Friday, November 21, 2014

Quick Fix for a Piccolo Pop!

In a previous post, we learned that you can check if your piccolo headjoint is sealing by doing the "pop test" (follow this link to the read the previous post).  But, if you don't hear a pop and feel that there might be a leak, what can you do in a quick fix?  We checked with Powell's Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, to find out!

The answer is actually quite simple -- cork grease!  Rachel told us that you should put cork grease on the body tenon cork.  The grease will help moisten up the cork and create a better seal.  Definitely made sense to us as we recalled another previous post where the application of cork grease helped to solve a mysterious problem with a piccolo.  The problem in that situation turned out to be a headjoint that wasn't sealing properly (click here to read that post).

However, as we got more into the conversation with Rachel, she mentioned a couple of other points about the seal on a piccolo headjoint.  She told us that when it comes to the seal of a piccolo headjoint, the metal fit is the most important.  In fact, when she is working on piccolos, she makes sure there is a proper metal-to-metal fit and then checks the cork fit. She said the cork is actually a fail safe so that if, over time, the metal-to-metal connection does not seal properly, the cork is a backup.  In fact, she even demonstrated this with a piccolo at her bench -- which did not have a cork because a new cork was going to be put on the tenon.  She showed us that even without the cork, the headjoint was sealing, and we could certainly feel it!

So, if you are having issues with your piccolo, don't forget about the headjoint -- and cork grease.  It's a "quick fix" but actually might have more longevity than you'd expect!

Piccolo from Rachel's bench that did not have a cork -- yet. 
Metal-to-metal seal is the most important.  Red arrow points to the inner ring that goes inside the top of the tenon (yellow arrow pointing to where inner ring goes).  The top of the body tenon will then fit into the headjoint between the headjoint's inner and outer rings.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Standing Waters

Repair technician Rachel Baker swabbing out a kingwood Custom piccolo.

We all want the best for our flutes and know that the question of humidifying wooden ones in particular comes up quite often. Should you use a humidifier?  Is it overkill?  Can it cause more problems?

Well, we've gotten feedback from our staff, customers, and artists, and we realize that there really is no "one size fits all" answer to this question.  Some people do not use humidifiers and travel from place to place, climate to climate, and have no problems.  Of course, if you are playing your wooden instruments regularly and taking proper care of them, you may not need to use a humidifier.  In a previous post on wooden flute maintenance, we shared the following:
Our wood technician assures us that the best way maintain a wooden flute is to play it regularly.  If you play it for a while, leave it for several months (untouched), and then pick it up to play it, you will notice differences which may make playing the instrument difficult.  However, if it is played consistently, the wood will be acclimated to patterns of being played, swabbed out, placed in the case, and then played again.  
However, one thing that did surprise us recently in a conversation we overheard was the idea that wooden instruments do not need to be humidified because there is enough moisture in the bore after playing.  Hmm.  Well, yes, there is certainly moisture in there after playing, but you do not want to leave it that way!  With wooden instruments, you have to make sure that you thoroughly swab out the bore of the body and headjoint.  Never leave moisture in your wooden instrument -- it could lead to all kinds of problems, including cracking.  

However, we don't want to forget about metal instruments when thinking about "standing waters."  They are certainly not good for the inside of metal flutes, so proper swabbing is crucial there as well.  And, make sure to never put anything in the flute bore and leave it there to absorb the moisture -- like those "fuzzy" looking accessories.  If you use something like that inside the flute to absorb moisture and leave it in there, well, you'll only be left with something moist and fuzzy inside your flute with no place for the moisture to go!

So, remember, swab out your flutes and piccolos thoroughly, take good care to keep them clean, check to make sure everything looks alright inside and out, and if you have any questions or concerns, don't let it wait -- contact your repair technician.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Powell Plug-O's (left) and Powell Sonaré Plug-O's (right).
Powell offers a great option for converting an open hole flute to closed hole -- and back.  This option is (as you may have guessed) -- Plug-O's.  They are small, round, sterling silver inserts with a rubber O ring, and they stay in place by press fitting into open hole keys.  The nice thing about Plug-O's is that provide a "convertible" option that is not permanent.

Side view showing metal Plug-O with black rubber O ring.
Plug-O's are easy to insert and remove.  You can also purchase them online through the VQP Shop. If you do choose to purchase them, make sure to save the package -- especially the black platsic tool that holds them.  You will need the tool to remove the Plug-O's, and the back of the package includes complete instructions on how to insert and remove the Plug-O's.  If you do have trouble, don't try to force them out with any other object -- call your repair technician. One thing to note  -- if you use Plug-Os with a wooden flute, you will not be able to remove them yourself (you will need to call your repair technician for this).

Need help finding the right size Plug-O?  Follow this link to read our previous post on Plug-O sizing. Also, for those who choose to use Plug-O's for an extended period of time, you may need to clean them -- and we have a previous post on cleaning them as well (click here to read it)!

Instructions on back of package.
Black plastic tool with small "