Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wooden Flute Finishing

Since we've spent some time looking at flute finishing, we wondered if the process for finishing a wooden flute differs from that of a metal flute.  We stopped by one of out flute finisher's benches earlier this week, and he happened to be be working on a Handmade Custom grenadilla flute with a sterling silver mechanism.  He said there are not too many differences, but there are a few -- namely polishing and corks.

With a metal flute, the ribs are soldered to the body and cannot be removed, but this is obviously not the case with a wooden flute!  With a wooden flute, the ribs are attached to the body with screws to hold them in place.  In the finisher's role, s/he must remove the ribs from the body and polish them.  After this is complete, the ribs must be reattached.  There are also metal rings on the body that are polished by the finisher as well, but these rings are not removed -- so this polishing process takes extreme care and skill so as not to damage the body. 

Another difference with the wooden flute involves corks -- the most noticeably different being the tenon cork.  Metal flutes do not have tenon corks, so this is an extra step for the finisher.  The flute arrives at his/her bench without this installed, so the finisher must cut, fit, and shape the tenon cork to size and then glue it to the tenon.  There are several other corks on the wooden flute that get some "special" attention -- corks under the arm of the G# lever, under the low D# key, and on the trill keys.  For these keys, a layer of foam is glues to the bottom of the cork (where it would meet the body of the flute).  The purpose of the foam?  Just to keep things quiet since the cork is touching a large surface area of wood on a wooden flute body.

Other than corks and ribs, there really aren't too many differences.  When the wooden flute arrives at the finisher's bench, there is no additional work required on the tone holes (no leveling, etc.).  The bodies and tone holes are finished by our wood specialist.  The processes involved in producing a wooden flute are different but certainly result in a beautiful instrument!

Finishers will add the tenon cork to the body.
Ribs must be removed and polished.  Also in this photo, a piece of the (beige) foam that is attached to corks.
Foam is placed under cork on G# lever arm.
Foam under trill key corks.
Foam under D# key (clearly reflected in the ring!).

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