Help deciding what to do with wife's flute..

Flute History and Instrument Purchase

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Help deciding what to do with wife's flute..

Post by zuhra »


Found your board via the magic of google. I know nothing about instruments, so apologies for my stumbling along with any terminology...

My wife was, in her younger days, an accomplished flute player. She hasn't played in a while, but busted out her old beginners flute from like gradeschool to play in front of our toddler twin girls for fun. I think it is a gemeinhardt M2. The pads were wasted, apparently. I am trying to get it fixed for her :)

She took it to a local indy shop and the guy said, "It would only be worth $60 selling it to me because of how much work it needed." He said, "It looks like carpet beetles got to some of the keypads and they all need to be replaced." He then said he would take off all the keypads and file (?) down the keyholes to make sure they are all level. He felt that was also necessary. My wife said she'd never heard of that before. Polish and clean, i assume as well. His estimate was $400.

He is the only person it town here, so I thought I'd reach out and see what others thought. I've seen the value in these forums in getting accurate information and resources (I belong to a VW TDI forum that is great).

So, suggestions? Thoughts?



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Re: Help deciding what to do with wife's flute..

Post by Zevang »

Dear Matt,

It's really difficult to give you advise without actually seeing the flute. For instance, only a good technician can evaluate how much service a flute needs. It only sounds strange to me that someone who is involved in repairing would want to buy this flute so cheap. It must be in terrible conditions, like if nobody can make any sound on it...

But I must insist that only a detailed inspection can indicate what have to be done (so the flute works properly again) and the other merely aesthetical aspects, like polishing, etc.

Maybe you find someone here who could receive your flute by mail and send it back to you.

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Re: Help deciding what to do with wife's flute..

Post by jim22 »

That may not be an unreasonable fee to overhaul the flute. I have seen some m2s that played really well, but I have also seen them with very unlevel toneholes. That makes repadding tough and the result may not be ideal. If it has rolled toneholes, I am not big on filing them. A music shop repairer may be less expensive and may just use softer pads.

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Re: Help deciding what to do with wife's flute..

Post by pied_piper »

I agree with the above replies. A complete repad generally takes anywhere from several days up to a week of work. $400 may not be the cheapest price out there but it is not outrageous either.

Regarding the tone holes, it is true that flutes often come out of the factory with tone holes which are not perfectly level. For intermediate level flutes such as the M2, the factories typically use softer pads with woven felt. This allows them to put a deeper impression into the pad so that it seals in spite of the uneven tone hole rims. The drawback with softer pads is that they often do not maintain that impression and over time, they can begin to leak again. Pads which have firmer needle felt take more prep work (labor $$$) because the tone holes have to be very level for them to seal properly. This type of pad is always used on professional flutes. I prefer to reserve filing tone holes for only the worst cases. If done, it must be performed very carefully. The problem with filing is that on flutes such as the M2 which has rolled tone holes, if they are filed too aggressively, the rolled portion can be filed through and then more drastic repairs are required to restore a proper, level tone hole face. There are other techniques to level the tone holes that may be less risky.

Regarding the carpet beetle issue, in reality, it is carpet beetle LARVAE which eat the pads. Something that you may not have considered is that if the flute was in the case when the pads were eaten by the carpet beetle larvae, there are likely to be eggs inside the case. Even if the case is thoroughly vacuumed, it is very difficult to ensure that all the larvae and eggs have been 100% removed. I would recommend against using any type of insecticide in the case because residue will linger around and it could be ingested by the player. Also, if you repad the flute and put it back in the same case, you may find that in a few months, the pads have been eaten again. In such situations, it may be best to replace the case at the same time the pads are replaced.

It might be worth checking with some other repair shops outside your immediate area and get estimates. Although a shop can replace just the eaten pads (called a play condition which is a bit cheaper), a complete repad is probably required to get the flute in tip-top playing condition. This is true especially if the flute has sat unused for some years.

Of course another alternative is to consider buying a used flute that is already in good working condition. That may be cheaper than a repad and a new case. If you pursue that route, be sure to try it before you you buy it. Otherwise you may end up with another flute that also needs service.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."

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Re: Help deciding what to do with wife's flute..

Post by flutego12 »

I think you can quite easily get a good used Yamaha 221 or F100ASII forless than $400 - if you don't mind one that is. Then there are the Jupiters which are good value to buy, just not sure about the maintenance.
flutist with a screwdriver

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Re: Help deciding what to do with wife's flute..

Post by jseligmann »

Yes, unless there is some sentimental value, I would definitely get a Yamama 221 or 225. Here's a really sweet 221 on ebay for $299. If you look around for bit, however, you may be able to find other nice ones for even less. ... 2a2f27e590

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Re: Help deciding what to do with wife's flute..

Post by zuhra »

Hi everyone,

Thanks for responding to the original post my husband posted. I'm his wife, the former flute player. ;) I do think that after reading your comments that I'll probably seek out another used flute to play for/with my girls. Paying $400 for an overhaul of a flute that, really, doesn't have a ton of meaning to me doesn't make too much sense, especially realizing that I shouldn't even keep the case in case of larvae in it. I used to own a professional open-holed flute used in my competition days that was bought for me pre-1990 which was beautiful (can't remember the name of it), but it ended up with a professional flute player/teacher in China training amazing students with a flute that was worth $200. So that flute still lives in China somewhere. :) I'll probably look for a yamaha that will serve me well.

Thanks for the input everyone... :)


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Re: Help deciding what to do with wife's flute..

Post by Silversorcerer »

Some things to consider;- just my opinion:

For $400 you can easily score two or three or more perfectly playable comparable quality flutes on e-bay. If you bought 8 $50 sight unseen flutes, odds are you would have one or two at least that would play great in that batch. I wouldn't suggest blind e-bay roulette as an option, but $400 is plenty of spending money if you are just looking for a flute that plays well. I'm also not saying that all the technicians' work is not the value of his estimate;- skilled labor is indeed valuable;- just that you can get a play-tested flute by investing le$$. This is my experience in purchasing many used flutes from e-bay sellers for restoration. As often as these need new pads and other service, they don't. I even have a few from the mid-50s whose original pads have survived and play fine.

That said, I think your wife's flute must not be an M-2. I have an M-2-S, the silver body version of the M-2, and it has rolled tone holes. The earlier M-1 and nearly identical later 2SP have cut tone hole tops that can be leveled by filing. The M-2, if it is like an M-2-S and has rolled tone holes, would not be a candidate for leveling by filing. Also, it is dubious as to the value of leveling even the cut top tone holes. If one is refitting the pads, it might be advantageous and take less time to shim new pads if all the tone hole edges are all leveled in one plane;- that is if all of the cups meet the same parallel plane when depressed. But most of the flutes I have seen with cut top tone holes were not leveled in one plane, and rarely are the key cups on student grade flutes any closer to a matching level plane than the tops of the tone holes. So paper shims are used and a lot of trial and error goes into refitting pads. Typically softer pads that have more flexibility in seating are used on student grade instruments to make the job of getting a good seal easier.

My impression is that this technician would be attempting to turn a simple student flute re-pad job into a major overhaul that would still fall short of converting a simple 2SP or M-1 into a pro level flute. Even though it probably would play better than most student flutes if you did invest the $$, that much money would be better used toward an intermediate model with more tangible differences, like a more carefully cut silver head joint with a carefully custom undercut embouchure hole. There are multitudes of used intermediate flutes in good playing condition for under $400.

Also, one has to realize that all the carpet beetles damaged was the pads. That's the critical damage that rendered your wife's flute unplayable, and it is likely the only thing that needs to be fixed to make it as good as it was the last time she played it. Oiling the keywork would also be a good idea. A re-pad with decent double bladder soft student grade pads, such as a set one might get from instrument clinic shouldn't cost over $100.

Another thought is that if you were offered $60 for the flute, you might want to take that offer and invest the $60 in a play tested used flute that your wife can try out and return within a few days if she doesn't like it. I see the M-1, 2SP, M-2 models selling on e-bay frequently for less than $60, and I can't easily list the number of flutes I have purchased below that price that (accidentally) play perfectly well, but it has been several. Of course you have to consider adding about $15 in shipping for a flute, but that would be my best advice. Try an e-bay seller with good feedback scores that specializes in refurbished student flutes at economy prices and offers a satisfaction or return deal. $400 seems like too much to put into a $60 flute, and it probably doesn't really need that or merit that, even if all that work would make it play better than it did when new from the factory.

If the value is sentimental for that particular flute, then the idea of mailing it to someone to do only the re-pad for a reasonable price is not a bad idea either.

[edit: Not sure why everyone seems to be big Yamaha fans? Perhaps these are better instruments recently, but I tend to sense a bit of name status that is not supported by historical performance. USA (Elkhart) instruments built before 1970 seem to be the best quality factory instrument value.]

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Re: Help deciding what to do with wife's flute..

Post by fluteguy18 »

To put it briefly, I agree with the consensus that the flute isn't worth the investment. And not to speak poorly of the work of other technicians but I've seen too many of these $200-600 'overhauls' turn out poorly for the customer after the flute has been played for a month or so. Like a house, flutes settle after they've been adjusted and re-padded and its that settling process that undoes most of the work that you're paying for at that price point. Most of the time I recommend that a specialist work on an instrument if at all possible. Most flute specialists charge between $1200-1800 for a genuine overhaul depending on all of the options you choose to put into it (pad types, head cork materials, unusual restoration work etc.). I'm not saying that this is the route you would need to go nor am I suggesting that there aren't countless technicians who could do a wonderful job at a more consumer friendly price point. What I AM saying is that if you were investing that sort of money into it you would be getting the service of a technician who takes time to 'break in' the flute numerous times after it has been overhauled making adjustments as they go. That way the flute has already settled before you get it back. It's a quality vs. quantity issue and there are shops and technicians on both sides of the fence in general repair shops and specialty shops.

But, as previously decided it's more cost effective to replace the instrument at the moment and chances are quite high that current student flutes are actually better than the flute you would be overhauling.

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