Friday, May 30, 2014

Piccolo Headjoint Corks

Just like your flute, your piccolo has a headjoint cork assembly.  We happened to stop by the testing room when headjoint corks were being installed, so we thought it would be a great opportunity to find out more about them!
Getting ready to secure and position the nut.

Piccolo headjoint corks (again, just like flute) will need to be replaced from time to time.  How can you tell if it's time to replace your piccolo headjoint cork?  Well, if your sound becomes "mushy" and unfocused, it's most likely time to change the cork.  Also, it's important that the nut in the cork assembly is glued down to avoid any issues like the nut coming loose and causing a buzz or rattle.  If the nut becomes loose, you will hear a buzzing or rattling sound when you play. You can also shake the headjoint to check for any rattling.

Unlike metal flutes, there is much more movement with wood.  As we know, wood expands and contracts, so there is more potential movement with the headjoint cork.  You'll want to check your headjoint cork regularly, and you can do this with your swabstick.  The mark on the swabstick should be in the middle of the embouchure hole.  If you find that the headjoint cork is out of adjustment too often, it may be time to replace it!

New headjoint corks ready to go!
Cork is properly positioned!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Numbers in the Cups?

If you have a Powell Signature or Conservatory flute, you may not have realized this, but there are numbers engraved in your key cups and on certain parts of your mechanism.  What are these numbers for?  Well, they are actually the serial number.  The reason for this is quite simple, actually.  You see, all Conservatory and Signature flutes have silver key mechanisms, so keys and mechanism components from several different flutes may be sent to the polishing room at the same time. 

Initially, each key mechanism is fit to a particular flute during the "stringing" process.  The key mechanism and body components of an individual flute are kept together in a tray in the stringing department.  However, the keys and mechanism components are removed from the trays when they are sent to the polishing room.  After polishing, they are returned to the stringing department in preparation for the flutes to then go on to the finishing department.  So, in order to insure that the proper mechanism (which has been fitted to the flute) returns to the corresponding body after polishing, the serial number is engraved in the key cups and other areas of the mechanism.  In the photos below, the blue Sharpie marks point to the areas where the serial number is engraved:

Friday, May 16, 2014

Adding a Gizmo

Close up on gizmo (on a 14K Aurumite Custom)
In a recent post on our Facebook page, we asked if there are any options people did not have on their current flutes that they would like to have had.  One response was from a flutist who said she had a Powell without a gizmo key, and she wanted to add one.  We thought, "Hmm, is it possible to add a gizmo key?" We've had inquiries about a C# trill, but never the gizmo, so we decided to find out if this would be possible.

We visited Powell's Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, and found out that the answer is yes -- you can add a gizmo key!  In fact, it's quite a simple modification (as you will see in the photos below).  If you have a B-foot flute, a gizmo key can be soldered onto the arm of the b key.  That's all there is to it!  This will allow the new gizmo to function just as it would if it were on the flute originally.

Just a refresher on the function of the gizmo -- it helps the high C speak  more easily by allowing the B cup to close without closing the C and C# cups.  Powell currently has two different shapes for its gizmo keys -- a straight one for the Signature and Conservatory models, and a curved one for the Custom models.  If you were to add a gizmo, the curved style is the one that would be added.  This addition is also quite affordable, as Rachel quoted about $150 to have the key added.  For further information, click here to read our previous post on the gizmo.  If you're ready to have it added, you can schedule the service by clicking here to access our online repair request form.

Red oval around gizmo key, red lines outline B key arm (where gizmo would be soldered).
Close up on gizmo key -- only this would be soldered.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Introduction of Left Hand Pinless Design

Looking through our archives, we came across the Powell Flutes newsletter from the summer of 1988.  The pinless bridge in the left hand, introduced 26 years ago, is a precursor to today’s elegant and functional pinless mechanism.  An excerpt from the 1988 newsletter article highlighting the new design is below:

The Hidden Bridge: An Improvement in Left-hand Design

The unique action of a flute, whereby certain keys must act independently some of the time, and in concert with other keys at other times, creates a design challenge.

Part of the solution to this challenge has been the use of steels or rods which run inside the sterling silver mechanism tubing.  One approach, which is the most typical one for the left hand, is to “pin” the steel to the mechanism tubing, effectively putting one key in a fixed position to another key.  A second approach has been to connect two or more keys by running a bridge from one to the other.  This method has traditionally been used for flutes with split-E and offet G to connect the right-hand E with a lever that operates the left-hand lower G.

Each approach has advantages and problems.  Mechanically, the bridge is a more secure device.  However, bridges are cumbersome to build and do not have the delicate appearance of nearly invisible pins.

Powell’s design of choice for 62 years for the left hand has been to use pins.  After Powell’s craftsperson has pinned and adjusted the left-hand mechanism, it is both effective and attractive.

The practical mechanical limitation of pins for the left hand occurs when a flutist desires a split-E in conjunction with an in-line G.  Several Japanese flutemakers began using a bridged left-hand section for split-Es around 1980.  Powell constructed a left-hand bridge on two flutes during the last three years.  While the bridge was determined to be very effective, the aesthetics were unsatisfactory.

Powell’s stringing supervisor (Tom Sears) was asked to bring his 15 years of flutemaking experience and his artistic talents to bear on the aesthetic problem.  What he finally designed, after experimenting with several methods, was a bridge for the left hand which runs below, rather than above, all of the mechanism tubing.
The “hidden bridge” is so well designed and crafted that most players cannot even find it unless the bridge is shown to them.  Powell’s new hidden bridge design is mechanically simple and accomplishes the functionality of the bridge without any oversized or extra back connections.  Aesthetically, it is the equal of pinned mechanisms.

For more on today’s  pinless mechanism, we have two videos on our YouTube channel with Powell’s President, Steven Wasser, demonstrating a model of the mechanism at the 2009 NFA Convention in New York City.  Click here to watch the first video, “Smooth as a Rolling Stone, Part 1” and here to watch “Smooth as a Rolling Stone, Part 2: Q & A.”

Red box around pinned left hand mechanism
Red box around pinless "hidden bridge"