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 Post subject: Re: Climate in India?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2019 7:41 pm 
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Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2004 4:12 pm
Posts: 2017
Location: Malua Bay, on the NSW Nature Coast
Nanohedron wrote:
Why hasn't binding caught on in the West?


Binding around heads, as practiced in the East? Probably because it won't help with cracking around a slide.

When a bamboo flute is played, the wood on the wet inside (er, grass, technically) expands, while the outside doesn't. Pressure builds up and there can be a rupture. Extremely tight binding can assist the outside to resist that rupturing force.

Our problem isn't when the flute is played, indeed it's probably at its worst when the flute hasn't been played in a long time. When the flute head and barrel were made, back in dank England (heh heh, never pass up a chance!), the slides had to be installed tightly enough not to move. Sometimes you see little burrs raised in the outside of the slide to help it lock into place without needing to be too tight. Take that flute to a dryer climate, the wood will shrink, the metal will not. Tension builds up in the wood. If we get to a point where the wood can't handle the tension (and remember wood isn't good in lateral tension), it will split. Binding won't help because it's splitting due to lateral tension, not an inner pressure trying to bust out.

The same forces were what caused 19th century cabinetmakers to move to frame & panel cabinet construction. If you just make say a door out of solid timber (the mediaeval castle style), it moves a lot with the weather, and it becomes really hard to keep the lock functioning properly (the castle door used a simple latch secured when necessary with a plank across inside). So you make an outside frame with longways timbers all round. Timber doesn't move signficantly longways, so now your lock works all through the seasons. But how to fill the hole in the middle of the frame? If you just fill it with planks of wood glued in or on, they'll shrink in the dry season and cause cracks. And swell in the wet season and make the frame bulge and the lock (or the whole door!) will jam. So they invented the floating panel. It's made from glued-up planks, but "floats" in a groove around the inside of the frame. Typically a single spot of glue is used to pin it at the centre top and centre bottom of the panel, making sure that the panel is centred before letting it dry!

The flute cases I get from Ken Free feature top and bottom floating panels. Quite a few of the old 19th century English mahogany flute cases I have have splits in top and bottom because they just glued them up all round. Ironic that both flute and case suffered cracks for the same reason! Rather sad that it took me a long time to realise that!


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 Post subject: Re: Climate in India?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2019 8:21 pm 
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Posts: 935
Location: Southwestern Ontario
benhall.1 wrote:
Mr.Gumby wrote:
Anecdotally speaking I can say that wiithin two years of moving into a semi derelict cottage in the West of Ireland I had one fiddle come asunder on me (the neck came off while the fiddle was stored in its case). Flutes have never given any problems.

Yes, but the point is that any half well made fiddle will not be affected by that at all. You can even run the things over, and they can still get fixed up by a reasonably competent luthier to be as good as they were before (which is better than new).
I have a fair bit of experience checking over student violins for issues. In a big enough population, there's always something that needs repairing. Fiddles are held together with hide glue, which holds well, but readily gives up when subjected to heat and moisture ... intentionally so, because it makes for a reversible bond. After enough cycles of humidity, gaps will open up between the back or belly and the ribs, sometimes in the centre joint of the back or belly, or under the fingerboard. Cracks in the wood itself are more likely the result of abuse than climate, but they do happen for both reasons.

I think Conical bore has captured a couple of important points.

Conical bore wrote:
Fiddles and flutes can both develop cracks from environmental stress, but both types of cracks can be repaired, so that comes out about even. The profile of wear over time is different though. Flutes wear in places that are more difficult to repair, like strangled or otherwise warped tenons, or warping of the entire barrel (for boxwood?). [...]

One other factor may be the scarcity of repair techs who know how to address issues with a 19th Century wooden flute design, compared to the scads of stringed instrument repair people out there. This may be one reason why wooden flutes are seen as more fragile over time, if there are just so few people who know how to repair them and keep them going through the years.


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 Post subject: Re: Climate in India?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2019 9:48 pm 
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Location: Pacific Northwest USA
PB+J wrote:
I like my M&E flute a lot and get a lot of joy out of playing badly. The M&E is great-it's extremely rugged, has a big hard sound, and there's nothing at all precious about it. I do feel like there's a better flute out there, and I'm always looking, but I balk at a wooden flute, because of the cracks and because of the relatively higher maintenance. I have an old no name grenadilla flute I got on ebay, and have been gradually restoring (it has a crack in the barrel), and it has a nice light feel. To bad it's not in tune with itself! Olwell is a couple hours away but I think "do I really want to spend that kind of dough on a flute that's going to crack?" One night a few years ago I woke up to a loud crack and the sound of ringing strings--my double bass had just cracked a rib. Expensive repair! This is what happens when you go from 90% humidity to forced air heating in a month.

Don't fear the reaper! Er... I mean wood splitting, if you're at all interested in playing a wooden flute.

It's all about environmental control, and it's not that hard. I live in a fairly benign climate (Pacific Northwest USA), but we still get cold snaps where the forced air heat kicks in, and can dry out the air to a point where it isn't healthy for any of our wooden instruments --- my flute, guitars, mandolin, or my S.O.'s fiddle and her piano. I run room humidifiers to make sure no room with musical instruments in our house gets below 40% rh. If you monitor the environment and use the right room or whole-house humidifying methods, it's not that difficult to keep a well-made and well-seasoned wooden flute from cracking.

Most of the stories we hear about wooden flutes cracking are probably due to not following the kind of care we know about today, and that people didn't know about in the heyday of the wooden flutes from the 19th Century. Including all the neglected vintage flutes in dry storage before they were suddenly popular again in the latter part of the 20th Century.

I play a wooden flute with a full metal-lined head. I'm not sure when it was made because I bought it secondhand, but it's a modern recreation of a Rudall-type, made maybe 15-20 years ago in Switzerland (Tom Aebi), then played for maybe 10-15 years in Italy, then it made its way up here to Washington State USA. The headjoint with the full metal liner hasn't cracked. If it does I'll be sad, but frankly I don't think it's likely, because I'm taking care of it properly.

You *do* need to spend a bit more effort with a wooden flute compared to Delrin or Ebonite, even aside from controlling humidity. Swabbing it out after playing is the main thing, to avoid raising the wood grain in the barrel. I have a method now that's so fast, using a piece of "cloth" type paper towel wrapped around a long bamboo chopstick, that it takes me only about 60 seconds after every playing session. A small price to pay for the visual and emotional appeal of playing a wooden flute.


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 Post subject: Re: Climate in India?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2019 10:15 pm 
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Location: Malua Bay, on the NSW Nature Coast
PB+J wrote:
I like my M&E flute a lot and get a lot of joy out of playing badly. The M&E is great-it's extremely rugged, has a big hard sound, and there's nothing at all precious about it. I do feel like there's a better flute out there, and I'm always looking, but I balk at a wooden flute, because of the cracks and because of the relatively higher maintenance. I have an old no name grenadilla flute I got on ebay, and have been gradually restoring (it has a crack in the barrel), and it has a nice light feel. To bad it's not in tune with itself!

Once you've satisfied yourself with the repairs, we may be able to talk you through improving the tuning....

Quote:
Olwell is a couple hours away but I think "do I really want to spend that kind of dough on a flute that's going to crack?"

Heh heh, if he's only a few hours away, it's pretty unlikely his flute would crack at your place. Unless you are really mean to it.

It's when someone from a nice moist climate as our little sea-side village sends flutes to places like New Mexico or Alaska we have to get sneaky. (I have flutes in both places.)

Quote:
Terry's slide seems pretty ingenious, I must admit. Presumably the cork would compress over time?

You would think so, but it doesn't seem to happen much. Probably confirms that the fit has become tighter (ie the new place has lower humidity than here) rather than looser. But if it comes loose, replacement is a doddle (easier than on a tenon), or if the fit just needs tightening a little (say in a much damper climate than ours), put a singe turn of masking tape around the cork, and reinsert it.


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