How should I treat my wooden flute?
 
Cleaning
In his 1871 book Die Flöte und das Flötenspiel [The flute and flute-playing] Theobald Boehm writes " The most important thing about handling a new wooden flute is 'pulling through'/swabbing, because warping of the wood, whereby the bore conditions change and most cracks in the wood arise, is caused by moisture collecting in the flute tube during playing and giving rise to uneven expansion, often resulting in surface cracks and even more often in the wood splitting right through".

  • Thus after every use a cloth must be pulled through the flute tube until it is completely clean and dry, for which purpose an old silk or fine linen handkerchief and a thin rod of the same length as the flute body are best suited.
 
You should place a corner of the cloth over one end of the rod and push it through the flute section until you can get hold of it at the other end. If the cloth is then slowly pulled through, all surplus liquid will adhere to the front part of the cloth, whilst any remaining moisture will be completely absorbed by the following, still dry part."
With piccolos it works better if you first pull the cleaning rod through, and then the cloth attached to the end, as the bore is very narrow.

I advise against the use of recorder mops (wool with 2 wire or 1 wooden handle), leather pull-throughs/swabs or 3 Opti-Care cleaners (to remain in the instrument following use). They can easily lead to bits of fluff becoming detached and in the course of time adhering to the tone-hole chimneys/risers and attracting condensation, and what is more, worn cleaning implements can scratch the inner bore..
 

  • The flute headjoint is particularly difficult to clean. It is a cylinder which is closed at one end, and the greatest accumulation of water and dirt occurs between the embouchure hole and the tuning cork. For cleaning purposes it is a good idea to thread one end of the cleaning cloth through the cleaning-rod slit, wrap the cloth around the rod and then insert it into the flute headjoint, turning it in the opposite direction to that in which it was wrapped. This way the cloth will bunch up and will easily be able to absorb the moisture between the embouchure hole and the tuning cork.
  • After each use, hand sweat should be wiped off the mechanism using a dry cloth or paper handkerchief. In addition to water and common salt, hand sweat contains urea, amino acid, lactic acid, urocanic acid and other acids, and its pH is mildly acidic.
The intensity of these acids varies greatly. Even mild acid is aggressive and can attack metal parts - even precious metals; for example, silver loses its shine and becomes dull and patchy.

The screws, rods and springs on my flutes are made of stainless steel. In spite of this, keys may stick if sweat is not removed. The danger of this increases if the instrument is not played for an extended period.

You should at all costs avoid the use of silver cleaning agents (pastes or liquids) for the removal of "oxidation“ on the silver, as they can easily attack the rods and screws.

The "A. Braun piccolo & flute pads" which I have developed and patented keep their shape, remain elastic, and are moisture-resistant and long-lasting. Annoying "sticking sounds" do not occur. The flute retains its excellent tonal qualities for years, and you avoid the nuisance and expense of changing the pads.
 
The key-tail/kicker buffers to prevent percussive noise are made of stable-shaped synthetic material so they do not become hard and loud in the course of time, as for example is the case with felt.
 
Flute pads are screwed in place, and adjustment is the same as for classical fish-skin pads, whereas piccolo pads are adhered using a thermo-adhesive and are adjusted by heating. The pads should on no account be replaced by other types as the instrument will lose its characteristic sound and unmistakeable personality.

  • To remove dust, bits of fluff etc. from the pads, it is best to insert a cigarette paper without any gummed edge under the pad, place it on the edge of the tone hole, hold it in place by exerting slight pressure on the key, and slowly pull it out..
  • After pulling-through/swabbing and wiping the mechanism, the flute should be placed in its case - especially when central heating is in use. Be careful to position the embouchure hole slightly to the side to avoid it being blocked off by the case lid, as this would prevent the ventilation of the embouchure area.
Oiling

The inner bore of a new instrument will already have been sufficiently oiled by the instrument maker.

  • Subsequent oiling for the purposes of impregnation should in the first year be performed monthly, then only as necessary.
To do this, pull an oiled cloth through the instrument so that an extremely thin film forms on the inner wall. The cloth should be lightly soaked in wood oil or any other non-resinifying oil, e.g. almond oil obtainable from the pharmacy, but should not drip. The cloth material should not deposit any fluff.

This treatment makes the wood shiny and darker-coloured. You can also apply oil to the outside, in places where sweat has made the wood dull. After the instrument has been oiled it should rest for 8 to 24 hours to allow the oil to penetrate. Any excess oil can subsequently be wiped off using a paper handkerchief and cleaning rod, after which the instrument will be ready for use again.

The oil stops the water penetrating into the pores of the wood and causing swelling. As already mentioned, it is the headjoint which is at the greatest risk of cracking, thus you should take the greatest care with this section. You should be particularly conscientious about oiling during the instrument's playing-in phase.

The used cloth can be kept in a plastic bag and be re-used without applying any more oil.

Every year you should remove the cap screw and push the tuning cork out past the embouchure hole. You should then oil the inner bore of the headjoint, after which you should grease the tuning cork and push it back into the headjoint, threaded section first. With my flutes, if you screw in the cap screw as far as it will go, this will then automatically produce the correct distance between the middle of the embouchure hole and the tuning cork. You can check this against the mark on the cleaning rod.

The inner bore of piccolo headjoints is cylindrical. The cap screw remains screwed into the tuning cork, and they can both be pressed out using the cleaning rod. They should be replaced by reversing this procedure. This also automatically produces the correct setting.

The mechanism must not be oiled.

During manufacture it will already have been oiled using a specially-developed oil which neither evaporates, resinifies or spreads, and will thus be set up for at least two years. Other manufacturers' recommendations to occasionally oil the mechanism do not apply to my flutes. Oiling the mechanism with any oil other than the one I use leads to the damping material between the clutches gradually becoming saturated with oil, mainly as a result of spreading, and consequent malfunctioning.

General

Special care should be taken with the wood when central heating is in use, i.e. during the winter months.
The ideal humidity is the relative humidity at which humans feel most comfortable. At temperatures between 20° and 24°C this means 45% to 60%, which would also be ideal for musical instruments if these levels could always be adhered to. In actual fact, the relative humidity in many centrally-heated rooms is only 30%, i.e. the air is too dry, the wood shrinks, mainly on the outside of the tube, and tension cracks can form.
 
It is a mistake to assume that by opening the windows the humidity from outside will be let in; on the contrary, the humidity of this colder air will drop as it heats up. Outside air which at 0° C has a relative humidity of 60% will only retain 16% humidity in a room heated to 20° C.
The evaporation of water from containers on the radiators or from house plants is thus important for the humidification of heated rooms.

As this is often insufficient, it is advisable to check the humidity using a hygrometer and to use a humidifier if necessary.
 
In muggy, stormy conditions during the summer, humidity can rise to 95%, though this will not create any danger of tension cracks, as the difference between the moisture content at rest and that during playing will be minimal.

As with any other technical equipment it is important to have flutes and piccolos professionally overhauled to keep them in good working order. To guarantee your instrument's reliability I recommend an check up about every 1 - 2 years.

 Wood has a soul. If you respect and take care of it, it will show its gratitude. 
Anton Braun
In den Obergärten 22,
D-63329 Egelsbach
Tel. +49 (0)6103-61217
www.braunflutes.com
Copyright: © 2010 - 2017 Anton Braun. All rights reserved.