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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 5:08 pm 
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The long f key on my J. Gallagher flute started staying in the open position after heavy use a couple of months ago. Later in the week that it started, or maybe it was the next week, John happened to be in Portland and he came out to a session I'd be at pretty often. I asked him about this and he told me to take the key out and take a nail file, make sure it's level, and sand a bit off the inside of the block.

Well, as you might imagine I was pretty reluctant to do so, so I didn't do anything for a while and figured I'd see if the problem went away on it's own or something. It didn't, and only got worse after I put some oil on the outside of the flute the other day. So I finally got to the point where I couldn't stand it anymore (I've been trying to get adept at playing Frankie Gavin's Alice's reel in its original D minor and it needs a lot of long f) and did the thing with the nail file. It was pretty easy to do and worked like a charm, I also managed to not f**k up the flute in the process but man was I nervous doing this!

Thought this story worth sharing here; anyone else have a similar experience?

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 5:31 pm 
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I've done that before. I wasn't as worried as you, because 1) skimming a gnat-hair's worth off a block's insides was obviously the only way to unbind the key, 2) it wasn't going to affect tone or playability, and 3) anyone could do it so long as you're careful enough and remove only the minutest amount at a time until you hit that sweet spot.

IIRC I would have taken off material from both sides to ensure things stayed centered.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 5:39 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
IIRC I would have taken off material from both sides to ensure things stayed centered.


I did.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 5:46 pm 
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Your basic nail file would be perfect for the job, but I think I used a teensy flat-sided precision file, myself. Got a variety set of them (flat, rat-tail, half-round, three-sided, etc.) lying around somewhere. Sooner or later they always come in handy. Basically I'd just drag it across both inner surfaces once - letting the teeth mostly do the work - then try the key in it, and use the file again as needed until the key was free without being loose.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 7:34 pm 
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I've seen some good repairs and not so good repairs done by my clients. Most send the flutes to me to be worked on instead of attempting repairs themselves. I'm happy to do it right. John was taking a bit of a chance, frankly.

Also, in summer, my guess is that the lower humidity might cause that key to become loose. You might have to add material to it. This is a not uncommon problem with tightly fitted block mounted keys and why I stick to post mounted. Plus I was never that good at making block mounts.

Sometimes the repairs are due to cracks from things like dropping a flute or sitting on it, no paying attention to humidity or just plain bad luck. Usually the ugly bead of superglue or glop forced into a crack. Some then wrap cord around the crack to draw it closed. The crudest yet most effective repair I saw was a flute I sold the pipe maker Brad Angus. He had a big ugly hose clamp tightened around the head joint to close a crack. I was fine with that and it seemed in line with Brad's well known eccentricities. Hopefully his amazing bagpipes won't suffer the same fate.

Casey

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 2:27 pm 
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Casey Burns wrote:
Also, in summer, my guess is that the lower humidity might cause that key to become loose.

I can personally confirm what you say about low humidity and block-mounted keys. However, hereabouts in the Minnesota River Valley it's the exact opposite: summers are oppressively humid where 80% to even 90% is not unusual, but due to deep cold our winters are bone-dry going as low as 10%; obviously a very risky time for wooden instruments. Not that the difference between your climate and mine matters; as you have said, the point is to monitor your local conditions.

So in my neck of the woods winter is the time for humidifying, otherwise you risk lined heads cracking, and joints and block-mounted keys loosening, as I have seen time and again with those who neglect to humidify. Keeping things at around a 45% to 50% average does the trick. Today the ambient humidity in my apartment is reading 66% on my hygrometer, for it is now springtime and it has been rainy, finally. My nose feels a lot better, and all the local instruments rejoice. :)

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 4:55 pm 
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I never ever would have done anything like this if John hadn't suggested it. Truth be told I had encountered this problem on this key here and there over the years it just finally got to a point where something had to be done. Spending the, at least, $120 for shipping both ways and waiting around for John to get to it and ship it back would not have been ideal especially with a solo EP release in 2 weeks where I use the long f on one of the tunes! (If I sent it back now I'd have to re-think my pretty well rehearsed material!) So I was actually happy to be able to do it myself even if I'm loathe to do anything like this on any instrument!

What you describe Nano is pretty much what I did; ran the file across the inside on both sides just a little bit, tried it, and it was done. If it gets loose in the summer, I took so little off and it was really tight before, I'll burn that bridge then but now it works the way it should and that's the important thing for me! Plus, this was the upper block on the long f, I didn't touch the one closer to the pad, so unless the one closer to the pad goes loose it should still seat right even if the upper one gets a bit loose.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 6:54 pm 
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Casey Burns wrote:
The crudest yet most effective repair I saw was a flute I sold the pipe maker Brad Angus. He had a big ugly hose clamp tightened around the head joint to close a crack. I was fine with that and it seemed in line with Brad's well known eccentricities. Hopefully his amazing bagpipes won't suffer the same fate.Casey

The case of the mechanic's wife's car. Brad's amazing bagpipes
are due exactly to his fine attention to detail and not his heretofore 
unknown to the public at large, eccentricities. If that's what it takes
then the community of instrument makers would do well to take
note and develop some similar traits. Brad worked for many years 
as a band instrument repairman learning that part of the trade then
taught himself the art of pipe and reed making. He's measured many
instruments that were altered poorly and when he made a copy it was
something very close to the original playing like it did before someone
"improved" it. Brad is one of the few pipemakers that takes the time
to perform the painstaking process of rolling ferrules
and tubes for his pipes the old fashioned way as described here.  
http://www.seanreidsociety.org/SRSJ1/Rolling%20metal%20ferrules.PDF
Very fine instruments and repairs by a truly gifted craftsman and by the way,
he's a killer player therefore he understands how instruments need to perform.
 I can guarantee one thing, he might repair his instrument one way
but anyone else's will depart in better shape than when it was made.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 8:19 am 
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Another fix John suggested for the same problem is graphite (pencil lead) rubbed on the inside of the block. But I also did the nail file trick with the same block on my flute, and it's pretty much nothing changed...


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 12:39 pm 
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NicoMoreno wrote:
But I also did the nail file trick with the same block on my flute, and it's pretty much nothing changed...

Meaning it didn't correct the issue?

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:57 am 
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I have always taken a bit off the key itself, with a fine piece of crocus cloth or 800 grit sandpaper.
Mostly there is some grunge that develops over the years, making the key a bit sticky.
Is there an advantage to taking some of the wood off rather than a bit of metal/grunge from the key?

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:35 am 
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Sorry Nano - meaning the slight tiny bit of wood taken off basically didn't change the tightness of the fit of the key, but kept it from sticking. In fact, it could easily have just been that a bit of grain was raised due to moisture, and all I did was smooth it out a bit... very very little material was taken off.

David - the reason for the block (and not key) is that I live in a very different climate than the flute maker (well it feels pretty different anyway) and the flute changed shape slightly over the first year of playing it - the blocks got a tiny bit tighter, enough to cause a stickiness. The graphite worked a bit, but the nail file trick worked a bit better. At the time, it would have been extra expensive with a border in the way, too. To be clear, John would be very responsive if we sent it to him.

By the way, both of these flutes are dogwood. In my case, one of his first out of the material, with the warning that there might be more movement than from boxwood / blackwood.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:47 pm 
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Julia Delaney wrote:
I have always taken a bit off the key itself, with a fine piece of crocus cloth or 800 grit sandpaper.
Mostly there is some grunge that develops over the years, making the key a bit sticky.
Is there an advantage to taking some of the wood off rather than a bit of metal/grunge from the key?

I would say, rather, that there's no advantage to ignoring conditions. I can assure you that when I did it I hadn't had the flute long enough for scuzzy buildup, so you bring up a good point that naturally hadn't occurred to me because it didn't apply at the time. As in NicoMoreno's case, the flute was responding to my climate, and there is no question of this. If there's no buildup on the key itself (or if the buildup has been cleaned off and the key still sticks), yet it didn't stick before, then this suggests that the wood has shifted profile, yes? After all, wood does that. Unlike the block, metal isn't going to expand and contract according to the humidity, so I went where reason led me. In removing only a negligible (as in almost nothing) amount of the wood, the flute's outer form was brought better into concert with my climate.

So you have brought up an important point: If a key sticks, examine it first for grunge. If there is none (whether by newness or by the agency of cleaning), then the next step is to look to the block. If you are unwilling to address the block yourself, then by all means send it to the maker.

I have to say that removing metal from the key would have been the furthest thing from my mind, here, but that's me. As for gunk, I would only use a cleaning solution.

NicoMoreno wrote:
By the way, both of these flutes are dogwood. In my case, one of his first out of the material, with the warning that there might be more movement than from boxwood / blackwood.

I had a dogwood flute (keyless), and its response to humidity was dependably fast and extreme in the joints. I had to bind the tenons to be loose in the socket so as to accommodate for the swelling to come - due to simply playing it! - otherwise I couldn't pull it apart immediately afterward, which was scary. I thought this was remarkable considering how rock-hard the wood was, but then dogwood isn't resinous like blackwood, and a resinous constitution slows absorption/desorption.

The block that I filed was of blackwood.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 4:19 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
NicoMoreno wrote:
By the way, both of these flutes are dogwood. In my case, one of his first out of the material, with the warning that there might be more movement than from boxwood / blackwood.

I had a dogwood flute (keyless), and its response to humidity was dependably fast and extreme in the joints. I had to bind the tenons to be loose in the socket so as to accommodate for the swelling to come - due to simply playing it! - otherwise I couldn't pull it apart immediately afterward, which was scary. I thought this was remarkable considering how rock-hard the wood was, but then dogwood isn't resinous like blackwood, and a resinous constitution slows absorption/desorption.


I usually leave the top joint a bit loose on mine. John had the flute back in Nov/Dec and re-threaded the tenons (among other things, it was mostly re-padding that prompted me to send it to him); I didn't do anything to them for a while but after 3 gigs on Paddy's day I went into another gig the next morning and couldn't even put get the headjoint on the top tenon had swelled so much! I love the look and sound of the dogwood but it isn't quite as stable as blackwood and similar.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:13 pm 
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Unseen122 wrote:
I love the ... sound of the dogwood ...

It barks. :wink:

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