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 Post subject: Reason for lined heads
PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 5:02 pm 
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Location: Melbourne, Australia
What is the reason 19c wooden flute headjoints were sometimes lined with metal, actually?

I have just got a McNeela Delrin 6 keyed flute and I am surprised it has fully metal lined head. If the lining is to prevent moisture affecting the wood, then this seems unnecessary. Are there tonal reasons for it? If it is for the tuning slide, why line the whole head?

I must say, this flute has a lovely sound.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 5:39 pm 
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Metal is very dense (compared to wood) and highly reflective, so lined headjoints are perhaps more predictable in terms of the tone and projection. I don't think I'd personally bother lining the headjoint of a delrin flute, simply because delrin is exceptionally smooth and dense already. But it does make an audible difference with other materials. Just another flavor, I think. Not better, not worse.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 5:46 pm 
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A flute with a metal lined head usually projects better than it would
without it. That doesn't mean there aren't all wood heads that project
better than metal heads. All other things being equal, the metal lined head
helps projection. There can be flutes that sound equally loud beneath the ear,
but one projects better than the other.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 6:25 pm 
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Here is Patirick Olwell's take on it in the link below, a secondhand post from the middle of a thread on thesession.org a couple of years ago. More opinions in the rest of the thread, but this is the most valuable post, I think:

https://thesession.org/discussions/39166#comment791885

For one thing, it illustrates how much the choice of lined vs. unlined relies on personal preference and maybe embouchure and playing style, because Patrick likes a lined head for session playing, while his son prefers an unlined head.

I like my Ruddal-ish flute with a fully lined head a little better than my Pratten-ish flute with an unlined head. Both are modern "Irish" designs, not vintage. But there are so many other variables between the two flutes that I can't say the preference is due to the lined head. Personally, I'm at the point where a lined head wouldn't be an essential thing if I was looking for a new flute purchase, but based on my limited experience, I definitely wouldn't mind it, if everything else was what I was looking for.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2019 9:34 pm 
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Location: Malua Bay, on the NSW Nature Coast
I think we can safely say the lined head came about as an extension (pardon the pun!) of the tuning slide. But here's the test to prove or disprove my assertion. Can anyone remember seeing a period flute with a metal head liner that didn't also use that liner as part of a tuning slide?

We do come across a lot of earlier and cheaper flutes that didn't have a head liner and relied on pulling out at the tenon like the recorder still does for tuning. They generally suffer fewer head cracks despite being more open to maltreatment by leaving wet. I see a metal liner in a cocus or boxwood head as a ticking time bomb, unless perhaps if you live in a non-centrally heated house in the Celtic Isles. I think blackwood must be a lot tougher, but I've come across liner-induced cracks even in modern blackwood flutes.

I'm just writing a discussion paper about what to do with our old Practice Clavier at the National Carillon Australia. The instrument was made 50 years ago in Loughborough in England, and suffers dreadfully in the Australian clime. The worst bits are the broad oak planks from which its tone bars are suspended. The 53 tone bars are hung across the planks from two pillars each, and the metal tone-bar resonators are held in holes through the plank. As the timber equilibrated to Australian conditions and shrank, the resonator tubes resisted the movement. Cracks ran along the line of resonator holes, joining them up into one long crack. Even now, in a drought year, and with the warming, drying climate Canberra has, the boards continue to shrink, pinning the tone-bars between the pillars. I'm having to remove the bars and convert one hole into a slot that I can use to adjust for the season. A few more each year....

Andro, I seem to remember you make harpsichords? You'll be familiar with the trick of drying out the sound board before gluing it into the case, to avoid it cracking next winter. When you have a soundboard around 3 ft wide, the movement can be about 1/4" before it's imprisoned. Better to have it go a bit floppy in the wet season rather than crack in several places in the dry.


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