Friday, April 24, 2015

Any Flute?

We were recently asked if our repair shop accepts only Powell flutes and piccolos or if other brands could be sent as well.  The short answer is, "Yes, we accept all brands."  In fact, you'll see that written on our website repair scheduling page, which you can visit by following this link.

So, any brand will be okay, but we thought there may be some exceptions.  We checked with Rachel, and she gave us some clarity.  She said that yes, she can repair other brands, but it's most sensible to send only handmade flutes (of any brand) to Powell for repair.  For instance, if you happen to have a beginner flute, you should probably check with your local repair shop for service.  The repair technicians should be able to service a beginner flute and charge service fees that (also) would typically be less than for work on a handmade flute.

Modifications on other brands are something that Powell would not be able to do.  If you have a flute of a different brand and need new keywork or would like some type of mechanism modification, you would have to send the instrument to the original manufacturer.  As we've seen in a previous post (follow this link to read it), it's not possible for other shops to order Powell parts (since each part is handmade), so the reverse is true for Powell when it comes to other brands (the original manufacturer would have to make the part and do the repair). 

Finally, Powell would not be able to re-cut headjoints from other brands.  If you have a Powell headjoint, recutting it is typically not a problem (although you would need to have the headjoint evaluated first just to make sure).

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact our repair office.  Rachel, our technician, can be reached by phone at (978) 344-5164 or by e-mail:

Friday, April 17, 2015

Backing Out of It

Yellow circle around a mechanism screw on a Powell SonarĂ© 601.

Have you ever had a screw back out of the mechanism tubing on your flute?  On a student's flute?  If so, you are certainly not alone!  Powell's Director of Marketing, Christina Guiliano-Cobas, has a private studio, and one of the younger students had this issue.  The screw was backing out of the tubing on the thumb key, specifically.  So, what do you do? Well, we checked with repair technician Rachel Baker to find out...

Rachel told us that this is an easy fix.  You can get a small "eyeglass screwdriver kit" and use the screwdriver to turn the screw back in place.  As you'll see from the video, she holds the key steady, braces the screwdriver against her thumb, and then screws in the screw!  It doesn't go in very far, and she told us that you'll feel when it's tightly in place.

However -- a word of caution.  As soon as a screw backs out, Rachel says you should call your repair technician and make an appointment.  She told us, "If a screw backs out, there's a reason for it."  In fact, it is the sign of a problem that should be addressed by the technician.  Rachel says that screws back out because something is preventing the key from turning freely on the mechanism.  It could be a few things, like too much key oil that has gotten "gooped up" in the tubing or some kind of bend or snag in either the mechanism tubing or inner steel.  If a student accidentally bumps his/her flute against something like a stand or drops the flute, it could bend the mechanism tubing and/or steel.   This causes "drag" in the key that might not be noticeable by the player, but as s/he continues to play, the motion will push the screw out.

So, don't be afraid to carefully screw the backed out screw into place -- for now.  When you take your flute to the repair technician, s/he will be able to smooth out any snags (literally and figuratively), and you should be all set!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Piccolo Overhaul

This week, our repair technician, Rachel Baker, was working on a piccolo overhaul when we stopped by to see her. Specifically, she was working on overhauling a Custom kingwood piccolo with silver keys.  Hmm.... Piccolo overhaul? We were very curious, and (of course) we wanted to find out more, so we asked!

Rachel says piccolos are usually overhauled much less frequently than flutes because (in comparison) they are played less.  It can be several years between overhauls for a piccolo. The overhaul includes changing all the pads, bumpers, and key adjustments.  She also oils the mechanism and replaces the tenon cork.

Another important part of the piccolo overhaul is the oiling of the body and headjoint.  Rachel oils both the bore and the outside of the piccolo.  This is best left to a professional, but Rachel tells us that it is okay for piccolo owners to oil the area of the headjoint around the embouchure since it gets so much wear.  You'll want to be very careful if you oil this area, and Rachel recommends pure pressed almond oil.  She says that if a little bit gets in the embouchure hole, you can simply wipe carefully around the edge with a Q-tip.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Getting Settled

A few weeks ago, we met with Powell's Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, to help explain why repairs take more than a day (follow this link to read the previous post).  She mentioned that things need to "settle," and when the flute is done changing, it's ready to go back to its owner.  Settling -- hmmm....  We were curious about which parts of the flute need to settle after repair, so we asked!

Rachel told us that every layer you add to the flute needs to settle.  This mainly refers to pads and key adjustments.  Both the pads and the adjustments are made with natural materials that will compress as the flute is played.  The pads have a natural skin covering, and the adjustments are either paper or cork.  These natural materials compress from the light pressure of your fingers closing the keys (which then presses the pad onto the edge of the tone hole) and the motion of the keys working together.  

We also appreciated Rachel's metaphor for understanding the "settling" process.  She summed it up nicely by saying, "Pads take a while to find their home." So, whether a pad is replaced and shimmed or an existing pad is shimmed, it takes a while for the pad to settle once it is positioned back into its home -- the key cup!  And as for the adjustments, they need time to work with the keys in the mechanism.  Once the pads and adjustments are done compressing and "settled to where they are going to stay," the flute is ready! Rachel said that at this point, everything will stay stable for about a year, depending on how much you play (could be longer if you don't play much or shorter if you're doing a lot of playing). Then, it will be time to send in your flute for a C.O.A., and your flute will once again be settled in nicely before it comes back to you!

Rachel checking pad seating