Friday, January 18, 2013

Installing Springs

Flute springs may seem a bit "deceiving" in their name since they aren't spiral-type springs that you would find in something like a ballpoint pen.  Instead, they are actually more straight, although they will have some curve to create tension.  They are also very, very small in terms of diameter, which means it takes a lot of skill and expertise to install them.  We recently caught up with flute finisher Matt Keller, who explained the process for us.

The hole where the spring is inserted is just under the post.  We tried to enlarge the area so that you can see it in the photo below.  Take a look at your flute, and you should be able to find it.
The spring begins, essentially, as a piece of wire -- which you can see in front of the footjoint in the photo below.
One of the first steps is to shape the tip of the spring with a mill file. 
Shaping the tip is a delicate process.  The blunt, flat end of the spring is being filed and shaped into a rounded and pointed end (much like the tip of a pen).
End of the spring has been shaped. 
The finisher must now cut the spring to the appropriate length.  He places the spring in the mechanism with the shaped end positioned at the spring catch.  He then marks the other end of the spring at the point where it will be cut. 
The spring is removed and cut with a wire cutting tool.
Now, our finisher puts the spring in place again to make sure that it is the appropriate length.
He checks the shaped end to make sure it will reach into the spring catch.
The shaped end of the spring will be placed in the spring catch, but the other end must be "crimped" or flattened to hold the spring in place (in the small hole just below the post).
This end is now flattened, and the spring is ready to be installed.
Tweezers are used to help pull the spring through and position it properly.  The rounded and pointed end is placed in the spring catch, and the flattened end is securely in the hole to hold the spring in place.
The spring is now in place.  Tension is added by bending the spring very, very carefully with a spring hook or by hand.  Every spring is different because each key is different.  Each spring will also have the appropriate amount of tension for the key.  If there is not enough tension, the key will feel "floppy" and not have enough resistance.  Too much tension would make the key difficult to press (too much resistance).
That is how it is done!  As for the material, all Powell Flutes (Signature, Conservatory, and Custom) use white gold springs.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Many Powell owners insure their instruments with specialty insurance policies for musical instruments or as part of their home owner's insurance.  It is certainly a good idea since you would want to protect these instruments in cases of damage or theft.  We dread even thinking about this, but we have had some owners whose flutes were stolen -- but insured.  In these cases, their insurance policy covered the value of the instruments so that a replacement could be purchased.

Insurance agencies will ask for an appraisal on your instrument(s), and you can do appraisals online through the Powell website!  It's quite helpful, especially since you can print your appraisal at the end.  So, how does it work?  Well there a few simple steps...

1) Go to the Powell website at

2) On the horizontal menu bar at the top (just under the logo at the top lefthand corner), select Q Club.

3) You will see the screen below.  If you are a registered member of the Q Club, you would sign in at this step.  If you are not registered, you can register at this screen.

4) In this next step, you will need to enter your serial number.  Click "Serial Number Search" on the left hand vertical menu of the page above.  You will see the following screen and should then enter your serial number:

5) Once you have entered your serial number, the specs will show on the next screen:

6) You will want to print or write the specs down so that you can enter them in this next step.  Click "Create an Appraisal for Your Flute, Piccolo, or Headjoint"  in the left hand vertical menu on this page.  You will see the screen below with choices in the left hand vertical column to appraise your flute, piccolo, or headjoint.  For a flute, you will then need to choose which model you have: Signature, Conservatory, Custom with Soldered Tone Holes, or Custom with Drawn Tone Holes.  Click the one category that applies, and a drop down menu will appear with more choices for types of metal.  We're using a Custom silver with drawn tone holes as an example.

7) Once you have selected the model and material, you will see a screen that shows the general value.  You will want to then choose "Customize" just under the value to add options.

8) Now you will be able to add the options you may have on your flute (C# trill, D# Roller, Split E, etc.) to calculate the full value.

9) Congratulations!  You have completed the appraisal.  You can print this or save it as a PDF to print later.  You can create as many appraisals as you'd like, and they will all be saved under your Q Club account.

That's all it takes!  It's simple, and you can do it yourself in the privacy of your own home.  Our Repair Technician mentioned that many people have appraisals done when they send their flutes here for repair.  That is an option as well and can be done as part of the process with no additional fee.  If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact us.  A full contact list is provided under "Contact Us" on the website!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Fitting a Foot Joint

We recently caught up with flute finisher Lindsey McChord as she was about to fit a footjoint.  It seemed to be a great topic in our opinion -- especially since we discussed headjoint fitting in a previous post on our repair blog at

Footjoint fit is too tight and needs to be adjusted.
Lindsey told us that headjoint and footjoint fitting are basically the last steps in the finishing process.  Specifically, Lindsey prefers to fit the footjoint first.  When we caught up with her, the footjoint she was fitting was too tight because the footjoint tenon on the body was particularly heavy at the bottom (toward the edge).  In order to correct this, Lindsey placed the flute body on a piece of equipment known as an "arbor," which holds it in place and keeps it from moving.  She then sanded the tenon to achieve the correct fit.  Very fine sandpaper is used in this process (usually 800 or 1200 grit).  However, the process of sanding does not actually take material away -- it simply smooths the material out and makes for an even fit all around.  When sanding the tenon, it is important to make little changes bit by bit, always checking the fit in between.  Lindsey assembled the footjoint on the body to check for any rocking motion (both vertically and horizontally) after each slight sanding.  It's important to check both of these directions for rocking motion, because if the footjoint tenon is not completely round, you may feel rocking in one direction but not the other.  Any heavy areas are sanded first (in this case, the bottom of the tenon), and then the tenon is sanded all around.  Once again, she checks the fit after each slight bit of sanding.  The sanding/checking process is repeated until the perfect fit is achieved.  Luckily, it only took a few steps to adjust the tenon so that it was smooth and fitting perfectly with the footjoint!

Tenon is a bit "heavy" at the bottom as you can see from the line on the tenon.
"Arbor" used to hold the flute in place.
Body placed on the arbor to sand the tenon.
Sanding the tenon with a small piece of sandpaper, focusing on the heavy area.
Checking the footjoint fit.  This step is repeated after every adjustment.
Sanding the entire tenon with a larger piece of sandpaper to smooth everything out.
Tenon is smoothed, even, and perfectly fit with the footjoint!