Thursday, April 9, 2015

Rejection, or Why Not?

By Steven A. Wasser
President, Verne Q. Powell Flutes, Inc.

Several of our current headjoints, including 10k gold, 14k gold, and platinum.

Most of our blog articles affirmatively describe things we do.  However, as instrument makers one of our responsibilities is to decide what not to do. 

We recently conducted some experiments with a precious metal alloy that is 95% silver and 5% platinum.  Our hypothesis was that this alloy would provide some substantial acoustical benefits over sterling silver, such as a darker tone and improved response. 

Since the headjoint is the most critical acoustical component of the flute, we started the 95/5 experiment with the headjoint.  We ordered thousands of dollars’ worth of 95/5 tubing, flat stock for lip plates, and casting grain for walls (this stuff is considerably more expensive than sterling silver!).   

In order to control as many variables as possible, we used our existing designs and simply varied the material.  After making several headjoints with the 95/5 alloy we reached a conclusion – no.  Although it might seem counter-intuitive, the silver alloy with 5% platinum was very soft.  Neither the lip plate nor the tube wanted to stay where we put it.  We also found little acoustical difference. 

The softness of the 95/5 alloy was a knockout factor, but we also concluded that we have plenty of precious metal choices already available with sterling silver, several versions of Aurumite, and 9k, 10k, 14k, and 19.5k gold.  Unless the 95/5 offered something special and distinctive, which in our view it didn’t, there was no point in adding another material.

So now you know about something we tried and decided not to do.  All the 95/5 material we ordered and the headjoints we made are being melted down for us by our refiner.

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