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.

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