Perhaps you wondered if your flute had soldered tone holes, or a pinless mechanism, or the body tubing thickness -- and the search results can tell you this.  Wondering when exactly your flute was made?  As you can see, a quick database search will tell you the exact month, day and year!

All Powell instruments are listed in the database, so even if you have a serial number with only 2 digits, you should be able to find it.  If you have a Handmade Conservatory flute, you may need to enter "CHM-(serial number)" or "HC-(serial number)."  For instance, "CHM-123" or "HC-123."  Whether it is a flute or piccolo, it should be searchable.  Since the records were transferred from the physical "Powell Bible" to the online database, it is possible that you may find an error.  In that case, make sure to contact our Marketing Director, Christina Guiliano-Cobas at to let her know.

After you find the specs, you may be wondering what they mean -- like "soldered tone holes."  We have plenty of information on our website, and in our Flute Builder blog as well.  If you are on the blog, type "soldered tone holes" in the search bar, and see what comes up!  You should see several posts.  Between our general site, Flute Builder blog, and a Google search, your questions should be answered!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Engraving Facts and FAQs

Here at Powell, we are fortunate to have Weiling Zhou on staff as both a finisher and engraver.  We've seen examples of his work many times on our Facebook page and in a previous two-part post on key engraving which you can read by clicking here for Part I and here for Part II.

The engravings are truly, as flute finisher Lindsey McChord shared, "like works of art.  They are amazing.  You can have whatever you want, and they are very ornate -- really just amazing."  As she mentioned, you can bring your own design for the engraving(s), or you could choose from Weiling's large notebook of patterns.  His specialties include birds, leaves, flowers, and shells, but the possibilities go far beyond this -- such as initials and more abstract shapes and designs.

In our previous posts, we noted that if you are thinking of having engraving done on your existing flute, a good time to have the engraving done is when you send the flute in for repair.  This is especially convenient for key engraving since the keys are removed as part of the repair process.  However, you can have key, lip plate, and crown engraving done at any time. Also, if you are specifically having lip plate or crown engraving done, you can send the headjoint and/or crown in separately without the whole flute.

In addition to key, lip plate, and crown engraving, there is also an option to have the flute's rings engraved.  The ring engraving option is really best to choose when you order a new flute so the engraving can be done as the flute is being built.  This is because the rings cannot be engraved on the barrel, so to have them engraved on a flute that has already been made would require the barrel to be removed from the body, and then the rings to be removed from the barrel, and -- well, you can see why it makes more sense to request it when you place an order for a new flute!

Often times, we get questions from customers about how the engraving feels and if it will change the sound.  Lindsey mentioned that engraved keys can make things easier if the player has hands that may get sweaty and slippery.  The engraved lip plate is what gets the most inquiries, and Lindsey recently had the lip plate on her flute engraved.  She said that the lip plate doesn't really feel much different when it is engraved -- there's no really noticeable difference, and it feels normal.  "The engraving is an etching into the surface, so you aren't taking away material or creating a lumpy surface."  Lindsey did mention that she had previously used a postage stamp on her lip plate to keep it from sliding, and the engraving can actually help keep the lip plate where it needs to be.  As for sound changes, well, there are none because Weiling will not engrave on the edge of the embouchure opposite your lips (the "front" or "blowing edge").

So, if you are thinking of having your flute engraved, rest assured that the engraving will not change the sound, and you have plenty of pattern options.  To see more examples of Weiling's engraving, click the titles below to see the photo albums on our Facebook page:

New Engraved Crowns
Engraving Examples
Engraving Examples - II
White Gold "Chicago" Flute
Engraved Keys on Aurumite 14k Custom

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Headjoint "A Bit Off?"

New cork assemblies
We recently had a customer who thought something might be a bit off with her headjoint.  She would use her swabstick to check the headjoint cork position, looking to see if the mark on the swabstick was in the middle of the embouchure hole, and it just didn't seem quite right.  So, our repair technician, Rachel, took a look.  The swabstick mark was actually alright, so she didn't need the headjoint cork moved or replaced.  However, Rachel left our customer with a tip.  If you think something might be "a bit off" with the cork, play octaves.  If the octaves are in tune, everything is alright.  After all, one of the functions of the cork is to balance intonation between octaves.  We have a previous post on headjoint cork maintenance that you can read by following this link.

The customer also wanted to have her headjoint checked for fit.  She felt that it might be too loose, and sure enough, it was!  Our technician was able to fit the headjoint by expanding the tenon, and everything was good to go.  Concerned about the fit of your headjoint?  If the headjoint is turning when you play or if you are having trouble getting the headjoint into the body, you definitely should have your repair technician take a look.  Click here to read more from our previous post on headjoint fit.