Friday, April 27, 2012

"Pin Pals" - Part III

Pinless: Should We Care?

If Powell and other flute makers are using pinless designs there must be a good reason.  There are, but first let’s review what’s good about the traditional pinned mechanism.
·         It’s easier to make the flute with pins, so the cost to buy the flute is lower.
·         Repairs of pinned flutes are generally easier.  This is especially true if the repair person is not well versed in pinless mechanical designs.
·         Pinned flutes are lighter than pinless flutes.
The pinless mechanism is more complex to build and repair, but it produces a smoother, more reliable mechanism.  Here’s why:
·         A pin is a very small piece of metal, like a short, skinny sewing needle.  As a result the pin can torque or twist when the keys are pressed down or rotated.  The torquing motion can cause keys to bind or go out of adjustment.  The bridge used in pinless mechanisms is heavier and stronger than pins.
·         The more rigid bridged construction associated with a pinless mechanism tends to produce a very smooth, clean action.
Excellent flutes are made with both pinned and pinless mechanisms. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"Pin Pals" - Part II

The Pinless Mechanism

The Brögger Mechanism, developed by Johannes Brögger in Denmark, popularized the pinless mechanism.  Yet we know that pinless foot joint keys existed for decades before the pinless mechanism with a trademarked name.  

Perhaps the Brögger mechanism was the first pinless center joint mechanism?  No – to the best of our knowledge Pearl was using a pinless design on some its center joint keys before Brögger. 

And for the last 25 years Powell has had its own unique, neat, underslung bridge in the left hand.  So was the Brögger mechanism truly groundbreaking?  The Brögger Mechanism is a pinless system that includes both the right and left hand of the flute.  This design uses bridges and adds what look like two extra back connections to the flute.  

Keys can be bridged over the top of the regular key tubing where the extra mechanism is very apparent, or underneath where it is unobtrusive.  Powell’s pinless mechanism uses underslung bridges to maintain the aesthetics of the traditional flute design while providing the benefits of contemporary flute construction.

In 2009 Powell added a neat, sleek underslung bridge in the right hand to complement the underslung bridge its flutemakers had been using in the left hand for 25 years.  All of today’s Powell Custom and Conservatory flutes come standard with Powell’s pinless design.   Signature flutes continue to be made using the tried and true pinned mechanism.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Pin Pals" - Part I

Pin Basics

Over the past 25 years “pinless” flute mechanisms have become popular.  Today we will try to clarify what pins do in a flute mechanism and what’s different about a pinless mechanism.

A flute has some complex mechanical features.  When you press a key at one end of the flute, something is supposed to happen at the other end of the flute.  Sometimes a key works all by itself, and at other times certain keys have to work together.

The “steels” for a flute mechanism are the axles on which multiple keys rotate so that tone holes can be opened and closed.  If, for example, there are 4 distinct keys on the right hand of the flute, we don’t want all these keys going up and down at the same time, yet it would be impractical to have 4 separate steels, one for each key.  To allow for different movement of multiple keys on one steel we have several ways of creating independent motion.  These methods include:
·         Letting the key run free or rotate on the steel
·         Securing the key to the steel by:
o   Soldering the key to the steel
o   Driving a pin through the key tubing and through the steel (i.e., “pinning”).  You’ve likely had a flute with pins in the right hand or trill section and maybe have even caught your sweater on one of the pin heads.
o   Bridging the key to link it to another key by soldering a bridge to the keys you are trying to connect.  Your foot joint is a classic example of a bridged or “pinless” key mechanism.

Friday, April 13, 2012


Welcome to Flute Builder!  We're glad you stopped by.  This blog will feature articles and photos on the craft of making handmade flutes.  If you are curious about the process, you have come to the right place!  We will discuss methods, materials, options, design, and many more topics.  We'll answer your questions and encourage you to join in the discussion.  Thanks for coming over to the Flute Builder blog.