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PostPosted: Fri Aug 16, 2013 4:44 pm 
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A few members here have been keeping in touch with flutemaker Geoffrey Ellis. His name and his work have come up here a few times in the past year.

http://forums.chiffandfipple.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=89813 and
http://forums.chiffandfipple.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=92438

Geoffrey Ellis is a well regarded maker of Native American style flutes and he has been making flutes and whistles for Irish and related styles for a while now. He works in exotic timbers and his instruments look terrific and play well in my experience. You can see and hear some of his work here. The Pratten style flute is a new offering and has been under development for some time. You can be the first one on your block to test drive one now.

Last Fall we undertook a tour with a couple of Geoffrey's low whistles which went well. At that time Geoffrey was working on a Pratten style flute and several members here expressed an interest in auditioning one of those flutes. Geoffrey has now offered to send one of these out on a tour. I have offered to organize the flute tour. As in the whistle tour Geoffrey is interested in hearing from players and gathering feedback on his design. The whistle tour brought out some good feedback and resulted in a few changes to the whistle design and building process. I should be able to post a picture or two of the flute soon so that you can see what we are talking about here. In the meantime I would like to see who may be interested in trying out one of these flutes. PM me here and we'll see how things go.

There is also a possibility that Geoffrey may also include one of his one-piece beginner flutes in the tour package as well. Those can be seen here on the Ellis Flutes website. These are cylindrical bore flutes with a tapered head section a la Boehm. While we have not confirmed if one of these will be offered, I thought I would mention it here (nudge, nudge!) in the hope that we can offer a two-for-one flute tour.

I would like to keep this tour to the US just to ease the logistics and reduce the mail time and the cost of crossing international boundaries. For all of you outside the US I apologize for making that restriction. We'll leave the sign-up open for a few days while we sort out the details. So let me know if you would like to try one of these Ellis Pratten style flutes. I'll post more details as we have them. Thanks.

Feadoggie

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:21 pm 
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PM sent...

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 17, 2013 9:57 am 
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Geoffrey Ellis has shared a couple of photos of his Pratten style flutes with me. So this is what we can expect in a tour flute. Take a look. While these flutes are not particularly traditional looking instruments there does seem to be a nice mix or new and old at play.

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I have heard from a few board members about participating in a tour already. There is room for more! PM me if you would like to participate.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 17, 2013 11:01 am 
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I want to thank Feadoggie for helping to organize this tour, in the same generous fashion that he organized the whistle tour previously :-)

I was able to obtain a set of blueprints from Terry McGee a few years ago and I've spent the intervening years experimenting on and off.

Back in October I was fortunate to begin a collaboration with Jonathan Walpole (aka "paddler" on these forums). Jon was instrumental (pun!) in helping me to refine these flutes, making numerous useful suggestions and giving valuable feedback on the prototypes I was producing. His contribution was so substantial that I took to calling this model the "Paddler's Perfected" since it would have taken considerably more time to perfect these flutes without his assistance (probably years). He is an avid collector, enthusiast and gifted amateur maker/repairer in his own right, and his understanding of what ITM players expected from their flutes filled a big gap in my knowledge base. It was also his suggestion that I produce a Boehm-style (tapered head) flute that would be suitable for ITM players on a budget. I'll be sending one of these along with the Pratten that goes on tour. The flute that will be touring will be the topmost flute pictured in the photos above. It is made from Camatillo (a very dense type of rosewood) with delrin bore rings and a nickel silver tuning slide.

Thanks in advance to all of the members who participate! The whistle tour proved to be a fabulous source of useful player feedback and I'm eager to hear what our serious flute players have to say about this new offering.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:26 pm 
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I just thought I'd pitch in to try to encourage a few more people to participate in the flute Tour. As Geoffrey said, I've been involved in playing and refining these flutes for much of the last year. The flutes in the picture were at my house last week and I just posted them back to Geoffrey. Well, I kept hold of that Cocobolo one ... he'll have to pry that one from my cold dead hands! :lol: The Camatillo one is its equal, and will be the one going on tour.

I don't have any financial interest in this venture. I've simply been trying to help Geoffrey produce the best playing flute possible, figuring that any move in that direction makes the world a better place for flute players. I'm really pleased with the way these flutes have evolved. If you have a chance to play one of them I think you will be very pleasantly surprised. I've played a lot of good flutes, modern and antiques, and these Prattens are right up there with the best in my opinion. I'm not trying to prejudge the outcome of the tour here -- the purpose of the tour is to get feedback from a wider range of players, of course -- I'm just trying to reassure people that this won't be a total waste of time playing a junker.

Cheers!

Jon

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 4:32 pm 
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As I scan the threads on this forum today I see a lot of flutes for sale. There's a Boosey Pratten. There's an R&R. There's a Clementi Nicholson. There's an Olwell. There are also flutes by LeHart, Morvan, Bonamy and a Doyle. What's a fluter to do? Empty pockets? Well here we have a brand new flute that you can play for a week or so just for the cost of postage to the next tour participant. What a deal? :D

There is still room for a few more on this Ellis flute tour. We'll save a spot for you if you PM me.

Feadoggie

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 7:52 pm 
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I am in Monterey, CA and I would love to give this flute a test run!!! Who do I talk to?

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2013 6:49 am 
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sjcavy wrote:
I am in Monterey, CA and I would love to give this flute a test run!!! Who do I talk to?


Feadoggie in the previous post would be the one to talk to. :D

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2013 12:51 pm 
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Thanks, Skyspirit. Yep, folks can PM me to take part in the tour.

And I would like to add that the Geoffrey Ellis flutes have landed safe and sound in Pennsylvania. So the tour should commence shortly. I'll take some photos of the tour flutes and share my impressions on both soon.

Feadoggie

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 16, 2013 4:58 pm 
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I have had the Geoffrey Ellis flutes here for longer than I should have. Unfortunately I was not with the flutes very much due to family issues. It’s time to get this flute tour on the road. So I will keep my review brief and get the flutes in the mail. Onward.

I should provide a bit about my involvement in this tour. About a year ago I noticed through another post here that Geoffrey was making low whistles in exotic timbers. That appealed to me. I was aware of his work in native flutes and was interested in trying one of the low whistles. I approached Geoffrey and before too long we had a C&F tour under way. So that tour led to this tour.

Geoffrey has been kind enough to offer two of his flutes on this tour. The first is his new Pratten Style flute developed over the last year or more for players of Irish traditional music. The second is a one piece flute aimed at the beginning flute player and it is well suited for a variety of folk style, Irish included.

The Pratten flute is keyless. The flute is configured in the traditional 3-piece manner having a head incorporating a tuning slide, a one piece heart section for the tone holes and a long C-foot with the vestigial holes for the D and C# notes. The bore is a proper big Pratten bore. The tone holes are also typically large in the Pratten style.

Image

Further construction details of the flute are decidedly non-traditional. Geoffrey has fashioned this flute from a timber known commonly as Camatillo or Mexican Kingwood. It is one of the dalbergia timber varieties growing in Central America. It resembles cocobolo somewhat but is quite a bit more rare here in the USA. As the common name suggests it is outwardly somewhat like Brazilian Kingwood. I love Brazilian Kingwood – one of my favorites. It is an appropriate timber for making a flute – hard and dense. The color and grain of the timber is quite striking and I would say that timber selection is one of Geoffrey’s hallmarks.

The flute has a blackwood insert at the embouchure hole. I am not sure why Geoffrey has chosen to do this but it works. The embouchure hole is well shaped and delivers a full, booming tone when you approach it right. I will admit that I am not a typical Pratten flute player. I tend towards other flute types. But this flute could get me to change that habit. The embouchure is not the easiest I have played but it does not take long to get comfortable with it. When I get the lip right the flute screams and vibrates under the fingers quite nicely. I did not have time to record anything. I am not sure my tone would be a convincing demonstration one way or another at any rate. I’m not a honker and my flutes don’t bark much. But I do like the sound I get from this flute. It is reedy enough for me, quite loud and very crisp at the top end. It was downright scary once I got the hang of it. I don’t usually go for the kind of volume this flute is capable of delivering. Tuning is very good to my ears.

The tuning slide works smoothly. It is a partial slide made of nickel silver tubing and it is cushioned internally with a layer of synthetic cork. All of this is intended to relieve stress in the head as the wood moves overtime to hopefully avoid cracks. I found the tuning worked best for me with the slide opened about 3-4mm. Geoffrey states that the flute was tuned with the slide at 5mm - so YMMV.

Each section of the flute is reinforced at the sockets and ends with black delrin rings. They match the blackwood insert nicely. They do the job and they are a modern and stealthy touch. I play with a flat fingered style. The tone holes and the spread were comfortable in my hands. I enjoyed playing this flute.

Camatillo, like many other Central American rosewoods, can cause reactions in those with wood sensitivitiy allergies. Geoffrey has taken the step to finish his flutes with a marine epoxy. I don’t know that he intended this choice to guard against allergic reactions but it would have that positive effect in any case. The bore is quite smooth as a result and condensation doesn’t seem to cling as it does in some of my other flutes. Geoffrey has also finished this flute with a layer of wax. We did notice some build up around the embouchure hole after playing. And in fact that happens where there is contact with the hands as well. So Geoffrey has kindly sent out a care kit and instructions for keeping the finish up during this tour. None of this mattered once the flute is up to your lip.

To complete the package Geoffrey has provided a swab stick and a fleece bag to protect the flute. The tour package is encased in a heavy plastic drain pipe. I expect these instruments will have no trouble lasting the length of the tour in that hardy case.

Oh, there is a second flute to talk about as well. This one is more of a starter’s style of flute – very simple and straightforward in design and execution.

Image

The flute is made of maple. It is one piece and has no tuning slide. The bore incorporates a Boehm style taper in the head. It is quite light and easy to handle. It reminded me a bit of a Olwell cane flute right off. The embouchure is quite nicely cut. It is a surprisingly loud flute. The second octave is particularly nice sounding. The third octave D is as sweet as you can get and easy to hit. This flute may not be the primary object of the tour but it is a nice little surprise and it would hold its own with any other flute in its price range.

I do notice two things about this flute that are worth commenting on. Being one piece you cannot rotate the head versus the hands. That presented a little comfort issue for my old body. I played nicely standing up but I tend to play seated with the elbows down. Without the slide I could not do that. The embouchure hole is oriented a bit back towards the player when sighted along the tone holes. I think I would make a one piece flute the same way. But many of us tend to roll our heads in even more than this. I’m probably just being a finicky old guy. YMMV.

Tuning is something I would like to hear others comment on with this flute. Once I realized this flute could play nice and loud I found I was overblowing the low D sharp. The F# seemed well flat against that. Might just be me. Others may have a different view of things so let’s see what they think.

To sum up, I like these flutes and I would add them to my list of flutes to recommend to others. I can see myself with one of these Prattens down the road. I really did not spend as much time with these flutes as I would have liked to. On with the tour!

Geoffrey thanks for offering these flutes to us for the tour.

Feadoggie

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 19, 2013 12:50 pm 
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Thanks Feadoggie for kicking off the tour with such thorough feedback--it is very useful to me. I included some information with the touring flutes about the finish and such, but it is probably worth mentioning it here as well.

In making these flutes I was hoping to achieve a couple of things beyond trying to make a responsive and well tuned instrument. I was also hoping to create something that would be highly stable and low maintenance while remaining affordable.

That is why I chose to finish the flutes inside and out with marine epoxy. It makes a very nice finish and has the added advantage that it stabilizes the wood and makes it waterproof. It also provides a glassy finish inside the bore which really enhances the performance of some of the softer and more open grained woods. It is still a good idea to swab out the flute, for good hygiene if nothing else, but the finish ensures that the wood won't swell or shrink as a result of humidity. I've used this finish on many other types of flutes that I make, so I figured I'd try it on these offerings as well. And Feadoggie is correct: the epoxy provides a barrier between the player and the wood, which is desirable if using a timber that might elicit an allergic reaction.

I chose delrin for the bore rings because it is strong, attractive and less expensive than silver. For the same reason the tuning slide is made from nickel silver instead of sterling. It performs well without adding as much to the cost. The African blackwood plug that the embouchure is cut into serves the function of being attractive as well as providing a very nice, predictable character in a place that matters a lot :-) It's nice to work with and is very consistent.

The Boehm-style maple flute (which is also available in a variety of different woods) was designed to provide an option for ITM players at an attractive price point without compromising too much on performance. The tapered head makes them behave a bit differently from a tapered bore, but it provides a robust voice and more accurate tuning than a straight cylinder. After reading Feadoggie's evaluation, I'm planning on rotating the embouchure hole toward the player a bit more relative to the finger holes. I prefer it that way as well and I think this tour flute could be more ergonomic in that respect.

The Prattens are not very traditional in terms of materials or appearance, but I took great pains to make certain that in every other respect they manifest the appropriate degree of "Pratten-ness".

Thanks again to all the participants :-)

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 03, 2013 10:29 am 
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For those of you following this tour, the flutes reached my mailbox today. I'll play them over the weekend and at a session on Monday, then forward them to Gordon. I'll post my impressions early to mid-next week.

Best wishes.

Steve

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 04, 2013 9:25 am 
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Looking forward to it, Steve, and will do the same when I've spent a few days with it!


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 06, 2013 8:44 pm 
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I've had the Ellis flutes for a few days now and have played them a fair bit. First some background. I probably fall into the advanced beginner/intermediate category as a flute player. I presently play a Glenn Watson blackwood keyless and a Cochran delrin keyless. As a "sitting on the desk" instrument, I have a Copley delrin F. The two Ellis flutes are rather different from what I've been playing and it took me a while to adapt as discussed below.

The Kingwood Flute
Feadoggie described this quite well above. The kingwood is lovely to look at, It's a bit heavier than my Cochran (which has a tuning slide) but not so much as to be uncomfortable.

I found the embouchure to be quite comfortable, but id does require a rather focused embouchure, much like the Cochran. The Copley allows for a lot more leeway but I couldn't get away with any sloppiness with the Ellis. When I got it right, it had a great sound; loud and a fine "buzzy" low D. The upper register is very sweet and clear.

It seems I play a bit flat compared with Feadoggie. For me the flute played in tune with the slide out 2–3 mm when warmed up.

I found the intonation to be quite good (based both on my ears and Flutini). The F# seems a bit flat, but I figure a more experienced player than I would have no trouble pulling it into tune. My only issue was with the Cnat. I'm used to playing this as OXO XXX. The kingwood Ellis really wanted OXX XXO but that note was rather weak. OXX XOO was pretty much in tune but with a much better sound. Again, a more experienced player might be able to shape these notes much better than I.

The size and spread of the finger holes, particularly on the lower hand were rather different than I'm used to with my current flutes. The table below shows the differences (measured with a plastic rule:[[I tied to make a table but the Forum format doesn't seem to allow that. The numbers reflect Diameter of L2, Diameter of L3, distance between centers of L2–L3.]]

Watson, 10.5, 7, 3.8
Cochran, 10.5, 6.5, 3.8
Kingwood Ellis, 11, 7.5, 4.1
Maple Ellis, 10, 8, 4.4

Normally I play with the pads of the outer segment of my lower hand. The size of the L3 holes on the Ellis flutes and the distance between L2—L3 wouldn't allow that comfortably. I had to play "flat-fingered" to comfortable cover the holes. (As a side note, this isn't necessarily a bad thing as the "flat-fingered" approach allows my wrist to be in a more neutral position. I'll have to try this on my current flutes.) It took me a while to make the readjustment in fingering (and a different fingering for Cnat) before I could play comfortably. Again, not necessarily bad, just different and something to be aware of.

The Maple Ellis
The notes that came along with the package explained that the maple had been stained but during the final processing some of the stain had been sanded off, leaving a somewhat mottled appearance—something that would be corrected in future instruments offered for sale. Personally, I like the natural color of the maple and could do without the stain altogether.

I found the orientation of the embouchure hole and the finger holes to be fine for the way I play (Feadoggie had indicated that it wasn't quite right for him). As noted above, the fingerholes for the lower hand were a bit of a stretch for me and required an adjustment in how I held and fingered the flute. The holes themselves showed signs of being a prototype—not quite round as if they had been worked to get into tune. The bottom hole was rotated a slight bit away from the line of the other holes. I don't know whether this was done intentionally or not but it took me some getting used to.

As mentioned, I play a bit flat and, since this flute is without a tuning slide, I was flat along the entire scale. Generally this was only 5–10 cents (per Flutini) but the lower G played about 20 cents flat and the second register G, A, and B (as high as I went) were 25–30 cents flat. Again, a more advanced player with better technique might be able to bring these notes closer to the norm. For a beginner, this might be an issue.

But what was most interesting to me about this flute is the sound. It's great! Big, fat, honking on the lower notes and loud. I admit to being very surprised—and pleased at the quality.

The bores of both instruments are coated with marine epoxy, making them glassy and impervious to moisture. Perhaps this adds to the sound clarity.

Bottom line — both good instruments for someone at my skill level. My only qualms would be, as noted above, having to adapt to a different Cnat and fingering of the right-hand holes.

I'll be interested to see the comments of the more experienced players as the flutes continue the tour.

Thanks to Geoffrey Ellis for making these available and to Feadoggie for doing the logistics for the tour.

Best wishes.

Steve

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~ Antoine Mahaut, 1759 in a tutor for playing the transverse flute ~


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2013 10:05 am 
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Interesting tour and reviews, lovely looking flutes. Wish there was a Euro-leg!

One makerly Q, Geoffrey. I note you are drilling the embouchures and at least to some extent the tone-holes in the V grain, and that does look very pretty, especially in some of these gaudy exotic timbers. But I've long noted that the "old guys" always, quite invariably, of all nationalities, drilled their holes, and most certainly the embouchures, in the vertical grain, at 90 degrees to yours, so the V grain would be on the "side walls" of the flute when in playing position, not the top and bottom of the tube. I have always assumed there were wood-workers reasons for making that choice, to do with exposure of the lateral grain in the hole chimneys and the risks of water absorption there, as well as perhaps to do with reducing risks of cracking. It has usually been one of the marks of the "Pakistani table leg" flutes that they have the holes drilled through V grain top and bottom, and though I may have seen flutes by some reputable modern makers done this way too, most do not do so. Now, I absolutely do not mean to imply any other kind of comparison of your workmanship to the dreaded table legs, but I wondered what your perspective (and Terry's, given the conversation in the concurrent cocus thread) might be on this question of what angle to drill the holes relative to the grain, and also to what extent your sealing treatment might render older fashioned considerations (why the old guys did it their way) redundant?

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