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 Post subject: Metal lip plates
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 4:36 am 
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Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2004 4:12 pm
Posts: 1867
Location: Malua Bay, on the NSW Nature Coast
We often come across period flutes with metal lip plates let into the wood around the embouchure hole. Some are cylindrical and go right round; some are oval and partial, and set into an excavation of the wood. Some of these are only on the lip side, but some go round to also cover the "edge" side.

We know that, back in the day, many people (about 10% of the population?) proved allergic to cocus wood, and this is the probable historic reason these lip plates exist. (I don't think it's such an issue with the timbers we mostly use now.) But I recently came across a newly made flute with an all-round lip plate, which prompts me to ask this question.

Is anyone of the view that these lip plates are anything other than a total disaster? I say that after dealing with dozens of period flutes over the years, and this recently-made flute at the moment.

My experience is that I've never met such a flute that I liked. I've always found the tone thin and wirey.

Now the physics doesn't seem to offer any support to that theory. It doesn't seem to care what the edge is made of, as long as the edge is made well. We might need to come back to that.

And I should draw a distinction between those lip plates that go round to the edge, and those lip plates that simply keep your mustache (sorry Ladies!) from contacting the wood. I have no problem with those one-sided affairs. It's the ones that go round to the "edge" that bug me.

So, now I've enjoyed my rant, let me pose my question. Has anyone found a flute, new or old, with a metal lip plate extending around to the "edge" that they have full confidence in?

Big tone. Great sound. Gratifying performance. Reliable responsiveness. Details?

After we've established agreement that they are an unmitigated disaster (and assuming we do!), I'd like to see if anyone has any theories why these lip-plated flutes are so?

But let's proceed to Stage 1 first....

Ooh, I feel better now....


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 Post subject: Re: Metal lip plates
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 7:19 am 
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Briefly for now, I don't share your observation/reaction, Terry. By way of specific example, the flute I currently most covet, R&R#3101, which I overhauled for its lucky owner a couple of years ago, is a large-holed boxwood beauty with a hole-surrounding silver lip-plate and silver-lined embouchure chimney. It plays wonderfully and sounds fantastic. I have several YT videos on it including this one from when its owner first had it back after refurbishment: https://youtu.be/WVR9IthaSPg

I haven't any published photos at present but will try to add some in due course.

Other flutes I've played with the full circuit embouchure metal barrel or with surrounding or non-surrounding inserted plates, can't say as I've found any advantage or disadvantage to them playing-wise. Working on them can be another matter.....

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 Post subject: Re: Metal lip plates
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 9:04 am 
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Flutes with metal lip plates are indeed vile. Just have a look at this old vid of some poor fellow trying to coax a tune out of one:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tSpaYzZ-Wi8


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 Post subject: Re: Metal lip plates
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 2:12 pm 
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When I tried a selection of Rudall Carte Boehms a couple of years back, the one I probably liked best of all but didn't buy (partly because it was also the most expensive and way above my intended budget) was a Nivarlet with replacement head of unknown vintage which had a 360° embouchure sleeve. While I doubt my preference for its playing qualities was influenced one way or the other by the sleeve, it was quite simply a beautiful flute to play.

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 Post subject: Re: Metal lip plates
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 3:56 pm 
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Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2004 4:12 pm
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Location: Malua Bay, on the NSW Nature Coast
Well, that's at least encouraging - at least it isn't a universal experience. I'll be interested in any more views. Anyone feel, as I do, that they are always a disappointment? Sometimes a disappointment?

The tricky thing of course is that it's not easy to do meaningful A/B comparisons. I plug one of my heads into this flute I'm working on and I get far better tone. But of course, my heads are designed to make me feel good, so it would be a worry if I got the reverse experience!

I've tried to find anything else on this head that could explain the less-than-ideal response I'm getting. There are no leaks, the stopper is smooth (metal faced) and sealing perfectly. It's fully metal-lined, so no smoothness issues. The only thing I can think of is that the diameter at the embouchure hole is a little less than what I'm used to, but not much (about 0.3mm). Am I that sensitive to head diameter? It's the low notes that I feel are the most affected, and that would be consistent with a shallower chimney height.

Hmmm, now I'm getting really superstitious. I've just replaced the metal-faced O-ring-sealed stopper with one of my cork-sealed Delrin ones, and I reckon I'm hearing a difference. Maybe I need a little lie down....


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 Post subject: Re: Metal lip plates
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2018 7:14 pm 
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By coincidence, I logged in just now to post my great experience with my new antique flute, which indeed has a lip plate that goes around the head.

More Context:

My main flute is an 8-key Firth, Pond & Co from about 1850 - a bit later than the Grey Larson flute that Terry describes on his website. A couple months ago it fell off the table to the concrete, and to my amazement and relief it suffered zero damage. I like that flute so much I began looking for a spare as a backup. I found an extremely similar 1850-ish William Hall in need of cleaning, padding and a head crack. I sent it off to Jon Cornia for repairs, and just got it back.

Because these two companies made flutes that are almost identical, each part can swap so I can make direct comparisons.

(1) These are Rudall-ish flutes with medium-sized holes.
(2) The statistics of TWO samples are not necessarily valid.
(3) The embouchure on these flutes requires pretty good focus, which has taken me 9 months to achieve with any consistency. (That's about 1/3 of my flute lifetime!)
(4) With good focus, I can get a wonderful sound out of both flutes.

My observations:
(1) The tone of the FP&Co wooden embouchure might be more "woody" and a bit more reedy.
(2) The tone of the WH metal ring embouchure is more pure and clean. It's harder to get a reedy tone (but I'm new to it).
(3) The metal embouchure is definitely louder, but is easier to play both quietly and loudly.
(4) The metal embouchure plays easier in the third register C, D and E. Low D and C are great on both heads.

I kind of wanted to like the wooden embouchure better (pure prejudice), but I think I prefer the metal. Maybe playing solo, the wood would be more soft or intimate. Maybe in a session the metal will cut through better.


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