To select "the" perfect headjoint, flute players must evaluate the headjoint on many levels. After catching up with flute finisher, Lindsey McChord, in the headjoint cutting room, we discovered that the careful assessment of a headjoint's qualities starts long before it reaches the player's hands. In fact, it begins in the headjoint cutting process...
Lindsey was cutting a Soloist headjoint when we stopped in to see her. She gave us an overview of the process, which involved several steps of visual inspection inside and out, careful measurement of size and angles, marking, scraping, sanding, and polishing. Since Lindsey must assess areas inside the headjoint, she uses a small mirror to help her see those areas as well. She uses a few electric tools for sanding and scraping, but the majority of her work is simply cutting the headjoint by hand with a hand scraper. Even in the steps of the process where she uses bench motor attachments, a tremendous amount of skill is needed to maneuver the headjoint with these tools properly. As you can imagine, she is working with very small areas when she is cutting, sanding, and polishing. The process takes extreme control and the ability to feel what you are doing.
After Lindsey is finished cutting a headjoint, it is then evaluated. The actual cutting and subsequent evaluation are the two most time consuming parts of the process. The headjoint must be play tested and compared to the model for its style (there are currently four Powell headjoint styles). If the headjoint is not exactly the way she wants it, she must take it back and re-evaluate. Her task at this point is to examine and assess what exactly is making the headjoint different -- and the differences can be very small. She told us, "you have to look at the headjoint and be hypersensitive to microscopic things. You have to be very intense and not be distracted by other things." In this part of the process, she shared that the mirror is very helpful, because certain things can only be seen this way.
Theoretically, all headjoints of the same style are cut to be exactly the same -- yet they may not be. There may be tiny differences that will make them play differently, and Lindsey uses the skill she has developed in cutting headjoints along with her skills as a flutist to detect these differences and make any further adjustments.
|Cutting with the hand scraper.|
|Riser after being cut and polished. |
|A few tools used in the process. The mirror is critical for seeing inside.|
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