Friday, January 30, 2015

Ruby Aurumite

We debuted our newest Aurumite® flute, Ruby Aurumite, at the August 2014 NFA Convention and realized that we hadn't written about it here on the Flute Builder blog, so we wanted to share more about it!

Since we've taken the Ruby Aurumite to shows and flute fairs across the country, it has certainly gotten a lot of attention and a great response from those who have tried it.  Flutists have found Ruby Aurumite to be a flute that is very responsive and easy to play.  One of the questions we hear quite a bit is, "So, what's different about the Ruby Aurumite?"

Aside from the ruby in the crown, there are a couple of differences between Ruby Aurumite and the other two Aurumite flutes -- Aurumite 9k Conservatory, and the Aurumite 14k Custom.  The Aurumite 9k Conservatory has 9k rose gold on the outside and silver on the inside.  Ruby Aurumite is similar in that the gold is on the outside, but it is 14k rose gold.  Our Director of Service and Quality, Rebecca Eckles, says that she finds Ruby Aurumite to have a darker sound than the Aurumite 9k Conservatory.  Ruby Aurumite flutes also have soldered tone holes, and the Aurumite 9k Conservatory has drawn tone holes.  So, Rebecca feels that Ruby's soldered tone holes give it more depth of sound.  She agrees with what our customers have found in terms of response -- Ruby is definitely responsive right off the bat and very easy to play.  In comparison with the Aurumite 14k Custom, the Ruby Aurumite is the "opposite" configuration.  Aurumite 14k Custom flutes have silver on the outside and 14k rose gold on the inside, whereas the Ruby Aurumite is the reverse.

Lindsey McChord, one of our flute finishers who also cuts headjoints, shared her thoughts on the Ruby Aurumite.  Lindsey works mostly with Ruby Aurumite when she is cutting headjoints.  She does not always have a complete Ruby set-up, which actually gives her a chance to see how Ruby Aurumite flutes respond and sound with headjoints of different materials.  In general, Lindsey feels that the Ruby Aurumite is a little warmer and darker that Aurumite 14k.  In terms of working with Ruby Aurumite headjoints, she tells us they are more like working with gold.  When she has tested the silver headjoints with a Ruby Aurumite flute, she feels that the silver headjoint brings Ruby back to the brighter side, closer to the Aurumite 14k.

Rebecca's perspective is that Ruby is darker than Aurumite 9k but not as dark as the Aurumite 14k.  Lindsey feels the Ruby Aurumite is darker and warmer than an Aurumite 14k.  So, as you can see, differences in sound are really quite subjective.  From a technical perspective, the type of tone holes on a Ruby Aurumite is the same as an Aurumite 14k (soldered) but different from the Aurumite 9k (drawn).  So, if you have the chance to try a Ruby Aurumite, see what you think -- there is definitely no right or wrong answer!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Powell Pin

In a recent post, we shared a 1974 Powell pricelist (which you can view by following this link) and noticed that a "flute pin" was on the list.  We were very curious and had not seen any in the shop -- until now.  Powell's Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, had a customer who owned one of them!

Maureen McKibben came to the Powell shop in 1963 to purchase her Commercial model flute and received the pin as a souvenir of her visit.  This month, when she sent her flute in for regular maintenance, she included the pin for us to see.  The actual pin is about three inches long and is made of sterling silver.  As you'll see in the photos below, the flute on the front of the pin is quite detailed!  We would like to thank Mrs. McKibben for sharing this very special memento with us fifty-two years after she received it!

Front of pin

Side of pin
Back of pin (with sterling indication)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Aurumite Headjoints

Aurumite 14k Custom

If you've attended a convention like the NFA, you'll know that the Powell booth is filled with many flutes, piccolos, and headjoints to try.  The selection is vast, and we certainly want visitors to try different things.  But have you ever found yourself selecting a flute and headjoint combination to try, only to discover that the headjoint would not fit into the flute?  If so, you may have had a combination of an Aurumite 14k Custom flute and a silver headjoint.

Why would the silver headjoint not fit into the Aurumite 14k Custom flute?  Well, in a previous post (available through this link), we discovered that the .018" silver Custom does not have a .018" headjoint -- it has a .016" headjoint (and .016" barrel).  With an Aurumite 14k Custom, the flute has a thickness of .016," but its headjoint has a thickness of .014" -- and a barrel thickness of .014" to fit the headjoint.  The headjoint and barrel are made from the exact same Aurumite material as the flute (silver on the outside and 14k rose gold on the inside) -- they just have a different thickness.  Since the Aurumite 14k Custom has a .014"  barrel to fit the .014" headjoint, a silver headjoint of .016" thickness would be too big. 

As for the other Aurumite flutes, the headjoint and body thicknesses are the same, so the barrel is as well.  The Ruby Aurumite Custom has a .016" headjoint, barrel, and body.  The Aurumite 9k Conservatory also has a  .016" headjoint, barrel, and body.  In these cases, a silver headjoint of .016" thickness would fit. 

What is the reasoning behind the Aurumite 14k Custom flute having a .016" body and .014" headjoint?  It is actually the same as the case with the .018" silver Custom.  It's all about sound and response.  When the Aurumite 14k Custom was developed, different headjoint thicknesses were tested, and the best sound, resonance, and response came from choosing a .014" headjoint for the .016" body!

Aurumite 9k Conservatory
Ruby Aurumite Custom

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The "Original Crown"

This week, we met with Powell sales associate Daniel Sharp to talk about crowns.  In his travels to flute fairs, he has been asked if Powell still makes the "original crown" or "old crown." So, what exactly is the design of the "original" or "old" crown? We discovered it was quite different than many flutists may be picturing...

Daniel shared that Verne Q. Powell modeled his earliest flute crowns after the Louis Lot crown.  In the photo below, we see the crown from Louis Lot #6412, made in 1898:

Photo courtesy of National Music Museum.

Taking a look at Powell #4, we can see the similarity:

However, many flutists are familiar with a style of Powell crowns with two knurled rings, as shown in the photo below with Toshiko Kohno, former principal flutist of the National Symphony Orchestra.  Her flute was made in 1969.

Although we do not have an exact date for when Powell began using this two-ringed design, we can tell that the design dates at least as far back as 1938.  In the photo below on the far left, we see a headjoint from 1938 with a lip plate engraved by Verne Q. Powell.  To the right of this headjoint are two recently made Powell Signature headjoints.  This two-ringed design is currently used on all Powell Signature headjoint crowns.  It is the design that most people are familiar with and consider to be the "original" or "old" crown.

However, in the photo below, we see a Powell silver crown that is currently made for Powell Custom headjoints.

The final photo below shows the current silver Custom crown next to a current Signature crown (on the headjoint).  You'll notice the difference in the two crowns.  The current silver Custom crown resembles the earliest Powell crowns, and the Signature crown resembles the crown with two rings that many people recognize and consider to be the original design.  So, the answer is clearly, "yes!"  We still make the "original" style crown...