Why are there no wooden flutes?

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Bob_Forever
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Oct 15, 2016 8:26 pm

Why are there no wooden flutes?

Post by Bob_Forever » Sat Oct 15, 2016 8:37 pm

Hi this is my first time on here. I came to ask a odd question. Where are the wooden flutes? Why are all Boehm flutes made of metal?

I was hit with this question recently and I did some googling. Apparently there are wooden Boehm flutes(Part of me really wants a wooden flute now :shock: ). So why have a never seen one before now? Why is metal good for flutes but other wood winds use black wood?

My best guesses for why are, wood flutes are too heavy(little baby flautist :x ), the woods are hard to come by(but only for flutes, oboe wood grows on trees?), harder to make?

I would love to hear what you know about flutes and their materials.

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pied_piper
Posts: 1819
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2007 1:31 pm
Location: Virginia

Re: Why are there no wooden flutes?

Post by pied_piper » Sun Oct 16, 2016 3:34 pm

Bob_Forever wrote:Hi this is my first time on here. I came to ask a odd question. Where are the wooden flutes? Why are all Boehm flutes made of metal?
Apparently, you were not looking in the right places, because Boehm flutes are made from metal, wood, and even plastic.
Bob_Forever wrote:I was hit with this question recently and I did some googling. Apparently there are wooden Boehm flutes(Part of me really wants a wooden flute now :shock: ). So why have a never seen one before now? Why is metal good for flutes but other wood winds use black wood?
Wood flutes are not as common as metal ones, but there are plenty of wood flutes available if you know where to look and have deep pockets. Mostly, the materials a flute or any other instrument is made from are chosen because of tradition. The original Boehm flutes were made of wood but later makers (Boehm included) began to switch to metal, silver especially. Clarinets have been made from metal but they never became very popular.
Bob_Forever wrote:My best guesses for why are, wood flutes are too heavy(little baby flautist :x ), the woods are hard to come by(but only for flutes, oboe wood grows on trees?), harder to make?

I would love to hear what you know about flutes and their materials.
Wood flutes can be a bit heavier than metal ones, but not so much that it is "too heavy". The woods used to make flutes are often Grenadilla, but other hardwoods such as Rosewood and Cocus are also used. These woods are not common because they only come from a few sources. To date, there has been a sufficient supply of Grenadilla and other hardwoods, but the cost has been going up. Both silver and wood each have their own unique properties and challenges for making flutes. Silver tends to be more consistent while wood, being a natural material, tends to vary in density, grain, etc. If a flute maker makes a serious mistake with a silver flute body, worst case, the silver can be melted down and reused to make another flute - the material is not totally lost. In that case, all that is truly lost is time. With wood though, a mistake or a flaw in the wood can mean discarding the piece and starting over again with a different piece of wood. Another big difference between silver and wood flutes is that wood flutes require a great deal more care. They should never be played outdoors in cold weather because the players warm breath can cause the interior bore of the flute to expand faster than the exterior. This can result in a serious crack in the flute body or headjoint. Metal flutes generally do not have to worry about cracks.

Some say that wood flutes have a "warmer" sound while metal flutes tend to be more "bright". However, scientific studies have shown that given two flutes with identical dimensions, bore, etc., there should not be a perceivable difference in sound regardless of the material from which the flute is made. However, that can be difficult to prove absolutely, because quite literally, there are no identical flutes. Precision machine made or handmade, flutists will always notice some subtle differences between two supposedly identical flutes or headjoints. Material has been the topic of heated debates among flutists and scientists... :?
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

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