Friday, December 5, 2014

Fitting a Wooden Flute Headjoint

We see our flute finishers fitting metal flute headjoints and footjoints regularly, and this week, we had the opportunity to catch up with finisher Matt Keller while he was fitting a wooden headjoint. The goal for the wooden headjoint is the same as for any other (metal) headjoint -- a secure fit that is not too tight or too loose and that is even all the way around the tenon. Since the wooden headjoint has a metal tenon, the process for fitting the wooden headjoint is essentially the same as it is with a metal headjoint. The finisher can sand the metal tenon on the wooden headjoint as you will see in the photos below.  S/he can also expand the tenon on an arbor if the fit is too loose. However, when we caught up with Matt, he explained that fitting the headjoint can be quite complicated, because it is possible for a one area of the tenon to fit too tightly (or loosely).  The headjoint he was fitting seemed to be a bit too tight, but it was only tight at the end of the tenon.  This meant that Matt needed to even out the tenon, which he did by burnishing it on an arbor. Click here to read a previous post on burnishing the body tenon to fit a footjoint.

With a metal headjoint, there is more room to work with when burnishing the tenon because the circumference is the same around the full length of the headjoint.  However, with a wooden headjoint, the metal tenon has a smaller circumference than the wooden area   So, there is very little room to work with between the end of the tenon and the top (where it meets the wood).

As Matt worked on fitting this particular wooden headjoint, he reminded us of one other basic rule of thumb for fitting both wooden and metal headjoints -- small steps.  It's always better to make very small changes in very small steps.  This gradual process takes patience and practice -- which is certainly worth it!  Changes in the metal that are done too quickly and are too much of a change certainly would not give the finisher the desired result.  In fact, it would most likely lead to something that is not reversible -- like taking off too much material!  Once it's gone, it cannot come back...  So, in the case of fitting headjoints (and flute making in general), careful, precise work is key!

Carefully sanding the metal tenon.
Closer view -- headjoint spins rapidly as it is sanded.
Red lines outline the edges of the wood and metal, and the base of the wood.  There is only a small area (the metal) that can be burnished.
Burnishing the metal tenon.
Another view of the burnishing process.

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