Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Polishing to a Perfect Shine

So, how exactly do our flute headjoints get so shiny?  Well, they certainly do not start out with a perfect shine.  We recently caught up with our shop manager and one of our polishing technicians.  As you can see from the photo below, when a headjoint arrives at the polishing room, it is far from "shiny."  It actually goes through several steps before the final result.  In pre-prep polishing, grease is applied to the headjoint, and the headjoint is then buffed on a specially-tuned buffing machine.  The buffing machine has a wheel made of cloth used to buff and polish.  Pre-prep polishing is an important step since it allows the technician to clean up any solder and imperfections.  This step also polishes the headjoint to some degree to make it shiny.  After each buffing and polishing step, the headjoints are cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner.

The final step in the polishing process is where something known as "rouge" comes in to play.  It may sound like an item from the cosmetic department, but it is a polishing compound that is made of iron oxide (rust) in a wax base.  It gets its name from its color as you can see!  The rouge is applied to the buffing wheel, and the headjoint is polished.  Rouge is excellent for polishing because it has very fine particles that remove metal in smaller pieces, thereby producing a very high shine.  In addition to our flute builders using rouge as a polishing agent, jewelers use it as well.  Makes sense to us since our flutes are made of precious metals!

Headjoints in an early phase of polishing
Rouge for the final step
Technician applies rouge to the cloth buffing wheel in the final step of polishing
Headjoints that have been polished and are ready to go!

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