Arthur Haswell Flute Repairs
6th January 2018
WE KEPT OUR NOSES TO THE GRINDSTONE over Xmas and the New Year, enjoying the frosty weather from the comfort of the bench and cracking on with some exciting interesting frustrating rewarding jobs...
IN THE REPAIR DEPARTMENT we have been working through this trio of Rudall Carte 1867-Patent System flutes. At the top of the photo is a beautiful thinned-throughout cocuswood flute with silver keywork, top of the range and one of only thirteen ever made. It even has rollers on the F and F# buttons, as well as the footjoint touches. We have serviced this flute, which has been out of use for a few years, and have been playing it in.
In the middle is another rare 1867, this time in Monel (New Metal), an alloy which Carte developed and used for professional concert models between 1930 and 1939. This has been overhauled and repadded, and we are now playing it in - it has a quite different character to the thinned cocuswood flute, powerful yet rather sweet and lyrical.
At the bottom is a cocuswood 1867 with German Silver keywork. We have just begun work. It is in excellent condition and only need to have its keywork tightened and pads replaced.
All three are original modern-pitch flutes - rare in itself since the 1867-Patent System was at its most popular during the High Pitch years.
MEANWHILE, WE HAVE CONTINUED TO WORK on our next batch of headjoints. These four are ready and settling into their boxes, hand-made for us by Chris Raven.
The left-hand pair of headjoints are unlined with our standard embouchure hole cut, giving an old-fashioned Carte-style woody sound allied to a more modern response, so it sings high up and has power and rasp at the bottom.
Third from the left is a similar cut but with a silver lining. This was the standard arrangement in Carte headjoints, and we have found it gives a bit more solidity to the sound without sacrificing the essential woody character.
On the right is an unlined headjoint with a more free-blowing embouchure cut. This is a headjoint for those who prefer easier sound production and lots of it.
July 1st 2018
This lovely Radcliff currently lives in Indonesia. Made in 1903, it is an original and unusual diapason normal flute crafted by Hinde, one of Carte's most important flutemakers, and is in lovely condition. It needed not much more than a full service.
We took a lot of care over the conservation and overhaul of this rare silver Carte dating from 1912. Made by Green, it was bought new by Sir Seymour Tritton, a famous engineer of the day. One assumes he must have been a good amateur player to justify the purchase of such an expensive and superb flute .
Continental flutes from the period 1900-1939 can, we have found, be frustrating and disappointing, but this de Prins, sent from America for an overhaul, has turned out to be a very nice player with a good mechanism. As is often the case, the lead solder fixing keys and tonehole saddles had failed here and there. The old white cement remained in the keycups; we repadded with shellac in the traditional manner. In the future we shall be looking out for other flutes by this interesting Belgian maker.
With a sounding length of 59.9cm, it plays nicely at modern pitch; perhaps at some point about 5mm was milled off the top of the body. It also acquired, probably during the 1920s, a lovely Carte thinned headjoint.
Playing it, one wonders again at the brilliance of John Radcliff's design. Perhaps if a modern maker produced these in sufficient numbers and at a reasonable price, players would come to know and appreciate the benefits of the system, and playing a Radcliff would not be remarkable.
Rudall Carte 7364 came from the USA for repair. Its owner, originally from Britain, acquired the flute in 1948 whilst at school. The flute immediately intrigued us. We discovered that it was the very first Monel flute, completed by Kurzendorfer on February 18th 1930. This early version of the design has a separate footjoint with a cork tenon; later they were made in one piece. Additionally, its tonehole saddles are silver, whereas subsequently they were done in Monel topped with just a silver cap to form the seal to the pads.
The problem with the flute was that the right hand keywork was worn and some of the soldering had failed. A couple of American repairers had not managed repairs. This made us wary. Having decided to silver solder the various keys and linkages onto new tubing, we began with the back connector clutch. Our first attempt seemed to work, but then gave way – the first time this has ever happened. On close examination we discovered that the keywork alloy, which we had assumed was standard German silver, is not solid, but is rather like an Aero chocolate bar, and hard and brittle. Perhaps it was made to an unusual specification abandoned for later flutes. We wondered what Augustus Kurzendorfer had thought of the job.
We were fortunate at this point to receive a visit from our mentor, the flutemaker Willy Simmons, whose silver soldering is peerless. Intrigued by our problem, he took up the gas torch and set to work. Even he struggled to get the metal to behave itself. Eventually patience and a precise application of heat did the job. We are always happy to defer to experts in a particular field, and here we could not have found a better able craftsman.
A week later, after finishing the overhaul, we began playing in the new pads. The flute has the typical Monel characteristics : a full strong sound with good projection which is also somehow beautiful and lyrical. The flute feels light in the hands, the player able to sense the thin Monel body resonating. Once again we reflected on how underappreciated these flutes are, perhaps because so few players get the chance to play one. The owner was delighted to find his beloved flute playing once again as it did when he carried it from Berners Street seventy years ago.
January 4th 2019