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PostPosted: Sat Nov 02, 2019 10:23 pm 
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Yes, you knew it had to come, sooner or later, didn't you. After all, why should flutes be any different to everything else on the planet?

What prompts this muse is the arrival on my desk of a flute barrel made a few years back by one of our very-much alive Irish makers, but now sporting a significant crack for about 3/4 of its length. With the wide part of the crack at the head end, narrowing to nothing at the body end. So we can rule out an overwrapped tenon, as that end of the barrel is fine.

The top (head) end of the crack is about 1mm wide, and you can clearly see the metal liner inside.

The Magnahelic Flute Leakage Detector regards the crack as almost fresh air - a reading of over 6 out of 8. (The Magnahelic regards 2 as the maximum reading acceptable, and that's for the whole flute including all the pads.) So this isn't ignorable. A leak like this in the middle of a flute is like putting your hand around the neck of the guitar about halfway down. It can't play.

And some more evidence to complete the picture. I was able to remove the two rings by "peeling" them off with my thumb. Normally, I'd expect to have to press those off.

So, I think it's pretty easy to see what's happened here. The flute was made in Ireland's lush climate, and brought out to Australia a few years ago to the rural NSW town of Yass. Normally celebrated as prime (Merino) sheep country, Yass, along with a lot of eastern Australia has been struggling with drought for a number of years, so atmospheric moisture is hard to come by. Wood shrinks under these conditions, and metal doesn't, so bang.

The good news for the flute is that I've been able to press the female tuning slide out, and will glue the crack, re-ream to make the slide a more gentle fit and tighten and refit the rings to support the wood better. The crack has already slammed shut with a great sigh of relief, and will have to be tricked opened to be able to get the glue in, so the final repair should be pretty invisible.

But let's get back to the Climate Change aspect of all this, and ponder what it means to we flute makers and players. The general expectation expressed by climate scientists is that we can expect dry places like Australia's inlands to get drier, whereas coastal places can probably expect more rain from increased sea and air temperatures, and more wild weather from a more energetic atmosphere. Yass's drought is just a foretaste, this is fast becoming the reality.

So we can expect to see a more acute difference between coastal areas and inland areas. That's not just limited to Ireland vs inland Australia, but coastal Australia to inland America, coastal US to inland Europe and so on.

I'm still happy with my New Improved Tuning Slide design, http://www.mcgee-flutes.com/fluteslide.html, which seems to be enough to get around these issues, but even I have to wonder for how long? Young makers in particular will need to deal with this.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2019 7:10 am 
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Location: Melbourne, Australia
Hi Terry,

Last summer I got a Blackwood flute, newly made, from cold, dark, lush, green, wet Ireland and it arrived here when it was 40 degrees centigrade for a week and 15 percent humidity here in Melbourne. I spent a month in a panic thinking it would just split its seams, but I nursed it carefully everyday and kept it humidified and it has survived uncracked for nearly a year now, but I do monitor the humidity and keep it in a good case with a bit of wet sponge. But it does make me nervous. [There's something to be said for Boehm silver flutes, and Delrin!]

The solution is that we need more flutemakers Down Under!

Climate change is real (I speak with a background in science) but Australia has always been a lot hotter and drier than Ireland and Europe anyway, but it is indeed getting worse, and not just subjectively.

cheerio!

Andrew


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2019 7:21 am 
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I know that in the past guitar makers tended to built them much more robustly, because they assumed people would be playing and keeping them in much more variable environments, and it wasn't possible to climate control the factory in any way. Now factories are climate controlled, wood moisture is monitored, and guitars are often built lighter, arriving with stern warnings about the necessity of humidification and prone to cracking or shifting a lot with weather changes. I have a lot of guitars, including a 45 year old Archtop, and for a while i tried to keep them in a humidified room or in humidified cases but it was just too much of a PITA. They've all been fine, but they do need seasonal adjustment. I have a "winter bridge" for my selmer-style guitar.

Is there a similar tendency for flutemakers to make them less robust in the modern era? It wold be interesting to talk to the Olwells about this--Virginia has a pretty variable climate, dry cold winters and hot humid summers.

But yes it will get worse. I love my ebonite flute, seems like a pretty great alternative, although you say it's not pleasant to turn? There must be other alternatives to delrin--materials science is a thing!

I posted a while ago about Rocklite, which gets raves from luthiers. https://www.rocklite.co.uk/


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2019 8:24 am 
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Rocklite looks interesting but only appears to be manufactured in thin slabs that would first have to be glued up to form a billet before being turned round.

Also, what exactly is it made from? The website doesn’t say. How does anyone know that it would be safe for woodwinds, which is very different for something being safe to simply handle, like stringed instruments.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2019 8:29 am 
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i happened to be talking to a luthier yesterday about materials when Rocklite came up; apparently, it's some sort of resin-infused wood, but the particular resin and wood involved seems to be a trade secret.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2019 8:42 am 
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flyingparchment wrote:
i happened to be talking to a luthier yesterday about materials when Rocklite came up; apparently, it's some sort of resin-infused wood, but the particular resin and wood involved seems to be a trade secret.


Thanks for that.

Hmmm, kind of problematic for those with wood allergies. I’d also want to know what chemicals make up the resin. Makers should want to know as well, both for their own health as well as potential health hazards for the end user.

And what byproducts are created by the manufacture of this stuff and it’s ingredients?

At the end of the day (year, decade, millennium) history shows that we rarely solve one problem without creating others.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2019 12:07 pm 
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Not to knock Terry's opening premise, but it seems to me that this is less about climate change than about flute care in general.

Climate change may make the outdoors drier over the years in some places, but it can be equally dry indoors with central heating if you're in a wet or moderate climate where it gets very cold in Winter, like north-central USA and Canada. Even in my nominally "wet" climate in northwestern Washington State, the forced air heating system during a cold snap can bring the inside of our house into the danger zone below 30% rh on a few days of the year, when it's down into the 20's F at night.

I use one large room humidifier in the main dining room, and a smaller room humidifer in our music room, where I can maintain 38-45% rh in the colder months. It's not just for the flute... I have a few nice guitars and mandolins, and my S.O. has a very nice fiddle and grand piano. In addition, it's just not comfortable to live in house that's at 20% rh or lower. Your skin dries out, you get static shocks touching things... the cats hate getting zapped. There is more than one reason to control the indoor humidity.

This is still somewhat related to the climate change issue, because many of us will take our carefully humidified musical instruments out of the house into the untamed wilds of outdoor venues and indoor heated sessions where the air can be dry. As the climate changes, that delta in humidity will grow larger. But how significant is it? How quickly can a wooden musical instrument be damaged, when moving from controlled 40%+ indoor climate to a much lower outdoor climate? Or a venue with heating that drives it that low in Winter?

Anecdotally, I haven't seen a problem playing my instruments at a heated venue, but we don't have the severely cold Winters here in the PNW that you get in the central Midwest USA and Canada. And I've never lived in a severely dry area like a desert. In these generally moderate conditions, my impression over the years is that while wooden instruments don't like drastic change in humidity, it still takes more than a few hours exposure to cause damage. Maybe your mileage varies, depending on where you live.

At least there are flute options for the most severe arid locations, and for people who for one reason or another can't control indoor humidity. There are the non-wood Delrin and Ebonite, and wooden flutes that are epoxy-impregnated or "torrified" for stability. Another option we may eventually see more of, is an extended wooden tenon for tuning like the Casey Burns Folk Flute. A flute designed for A440 shouldn't need the length of metal slide used in 19th Century designs. My Aebi flute in cocus has a typical long metal slide, but because it's well-optimized for A440, I never have to pull out the slide more than 1/4". A wooden tenon might have worked there.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2019 12:16 pm 
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Loren wrote:
flyingparchment wrote:
i happened to be talking to a luthier yesterday about materials when Rocklite came up; apparently, it's some sort of resin-infused wood, but the particular resin and wood involved seems to be a trade secret.


Thanks for that.

Hmmm, kind of problematic for those with wood allergies. I’d also want to know what chemicals make up the resin. Makers should want to know as well, both for their own health as well as potential health hazards for the end user.

And what byproducts are created by the manufacture of this stuff and it’s ingredients?

At the end of the day (year, decade, millennium) history shows that we rarely solve one problem without creating others.



History shows lots of things, including that not solving problems leads to the persistence of the same problems


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2019 12:33 pm 
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PB+J wrote:


History shows lots of things, including that not solving problems leads to the persistence of the same problems


Wow, that’s deep.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 03, 2019 6:38 pm 
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Hijacking this thread to dryness concerns and winter specifically. At least three of the sessions I have played over the years LOVE to put the musicians right in front of a roaring fire because it is so gosh darn picturesque. So now we've got them trained to let the fire die before we get there for the safety of our instruments. But since these fireplaces were built of stone to mimic those lovely cottage fireplaces in the old country, they are still hecka hot. It may take a good hour before I'm willing to sit next to one with a wooden instrument. I agree with Terry there will be more confusion as we adjust to our varying climates.

Things that worked to humidify in previous years may be inadequate or too much depending on the change in the amount of heating and humidifying you are now required to do.The old rules of thumb may need to be adjusted. Last year's Chicago winter seemed more like Minnesota, so the humidifiers I regularly used we getting filled twice as often and more than once I had to let my shower run on full heat into a plugged tub just for the added steam, and found myself hanging wet towels over my hot water radiators.

And if your area is becoming warmer or damper there were need to be some adjustments made as well.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2019 4:57 am 
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Woah, plant an idea and come back a day later and there's a landslide.....

Andro wrote:
Hi Terry,

Last summer I got a Blackwood flute, newly made, from cold, dark, lush, green, wet Ireland and it arrived here when it was 40 degrees centigrade for a week and 15 percent humidity here in Melbourne. I spent a month in a panic thinking it would just split its seams, but I nursed it carefully everyday and kept it humidified and it has survived uncracked for nearly a year now, but I do monitor the humidity and keep it in a good case with a bit of wet sponge. But it does make me nervous. [There's something to be said for Boehm silver flutes, and Delrin!]

Yeah. The scary thing is you don't really know what stress a lined flute is under. It might be none, it might be lots, it might be, uh-oh, too late. Sometimes you do get a clue - if the rings come loose, that tells you the wood has shrunk. But it's a bit like the old VWs where a light would come on to tell you you've just run out of petrol....

Quote:
The solution is that we need more flutemakers Down Under!

Indeed. I am aware of a few people contemplating doing something about this. Always happy to help....

Quote:
Climate change is real (I speak with a background in science) but Australia has always been a lot hotter and drier than Ireland and Europe anyway, but it is indeed getting worse, and not just subjectively.

Yes, English-made flutes have always suffered in India, America and Australia due to the difference in humidity levels. Now the gap is widening.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2019 5:04 am 
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PB+J wrote:
I know that in the past guitar makers tended to built them much more robustly, because they assumed people would be playing and keeping them in much more variable environments, and it wasn't possible to climate control the factory in any way. Now factories are climate controlled, wood moisture is monitored, and guitars are often built lighter, arriving with stern warnings about the necessity of humidification and prone to cracking or shifting a lot with weather changes. I have a lot of guitars, including a 45 year old Archtop, and for a while i tried to keep them in a humidified room or in humidified cases but it was just too much of a PITA. They've all been fine, but they do need seasonal adjustment. I have a "winter bridge" for my selmer-style guitar.

Is there a similar tendency for flutemakers to make them less robust in the modern era? It wold be interesting to talk to the Olwells about this--Virginia has a pretty variable climate, dry cold winters and hot humid summers.

But yes it will get worse. I love my ebonite flute, seems like a pretty great alternative, although you say it's not pleasant to turn? There must be other alternatives to delrin--materials science is a thing!

I posted a while ago about Rocklite, which gets raves from luthiers. https://www.rocklite.co.uk/


I'm not aware of any makers favouring a less robust construction, but we don't want to go back to the fat flutes of the late 18th, early 19th century either. I think we have to get smarter, not fatter!

And I do make use of humidity control. I have to, given I'm in a relatively high humidity place on the NSW coast. (Well, high humidity by Australian standards. Irish pot-plants would still be popping down to the pub for a drink....)

And yes, synthetics may well be a good answer. A far better use for fossilised organics than burning them!


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2019 5:49 am 
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Conical bore wrote:
Not to knock Terry's opening premise, but it seems to me that this is less about climate change than about flute care in general.

I'd say it's an extension to flute care in general. The physics is the same, but the difference in humidity levels at both ends is widening (unless we resolve only to buy flutes from makers in a similar local environment, and never to move house!)

Quote:
Climate change may make the outdoors drier over the years in some places, but it can be equally dry indoors with central heating if you're in a wet or moderate climate where it gets very cold in Winter, like north-central USA and Canada. Even in my nominally "wet" climate in northwestern Washington State, the forced air heating system during a cold snap can bring the inside of our house into the danger zone below 30% rh on a few days of the year, when it's down into the 20's F at night.

But these things are cumulative. The air conditioning or central heating reduces the humidity of the outside air. If climate change also reduces the humidity, then it plunges even lower. I observed this problem with our National Carillon's practice clavier. It uses glockenspiel tone bars to make the sound, and these are hung from wide boards of oak. The practice instrument was made in 1969 in Loughborough in midlands England, then shipped to dry Canberra. It struggled over the years but in 2002, they decided to install air conditioning. They should have asked me first, but they didn't. I'd have said, fine, as long as it has humidification built in. Well, it didn't and haven't I had fun since trying to maintain it. The problem is that each of the bars is hung from two bolts, spaced across the boards. As the boards shrink in width with the onset of dry weather, the bolt holes and therefore the bolts move together, pinning the bars so they can't speak. The bass bars are much longer than the treble bars, so the silence creeps up from the left hand end of the keyboard. Then we went into drought a few years back and it all went haywire. I finally had to bite the bullet, and mill the holes of the longest bars into slots, to allow for the timber movement. And of course, as we move further into climate change, the temperatures are rising, so the air conditioning is used more, and that dries the air more, and.....

Quote:
I use one large room humidifier in the main dining room, and a smaller room humidifer in our music room, where I can maintain 38-45% rh in the colder months. It's not just for the flute... I have a few nice guitars and mandolins, and my S.O. has a very nice fiddle and grand piano. In addition, it's just not comfortable to live in house that's at 20% rh or lower. Your skin dries out, you get static shocks touching things... the cats hate getting zapped. There is more than one reason to control the indoor humidity.

Yep, none of us wants Grumpy Cat!

Quote:
This is still somewhat related to the climate change issue, because many of us will take our carefully humidified musical instruments out of the house into the untamed wilds of outdoor venues and indoor heated sessions where the air can be dry. As the climate changes, that delta in humidity will grow larger. But how significant is it? How quickly can a wooden musical instrument be damaged, when moving from controlled 40%+ indoor climate to a much lower outdoor climate? Or a venue with heating that drives it that low in Winter?

Somewhere on my website, I did an experiment putting flute heads into freezers and so on. I don't think we are at that much risk of thermal shock. I think humidity change is the issue. And even humidity change has no fear for unlined sections - the worst that will happen is your rings will come loose, and that's easily fixed with "the old handkerchief trick". It's the conjunction of metal linings and shrinkage that is the problem.

Quote:
Anecdotally, I haven't seen a problem playing my instruments at a heated venue, but we don't have the severely cold Winters here in the PNW that you get in the central Midwest USA and Canada. And I've never lived in a severely dry area like a desert. In these generally moderate conditions, my impression over the years is that while wooden instruments don't like drastic change in humidity, it still takes more than a few hours exposure to cause damage. Maybe your mileage varies, depending on where you live.

Agreed. Moisture level change inside wood, especially such dense woods, takes quite a while. It's not going to happen during an event.

Quote:
At least there are flute options for the most severe arid locations, and for people who for one reason or another can't control indoor humidity. There are the non-wood Delrin and Ebonite, and wooden flutes that are epoxy-impregnated or "torrified" for stability. Another option we may eventually see more of, is an extended wooden tenon for tuning like the Casey Burns Folk Flute. A flute designed for A440 shouldn't need the length of metal slide used in 19th Century designs. My Aebi flute in cocus has a typical long metal slide, but because it's well-optimized for A440, I never have to pull out the slide more than 1/4". A wooden tenon might have worked there.

There is the issue that a thicker wooden tenon when pulled out leaves a more significant cavity which tends to introduce disruptions probably of both an acoustic and an aerodynamic type, hence my MDT (Minimum Disruption Tenon) approach which seeks to minimise the thickness of the wooden tenon. But yes, we should continue to seek out alternative tuning approaches. And again, yes, we may need to look to materials other than wood if we cannot find adequate solutions involving wood. But just convince me I don't like wood....


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2019 11:59 am 
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I like the MDT (Minimum Disruption Tenon) type ideas. I think the conventional tuning slide was originally introduced
to solve a different problem than we face today, namely allowing the same instrument to be played at different pitch
standards. It doesn't do a good job of that, but it seems to be over-kill for the problem we use it for today, namely
compensating for different blowing styles among players, and different temperatures and humidity levels, all while
targeting the same pitch standard.

So, given that we now have a widely accepted and stable pitch standard, how much tuning range do we really need?
Would it be worthwhile making flutes that have tuning refined for specific players, either during construction, or after
the fact? Would it make sense to use inserts to close the gap between the end of a tenon and socket when we use a
long tenon as a tuning slide? Has anyone done an detailed study to find where the optimum position in the bore is
for tolerating a gap produced by a tuning tenon?


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2019 1:56 pm 
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Regarding the climate change aspect of this thread, I'm not convinced that climate change will actually
increase the humidity-related problems we face, at least with regard to cracking ... but I am open to being
convinced.

I am under the impression that warmer air holds more moisture, so absolute humidity should increase with
global warming. When we use air conditioners to cool that warm air the relative humidity of the indoor air
increases. This is generally a problem for AC units that are trying to make conditions more comfortable for
people inside, so they are used in combination with dehumidifiers in order to try to keep the relative humidity
from going too high, which would counter the intended cooling effect. I thought the concern was that as the
climate warms these dehumidifiers may not be able to keep up. So the effect of this is that indoor humidity is
likely to rise, not fall, with global warming, especially in the hotter areas.

As for winter, if global warming generally makes winters milder, then there will be a smaller difference between
outdoor and indoor temperatures, meaning that when your heating system warms up the air, the reduction
in relative humidity will be smaller than it was before. So with global warming the relative humidity level of
indoor air should gradually rise, not fall.

In general, this seems like good news for flutes, at least with regard to shrinkage issues, and suggests that in
the long run maybe we should be concerned more with mold issues increasing with climate change.

I do not think that these climate change effects will solve our existing problem with flutes cracking, and
so I'm interested in solutions for that, but I don't think climate change really has much to do with that problem.
Isn't that problem mostly due to shipping flutes around the world between radically different climates, and
keeping flutes indoors in climates that have extremely cold, dry, winters? A solution to the former might be
something as simple as buying from a local maker, or at least one who lives in a similar climate. The latter
probably needs materials or flute designs that are suitable for that climate.

But please correct me if any of my arguments are nonsense! :poke:


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