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 Post subject: Ellis "essential flute"
PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2019 9:33 am 
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I got one of these a little over a week ago. I love it! It's kind of astonishing. But keep in mind I'm not a good or experienced flute player. I'm comparing it to a delrin "shannon" flute, a delrin M+E, and a no-name vintage french grenadillo flute

These are simple cylindrical-bore wooden flutes, with a taper at the head end to maintain tuning. Mine is a lively piece of figured walnut. They come with a thin moderately glossy coating on the outside: the inside is finished with what might be the same finish possibly more heavily applied, but I don't know if that's the case. There is a gloss finish on the inside of the flute. It's extremely light, with thinner walls than the other flutes I've got.

But man, wow, it's so interesting to play. It's an odd combination of much much easier and somewhat harder to play. Easy because it's so "free blowing" and LOUD. Just extremely responsive. Harder because it takes more air. It has excellent intonation, really remarkable, and as I get used to it I keep finding more and more in it.

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If I had to criticize it I'd say that the second octave is a little hard to manage. It's taken me a while to get that high A to not be too loud and piercing. I'm still working on it. I'd like the embouchure hole to be rotated a bit more towards me.

Again I'm not a very experienced flute player but I am an experienced musician and I know a good instrument when I find one. Something about the combination of simplicity and capacity is really pleasing.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:59 am 
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PB+J wrote:
I got one of these a little over a week ago. I love it! It's kind of astonishing. But keep in mind I'm not a good or experienced flute player. I'm comparing it to a delrin "shannon" flute, a delrin M+E, and a no-name vintage french grenadillo flute

These are simple cylindrical-bore wooden flutes, with a taper at the head end to maintain tuning. Mine is a lively piece of figured walnut. They come with a thin moderately glossy coating on the outside: the inside is finished with what might be the same finish possibly more heavily applied, but I don't know if that's the case. There is a gloss finish on the inside of the flute. It's extremely light, with thinner walls than the other flutes I've got.

But man, wow, it's so interesting to play. It's an odd combination of much much easier and somewhat harder to play. Easy because it's so "free blowing" and LOUD. Just extremely responsive. Harder because it takes more air. It has excellent intonation, really remarkable, and as I get used to it I keep finding more and more in it.

Image

If I had to criticize it I'd say that the second octave is a little hard to manage. It's taken me a while to get that high A to not be too loud and piercing. I'm still working on it. I'd like the embouchure hole to be rotated a bit more towards me.

Again I'm not a very experienced flute player but I am an experienced musician and I know a good instrument when I find one. Something about the combination of simplicity and capacity is really pleasing.


I really respect what Geoff Ellis is doing with resin-stabilized woods. I'm surprised they haven't caught on more, frankly (The "true irish" ones), because they protect against cracking, have a smoother bore, unlikely to warp with age, etc, and use more sustainable materials.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2019 12:18 pm 
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MadmanWithaWhistle wrote:
[

I really respect what Geoff Ellis is doing with resin-stabilized woods. I'm surprised they haven't caught on more, frankly (The "true irish" ones), because they protect against cracking, have a smoother bore, unlikely to warp with age, etc, and use more sustainable materials.


I don't think this flute is resin stabilized, because it's so light, but there is a seemingly moisture resistant barrier on the inside. Like you I'm interested in sustainable materials and not cracking.

This would certainly be capable of playing Irish music well--even in my hands, it sounds good until I run out of breath! I don't know how he licked the intonation issues, but he did. The largest downside is the lack of a tuning slide, also maybe less back pressure? The conical bore flutes I have are quieter and demand less air. It might be a little more difficult to get the "hard" Irish flute sound, or at least to get an extreme version of it


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 2:11 am 
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use more sustainable materials


Acrylic resins? :really:

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 3:37 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
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use more sustainable materials


Acrylic resins? :really:



Yes and also fossil fuels were used to deliver it to my door.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 9:41 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
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use more sustainable materials


Acrylic resins? :really:


I think a truly “sustainable” flute (in terms of eco-consciousness) would ideally be made with materials that one grows oneself in a sustainable way, and is worked with simple hand tools and finished with a natural finish of some kind (an oil or wax produced from one’s own land). Anything less is not purely sustainable.

Obviously in the strict sense of the word my flutes are not “sustainable”. I use power tools, I use various glues, epoxies, resins and such, and I use woods from all over the place (mostly domestic, non-threatened woods).

Incidentally, these Essential Flutes are finished on the inside with a clear marine epoxy, and some of them are made from stabilized woods (depends upon the wood). They have a lacquer and wax finish on the outside. My concession to a more eco-conscious flute is really limited to finding alternatives to tropical hardwoods whose origin might be questionable (or at least unknown to me). I’ve stopped stocking tropical woods, though I do still have a small stock of wood that I bought ages ago and which I’m using up. It will probably be gone in the space of a year or two and I won’t be replacing it.

But as PB+J points out, fossil fuels were used for delivery, and I do use products that are not what I would call “pure”. It’s not really possible for me to make flutes that are really sustainable unless I want to work exclusively with something like bamboo that I grow myself, and that would impose some limits on what I could achieve as a maker.

I may have shared this anecdote before, but I was once on a bansuri forum talking about using wood to make bansuri. There was a well-known (and pretty grumpy) bansuri maker on there who jumped in and pronounced that any flute maker who uses wood is “an ecological criminal who should go to jail”. I countered by asking the maker if he used a car, a computer, paper products of any kind, clothing made from synthetic fibers or if he lived in a timber frame house, etc.. The obvious point is that in our current world paradigm it is nearly impossible to live a truly sustainable lifestyle without making a pretty radical lifestyle transformation. What we really do is try to make concessions that are heading in the right direction in the hopes that we are leaving a smaller footprint.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 3:07 pm 
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My concession to a more eco-conscious flute is really limited to finding alternatives to tropical hardwoods whose origin might be questionable


Which is the primary ecological concern discussed in relation to flutes and flutemaking - I'm not sure why people felt the need to completely dissect the statement as an abstract without context.

Geoff, a couple maker questions for you - do you drill the bore pilot hole before resin impregnation in your process? And have you ever used any fabric or paper stabilized phenolic resin in lieu of wood? I have a paper-based phenolic resin that polishes up for beautiful mouthpieces on my whistles, but it's getting harder to find and is not the healthiest of materials to turn. It's kind of like a modern Bakelite.







--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now, a little soapboxing for those feeling guilty about their footprint: Industry dictates what we have access to as consumers. We should advocate for better products, sure, but it's ultimately in their power to make it happen. The corporate message in the US that everything would be fine if we all just bought things in green packaging and recycled a little more (which now ends up as landfill, except in a different (poorer) country) is a dishonest divestiture of responsibility on their part. One container ship crossing the Pacific emits as much carbon as all of the United States' cars in one day.

So while sure, we can help by individual changes, the groundwork for impactful change has to arise from industry.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 3:23 pm 
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MadmanWithaWhistle wrote:
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My concession to a more eco-conscious flute is really limited to finding alternatives to tropical hardwoods whose origin might be questionable


Which is the primary ecological concern discussed in relation to flutes and flutemaking - I'm not sure why people felt the need to completely dissect the statement as an abstract without context.

Geoff, a couple maker questions for you - do you drill the bore pilot hole before resin impregnation in your process? And have you ever used any fabric or paper stabilized phenolic resin in lieu of wood? I have a paper-based phenolic resin that polishes up for beautiful mouthpieces on my whistles, but it's getting harder to find and is not the healthiest of materials to turn. It's kind of like a modern Bakelite.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now, a little soapboxing for those feeling guilty about their footprint: Industry dictates what we have access to as consumers. We should advocate for better products, sure, but it's ultimately in their power to make it happen. The corporate message in the US that everything would be fine if we all just bought things in green packaging and recycled a little more (which now ends up as landfill, except in a different (poorer) country) is a dishonest divestiture of responsibility on their part. One container ship crossing the Pacific emits as much carbon as all of the United States' cars in one day.

So while sure, we can help by individual changes, the groundwork for impactful change has to arise from industry.


I think your soapboxing is right on the money :-)

I do all of my stabilizing before I work the wood at all. So in most cases it actually goes into the vacuum chamber in the form of a square billet. This is submerged in resin and put under a vacuum (usually for about 48 hours) and then released. I leave it in the resin (under weights) for a couple more days. Then it gets wrapped in foil and goes in the cure oven.

Resin does not 100% eliminate wood mobility (different woods behave differently), but it does greatly reduce it. Because of that it's only safe to stabilize in advance of working the wood. Once cured, I bore it, ream it and then shape the O.D.

Well, up until now I've never heard of paper stabilized phenolic resin! I just did a quick internet search to get a notion of what it is, and it looks quite interesting. But I can see why you wouldn't necessarily want too much exposure. Any type of dust can be bad for us, but I believe some are worse than others. So I take great care with any and all sanding and turning, regardless of material. But admittedly I worry a trifle less about breathing wood dust compared to epoxy dust. That might not be rational, because wood dust is plenty bad for us already! But epoxy dust, PVC dust etc. add some potential toxins that go above and beyond simply irritating the lungs.

I've also read about bamboo-resin composites that look interesting. I almost think it has been mentioned in a discussion on C&F at some point?

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 4:24 pm 
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Geoffrey Ellis wrote:
I do all of my stabilizing before I work the wood at all. So in most cases it actually goes into the vacuum chamber in the form of a square billet. This is submerged in resin and put under a vacuum (usually for about 48 hours) and then released. I leave it in the resin (under weights) for a couple more days. Then it gets wrapped in foil and goes in the cure oven.

Resin does not 100% eliminate wood mobility (different woods behave differently), but it does greatly reduce it. Because of that it's only safe to stabilize in advance of working the wood. Once cured, I bore it, ream it and then shape the O.D.

Well, up until now I've never heard of paper stabilized phenolic resin! I just did a quick internet search to get a notion of what it is, and it looks quite interesting. But I can see why you wouldn't necessarily want too much exposure. Any type of dust can be bad for us, but I believe some are worse than others. So I take great care with any and all sanding and turning, regardless of material. But admittedly I worry a trifle less about breathing wood dust compared to epoxy dust. That might not be rational, because wood dust is plenty bad for us already! But epoxy dust, PVC dust etc. add some potential toxins that go above and beyond simply irritating the lungs.

I've also read about bamboo-resin composites that look interesting. I almost think it has been mentioned in a discussion on C&F at some point?


Yeah, you can get some really nice looking and feeling materials that will take a good polish and be quite strong. The thing I like about phenolic is that it's quite stiff, and resonates nicely beneath the fingers. I find that most delrin flutes (Copley's are an exception) eat the higher frequencies, at least from the player's observation point. By the time it gets to the audience most people can't tell, but a flute should feel good to play.

I'm badgering Yola Christie to make a keyed flute out of a similar material to phenolic. For some reason I am very tied to the idea that a keyed flute for me personally must not move at all over its lifetime, as even the tiniest leak dulls the tone, and I prefer pin-mounted keys, which weaken natural wood to some degree. It's more about peace of mind than actual impact haha, but still.

https://www.formologyproducts.com/products/lignaform
This company, fairly local to my area, is doing some very interesting stuff. I might try contacting them to see if they interested in developing a material optimized for instruments, or whether they'd sell me some of the raw stuff.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 7:00 pm 
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When thinking about sustainability in the flute making context a few things need to be considered. Flute making does not use that much wood or other materials compared with other aspects of woodworking such as furniture making, finish carpentry etc. Also, unlike most commercial-scale furniture making our products are meant to last generations. It should also be remembered that many of the species we use such as African Blackwood are not a tropical rainforest species - and are more or less sustainably harvested. In my case the blackwood that I use is a byproduct of the clarinet industry: wood that was discarded by them for various reasons such as unsuitable. That big pile of some 7000 blackwood clarinet parts from LeBlanc's shut down manufacturing fit onto a single 4' X 4' pallet and only 3' high. This was enough wood for over 2000 flutes (more than I would make so I offloaded some of it earlier this spring).

Resin stabilized wood allows other less appropriate species to be used for sure - at some opint I am looking forward to making a pair of curly maple flutes. The wood is all ready and acrylic-impregnated.

Manufacturing the resins themselves carries some environmental costs, as does plastics. Making flutes requires energy and materials regardless of the ones used. I think it is a falsehood to consider one material more environmentally appropriate than another in terms of our flute making.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 7:20 pm 
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Phenolic resins. Vacuum impregnations. Acrylics. Young people these days, I don't know....

Nah, good on youse. The 19th century was great, but we must be getting close to time to move on...

I'm surprised you impregnate the lot, but you probably have your reasons. I'd imagine I'd do the rough boring (but not the reaming) and the rough outside turning (but not the profiling) just to get rid of the worst of the waste, and give the resin access to both inside and out. Then you're impregnating and curing less material with better access. But maybe you find the material machines better once impregnated?

Heh heh, sudden revulsion. I'm remembering all those impregnated recorders that people have brought to me over the years, where it's been left in a hot car and all the glycol (?) has softened and gathered in the bore! At least no risk of that with epoxy!

And Scrimber is probably the word you're looking for Geoffrey. (Admittedly not yet a word on everybody's lips...) Google: "CSIRO bamboo scrimber". (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - one of our premier science/industry bodies).


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 7:42 pm 
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Terry McGee wrote:
Phenolic resins. Vacuum impregnations. Acrylics. Young people these days, I don't know....

Nah, good on youse. The 19th century was great, but we must be getting close to time to move on...

I'm surprised you impregnate the lot, but you probably have your reasons. I'd imagine I'd do the rough boring (but not the reaming) and the rough outside turning (but not the profiling) just to get rid of the worst of the waste, and give the resin access to both inside and out. Then you're impregnating and curing less material with better access. But maybe you find the material machines better once impregnated?


Well, the first surprise I got when doing resin infusion is that wood doesn't really absorb it much through the surface, but rather the end grain. I have actually put some bored out and shaped pieces in and didn't find that it absorbed noticeably better than un-bored, square pieces. But to really evaluate this I'd need a more formal test where I weight the pieces before and after. I might find that there is more absorption than I think. My gut says no, because I've done a lot of this now and would probably notice a significant difference. So while you will save some waste by using rounded stock, that is the only advantage. And sometimes I do actually rough turn before infusion, but that presents some other difficulties I'll describe in a moment.

The wood does machine better after being infused. A big difference, actually. I've reamed raw maple versus infused maple and the difference is quite significant. The resin-infused piece cuts much smoother--more like an oily wood. Not quite as glassy as something like blackwood or cocobolo, but pretty close. Whereas the raw maple reams quite rough by comparison.

The difficulty with pre-boring the stock is that it can still move during the cure process unless steps are taken. In many cases this won't be a problem, but you might suddenly end up with a section whose bore now has a slight curve to it, which might complicate your re-boring or reaming process. I've overcome this problem in some cases, but that is another long and technical conversation :-) If you are only doing short pieces, this is not an issue. If you are getting up in the 20" range it's another matter.

With square stock, I can wrap the wood in foil after infusing, then clamp several pieces together in a row. The pressure from the clamp makes it difficult for the individual pieces of wood to move during the heat cure, so that there is less chance of warping. With some woods that are highly prone to warping, I actually sandwich the stock between lengths of square stock steel and clamp them from all four directions, so they can't move at all during the cure. Even so, if there is enough grain tension the wood might still move a little once the clamps are released.

Scrimber! I knew I heard that word before :-) I think it was from one of your posts, most likely!

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 7:53 pm 
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Casey Burns wrote:
I think it is a falsehood to consider one material more environmentally appropriate than another in terms of our flute making.


I think that you are correct, Casey. Most makers of wooden flutes (of the type that are popular here) seem to use blackwood. I hear about Mopane and Boxwood as well (and I don't know that either of those are considered threatened in any way). In the past I've used a lot of true tropical timbers that ended up on the CITIES list, and my choice to move away from them was probably of more significance symbolically than anything else, because I think flute makers barely impact the timber market at all. Of all the industries that use up tropical timbers, I doubt that flute making would even register on the scale. And in terms of environmental impact, the electricity that I use is probably just as much of a problem as anything!

My seeking out of alternative materials and woods is only partly due to the CITIES rules and concern about sustainable harvesting of timber (which I support). The other has to do with the amount of time it takes to age and season the wood. A lot of you guys who have been making "Irish" flutes for so many years have been systematically stockpiling timbers and making them ready years in advance. By the time my interests led me (quite suddenly) in the direction of doing these flutes I was way too late to start settling my flute timbers. I'd have been years catching up. So by turning to stabilized woods I'm able to get great results without having to lay in stockpiles of seasoned blackwood (for example). Though like you I did get a bunch of that clarinet wood ;-)

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 7:56 pm 
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And PB+J, sorry about the thread getting hijacked! You had started an excellent thread talking about some amazing flute you had just acquired--that seems far more important than this digression (even though I love geeking out about this stuff).

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:21 pm 
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The flute is amazing still. I get better on it every day. it's extremely powerful.


My interest in it came partly from the use of domestic woods. I've built about two dozen guitars, mostly solid bodes, and have stopped using anything but domestic hardwoods. Partly it's the marketing--wood for luthiers is often marketed by luthier's supply houses as "scarce" or rare. I just don't want to participate in that. The market for basement workshop guitar production is obviously not in and of itself causing deforestation, but the rhetoric around it is all about "buy this now because it's running out." No, thank you.

They only thing you can't easily substitute on a guitar is the fingerboard/fretboard. There are really no hard, dark N. American hardwoods. Leo fender of course did just fine with maple fretboards, and now you can 'roast" maple to make it very dark.

I've built a number of guitars with fretboards made out of "richlite," which is layers of paper impregnated with phenolic resin. The stuff is really durable--we have multiple cutting boards made out of it that have gone in the dishwasher every day for ten years and have held up really well. Richlite makes a great fretboard--it's uniform, dark (it comes in different colors), and can be polished to a high gloss. It holds frets really well, and machines really well. It's a great substitute for Ebony. I've been wondering what kind of flute it would make.

Is it "more green" than Ebony? It's not clear and it would depend on your measure. It uses recycled paper and phenolic resin, and no doubt large hydraulic presses. It doesn't involve clearing rain forests or tribal warfare or thuggery.


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