Friday, November 21, 2014

Material Matters

With the help of flute finisher and headjoint cutter Lindsey McChord, we’ve been learning a great deal about the art of cutting flute and piccolo headjoints.  After speaking with her about cutting metal flute headjoints, wooden flute headjoints, and Profiled piccolo headjoints, we started wondering -- what about different metals?  Is the process different for cutting headjoints made from different metals?

The answer is – yes, there are differences.  The overall process is essentially the same, but the technique differs.  In fact, Lindsey told us that she has a different technique for each metal – including the different karats of gold (9k, 10k, 14k, and 19.5k).  Of course, there are also platinum and Aurumite (9k and 14k) headjoints to be cut!  The main factor amongst the metals is hardness.  Silver is the softest, gold is harder, and platinum is the hardest.  With each increase in karats gold, the hardness increases as well. 

In regard to metal qualities, silver is the easiest to work with from what Lindsey shared.  She said when cutting silver headjoints, the pieces come off evenly and smoothly in strips – almost like pieces of curling ribbon.  Gold, however, is much harder, and the pieces come off in chunks.  Because it is so much harder, Lindsey must exert more pressure on the gold with her tools.  Gold headjoints also require more sanding and are so hard that they can actually tear sandpaper in the process!  That being said, Lindsey told us that her sanding technique definitely varies from karat to karat in the gold family. 

But what about Aurumite?  It is either gold on the outside and silver on the inside, or silver on the outside and gold on the inside.  Well, the riser is where most of the cutting takes place.  So, if the riser is silver, it would be just like working with a silver headjoint.  If the riser is gold, it would be like working with gold.  With the Aurumite 9k, the riser is silver.  With Aurumite 14k and Ruby Aurumite, the riser is 14k gold.

It was great speaking with Lindsey to find out more about this cutting metal headjoints.  We knew the processes for wood and metal were different, but it truly was eye-opening to find out just how specialized the techniques are even within the metal category!

Silver shavings definitely look like curling ribbon!
You can see silver scrapings next to the headjoint Lindsey is cutting here.
Close-up on shavings -- red circles around the chunks of gold.

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