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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2018 4:22 am 
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Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2014 2:08 pm
Posts: 4
Hi,

I'm a bit new to irish flute and I need an opinion on the state of my flute.

I purchased an Olwell keyless pratten flute in January. The previous owner lived in Florida and I live in Switzerland. I wrote to Patrick Olwell and he told me this flute had been made in 1992 so it should be quiet stable. However I noticed a few lines in the grain. Since it's my first wooden flute, I am not sure if it's totally normal or if it might be the beginning of a crack. Could someone with more experience give me their opinion ? It might be hard to tell from photos so I took several.

The suspicious looking "line":

Image
https://ibb.co/eRsy2y

Image
https://ibb.co/dfE0FJ

From another angle:

Image
https://ibb.co/bZnRpd

Image
https://ibb.co/cvTMNy

There is also some smaller line on the foot:

Image
https://ibb.co/gKf1Ny

The foot "grain" looks dry:

Image
https://ibb.co/dZOXUd

The head has also a bit of a dry-ish look:

Image
https://ibb.co/ih5e9d

But the body is really smooth:

Image
https://ibb.co/dhrmpd

Otherwise the flute is amazing and plays wonderful. I'm definitely in love with it so maybe I just spent too much time watching it :) Anyway, I would really appreciate some helps on this matter.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2018 4:52 am 
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Location: Surrey/Hants border, England
I'm not experienced with wooden flutes, but it looks fairly normal to me, as far as a wooden instrument can look, & allowing for it's age, the smoother barrel is where you finger it the most, so personally, I'm not surprised to see it looking smoother - but wait for a more experienced players view point. :)

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2018 5:07 am 
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Posts: 16639
Blackwood often looks this way. Humidify and oil and let the thing go.
It's probably alright.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2018 9:15 am 
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Joined: Sun Nov 16, 2003 12:27 pm
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Location: Kingston WA
From what I can tell from the photos: No. This is just normal Blackwood grain.

One way in which one can distinguish a crack from normal grain is to oil the flute on the outside (I recommend doing this for all flutes) and leaving the oil to penetrate, instead of wiping away the excess. Even in blackwood, some will penetrate. The next day, wipe it all off. Then examine it under magnification under good light. The grain should look like pretty much what you see in your pictures. But if there is a hairline crack - you will recognize it immediately due to the fact that the oil behaves differently around it versus the grain.

Its usually when I am doing the final inspection of an instrument that I discover such flaws - after all of the work has been done. I then have to replace the offending joint, which adds time unexpectedly to my waiting time.

I'll try to post pictures of what normal grain vs. a check or crack looks like later today.

Casey

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2018 10:00 am 
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I bought an Olwell Pratten maybe ten years ago and, after a couple of months, the
barrel cracked. The flute was under warranty and I asked Patrick to replace the
barrel. He said that this was the first flute of his that had cracked in several years
and he accused me of Flute Abuse. I thought I was going to have to wear a scarlet A,
or perhaps an F. Later, after he received the flute, he told me a defect in the wood
had caused the break. The overwhelming probability is you are alright. This guy is
a superb and careful crafts person.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2018 5:45 pm 
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When in doubt I oil, inside and out. You are probably alright, but a keyless flute can take an overnight oil bath every now and then with no harm done. I usually aim at once a year. It won't absorb any more oil than it needs and the rest will wipe off. I use almond oil in a plastic container deep enough to cover the whole instrument. Others may use something else. A used flute is a little tricky because you don't know exactly where it has been and what it as been subjected to. (You can do the same to a block mounted keyed flute, just take the keys off and don't mismatch the pins when you put it back together. haha)


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2018 7:04 pm 
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Location: Washington State
What would you do to stop an imminent crack? Wouldn't it be better to just let the thing crack so that any tension is relieved?

Regardless, if it cracks, it cracks. They are easily fixed. Treat it well, play the hell out of it, and stop worrying. IMO, of course. :)


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2018 8:48 pm 
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Location: Upstate NY
awildman wrote:
What would you do to stop an imminent crack?)

As others have said: Humidify! Especially if you keep the flute in an air conditioned environment (or have central heating in the winter, which IMHO is more typically the problem). Of course playing it will certainly help humidify, so that is good advice in any event. You also should get in the habit of taking down the flute in between playing sessions, if you don't already.

Hard to tell from the photo, but I agree with others that there doesn't seem to be anything immediately problematic. A couple of other indicators that you might have a crack pending to look out for: loose rings and/or tight joints on assembly or disassembly.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2018 10:50 pm 
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Some years ago I read some extensive notes on the native growth habits of African Blackwood. As I said, this was some time ago and there was some efforts being made to create Blackwood 'plantations', or at least make some efforts to encourage its propagation and growth 'in the wild'. One of the things that struck me were the stresses the trees are subject to and some of the coping mechanisms the trees use to meet them. They are highly resinous to deal with extreme drought. Their bark will char but resist burning when exposed to bush fires. After exposure to such wildfires the tree recovers and resumes growth. This all seems to contribute to the variability of the Blackwood grain. This may make some these 'pseudo-cracks'.

Bob

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2018 12:02 am 
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Thank you for these comments and maintenance advice, I do oil my flute regularly and I dissemble it after every session. Still, I was afraid it might get worse if I "misdiagnosed these symptoms" since there is so much talk about irish flutes cracking on the internet. I'm glad to learn that everything looks fine. I'll take Casey's advice and inspect it with a magnifying glass next time I oil it.


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