Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Flute and Spindle

Wouldn't that title be a nice name for a blog? I'm thinking of changing mine. Although, it also sounds a great deal like a 17th century pub. My life is mostly about family, fluting, spinning, knitting, and other crafty things, with occasional forays into other enterprises. Besides, I'm seeing "postcards from..." something more and more and I hate being just like everyone else. It's time for a change.

I referred to my spinning resolution a couple entries ago. Oops. No, I didn't. Jeez, I'm really certain I did. Think of this as a teaser (or a reminder). Here's the fiber I'm working with. Ain't it pretty? Ashland Bay Merino/Silk, color "Damson."

That's the spindle part of the story.

Here's the flute part (ha ha). More specifically, the alto flute part (ha ha ha ha, doesn't get old).

My DH, my darling DH, gave to me a curved alto flute headjoint as an anniversary gift. Whadda guy! He really knows how to make a girl smile. I smiled a great deal. There was just one tiny little problem...the manufacturer didn't ship the headjoint in a case...just marvelously bubble-wrapped.

Before I go on, there's a story behind this. There's always a story, right? I've owned an alto flute for about 20 years, also given to me as a gift by DH: a beautiful solid silver Gemeinhardt 10AS with lovely tone and a straight head. 20 years ago no one was making curved headjoints. I don't think they were anyway, and I probably would never have thought of it. Okay, it's not the top of the line but it sounds nice and that's what counts. I played it off and on over the years, and I really love playing it, but sad that my wrist hurt so much when I played because the darn this is so long. A different set of body mechanics needs to be employed when you play an alto, and I have never managed to get it so my wrist wasn't cocked at a gross angle. Combine that with very short see my issue.

I saw a curved headjoint for the first time when I joined the Hampton Roads Flute Choir a few years back. I got excited. I started researching. Most recently I was working with Flute World to check tenon joint diameters and lengths and inner diameters and outer diameters and so forth, I knew I'd have to start saving my dimes and nickels and twenties for a Pearl headjoint. It is the one that fit the best, according to Flute World. I had no idea what it would do to the tuning, but Gemeinhardt wasn't making a curved headjoint for purchase separately at the time I made that decision.

Fast forward. Gemeinhardt started making a curved headjoint not too long a few months ago...I think mine might be one of the first ones off the line. Back to the one tiny little to transport? We started looking at alto flute cases. Sticker shock. Holy cow! What the cuss! These things cost more than the headjoint. Jeez.

That was a couple of month ago. Last week I got an alert from I set up an alert on alto flutes over a year ago. Last week's alert was for an alto flute case accommodating a straight AND curved headjoint. What luck! I got it, knowing I'd have to do some modifications. That's okay. I have the tools and it doesn't involve soldering. Not that that's a show's just extra work.

The first piece is removed. No turning back!
The case is in terrific condition. I almost felt bad cutting into it. But cut, I did, and more and more. The body and the headjoint are the only sections that require modification. the foot and straight headjoint fit perfectly.
I like how I can use my own tools.  Headjoint is sitting in the
lid of the case. I'm using the flex shaft to carve out a wider
and slightly deeper curve to accept the crown of the
There was padding beneath the crook of the neck that
I had to remove and lower. I am also adding a velvet
covered shim beneath the crown end of the head for
balance. This allows the case to close securely without
over enthusiastically squishing it.
I need to carve 1.9mm into the side of the case. This
happens to be the kerf left by a heavy duty cut-off wheel.
This cut  is to make room for the body of the flute and
accommodate a single layer of velvet.

That's where I've left off as of last night and I have made good progress. I don't have enough leftover velvet to cover some of the exposed wood support parts so I'm making a trip to the fabric store today. Every part should be covered with some kind of protection so it doesn't damage the finish or the mechanism of the flute. Velvet is the most common, but I'm sure there are other fabrics that would do just as well. Shims can be made out of just about anything that provides slight shock absorption. Rubber, plastic, folded cloth, felt...I have some felted wool test pieces that will make a great shim beneath the headjoint. It really just needs to be stable.

I'm winging this entire enterprise based on reasonably good mechanical assembly skills. I bet Barbara and Fred never thought I'd put their silversmithing training to use like this, but it also wouldn't surprise them. I'm not a woodworker, though, so I get a teeny bit intimidated by working with wood. I know how silver and copper behave. Not so much about the wood.

And for anyone who wants to try this themselves: your mileage may vary. You have to be willing to take a loss on the case if it doesn't work.

I will rip everything out and start from scratch if things really go south. So far, all is well.

Cya anon,


  1. I just said to Michael: "Wow, I am so impressed with my daughter! She can do anything!" I know I get embarrassed when my own Mom says that about me, knowing that it's untrue, that I can just do some stuff she doesn't know how to do, but, man, it seems like you can do ANYTHING!