Wednesday, May 30, 2012


What in the world is a "gizmo?"  Well, in the flute world (especially at Verne Q. Powell Flutes), the gizmo is a key on the footjoint that helps facilitate the high C.  This particular key was developed by Verne Q. Powell in 1928 after a visit with Arthur Lora, Principal Flutist with the NBC Symphony Orchestra.  Lora asked if there was a way to modify his footjoint, so Powell developed the key and named it the "gizmo."  It has been standard on Powell flutes ever since.  So, the gizmo key has been around for 84 years and was developed by Verne Q. Powell just one year after opening his own flute making business (in 1927).

Custom at top, Signature below (with blue tape)
Today, the gizmo key has a slightly different shape on Powell Custom flutes than on the Powell Signature and Conservatory models.  On the Signature and Conservatory flutes, the key is straight -- aligned perfectly with the key arm.  The gizmo key on Custom flutes is slightly angled away from the top of the footjoint.  The gizmo key does not take an additional rod or mechanism -- it is simply a different key.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wooden Flute

Wooden flutes are certainly a different instrument in many respects.  At Powell, we offer a wooden Handmade Custom with either a B or C foot and with a silver or 14K gold mechanism.  The geometry of the tone holes would not leave enough room for an inline G or the C# trill, so those options are not available.  There are many differences between the wooden and metal flutes mainly due to the wooden body.  The wooden flute has longer key arms, ribs that are screwed into the body (obviously, soldering is not an option), and thumb keys that have a different shape and design than they do on our metal flutes.  As with our metal custom flutes, the wooden custom is available with a pinless mechanism

Care of the wooden flute is certainly different since wood must be broken in carefully.  For the first two months, the flute should only be played for 20 minutes at a time with a four-hour resting period between playing.  In the first month, the flute should only be played twice a day.  In the second month, the flute can be played three times in a day.  After six months, the duration and frequency of playing can gradually be increased.  To prevent cracks, the flute should be thoroughly swabbed out, and the headjoint should never be left to accumulate standing moisture.  Pure pressed almond oil may be used to increase the moisture resistance and improve the appearance of the wood -- although application of this oil to the bore should be done by an authorized repair technician.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tone Holes - Drawn or Soldered?

The Virtues of Soldered Tone Holes  
By Steven Wasser, President, Verne Q. Powell Flutes 

When you think of a ‘professional’ flute, what features and options do you think of? If you’re a flute manufacturer, one important feature of a handmade custom flute is the type of tone hole used. There are two methods of creating a flute’s tone holes: drawn and soldered.

Most flutes offer drawn (or extruded) tone holes, primarily because they are efficient and economical to produce: using a machine, the tubing is pulled out of a small hole in the flute body into a tall ‘chimney’ to form the tone hole. It is then rolled over and flattened to create the surface for the pad to close against.

Soldered tone holes, on the other hand, have long been one hallmark of a handmade, professional flute and are featured exclusively on all custom handmade Powell instruments. Each tone hole along the body of the instrument is created by soldering separate metal rings onto the body tube. Soldered tone holes offer the flutist a number of advantages with relatively few downsides: 

·         Resonance and intonation:  Flute makers utilize a technique called “undercutting,” which allows them to make subtle adjustments in the flute’s tone, response, and intonation. The greater thickness of the soldered tone hole gives the flute maker more flexibility in making these fine adjustments.
·         Darkness and Depth of Sound: because of their thickness, flutes with soldered tone holes usually produce a darker sound than those with drawn tone holes. 
·         Response: the flatter the tone hole surface (where the pad touches) the stronger the seal and the more responsive the instrument. Where soldered tone holes inherently offer a more level surface, the sides of drawn tone holes are often weak and as a result, they are pressed down in the process of creating the rolled edge. This creates a slightly warped surface for which the flute maker must compensate while installing pads.

Soldered tone holes are flat at the top

Drawn tone holes have a bit of a rounded edge 
Recently, drawn (or extruded) tone holes have been characterized by many in the industry as being equal in quality to soldered tone holes. Here at Powell, we believe each type of tone hole offers different characteristics to the sound and response of the flute and as a result, we offer both types of tone holes on our instruments.

Is one type of tone hole better or worse than the other? Possibly. But at Powell, offering choice to our customers allows each individual artist to decide what sounds best to them.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Padding a Piccolo

Yesterday, we spent some time with our repair technician, Rachel Baker.  In addition to repairs, she also works on new piccolos built in the shop.  When we caught up with her, she was in the process of padding a Powell Signature piccolo.  Rachel mentioned that the pads used on the Signature are Pisoni Star pads, which have a metal resonator in the center.  Unlike flute pad shimming, when Rachel pads a piccolo, she uses shellac instead of glue to float the pads into place.  She also uses an alcohol lamp to heat the key cups.  Here are a few photos:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Handmade custom flutes are available with a number of different material choices for the body, headjoint, and mechanism.  Powell offers several options for silver, various karats of gold, and a fusion of gold and silver known as Aurumite.  Are you familiar with Aurumite? Our webiste describes Aurumite as follows:

Aurumite® 14k - Aurumite® flutes are produced using a patented process that electronically fuses two tubes of gold and silver. The Aurumite body is .016” thick with an interior layer of 14k rose gold and an outer layer of sterling silver. This unique material combines the projection of silver with the warmth of gold. Aurumite was introduced by Powell in 1986 and then patented. Because we have been making flutes out of Aurumite for over 20 years, our experience working with this material is unrivaled in the industry.
In the photo on the above, we can see a handmade custom Aurumite 14k.  Notice the silver on the outside and the gold inside in the bore.  Another Powell model with an Aurumite body is the Handmade Conservatory, which features 9k gold on the outside and silver on the inside.  Have you worked with other flutes made from a fusion of metals?