Friday, September 27, 2013

Offset G and Split-E

Last week, we took a closer look at a flute with a C# trill and the extra part of the mechanism that was built on to the flute for the key to function.  We stopped by the finishing area this week and spoke with flute finisher Cynthia Miguel Targa.  Cynthia was finishing a 19.5K Powell Custom with 14K keys.  The flute she was finishing also had an offset G and split-E.  Much like the flute with the C# trill, the flute with the split-E had an additional part to the mechanism as well.  For the split-E to function, an extra mechanism tube is added -- but this tube is hollow (you will see it in the photos below).  You can tell that the tube is hollow because there are no posts at the end.  Posts would have screws in them as well.

Because this particular flute has an offset G, the G keys have their own mechanism tubing complete with a rod, posts, and screws.  The offset G keys must have their own mechanism rod and tubing because of their position.  Since the G keys are not inline, they cannot be part of one long mechanism tube that a flute with an inline G would have.  Underneath the G keys, the G# key has its own mechanism tubing and rod as well.

So, if you have an inline flute with no extra options like a C# trill or split-E, you will see two long mechanism tubes.  There will also be separate tubing for the thumb keys and the G# (as mentioned).  If you do have options, take a closer look -- you'll see some of the extra parts of the mechanism for yourself!

There are two mechanism tubes on this flute -- one for the split-E, and one for the offset G.
Red arrow points to the split-E.
Red arrows point to the extra mechanism tubing for the split-E and offset G.
Another view of the split-E mechanism tubing (which is hollow).
A silver Conservatory with an inline G and no split-E for comparison.  The G keys are on one long mechanism tube.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Closer Look at the C# Trill

Often times, we have customers ask if a C# trill can be added to their flute as an aftermarket customization.  It can get pretty tricky since this type of customization would require an extra tone hole to be put in the flute -- which changes the body, which can change the response and sound, and...  Well, the list goes on.  It's more complicated that just adding a key.  So, we began wondering about other differences between flutes with and without a C# trill key.  We stopped by flute finisher Karl Kornfeld's bench just as he was working on a Powell Conservatory with a C# trill.

We took a series of photos which you will see below to illustrate the differences.  Flutes with a C# trill are very easy to identify -- you can clearly see the C# trill key next to the Bb shake.  If you look a little more closely, you'll begin to notice a few more additions to make the C# trill function properly.  Beginning with the back of the flute, you will notice an extra tone hole (and key cup) next to the thumb keys.  Looking at the front of the flute, you can see a couple of additions to the mechanism.  First, the C# trill key requires an extra mechanism tube.  This extra tubing needs to be stabilized so that it does not bend -- so, there is an extra cradle for the tube.  There is also an extension on the post at the end of the tube, which is actually one piece.  Finally, because there is an extra key on the flute, the key requires an extra adjustment for key height.

So, as we can see, the C# trill adds more than just a little key to the mix.  Obviously, the tone hole for the key is made along with all the other tone holes during the body fabrication process.  As noted above, flutes with a C# trill require several additional parts for the mechanism.  If you have a C# trill key on your flute, or if you are looking at flutes with a C# trill, take a closer look -- you'll see more than just a key!

One thing you'll notice right away is the extra tone hole next to the thumb keys.
A closer look at the extra tone hole. 
The actual C# trill key is easy to spot.
Yellow and orange arrows point to the mechanism tubing that both flutes have -- blue arrow points to the extra tube for the C# trill key. 
Karl is pointing to the extra cradle for the extra tube.
A view of the extra cradle from the back.
Yellow arrow points to the one-piece post extension.
Karl is pointing to the extra adjustment for the C# trill key height.  We couldn't capture the actual adjustment in this photo, but it is a very small piece of felt under the key.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Registering Your Powell

The Powell website has several "interactive" features including scheduling repairs and trials, but it also has a portal to the digital version of the Powell database.  This is found in the Q Club section of the site.  You'll find it on the left-hand side of the page under "serial number search."  If you click on "serial number search," it will take you to the online version of the "Powell bible."  Anyone can use this feature, whether you own a Powell or not.  If, for instance, you are thinking of buying a Powell, you can enter the serial number and find the specs.  This can be particularly helpful whether you are looking to buy a new or used Powell flute.  The results of the search would give you a screen that looks like this:

You can look up serial numbers easily on our website.

It is also very important to register your Powell flute online.  If you have recently purchased one -- old or new -- make sure to register on the Q Club page.  Once you are registered, you can create appraisals, which most people need for insurance policies on their instruments.  We had a previous post on how to create appraisals, which you can read at  When you register your flute, the information is transferred to the electronic database at Powell.  This helps us keep accurate records so that you can have the complete history of your flute.  We keep records here at the office, and every Powell owner has a complete file of repair history, appraisals, and any other correspondence with Powell.  Often times, you may want to send in your flute for a C.O.A., but you may not remember when it was last serviced.  If your flute is registered here at Powell, we will have its complete history, so you can contact us, and we will be able to tell you when that last C.O.A. was done.

Unfortunately, instrument theft can occur.  If your flute is registered with us, we can help in the event that it is stolen.  It would be reported as stolen, and it would be much easier to find if it turns up in a shop somewhere or in someone else's hands.  Powell Artist Bonita Boyd had her Powell flute stolen very early in her professional career.  Many years later, a call came through to the Powell office asking for specs on a flute -- which happened to be hers!  It was easily identified in the system, and the inquiry helped in the recovery process. 

Your flute is a cherished investment that you will want to care for and protect, so registering it is critical.  If you are purchasing a pre-owned Powell, please make sure to register it as well.  Often times, a Powell flute may have been owned by multiple people, and if it is properly registered by the owners, we can maintain records of its history.  If you currently own a Powell and haven't registered it with us yet, it's never too late! 

We have records of all registered Powell flutes, many with extraordinary histories...

Friday, September 6, 2013

Spring Ahead

If you take a look at your flute, you'll surely notice the springs.  Without them, your mechanism would not function properly at all.  Looking at them from the outside, you might think that they come all prepared to be installed, but the reality is that they are cut, shaped, and installed as part of the finishing process.  We caught flute finisher Lindsey McChord just as she was working on a G# spring and got a bird's eye view of the process...

The spring in its earliest phase is actually part of a large coil
of wire -- 10K white gold wire!  Lindsey cuts a large piece and takes it to her bench.  She then cuts a smaller piece to begin working on the G# spring.  In the photo on the left, the longer piece would be used for one flute -- but not for all the springs.  You see, a thicker wire is used for springs on the G#, D#, and trill keys, because these are the keys that are held closed.  A slightly thinner wire would be used for springs on the keys that stay open.

As she begins the G# spring, Lindsey cuts a piece that is just long enough to fit comfortably in one hand.
It's very tough to see the piece on the G# key that will hold the spring, so we circled it in the photo on the left. 

Lindsey checks to make sure that the piece of the key that holds the spring is clear.  The spring should go in easily.  If there are any bits of metal still inside this small tubular piece that holds the spring, she reams it with a small reaming tool, which she will place in the bench motor.

The reamer is placed in the motor and oiled at the tip.

Lindsey places the key on the tip of the reamer.  She doesn't turn the motor on but rather turns it by hand away from her to carefully ream the key.
It's now time to begin shaping the G# spring.  This is the only spring that needs to be sharpened to a point at the tip because the tip will go into a hole in the mechanism.  To sharpen this, Lindsey turns the bench motor on, which (in this step) has a wheel attachment.  The wheel spins very quickly in a clockwise direction (red arrow shows direction).  At the same time, Lindsey holds the tip against the wheel and rotates it around 360 degrees (illustrated by blue arrows) to make sure the tip is sharpened evenly.  

Close-up on the sharpened tip of the spring.

Now it is time to thread the spring into the sleeve on the key where it is held.

Lindsey likes to position the spring tip just a bit past the end of the key's mechanism tubing before she cuts the spring to length.

Close-up on the spring before cutting.

To make sure that she cuts the spring to the proper length, she marks the spring just past the sleeve where it's held on the key.

Very difficult to where the spring is marked for cutting, so we have pointed to it with the blue arrow in the photo on the left.

Cutting the spring to length with wire cutters.

After being cut, the end is a bit rough, so Lindsey files it to smooth it out.

Since the spring wire is round, it needs to be crimped flat at the end opposite the tip to hold it in place (otherwise, it would go right through!).

End of spring is now flattened.

Lindsey positions the spring in place on the key.

Now that the spring is in place, tension must be put into it, which is done simple by bending the spring a bit to the right and then to the left.  It takes practice to know how much tension to put in the spring, but it can always be adjusted in the rest of the finishing process if necessary.
Spring is in place, and the key is ready to go!

The tip of the yellow arrow in the photo to the left points to the small hole under the post that the tip of the G# spring goes into.

The tips of the other springs on the flute (with the exception of the spring on the thumb key) do not have sharpened tips and rest against one side of a spring catch (red arrow points to this).
But, just as was the case with the G# key spring, during the finishing process all the springs need to be cut to length and prepared (by hand) to fit and function properly.