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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2020 3:34 pm 
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I acquired an older (made around 2000) Casey Burns standard blackwood flute at the beginning of October, which I really like. It's all-wood, meaning no slide, unlined head, no rings. From the background I know of it, the flute was well-maintained over the years. Since I've had it, the bore dries out more quickly than I'd expect, so I end up oiling it about every 3 weeks or so, sometimes sooner. I asked Casey about this, and he said "yes, oil the flute as much as needed. You cannot over-oil." Back in October, the humidity dropped pretty low, well below 40% on really hot days, so I was keeping the flute in a plastic container with a humidifier (Oasis guitar humidifier). Now that the temps have dropped where I live in northern California, the humidity has stabilized between 47%-55%, so I'm keeping it in an open-top wooden case. But the flute is still getting drier than I think it should be, to the point that the lighter brown grain of the wood appears in the bore and embouchure & tone holes, and it just looks "dried out." Also, it's more difficult to play and as I put it to Casey, it just sounds dry. A couple of days ago, I could barely get it to play above G in the second octave. [caveat: I'm just resuming playing the flute after a few years' hiatus, so I do consider the role my developing embouchure has to do with it, but when well-oiled, I/it plays well]. I don't mind oiling it so often, but it does strike my as odd that it's drying out so quickly. I play every day for around an hour or so. I oiled it thoroughly yesterday, and today it plays fantastic.

I've read through as many discussions on the forum I could find about oiling, but haven't found a clear explanation, so I'm wondering if others have had similar experiences or those of you who are savvy about dryness with wooden flutes might share your knowledge and sage advice.

Cheers,
Stephen


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2020 3:56 pm 
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The fact that it has survived without cracking for years is a good sign. Do you know where it lived before. A more humid climate could have caused less drying of the wood. And perhaps the flute is responding to your environment more like a new flute will.

Also, are you using an oil that CB suggested.

If it were mine I would oil it as much as it liked. You really can't over oil as Casey says. At some point the oil will just sit on the surface of the wood. Which is not much of a problem as it can be wiped off easily.

Have you ever soaked it overnight? I used to do that with my flutes when they were newer. You have to remove the keys if you have them, and some would recommend you remove the cork. But I just dunked my flute in a properly sized plastic container filled with oil to cover. Later, when they were more aged I would wrap a really oily paper towel around them and let them sit for a few hours whenever I thought they needed oiling. (I use almond oil so I didn't worry about spontaneous combustion lol.). I'd think these methods would give the flute more of an opportunity to really absorb the oil, more so than just wiping it down.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2020 5:15 pm 
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Agreed, you can't over oil your flute--it will soak up what it will. Most flute makers recommend oils that won't pool up and dry, or gum up your flute. I've followed Olwell's direction with great success: Almond oil, applied lightly and allowed a bit to soak in, and then wiping away all excess before putting my flute away. You don't want excess oil to dry anywhere inside your bore.

As a woodworker, I've seen some woods soak up a finish even after several applications. While other woods, (dense hardwoods--flute wood) absorb very little.

Follow your flute maker's directions is always a good rule of thumb.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2020 7:26 pm 
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@busterbill: From what I know, it was owned until last year by a fellow in the New England region (maybe CT or DE) who I was told had a sizable collection of flutes which his son sold off after the older gentleman passed away. Then it was in NC briefly, and finally in PA for a couple of months before I got it in October.

Casey recommends Gamblin's Cold Pressed Linseed Oil. For some reason, I had thought his instructions suggested Bore Doctor (maybe Dave Copley does, whose flutes I've also owned in the past, so had that in my head), which is what I've been using, but after checking with Casey, I'm going to use Gamblin's from now on. He said Bore Doctor is okay, but his choice is Gamblin's.

I haven't ever thought to (or heard of) actually soaking a flute in oil! It's keyless, so the only problem would be the threads on the tenon.

@BKWeid: Perhaps I may be needlessly worried about oil 'gumming up' as you put it. And I do run a swabbing cloth (the same one I use after playing) through the bore after a few hours or overnight after oiling, depending on how long I've let it sit. I've generally followed Blayne Chastain's instructional tutorial on flute care: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JL5KWcDMMBA
Yes, following the maker's instructions is always good advice!


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2020 9:02 pm 
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Stiofan,

I guess I should clarify, when I said "soak", I mean that I put a few drops of oil on a clean cotton rag and wipe the flute down--inside and out, using a cleaning rod for the inside. When I read your post and re-read mine, they put an image of an oil bath in my head. That may be overkill. :shock:


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2020 9:30 pm 
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BKWeid wrote:
I guess I should clarify, when I said "soak", I mean that I put a few drops of oil on a clean cotton rag and wipe the flute down--inside and out, using a cleaning rod for the inside. When I read your post and re-read mine, they put an image of an oil bath in my head. That may be overkill.


Well, that's how I understood @busterbill:
busterbill wrote:
Have you ever soaked it overnight? I used to do that with my flutes when they were newer. You have to remove the keys if you have them, and some would recommend you remove the cork. But I just dunked my flute in a properly sized plastic container filled with oil to cover.


The cloth I use (satin, maybe?) might be too thin to apply the oil as well as needs to be done in the bore, so perhaps a cotton cloth would work better.

I'm still curious why the flute dries out so quickly with the humidity around 50%, but I didn't study physics in college like my (meteorologist) dad would have had me do.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2020 1:30 am 
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I am impressed with how much information Blayne was able to put into a 4 minute video! Seems like anybody else would have taken 15 minutes to do it.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2020 11:11 am 
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stiofan wrote:
I'm still curious why the flute dries out so quickly with the humidity around 50%, but I didn't study physics in college like my (meteorologist) dad would have had me do.


I can't answer in a scientific way, but I once asked Solen Lesouef about humidity, and she told me that around 60% is nice, and to avoid under 50%, so maybe you'll have to keep it in the humidifier box more often


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2020 11:38 am 
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BKWeid wrote:
I guess I should clarify, when I said "soak", I mean that I put a few drops of oil on a clean cotton rag and wipe the flute down--inside and out, using a cleaning rod for the inside. When I read your post and re-read mine, they put an image of an oil bath in my head. That may be overkill.
What Blayne Chastain is doing in that excellent video is somewhere in between, and maybe nearer to the oil bath in effect - the wood is thoroughly wetted and left that way for a while.

That's part of how I interpreted Casey's "you cannot over oil". The other part being doing it often. I slather it on like Blayne but do wipe off excess almond oil after a few hours - but only because I don't like the faint nutty smell.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2020 2:34 am 
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It only takes a few daily repeats of light bore oil application to work its way through the wood.

I did this on what i thought was a dry flute, and it only took 2 applications for me to see consistent oil spotting on the outside.

Note: oil travel is NOT completely unidirectional. The oil wicks with the grain of the wood. If you are concerned with complete 360 degree oil penetration, you will need to oil the outside of the flute.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2020 11:40 am 
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awildman wrote:
Note: oil travel is NOT completely unidirectional. The oil wicks with the grain of the wood. If you are concerned with complete 360 degree oil penetration, you will need to oil the outside of the flute.

There is another approach using wax instead of oil, as a moisture seal and protection against finger wear on the outside of the flute. I started doing this because it was recommended by the maker of my first flute, a Windward, and I've continued with my current Aebi flute. Here's what they say on the Windward web site on the flute care page:

Quote:
Bore oil is NOT good for the polished waxed finish of our flutes, so wipe it off.

Windings wax also helps protect the exterior finish. Rub it on the external surfaces around the embouchure and toneholes and wherever perspiration and skin contact might wear at the finish. Friction softens the wax, so after rubbing it in vigorously, remove what is left by polishing the flute with a soft cotton cloth, until the flute shines.

They reference "winding wax" which they sell, but I've used cork wax and it works fine. I like it better than oil because the outer wood surface doesn't seem to soak up and retain oil, it just gets rubbed off easily. A thin polished coat of wax remains on the surface for a while, and feels good (i.e. non-slippery) under my fingers.

I rub and polish a small amount of wax into all the exterior surfaces every time I oil the interior with commercial bore oil. I also rub a little wax around the embouchure hole area when it starts to look dry, about every third practice session.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 19, 2020 6:07 pm 
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Thanks for all the helpful suggestions. After watching Blayne's video again (I'm also taking lessons with him) and from all of your input, I can see that my oiling process is a bit on the sparse side, mainly because the cloth I've been using ( 4"x4", satin, I think) is probably on the small side and too thin to spread enough oil in the bore, especially the head. So, it's likely that I'm actually underoiling it.

@Conical bore: I've heard of using furniture wax elsewhere. I kind of think that I should stick with Casey's instructions to use oil on the outside of the flute, but maybe I'll ask him sometime what he thinks about wax. Though I recall using a bit of carnuba wax on the Copley I had around the embouchure hole to prevent it getting discolored.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 19, 2020 7:28 pm 
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@ stiofan: I'm not sure carnuba furniture wax would be good for the outside of a wooden flute, it would depend on the additives.

FWIW, I've been using D'Addario cork wax (or grease) for both the threaded tenons and outside treatment. It's "all natural" ingredients. Cheap to buy in single tube amounts from Amazon, and it has no odor at all, which I like

https://www.daddario.com/products/woodw ... rk-grease/


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 20, 2020 3:24 pm 
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I've soaked flutes for years in an oil bath if needed and saw no ill effects. I use almond oil. It would only gum up if you don't polish it to dry it off. And wiping it down, including running a Qtip around the finger and embouchure holes is part of that process. If you have keys you need to take a tiny cloth and remove the excess oil from the slots in the blocks. A good swabbing until the inside shines is important.

There is something called a barrel crack, (which is not to be mistaken for a crack in the part of our flutes we refer to as the barrel.) The barrel crack I refer to is a crack that can start in the inside of a bore when it is not conditioned as well, even if the outside appears to be. Too much moisture in the form of condensation from playing hitting dry wood, then drying out can stress the wood causing a crack from the interior out. So the flute needs to be oiled inside and out.

You don't need to soak lined head joints and with unlined headjoints I'd removed the cork first. This can be done by gently and firmly pushing a dowel rod from the bottom. The rod should be close to the size of the interior of the bore so as not to deform the face of the cork. But before you remove the cork take that piece of dowel and a pencil. Placing the dowel inside the headjoint and gently butting up to the cork-- mark a line on the dowel through the center of your embouchure. Hang on to that stick. This will help you place the cork when you pop it back in. Corks need to be in a precise position for the flute to play in tune with itself. Depending our playing style many of us have adjusted them a mm back or forth to suit our needs, but most makers set them at what they think is the optimum measurement in mm.

Flutes that have been stored for a while need to be broken in like new flutes. When we play them all the time we are adding humidity, but in a closet, not so much.

It sounds like your flute has experienced a number of different climate conditions in it's lifetime, so it just may need extra attention for a while.

I never use wax or grease inside or outside. I don't know if that is good or bad. It was never recommended by the makers of the flutes I have owned over the years, Dave Williams, Terry McGee, Patrick Olwell, Chris Wilkes, Greet LeJuenne, Fr. Baubet. I do have an antique R&R that due to its age has never seemed to need any oiling, but everything else has.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 22, 2020 6:00 pm 
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Conical bore wrote:
A thin polished coat of wax remains on the surface for a while, and feels good (i.e. non-slippery) under my fingers.
@ stiofan: I'm not sure carnuba furniture wax would be good for the outside of a wooden flute, it would depend on the additives.

Thanks for the suggestion about using wax on the outside of the flute. I'll run it by Casey for his feedback. If it reduces slippery-ness to any extent, that seems advantageous. Sometimes it seems that I'm using more tension in the left hand more than is necessary if the friction between my left-hand knuckle and thumb with the flute isn't just right.
Conical bore wrote:
FWIW, I've been using D'Addario cork wax (or grease) for both the threaded tenons and outside treatment. It's "all natural" ingredients. Cheap to buy in single tube amounts from Amazon, and it has no odor at all, which I like

I'm using 'Doctor Slick' (by Doctor's Products) on the tenon thread, but I'm hesitant to put it on the outside unless I know more about how the wood would react to it.

busterbill wrote:
I've soaked flutes for years in an oil bath if needed and saw no ill effects...A good swabbing until the inside shines is important.

Thanks for suggestion. I'm not sure I feel comfortable submerging the flute in oil (again, I'll ask Casey for his opinion on it), but I probably should get more oil into the bore than I have been. The kind of barrel crack you described is what I'm most concerned about and trying my best to avoid. For a 20 year old flute, it's in such good condition, I really want to keep it that way. I'm familiar with cork positioning and how to set it correctly. In fact, I've been experimenting a bit with it to strengthen the bottom D tone.
busterbill wrote:
It sounds like your flute has experienced a number of different climate conditions in it's lifetime, so it just may need extra attention for a while.

That sounds right to me. Thanks again.

By the way, I just acquired a used David O'Brien flute a week ago, so I'm monitoring how it does with oiling & dryness. It lived in San Francisco for the last 4 years, where it's often somewhat more humid than where I live in Sonoma County.


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