Thumb hole C Stick on the tape or can it be plugged?

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Killains
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Thumb hole C Stick on the tape or can it be plugged?

Post by Killains »

I apologize if this discussion has been done before. I'm still trying to get better at searching and must not be picking the right terms. Anyways, I have first go at a keyless flute I enjoy, but it has the c thumb hole.I know this can be taped over and played as is. I've tried that method and it works well. But I'm curious if anybody has ever done a more permanent plug? Normally I would pass and wait for one that fits my needs or wants. However, the price Offered to me is really appealing. Thanks in advance for any insight or experience.
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Re: Thumb hole C Stick on the tape or can it be plugged?

Post by plunk111 »

My advice would be to buy it and get used to using the C-nat thumbhole - I think you'll like it... I play a fully-keyed flute, but switch between using the key for a more perfect C and the cross-fingered version, depending on the speed of the tune. I tend to use cross-fingering for faster stuff for some reason. It's really nice to have the option and if you can't get used to it, you can always use blue-tack (or tape).

Pat
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Re: Thumb hole C Stick on the tape or can it be plugged?

Post by tstermitz »

Maybe wax or melted shellac.
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Re: Thumb hole C Stick on the tape or can it be plugged?

Post by Killains »

Thanks for the responses. And just to add a little more background information, I'm not opposed to the C-nat thumbhole option and have seen people make good use of it. I've just always played flutes without. Due to a past injury my Wrist/hand position might be considered a bit unorthodox at times when it's acting up. On the flute in question I just can't seem to get comfortable and still efficiently provide coverage on the thumb hole. So just testing the waters for a solution, or to figure out maybe it's better to pass on it.
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Re: Thumb hole C Stick on the tape or can it be plugged?

Post by jim stone »

If someone will plug it and the price is low and you have the money,
it sounds inviting. A small decision. For me, I would put on the tape
and forget about it.
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Re: Thumb hole C Stick on the tape or can it be plugged?

Post by Loren »

If you’re certain you don’t want the thumb hole, and it sounds like you are, then having the hole professionally plugged will yield the best long term results. It’s a simple procedure that any competent wooden flute or recorder maker can do for you, although recorder makers will be much more experienced at it because recorder thumb holes get worn by the player’s thumbnail eventually leading to the need to drill out the worn section, plug the hole and then drill another thumb hole in the new plug. This is typically referrred to as doing a thumb “bushing”, but obviously you won’t need the hole in the new plug, so maybe you’ll get a discount, lol. Cost would probably be between $50 and $100 USD plus shipping.

Anyway, a busy recorder maker will do at least several of these bushings a week, so they get very good at it. The tricky part is not plugging the hole, it’s milling, filing and sanding the plug down flush to perfectly fit the original round and tapered body of the instrument, particularly when the instrument has an existing stain or finish that can’t be marred in the process.

The original maker is usually a good first choice if you live in the same country. If that’s not a good option for whatever reason, and you live in the U.S. you could contact Rod Cameron on the West Coast, or the Von Huene Workshop on the East Coast, both will be highly experienced with the procedure. I would call around to several places and ask about pricing and wait times - wait time for repair work can vary wildly from maker to maker and often depends on the time of year.

That said, you can always just stick something like blutac in the hole, but I wouldn’t use anything that can melt in the heat, like wax, because that will make a mess of your bore eventually. Ultimately a proper plug is the best long term solution as there won’t be any leaks and won’t have fiddle with it again in the future.
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Re: Thumb hole C Stick on the tape or can it be plugged?

Post by Killains »

Loren thank you for that write up, again I appreciate all who replied. Your response is exactly the information I was looking for and covered a scenario that I would run into. This gives me some direction and considerably helps confirm my decision on the flute. Though the rest of the post had me convinced if it's a good flute at a good price, bluetac and tape achieve my goal. I guess for aesthetics and peace of mind, I just got it stuck in my head that as I would plan on keeping this flute long term. I would prefer to have a permanent solution.
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Re: Thumb hole C Stick on the tape or can it be plugged?

Post by Loren »

Glad to be of help, cheers.
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Re: Thumb hole C Stick on the tape or can it be plugged?

Post by ChrisCracknell »

On a cheaper flute or whistle, or if you are an inveterate DIYer then I have seen it done with Epoxy, possibly mixed with wood dust or black dye, depending. You tape the inside of the hole then add the epoxy, tape over and let it set. Then sand down to match the curve of the flute. Worth trying on a piece of scrap wood first. As observed, matching the surface, colour and finish of the existing wood is the hardest part. The existing hole must be oil and wax free before trying this. Get an instrument maker to do this if you are at all doubtful or the flute is at all valuable or historic.

Personally, I'd just keep the hole and try playing with it :-) Or tape it and be done with it. It all depends on your attitude to the aesthetics of duct tape...
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Re: Thumb hole C Stick on the tape or can it be plugged?

Post by plunk111 »

I just thought of something else... You could check if one of the plugs they sell for open-holed Boehm flutes would fit. They sell them in most (good) music stores. Wouldn't be permanent but would work great and would allow you to keep the flute "as made" for possible future resale.

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Re: Thumb hole C Stick on the tape or can it be plugged?

Post by Loren »

A word of caution regarding plugs: Since they are held in place by expansion pressure against the surrounding wood, a plug would need to be of a material and size such that the force exerted on the surrounding wood is not very high, otherwise you’d be inviting cracks.

Likewise, any hard filler matierial like epoxy is unlikely to expand and contract at the same rate as the surrounding wood. I’m not saying one of these solutions could not work ok, just that I have seen some examples where it didn’t end well.

One thing I didn’t detail in my description of a professional bushing style job: A new, slightly wider, hole is milled on top of where the existing tone hole is. Now this new hole only goes about halfway into the depth of the first tonehole. This creates a flat step for the new plug to sit flat and not be pushed into the bore. It also creates more contact surface for glue adhesion, as well as offering much more resistance to being dislodged in any direction once glued in place. Finally, this means the new plug is only in contact with about half of the depth of the complete flute wall, and not the part (the bore side) where the most expansion and contraction occurs, so, much less likely to cause a crack. In fact I don’t ever recall seeing a cracked tone that was plugged or bushed this way, and I’ve seen a few thousand examples at least.

Anyway, just some more food for thought for those considering plugging thumb holes, or adding silver tone hole bushings all around 8)
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Re: Thumb hole C Stick on the tape or can it be plugged?

Post by plunk111 »

@Loren - I think you misunderstood my comment. The plugs that come with Boehm open-holed flutes aren't silver, they are made out of some sort of soft, clear, silicone-like material. You can check them out here.

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Re: Thumb hole C Stick on the tape or can it be plugged?

Post by Loren »

Hey Pat, sorry, I wasn’t clear in my post: I wasn’t responding specifically to your suggestion, I was making a comment about plugs in general. What I was getting at is that while a plug made of soft material, and of the proper diameter is fine, but plug that is made of harder rubber and/or is is large enough that it has to be forced into the tone hole can be problematic. There are lots of rubber and other material plugs out there that wouldn’t be appropriate and I was just trying to dissuade people from using just any old plug they might have, find, or make. The soft silicone plugs should be fine if sized correctly.

Good suggestion Pat, my bad for not being more clear in my previous post.
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Re: Thumb hole C Stick on the tape or can it be plugged?

Post by busterbill »

Others in the community may know more about this than I, but I find myself wondering if taping the hole would make a space for condensation to collect, which in turn could crack a flute? I had a flute with a broken f key that had been expertly corked by Patrick Olwell during his restoration. So it can be done. It was semi permanent. If a silicone flute plug fits that could be nice if you could take it out when you store the flute and put it in when you play.
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Re: Thumb hole C Stick on the tape or can it be plugged?

Post by ChrisCracknell »

Condensation does dribble out of a thumb hole more than the other holes due to its position on the lower side of the flute. Without the hole, then the condensation would run out to the end of the flute. (or into the g# or short f holes...) I seriously doubt that that would crack a flute unless you live in Arizona, play only occasionally and never shake the liquid out of your flute before putting it away. Otherwise many keyed flutes would suffer from the same phenomenon with F and G# holes.
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