Arthur Haswell Flute Repairs
Vintage Conservation and Repairs
WE TAKE GREAT PLEASURE in preparing vintage flutes for serious use today.
Over the years we have gained a reputation for working on wooden concert flutes by Rudall Carte, Louis Lot, Haynes, etc. We now offer the same level of workmanship on old French silver and plated flutes.
We have grown to know and love wooden Boehm-, Radcliff-, and 1867-Patent system flutes. Typical work required on one of these flutes includes cleaning components, correcting old repairs, repairing and oiling wooden bodies, renewing the solder on key-arms, and tightening or rebuilding worn parts of the mechanism. New springs are fitted - we use traditional blued-needles, and all cork and felt renewed. Then the flute can be padded in the original manner using a combination of shims and shellac.
AS AN EXAMPLE of the work we savour (below), we were asked to conserve and overhaul a Rudall Carte that belonged to Oliver Bannister, thought by many to have been the greatest orchestral flautist of his generation. It had not been touched since his retirement in 1986. Heavy tarnish and mite-eaten pads were only the most obvious problems. Our job was to bring it back to fully playing order without damaging its unique character.
WE HAD LOTS to do including removing some of the worst-ever tarnish, soldering, tidying old repairs, tightening keywork, and gently bringing the wood back to life before fitting all new pads, corks, springs, etc.
We were delighted with the result (below), as was the new owner.
'You've done a fantastic job on Oliver Bannister's flute. It sings like a bird and plays so effortlessly! First I put it through its paces in the Nielsen Quintet, and last night it played beautifully in Scheherazade. I'm very pleased - thank you so much!' (MS - present owner)
Our starting point is the belief that the great flutes of the past can still be used in earnest. But first every fault that time and misuse has inflicted must be corrected. Then the keywork must be padded with respect for the way the job would have been done when the flute was new.
In working on a vintage flute, our preference is towards conservation. We show respect, avoid short-cuts that might cause damage, and only replace parts that are beyond repair.
This beautiful Rudall & Rose, conserved and overhauled by us, is now on loan to the Royal College of Music in London.
Rudall Carte 1867-Patent System flutes passing in
TOP by Albert Atkins has arrived for a service.
BOTTOM by Harry West is ready to go home.
OLD FRENCH FLUTES
With vintage French Flutes, to the problems associated with wear and tear, is added the likelihood of failure of the solder attaching the tone holes to the body. And then there is the padding...
Flutes by Lot, Rive, Bonneville, etc., are notoriously difficult to pad. This we believe is largely due to variables associated with their key cups. As an example, a Louis Lot recently overhauled by us did not have two keycups of the same diameter or depth.
To eliminate all variables we have developed a system whereby we fix inserts into the base of each key cup. These hand-made lightweight titanium or aluminium inserts are fitted precisely with the use of bespoke guides. The inserts are not noticeable either visually or physically. New pads are set on these inserts, and then shimmed in the traditional way.
Our method of padding gives a high level of consistency resulting in a flute that plays easily and evenly. What's more the inserts can remain in place to be used when the flute comes to be repadded in the future.
In its heyday the Louis Lot workshop expected to take 17 hours overhauling one of their flutes. Now those flutes have seen another 100+ years of use. So bringing a vintage French flute up to full modern playing order is not a quick job. But without taking the necessary time these fabulous flutes can never give of their best.
LOUIS LOT SILVER FLUTE: all remedial work done and ready for padding.
CLOSE UP of a flute by Claude Rive in need of an overhaul, showing keycups, tone holes, and old pads.
TURNING INSERTS on our old treadle lathe. Made c1930, this technology was used by the great flutemakers.
KEY CUPS from a Louis Lot made in 1881. Each has a different diameter and depth.
It is usually not possible before we start work to give a binding estimate of the likely cost of conservation and overhaul of a particular vintage flute.
As a guide, a straightforward overhaul of a wooden Rudall Carte, including tightening keywork, repairing minor cracks, cleaning, oiling, and fitting all new pads, springs, corks, tenon corks and head cork would cost £495.00. Any soldering, replacement of tubing, or other extra repairs would be charged additionally by the hour.
This applies similarly to old French flutes, with the additional cost of £15 per keycup for making and fitting a set of inserts.