How often should I be bringing my flute in? What are the typical maintenance problems a flute has and how do you fix them?
I recommend getting a COA (clean oil adjust) once a year. During a year of daily or weekly use the oil in the mechanism wears out, gums up and often dries out completely. This causes key clackiness, a build-up of dust and grime and sometimes makes the keywork sluggish. Pads tend to get rips, tears, grime and general wear & tear. If you notice any of these problems, it's probably time for your annual COA.
During a COA I completely disassemble the instrument, remove the pins and clean the steels that run inside the keywork. I clean out all of the old oil and wipe down all the surfaces of each individual key, and then go through with a q-tip to clean each pad. While the keys are off the body, I wash the body with silver cleaner and detail each nook and cranny. During reassembly I use fresh new oil and check every key for pad seating, leaks, lost motion, binding, spring tension, and anything else that might be problematic. This systematic approach lets me check every little part and brings the instrument back into it's best playing condition (short of an overhaul). Any typical repair problems a flute has I will be able to fix or assess during a COA.
This process takes me anywhere from two to four hours and I often like to keep the flute overnight to allow any large adjustments to settle before giving it back. If you want to schedule your next COA with me, or have any further questions, shoot me an email or give me a call!
Does my flute need an overhaul? Can you do a repad?
I recommend an overhaul on flutes with pads older than 10 years or if more than half of the pads need replacing. Take a look at your flute. Is there a lot of tarnish? Do the keys wiggle from side to side (longways from headjoint to footjoint)? Do the pads have lots of frayed skin, rips or tears? Are you missing any pieces of felt, cork or foam, causing key action problems or clackiness? Has this flute been in a closet for the past 10 years? If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, it is probably time. During an overhaul I replace every replaceable part - all the pads, adjustments, pieces of cork and felt and foam, and I go over all the mechanics to get that flute working again just like new.
A repad is simply swapping out old pads and replacing them with new ones without changing anything else on the instrument. I don’t do this for several reasons. First - getting the pad on a flute to seat correctly is only the first step in making a flute work the way it should. There are lots of other considerations like the adjustments between keys, the key height, lost motion and spring tension. Simply swapping out pads won’t help if the problem is somewhere else on the flute. Secondly, some people think it will save time to just swap out the pads - but I find I end up doing just as much work as if I replaced everything to begin with. The third reason is that it I find it preferable to have a fresh start. With an overhaul, I can get to the root of the problem (the flute is old and worn) instead of covering up that problem with a new set of pads. This keeps you, the customer, from coming back to me within a year when the old and worn corks, felts or paper shims start to fail. Only a complete overhaul will give your flute the fresh start it needs to play its best again.