Friday, December 13, 2013

A Look Back at 1987

1987 was a very special year for Powell as it marked the company's 60th anniversary.  It also brought about a change in leadership as Steven Wasser purchased the company.  Wasser became the company's President, which is the position he held from that year to the present.  Looking through our archives, we discovered the brochure and pricelist from 1987, which Mr. Wasser told us was the very first one he designed.

So, what products were available 26 years ago?  There were flutes, piccolos, and headjoints -- each with different options.  For flutes, one had the option of a Custom flute or a Conservatory.  The Custom flutes were the "7000 Series" Handmade flutes.  They were available in sterling silver, Aurumite™ I, Aurumite™ II, 9K gold, 14K gold, 18K gold, and platinum.  The Conservatory flutes were sterling silver and had standard features of .018" tubing, drawn tone holes, and Y arms. 

There were two models of piccolos and two styles for headjoints.  For piccolos, the "Traditional" and "Contemporary" models were both made from grenadilla wood and had sterling silver mechanisms.  The Traditional model had a cork-fit tenon joint, and the Contemporary model had a silver-to-silver tenon fit.  The Contemporary model, similar to today's Custom piccolo, had hard rubber bushings inset to each tone hole.  Headjoints were available in the Standard Model and Modern Undercut styles.  The Standard headjoint was patterned after those made by Verne Powell late in his career, and the Modern Undercut had a smaller embouchure hole with slight undercutting on the sides.

Aside from the product offerings, we can also see from the brochure that the Powell company was located in Arlington, Massachusetts.   The 1987 pricelist and brochure are featured below:

Outside of the tri-fold brochure:

Inside of the brochure:

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Spot Check

We stopped by the finishing department and met with Lindsey McChord just as she was preparing to buff some extremely small spots on keys.  In fact, the spots were so small that they were pin-pointed with a Sharpie.  You see, every inch of the flute is evaluated for function and aesthetics.  Even the smallest imperfection will be corrected before the final steps of the process.

Although the keys had been polished, buffed, and padded, a "spot shine" was required for any tiny imperfection on the keys.  We caught up with Lindsey as she was preparing to buff out a very, very small spot on the thumb key.  To begin, Lindsey removed the pad and shims from the key cup.  She then began smoothing out the mark with a small buffing wheel.  Although the wheel looks hard, it is actually made of a rubber material and quite flexible.  The wheel is used with the bench motor, spinning very rapidly to smooth out the mark.  Smoothing out the mark creates a matte finish, so another buffing wheel that is even softer is used next.  Finally, Lindsey took a small cloth wheel and applied some polishing rouge directly to the wheel to polish the key.  That is basically all!  Take a look at the photos below to see the process.

Buffing and polishing wheels in center of this photo.
Pad and shims must be removed first.
Pad removed -- ready to go.
Smoothing out the mark with a firm rubber wheel.
Initial smoothing leaves a matte finish.
Polishing with a softer rubber wheel.
Rouge for cloth wheel.
Cloth wheel for final polishing and buffing.
Final polishing and buffing.