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.  




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