Sunday, September 28, 2014

Spotlight on Conservatory Stringing - Steels and Posts

We stopped by the Conservatory stringing area recently and met with Elzbieta ("Ella") Lenarczyk as she was fitting steels on the footjoint of a Conservatory Aurumite flute.  When we followed the 14k white gold Custom through production a few months ago, we saw the very same steel-fitting procedure being done by Dennis Williams.  If you didn't have a chance to see the video of Dennis, click here to watch the clip.

So, whether it is a Signature, Conservatory, or Custom, the steel-fitting process is the same -- and a very critical step to making sure the mechanism will perform properly  Ella must cut the steels to length, shape the ends, and make sure they run smoothly (and straight) through the posts.  In addition to reaming the posts so that the steels go through easily, Ella must also "face" the posts. You may have heard of facing tone holes, which makes them smooth, flat, and level so that the key pads will have a level surface to meet when keys are closed.  Ella faces the posts so that they will all have nice, smooth edges for the steel to run through.  She uses a small device that spins against the side of the post to create the facing.  When it comes to the end posts, they must be faced so that the end of the steel fits perfectly.  The steel end of the steel is shaped to conform to the shape of the end post, and the end post is faced so that everything is nice and smooth -- with no gaps.  Take a look at the photos below, and you will see an overview of the post facing process...

Reaming the posts
Red circle around end post and small facing device on steel.
Facing the next post. 
Removing steel to reposition facing device.
Repositioning to begin facing the left side of the second post.
The tool in Ella's right hand is used to remove the device from the steel. 
Grabbing device with tool to remove it.
Posts have all been faced.
Steel is in place and flush with the faced end post!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Headjoint Finishing - The Tenon

Sometimes when you look at your instrument, it is hard to imagine what it may have looked like before it was completely finished.  This came to our attention when we were on the production floor the other day and saw several Signature headjoints in the finishing department.  The headjoints each had a piece of blue tape around them, and we were anxious to find out more...

We spoke with flute finisher Karl Kornfeld about the tape, and he told us that it is a marker for the tenon.  As you can see from the photo above, the headjoints were completely polished from top to bottom.  The next step would be to lightly sand the end section below the blue tape to make a visible, "matte" style tenon that will fit inside the flute barrel.

Powell Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, shed more light on this part of the finishing process with a bit of historical and technical information.  She said that flute heajoints did not always have this "matte" type of tenon.  In fact, many had nothing!  Several older flute headjoints, like Powell #20 in the photo below, had a ring that stopped the headjoint when it was fully in place inside the barrel.  This ring also served as a position marker for tuning.

Powell #20 is on the far right in this photo.

Rachel said the today's tenon style serves a few purposes: 
(1) It helps mark the position of the headjoint in the flute.  Flutists may have their headjoints all the way in, or may have to pull out or push in to tune.  The visible difference of the matte tenon helps with placement -- much like the older rings.

(2) It provides a smoother fit for the headjoint in the barrel.  She says that there is the friction of metal against metal when you put the headjoint in the barrel, and although it may seem like a polished section would slide better, the matte area actually moves more smoothly.

(3) Aesthetics.  With normal use, the headjoint tenon will get marks simply from the normal wear and tear of putting the headjoint in and taking it out.  Those marks seem to look better on the "matte" surface rather than they would on a shiny one.

In the headjoint fitting process, the tenon may need to be sanded if it is too big for the barrel.  However, Rachel told us that the amount used in the process of creating a visible tenon does not take off any substantial amount of material, so rest assured that headjoints are not harmed in the process of forming the visible tenon.

Sanding lightly while headjoint is spinning rapidly.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Powell Headjoints

Powell has four headjoint styles and a number of options for tubing, lip plate and crown materials, as you will see in the text below.

The Philharmonic has a relatively broad, flat lip plate. Articulation is crisp and clean, and the style produces a deep, rich tone with a broad dynamic range.

The strength and flexibility of this headjoint allows the player to fill a hall or perform the quietest passages easily, with complete command. The slightly curved lip plate offers quick articulation and a full range of colors.

The Venti was developed by Mr. Paul Edmund- davies to mirror his experience of singing in a cathedral choir. This headjoint has excellent depth of sound through all three octaves, and a very resonant and free third octave.


The Signature uses the lip plate of the Soloist style in combination with a specially designed wall to produce a relatively free blowing headjoint with the “Powell Sound.” * Signature style is only available with .016" sterling silver tubing, lip plate and crown. A 14k wall is an option.

Sterling silver .014"
Sterling silver .016"
Aurumite 9k 
Aurumite 14k           
9k rose gold
10k yellow gold                   
14k white gold                     
14k rose gold                      
19.5k rose gold                   
Grenadilla wood

Lip Plate
Sterling silver
9k rose gold
10k yellow gold
14k rose gold
19.5 rose gold

Sterling silver
10k yellow gold
14k rose gold
19.5k rose gold

Sterling silver
10k yellow gold
14k rose gold
19.5k rose gold

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Close-Up on Split-E

Split-E allows G keys to operate independently to facilitate high E.
Flutists have several options when ordering Powell flutes, and many of these are mechanical options like the split-E.  Flutes that are built with the split-E have upper and lower G keys that operate independently instead of together. When the player depresses the E key, the lower G key closes to help facilitate the high E.

Flutes with a split-E will have a few differences in the mechanism to allow the split-E to function properly.  In a previous post, we took a detailed look at the differences in mechanism tubing on flutes with a split-E.  You may read that post by following this link. Along with the tubing, there are other additional mechanism pieces for the split-E.  The most noticeable is the long, slender piece next to the lower G key.  There is also a small metal tab that extends off of the lower G key cup and a slightly different key arm, with additional pieces next to it on the mechanism tubing. These additional parts allow for the independent motion of the lower G. Because of the mechanical differences between flutes with a split-E in comparison to those without, if you are thinking about purchasing a flute with a split-E, you will definitely want to try one first to see how the different mechanism feels.  Most flutists will, of course, try flutes before buying them.  However, if you are about to purchase a flute with mechanism options that differ from the flute you currently play, you will want to make sure to test the new flute, paying close attention to how it feels.

Red rectangle around additional pieces on and next to lower G key.
Yellow box around additional parts on mechanism tubing.