Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Clean Tenon is a Happy Tenon

Ever feel like your headjoint has mysteriously become harder and harder to fit smoothly into the barrel? It may seem perplexing, but there is a very simple and likely culprit that can really make the headjoint excessively tight.  What might it be?  Grime! 

Headjoint tenons and the flute's barrel can accumulate all kinds of dirt and grime from everyday wear and tear.  As things get dirtier and it becomes harder to assemble the flute, some people are prone to grease up the headjoint tenon with something like cork grease or other lubricating oils and creams.  Don't do it!  The creams, greases, and oils will build up on the tenon and inside the barrel, attracting more dirt, dust and grime.  If it becomes difficult to assemble the flute, forcing the parts together could lead to damage.  So, make sure to keep your headjoint tenon and the inside of your barrel clean.  What do you need for this?  Well, just a simple, untreated microfiber cloth.  To clean the headjoint tenon, simply wipe the outside with the cloth.  For the inside of the barrel, cover your finger with the cloth and gently wipe the inside of the barrel.

Tenon fit issues are not restricted to headjoints, though.  Think about your body tenon and footjoint.  Has it become increasingly difficult to put the footjoint on?  Grime strikes this area as well – both on the body tenon and inside the top of the footjoint. Also, make sure to resist the temptation to put any type of grease, cream, or oil on the body tenon.  Just as is the case with the headjoint tenon, these lubricating substances will attract more dust and dirt and then build up on the body tenon and inside the top of the footjoint.
So, make sure to keep things from getting grimey.  Keeping your tenons and the areas where they connect clean (inside the barrel and footjoint) is a simple strategy for helping your flute stay happy and healthy!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Take a Stand - Part 2

Stand and footjoint
This week, our repair technician, Rachel Baker, received a call from a customer who had been experiencing mechanical problems with her footjoint.  The flute was shipped to Powell, and when Rachel opened the case, she found that there was a flute stand kept inside the footjoint.  The extra length of the stand also made for a very tight fit in the case, which ultimately was not good for the mechanism

Although there are some stands that are advertised as being small enough to keep inside the flute, it's actually more of a hazard than a convenience to store the stand this way.  You never want to leave anything in your flute while it is in the case (click here to read more in our previous post titled "No Extras Needed"), as the risk for damaging your flute is very high.  Also, if you'll recall from our previous post titled "Take a Stand" (click here to read it), one can inadvertently damage their flute if they are not placing it on the stand properly.  Now we can see that there is another situation where a stand could cause damage even without any motion of the flute going on/coming off the stand!  So, although it may seem convenient to have a stand that fits in the flute, it's still best to keep that stand stored separately and simply enjoy the convenience of its small, slender design.

The stand may fit in the flute, but you don't want to keep it this way in the case!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Flute and Focal Distonia

This week, we stopped by the repair shop and found a very different Powell in for an overhaul.  Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, told us that the flute belongs to a customer who has focal distonia, a condition which limits her ability to curve her left hand and fingers.  According to the National Institutes of Health, focal distonia in musicians is often called "musician's distonia," and it is described as follows:
Musician's dystonia is a form of task-specific focal dystonia characterized by muscle cramps and spasms that occur while playing a musical instrument. This condition can affect amateur or professional musicians, and the location of the dystonia depends on the instrument. Some musicians (such as piano, guitar, and violin players) develop focal hand dystonia, which causes loss of fine-motor control in the hand and wrist muscles.
The customer allowed us to share the photos of her flute, which you will see below.  Although it is a Powell, the modifications on the instrument were done outside of Powell. As for the task of an overhaul on the instrument, Rachel told us that it should be pretty straightforward since the extensions and "crutch" for the left hand are removable.  She said that this is particularly helpful if the customer wants to sell the flute at any point.  You'll notice below that the thumb keys have also been modified, and although these modifications (unlike the others for the left hand fingers) are permanent,  Rachel said that she would still be able to remove these keys to perform the overhaul.

With the modified flute, the customer is able to play comfortably despite her focal distonia.  She hoped that we would share the images so that others with the condition will know that it is possible to continue playing!  For more information on focal distonia, follow this link to the full page on the National Institutes of Health website.

Front of flute has removable extensions and "crutch."
Rachel demonstrates the left hand position with the extensions.
Thumb key modifications.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Spring Cleaning

It's that time again -- the flowers are blooming, the temperature is rising, sun is shining, and many of you may be doing a bit of spring cleaning around the house.  It's a great feeling to get everything nice and clean, enjoying fresh air blowing through the windows as you work.

It's also a great time to give your flute a bit of spring TLC -- tender loving cleaning.  We are all very conscientious about swabbing our flutes out thoroughly and wiping the outside down with a cloth after playing.  However, there are a few spots that might get overlooked, and since we've shared posts on these in the past, we took a bit of "inventory" of our cleaning posts to help you!  Below is a list of flute areas to target in your spring cleaning, along with some corresponding posts.  Click on the italicized titles below to view the posts:

Th Embouchure Hole:
A Case of  the Gurgles

The Embouchure Hole and Key Holes:
A "Hole" Lot Cleaner

The Riser:
Cleaning the Riser

Cleaning Your Plug-Os

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Headjoint Dents and Dings

Dented headjoint
Same headjoint after repair

Picture this scenario: you've accidentally bumped your headjoint against something (like a stand), and panic sets in. You question what to do -- call your repair technician?  Figure it's not so bad and leave it?  It may be difficult to decide -- after all, how can you tell if it's going to be a problem or if it can/should be fixed?  We spoke with Powell's repair technician, Rachel Baker, to find out!

Rachel said small dents and dings are not usually a problem. However, if the dent is so big that it is constricting the flow of air, you definitely need to have it repaired.  If your headjoint is made from solid precious metals like sterling silver or gold, it should not be a problem to repair.  However, if you're headjoint is plated, Rachel says the dent could be removed and "look better but never fully 'disappear'."

So, can all dents be repaired?  If the dent is on the headjoint tubing, most of the time, yes.  If the dent is on your lip plate, well, unfortunately, that would not be able to be repaired (see previous post on dented lip plates by following this link).  If you've dented the tenon, you'll definitely need to call your repair technician and get that fixed right away.  Rachel says a dented tenon needs to be repaired so that it will fit into the flute properly and not leak air.  Most tenon dents can be repaired.  According to Rachel, "If it's a dent, yes.  If it's a complete crunch, no..."  To read more on how tenon dents are repaired, click the following post titles to read more:

Dented Headjoint
Dented Tenon - Part I
Dented Tenon - Part II

Repair Technician Rachel Baker removing dent in tenon.