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PostPosted: Sat Dec 23, 2017 5:46 pm 
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AaronFW wrote:

On a page last updated on 2005, someone wrote that Terry McGee had "...his first trainee flutemaker...". Does anyone know what became of that apprenticeship? Were there any other?


This was a young chap who didn't fare well in the schools system, coming out with pretty poor numeracy and literacy. Family breakup had been a large part of the problems he had faced. So I put him on in a formal apprenticeship arrangement that had him work 4 days with us and then attend technical education on the 5th day. That worked well for him, and he settled down into being a reliable and committed worker, and did well at his studies. To the point that when we moved down to the New South Wales South Coast (160K, 100 miles from Canberra) he moved down to keep working with us. I never really saw it as likely he would go on to become a flutemaker though - he wasn't a player and didn't have the player's motivation. In what I thought was a nice outcome, his previously-estranged father invited him to join him in a new business.

I also had another chap start work with me when we moved "down the coast". He was the husband of a musical friend, and was at a loose end at the time. Again, he became a good solid worker, but again, lacked the motivation to take it further. When my backlog of work was clearing up, he took a great job at our Council, sampling and testing water and other environmental materials.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 23, 2017 6:29 pm 
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Great examples and accounts of reamers and reamer making - well done guys!

A good question to consider is how do you know your reamer is sharp enough? I reckon it has to pass the Cadbury Flake Test. (I'm assuming and hoping here that Cadbury Flake chocolate bars are moderately universally available.) If the wood comes off as dust, the reamer isn't yet sharp enough. If it comes off resembling Cadbury Flake chocolate, I reckon you're getting there.

Image

Consider what you are asking your reamer to do. Take a cut up to 16" (400mm) wide across the grain in woods too hard and abrasive to chisel or plane. It's a lot to ask! So sharpen often!

Terry


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 23, 2017 7:56 pm 
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Terry McGee wrote:
Great examples and accounts of reamers and reamer making - well done guys!

A good question to consider is how do you know your reamer is sharp enough? I reckon it has to pass the Cadbury Flake Test. (I'm assuming and hoping here that Cadbury Flake chocolate bars are moderately universally available.) If the wood comes off as dust, the reamer isn't yet sharp enough. If it comes off resembling Cadbury Flake chocolate, I reckon you're getting there.

Consider what you are asking your reamer to do. Take a cut up to 16" (400mm) wide across the grain in woods too hard and abrasive to chisel or plane. It's a lot to ask! So sharpen often!

Terry


I had never heard of a Cadbury Flake before but it is the perfect image of reamer cuttings :-) And now I want some chocolate. Thanks a lot, Terry. (Sounds of me rummaging in the chocolate drawer)

My first reamers were D-profile reamers because they were pretty straightforward to make. Just turn the taper then mill away just shy of half the diameter. The downside to this type of reamer is the friction. Even a freshly milled and sharpened reamer creates a lot of friction in this configuration. This is even more so for me because I don't use an oil finish inside of my bores and therefore do not use any sort of lubrication when reaming (such as a wax or oil) because it would interfere with my bore finish later on. So if I'm dry reaming a lot of blanks with one of those reamers I need to cool it in between flutes (I feel a bit like an old world blacksmith dumping water onto steel that is hissing-hot!). And keeping them sharp becomes an issue as well. I don't make them from tool steel or any of the harder alloys because milling the harder alloys is more difficult. One can use something like 4140 steel (which I've used a couple of times) or tool steel and get reamers that will hold an edge much longer, but milling them is sloooowww. I use 12L14 steel (which contains lead in the alloy that acts as a natural lubricant when you machine it) which is much easier to machine, but it also dulls more quickly. So it's a trade-off. All of my early machining experiences were with the 12L14 alloy, and the first time I went to machine stainless steel it was an eye-opener!

Jon's method of using the ball nose end mill is a step better in terms of creating a nice back-rake to the cutting edge and giving even better chip clearance. My latest approach of creating reamers with multiple cutting edges makes for cleaner cuts, exponentially reduced friction and much less torque (I've cracked flute blanks by getting too aggressive with my old reamers). They are an improvement in every way except chip clearance (I have to pull the blank off the reamer to clear chips twice as often, but it's a small price for the improved cut). The other advantage is that the more cutting edges a reamer has, the longer it stays sharp since they share the load. I considered doing six cutting edges, but that would reduce chip clearance to almost nothing and the reamer would constantly clog.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 23, 2017 8:38 pm 
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Getting back to the general notion of apprenticeships, it seems to me that it's not a generally viable thing, for the many reasons already proffered. Imagine you live in Cincinnati, and decide to do an apprenticeship with me in Australia. You drop your day job, fight with the immigration people over a visa, sever your family and friendship ties, fly halfway round the world, find somewhere to stay in our retirement/coastal resort environment, get paid a pittance, learn a lot, fly home, find somewhere to live again, find another day job to recapitalise, slowly build your resources as funds allow, finally get it all together having rather forgotten a lot of what you've learned, and thus take a while to pick up where you'd left off, financially, emotionally, flutemakerly. Not attractive.

It did strike me some time back that a better approach might go like this. You stay in the day job in Cincinnati, you stay in your current house, stay with your friendships and relationship. You undertake an i-apprenticeship with me (or another maker, but I'll get to that!) I send you some written material on whatever the topic-de-jour is. You try it out, fail miserably, come back to me and we work out why. Once we're over that hurdle, we move on to the next topic-de-jour. There will be plenty of them!

Success of course breeds confidence, and finally you have a product that you can be proud of. So discussion turns to marketing, and making it better. Only when you're starting to earn an income do you drop the day job.

Now, what's the catch, you ask, and why did I say we'd come back to the question of makers? Whoever took this on at the maker end would need to prepare an awful lot of information. For that to be worthwhile (or at least not too big a drain), the maker would need quite a few i-apprentices. And the information packages would not be cheap.

But cheaper I'd guess than a return flight to Australia!


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 2:34 am 
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How do you sharpen reamers without compromising their ability to maintain a shape to thousands of an inch? Is this why you'd 'mill away just shy of half the diameter' (so there's room to sharpen the cutting edge without narrowing the profile)?

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 3:40 am 
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Good question!

Let me fudge by offering a few responses....

Yes, I think that's one reason to "cut above the line" ("the line" being the equator).

A second reason to cut above the line is that if you cut below the line you will definitely be reaming undersized. If you cut too far above the line you will still be reaming at the right size, but you will be reaming less efficiently.

But thridly (thridly? Arghhh. You know what I mean), I think the absolute size is less important than the relative size. So a few thou undersize or oversize won't be a killer. But I haven't investigated that, so treat as provisional!

(Despite my best efforts, there is much more to discover. Somebody out there, treat that as a personal challenge!)


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 9:53 am 
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Terry McGee wrote:
I think the absolute size is less important than the relative size. So a few thou undersize or oversize won't be a killer.


I've never done any sort of exhaustive comparison, but this has been my experience so far as well. The shape is more important that the actual size in terms of the bore profile. I've put this to the test by finishing the bores of my flutes with a thin, clear coat epxoy. The epoxy effectively constricts the bore by a few thousandths of an inch (I would guess as much as .005 in some cases) and I've never noticed that it had anything but a positive effect. The bore shape stays the same for the most part (though I suspect the epoxy even alters that by a little bit here and there) and any potential negative impact has been more than offset by the increased responsiveness created by a nice smooth bore!

I've also always assumed that any number of the antique flutes that players love have probably shrunk a bit over the last century or two and that their current bore profile is no longer what it was when it was originally reamed.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 11:03 am 
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Terry McGee wrote:
Getting back to the general notion of apprenticeships, it seems to me that it's not a generally viable thing, for the many reasons already proffered. Imagine you live in Cincinnati, and decide to do an apprenticeship with me in Australia. You drop your day job, fight with the immigration people over a visa, sever your family and friendship ties, fly halfway round the world, find somewhere to stay in our retirement/coastal resort environment, get paid a pittance, learn a lot, fly home, find somewhere to live again, find another day job to recapitalise, slowly build your resources as funds allow, finally get it all together having rather forgotten a lot of what you've learned, and thus take a while to pick up where you'd left off, financially, emotionally, flutemakerly. Not attractive.

It did strike me some time back that a better approach might go like this. You stay in the day job in Cincinnati, you stay in your current house, stay with your friendships and relationship. You undertake an i-apprenticeship with me (or another maker, but I'll get to that!) I send you some written material on whatever the topic-de-jour is. You try it out, fail miserably, come back to me and we work out why. Once we're over that hurdle, we move on to the next topic-de-jour. There will be plenty of them!

Success of course breeds confidence, and finally you have a product that you can be proud of. So discussion turns to marketing, and making it better. Only when you're starting to earn an income do you drop the day job.

Now, what's the catch, you ask, and why did I say we'd come back to the question of makers? Whoever took this on at the maker end would need to prepare an awful lot of information. For that to be worthwhile (or at least not too big a drain), the maker would need quite a few i-apprentices. And the information packages would not be cheap.

But cheaper I'd guess than a return flight to Australia!


Thanks for sharing your perspective, Terry.

I happen to live in Ohio not too far from Cincinnati, so it wasn't hard to imagine. :P The i-apprenticeship type of situation sounds like a good one. For me, the in-person apprenticeship idea is appealing because of issues like the reamers which boggle my mind a fair bit, but you guys are right about the impracticality of modern in-person apprenticeships. I work in the metals industry so I can understand the values of different alloys, but I don't have experience with machining at this point so I'll need to find a good machinist friend like Geoffrey Ellis did.

Regardless, I have a few years still before I will be at the stage of life where I can afford the equipment, time, and space for wooden flute-making. (I have done bamboo flute-making in the past. But now that I am in Ohio, I don't have access to as much space or bamboo as I did while in Texas.) It is because of my bamboo flute-making past that I daydream about the idea of an apprenticeship but in reality, I haven't even owned a wooden flute of my own yet... (Though I'm 5 months in on an order for a flute from Terry.)

All that aside, I'll keep watching for new flute-makers as they come on the horizon.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 12:27 pm 
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Aaron, have you thought about visiting Dave Copley? I believe he lives in the Cincinnati area.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 1:12 pm 
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awildman wrote:
Aaron, have you thought about visiting Dave Copley? I believe he lives in the Cincinnati area.


Oh, I had not realized he lived in Ohio. I will have to consider contacting him. Thanks for pointing it out.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 2:48 pm 
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I mill my reamers to slightly less than 3/4 round. The cutting edge has a bit of positive rake this way. The edge is ground on the flat, and then burnished into a cutting edge with a short piece of hardened steel round held about 3-4 degrees from level away from the reamer that I hold in vice grips. If the reamer is too narrow in spots, I will burnish a little more in that spot. Or if a major change is needed I will use a point punch and hammer and upset the metal out a few thousandths over the insufficient part of the range. I use a .45 carbon steel called Stressproof for the reamers - though I have found them to be longer lasting if I use W-1. These are left unhardened. Heat treating would cause warping of the metal (its not just wood that warps).

I've seen flat reamers for the long narrow bores roughed out of concrete cutting blades, using a water jet. These are then ground to a 1/2 round or less profile. These are really quite effective and that is fantastic, tough and sharp enough steel. I have some bagpipe reamers that were forged by a friend of mine who is a great blacksmith from air hardening D2 steel that are keeping their sharp edges well. One is ground to the bore profile of a lovely old set of Kenna Pastoral Pipes that surfaced just a mile from here that copies very well and is easy to reed. I want to make a pair of these this next year.

The billets are turned round, pilot bored to 1/2". Then I will use hose clamps on the ends and 2 side by side in the middle and reef these tight. These keep the wood from splitting during reaming. The 2 in the middle also provide a place to hold the work with a carpenter's clamp. The lathe is set at the slowest belted speed (about 145 rpm) and the reamer is lubricated with beeswax once its warm. Here is what it looks like - from the perspective of the chuck (I mounted a GoPro Camera on the chuck itself so it went around with the reamer):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz20qUJ0YVE&t=32s

Its hard enough maintaining a living flute making or instrument making, especially here in the US where we get no support for the arts usually. Trump is making it worse. The discussion about the Tax Bill and its passage isn't helping. Usually I take in anywhere between $4500 and $7500 worth of new orders in December - this has been the case since 2013. But this month I have only taken in 2 Folk Flute orders worth $900 and am not getting the usual last minute rush order requests. I suspect we are headed for Recession soon - and have noticed through several decades how a bad month similar to this month is the early warning sign of economic strife ahead. This is the worst month I have had since the beginning of 2013, when I should have experienced a Holiday Rush of orders. I can't even imagine having the responsibility of paid or even unpaid apprentices right now. Most of us are self-employed and do not have the tooling, budget, supplies or time to train apprentices or students on a regular basis. To do this would require some sort of granting or sponsorship or patronship which is highly unlikely in this day and age, despite their grandiose talk of how the Tax Cuts will trickle down (they've been promising us this since the Reagan Administration and Will Rogers even used that phrase in response to the tax cuts of the Hoover Administration in the Roaring 20s almost 90 years ago!). Its just not going to happen.

There was the London College of Furniture instrument making degree program - a search for this shows that it has ended that. There are occasional classes offered here and there. There is a huge base of knowledge both printed (Galpin Society Journal, AMIS, Early Music, etc.) and online (FOMRHI especially, YouTube videos, websites) that many of us have created together over the years. Best would be to use it, be willing to make a lot of mistakes and go down several dead ends. Eventually you will emerge as a maker. This is how most of us did this. Some even figure out how to make a steady income from it - but don't hold your breath! Keep your Day Job for now...

Seasons Greetings!
Casey

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 7:59 pm 
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It's certainly interesting to compare the guitar-making world with the flute-making world. In our world, the maker is pretty much on his/her own. With a few exceptions (gun-drills for example) we have to make our own tools, reamers and cutters, source our own materials, and so on. Some years back, I had reason to sign on for email alerts from Stuart-Macdonald, the guitar-builder's-suppliers. It seems just about every day or two since, I receive information about yet another incredibly inventive tool or resource the successful guitar-builder clearly needs to own! Gaze in wonder at their catalog:

http://www.stewmac.com/

Imagine for a moment what a flute-maker's supply website could look like! Reamers, cutters, tuning slides, keys, flute blanks, cases, measuring tools, flute-making kits, etc, etc! How have we escaped being similarly targeted? Would we have resisted?

(To be fair, there are woodwind repairer's suppliers, but they so far seem not to have noticed the likes of us!)


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:19 pm 
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A couple of things to add to the discussion on reamers. I prefer the multi-flute design (as shown in Paddler's picture of Geoffrey Ellis's reamer), but it takes me at least a day and usually closer to two days of rather tedious work to make one and then they rarely come out exactly as planned. Fortunately you can have custom reamers made commercially (Gammons Hoaglund is one good maker) so I can spend the same one or two days more enjoyably making flutes which produces enough income to pay for the reamer and a little left over.

You can buy standard taper pin reamers on ebay for 20 to 30 dollars. They have more of a taper than you want for a flute (1:48 or 1:50 versus around 1:64 for a typical average flute taper) but they are very useful if you want to get an idea of how the multi-flute reamers work. They will also give good information for designing your own reamer. I often use the commercial reamers for some initial cutting so that I can keep my best reamers sharp for a final cut.

When making a long bore I like to ream in shorter sections with a series of overlapping reamers. So a 12 inch long taper would be made with 3 reamers each having an "active" length of 4 inches and tapered off at the overlaps. This permits reaming with less torque and less heat, as well as allowing a little room for experimentation in changing the profile.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 27, 2017 9:25 pm 
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dcopley wrote:
When making a long bore I like to ream in shorter sections with a series of overlapping reamers. So a 12 inch long taper would be made with 3 reamers each having an "active" length of 4 inches and tapered off at the overlaps. This permits reaming with less torque and less heat, as well as allowing a little room for experimentation in changing the profile.


This is a great idea--one that I should consider. Less torque and less heat would be a good thing...

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:40 am 
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It’s always interesting to hear/see how various makers solve the same problem, wooden flute makers all seem to have somewhat different ways to skin the cat, so to speak.

We used scoop reamers for hogging out 90% of the wood left after gun drilling. The final ream was done with a multi-flute reamer which essentially had 2-3 flutes and reaming edges on one half of the reamer and the other half was solid. I didn’t think to ask (doh!) at the time if the the multiple edges were set at progressive heights, but I think they might have been, based on the way those reamers performed. For sections that needed a socket, the reamer would include a socket cutter at the end of the reamer, HUGE time saver when doing small scale production the way we did - usually working on 50-100 instruments in a run.

I wonder how most of you hold the piece being reamed? We reamed on the lathe using a chain whip with an affixed handle that was long enough to be braced on the side of the lathe bed. The chain whip was placed around the piece to be reamed and this kept the piece from rotating as it was fed onto the chucked reamer with the lathe turning the reamer at low speed. Seemed quite sketchy to me when I was first instructed on how to do it, and I thought I might lose a hand in the process, but it worked really well, and I still have all my fingers after many thousands of sections reamed, lol.


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