Piccolo Adventure

Taking care of your instrument

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fluteguy18
Posts: 2311
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 3:11 pm

Piccolo Adventure

Post by fluteguy18 » Wed Oct 23, 2013 8:40 pm

So tonight I had an adventure with my piccolo. At an orchestra rehearsal the other day I noticed half way through Candide that my picc wasn't playing properly. I hadn't played it in such a cold and dry climate before, so that was worrisome. Tonight I was finally able to investigate and here is what happened...

Image

I checked springs first, just to make sure that it wasn't something simple. No springs were out of place. Because it's cold and very dry (compared to my usual warm and humid climate) I decided to check for cracks. If the tube itself isn't airtight then I can't possibly get pads to seal properly. Joints were okay, head cork was fine, so I disassembled the mechanism. I didn't have any sort of vacuum/plug system available so I was only able to check visually. It looked fine but I suspected a crack might be under a rib since the grain was fairly 'spread' in a couple of places. So I carefully removed the ribs. That was a mistake.

Thankfully, no cracks. Checked with a flashlight, jewelers loupe and a telescoping mirror. The wood is fine. So I carefully put the ribs back in place and went to put back the g# key. It didn't fit anymore. The hinge rod tubing was too long.

:shock:

I about filled my pants.

I took the ribs off and put them back and sure enough... they were in the right place and the fit to the tubing/screw holes was really good. The ribs hadn't gotten bent or misaligned at all. So I sat and thought and tried not to panic. The key would barely fit between the posts now. It certainly wouldn't move and there was no way I could get it in place to get the steel back in place. I then remembered that the screws didn't want to come out when I unscrewed them. It was in that moment that the problem was evident. A lot of times, manufacturers have margins of error that can be somewhat... wide and things can sometimes get forced into place. The ribs on my piccolo had been installed in such a manner that the screws didn't properly align with the holes, so once they were in their natural position the span between two ribs changed thereby meaning the span between two posts changed.

Since I couldn't replicate what the manufacturer did without damaging the body, and I couldn't get the key in place without the key binding I had to resort to refitting the hinge tube. I pulled out my jewelers files and very very VERY carefully filed the hinge tube length to fit. It worked like a charm. So then that left me with some other keys that would no longer fit... so I thought. The left hand key stack had always had some side to side play in it. The side to side play was gone, and the pads were still sealing. The 'seat' had shifted slightly, but the seal was still really good. So the problem had been in the installation of the rib that mounts the left hand key stack. Even the keys with play had indicated a problem all along, but they were within the tolerances accepted by the manufacturer. Since I hadn't ever had it overhauled no one had ever bothered to swedge the keys. All I can say is that I think I got really really lucky.

In the end the playing problem was that I needed to increase the spring tension on a closed key, and float the pad into place. But the way the instrument plays now is COMPLETELY different. Without the excess tension from ribs being forced into place, the sound has really opened up. It's a lot more flexible and resonant than before. I've been told that my low register is my 'dragon tone' and I can now achieve the same result on this piccolo (whereas I had only been able to on Hammigs, Burkarts, and Keefes before). I think I'll rename my piccolo Mushu (a la Mulan).

I got really really REALLY REALLY lucky I think. The length difference was only a few thousandths of an inch, but it made a difference. I got really lucky.

Lesson Learned: Don't remove ribs if you don't have to.

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cflutist
Posts: 447
Joined: Sun Oct 08, 2006 12:44 pm

Re: Piccolo Adventure

Post by cflutist » Thu Oct 24, 2013 9:01 am

Glad it turned out ok for you. That probably would have been the same result for Joe B. and Piedpiper, but for the rest of us?

-----------------------

Lesson for me, don't take my flute apart ...
I have always been pretty mechanical. In 8th grade, I used to take my flute apart so I could do a better job polishing it.
I always put it back together again (have tiny screwdrivers and spring hooks that push/pull that my dad gave me), but now in my older years realize how foolish and dangerous it was when I also did this to my Haynes and broke a spring in the process. Promised myself that I would never do this to my Brannen (although I did have to pop a spring back in place from over zealous use of a Q-tip).

---------------------------

Question for you folks. My Brannen has had it's first COA courtesy of Brannen (plus $180 in shipping charges both ways). Do most of you take your flutes to local techs? Or do you ship it to the factory? In the past I've had the Haynes factory do two overhauls for me, and then CN has also worked on my flute (it had an underslung Split-E with inline-G that would bind sometimes). But the older I get the more I worry about UPS/FedEx losing it (even if it is insured). There are two music stores in town, but I don't trust either to work on my Brannen. However, there is a guy 30 minutes away who works on San Francisco Symphony flutist's instrument.s I think I could trust him and I assume that he is Straubinger certified?
Your thoughts?

fluteguy18
Posts: 2311
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 3:11 pm

Re: Piccolo Adventure

Post by fluteguy18 » Thu Oct 24, 2013 4:25 pm

Until now I've always sent my flute back to Miyazawa to have it adjusted. I personally would NOT trust the local shops unless they have a reputation of being a rock solid shop that has someone who specializes in Woodwinds and is straub. trained. I wouldn't just chance it though. Not on an instrument of that value. There are many wonderful technicians out there, but there are also a lot of technicians that are not so wonderful, or let their standards slide. I would chat with the SF Symphony flutist and get their input on the tech they use, and do some digging on that person's background. If they're straub. trained, then I'd probably give them a shot. Assuming they stick to JUST a COA and don't do any other work, the worst thing that could happen is you lose your money on a bad adjustment and end up sending it back to Brannen. There shouldn't be any need for their adjustments to involve methods that would hurt it on a simple COA. Beyond cleaning and replacing the head cork, all that's really involved are screws, shims, felts, pads, corks, and some glue (mostly).

And I'd ask them questions too if they're a Straub tech. Techs are always glad to discuss the repairs with customers.

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pied_piper
Posts: 1821
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2007 1:31 pm
Location: Virginia

Re: Piccolo Adventure

Post by pied_piper » Thu Oct 24, 2013 4:27 pm

fluteguy18 wrote:... Because it's cold and very dry (compared to my usual warm and humid climate) I decided to check for cracks. ... So I carefully removed the ribs. That was a mistake.
...
Thankfully, no cracks. Checked with a flashlight, jewelers loupe and a telescoping mirror. The wood is fine. So I carefully put the ribs back in place and went to put back the g# key. It didn't fit anymore. The hinge rod tubing was too long.
...
Lesson Learned: Don't remove ribs if you don't have to.
I think that you've answered the mystery yourself. Since your current location is "cold and very dry (compared to my usual warm and humid climate)", it's highly likely that in the cold dry environment, the wood has shrunk a bit. The ribs, being metal, prevented some of the movement, but when you removed the ribs, the wood was able to "relax" the tension created by the cold, dry environment. But, when you reassembled it, you had no way to recreate the tension and re-expand the wood back to it's previous position. So, you then had to correct for the changes in the wood. The issue now, is that if you return to a warm, humid environment, the reverse may happen. The wood may absorb more moisture and along with warmer temps, expand again. Then, you may find some slop in the mechanism around the G# key.

Wood, being organic, changes with varying temperatures and humidity. So, another lesson learned is: To keep a wood instrument playing consistently, the temperature and humidity needs to remain as constant as possible.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

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pied_piper
Posts: 1821
Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2007 1:31 pm
Location: Virginia

Re: Piccolo Adventure

Post by pied_piper » Thu Oct 24, 2013 4:46 pm

cflutist wrote:Question for you folks. My Brannen has had it's first COA courtesy of Brannen (plus $180 in shipping charges both ways). Do most of you take your flutes to local techs? Or do you ship it to the factory? In the past I've had the Haynes factory do two overhauls for me, and then CN has also worked on my flute (it had an underslung Split-E with inline-G that would bind sometimes). But the older I get the more I worry about UPS/FedEx losing it (even if it is insured). There are two music stores in town, but I don't trust either to work on my Brannen. However, there is a guy 30 minutes away who works on San Francisco Symphony flutist's instrument.s I think I could trust him and I assume that he is Straubinger certified?
Your thoughts?
I tend to agree with fg18. Check the Straubinger website for certified techs in your area.
http://straubingerflutes.com/pad_techni ... California

I've heard a few good comments about Lori Lee in SF. It's a bit longer haul for you, but Paul Rabinov in LA gets rave reviews from Sarah Jackson (Piccolo, LA Phil).
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

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cflutist
Posts: 447
Joined: Sun Oct 08, 2006 12:44 pm

Re: Piccolo Adventure

Post by cflutist » Thu Oct 24, 2013 4:56 pm

pp,

I checked the list and Ted Thiel is on the list.
He also put Schmidt pads on my friend's Brannen.

I got the flute in 2010, Brannen did the COA in 2011.
I'm probably due next summer so I'll have time to decide and investigate.
Thanks for the leads.

fluteguy18
Posts: 2311
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 3:11 pm

Re: Piccolo Adventure

Post by fluteguy18 » Thu Oct 24, 2013 5:04 pm

pied_piper wrote: I think that you've answered the mystery yourself. Since your current location is "cold and very dry (compared to my usual warm and humid climate)", it's highly likely that in the cold dry environment, the wood has shrunk a bit. The ribs, being metal, prevented some of the movement, but when you removed the ribs, the wood was able to "relax" the tension created by the cold, dry environment. But, when you reassembled it, you had no way to recreate the tension and re-expand the wood back to it's previous position. So, you then had to correct for the changes in the wood. The issue now, is that if you return to a warm, humid environment, the reverse may happen. The wood may absorb more moisture and along with warmer temps, expand again. Then, you may find some slop in the mechanism around the G# key.

Wood, being organic, changes with varying temperatures and humidity. So, another lesson learned is: To keep a wood instrument playing consistently, the temperature and humidity needs to remain as constant as possible.
I removed such a minuscule amount of material that I'm not too worried about swedging to make up the difference in the event that your prediction comes true. Before filing I could get the key in place, but it wouldn't move because the fit was so tight.

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