Larry Krantz Flute Pages: Flute Pads
Help! One Padder's View
by Mara Goosman
I have been following the thread about Brannen pads and repairwork. Since I have been padding flutes for quite some time, I thought I might comment on this topic.

I think that September's comment about padding becoming a lost art is very discerning. I agree with Edwin that padding requires patience. I would add a few more words such as perseverance, technique and experience. To Libby I would point out that as a flutist must practice and study to develop a good embouchure, technique, and tone quality, a good padder also must develop a good, consistent feel, mechanical knowledge and an understanding of how to set up the spring tensions and adjustments to create the most fluid key action as well as the most resonance in the instrument. With all due respect, Libby, the best results are not possible for the amateur or dilettante repairman. As with fluteplaying, padding requires constant and daily application to develop and maintain the highest level of skill.

I applaud Michael White's vote of appreciation and loyalty to his repairman of many years. I would point out, however, that not everyone is so fortunate as to have a good repairman within driving distance. I would suggest that once you find someone who satisfies your needs then, you should go to that person religiously. Whether you drive or ship, convenience is not the point, it is the quality of the work that is paramount.

Now to put aside all of that, I would like to wade into what may be a controversial explanation on the traditional versus synthetic pad topic and the use of pads on some flutes.

To understand the advantage of the "synthetic" pad, it is valuable to understand why these pads were developed. These pads as you may know, are fairly rigid. They have a plastic disc which holds a piece of felt covered by a water resistant skin. They are by nature rather rigid as opposed to the more traditional felt pad which has a .015" card base, felt and then, treated skin and are more flexible in nature. Referring to Julianne's comment about preparing the key cup, if you have a flute with a more domed key cup(mainly older flutes), then, you have to somehow fill this dome with something to create a flat surface for the synthetic pad to sit on. I have seen anything from plastic or metal discs to the appalling use of "hot glue" floated in the cup, to create this flat surface. Maybe, this padder is a devotee of Martha Stewart. The use of plastic or metal discs is necessary because of the rigid nature of these pads. From that point you can influence the pads to cover by using whole or partial shims to try to make them cover. (seat or seal) They do not in my experience lend themselves to small partial shims. They also seem to split easily, are noisy and change the character of the flute's tone which may or may not suit the player.

With the traditional felt pad you have more flexibility. However, the padder also has to possess a greater repertoire of padding techniques and, in my opinion, these pads require more time to make cover. I think I average about one hour per pad. The quality of the pads is also important as they should be fairly flat, smooth as well as flexible which means they can't be too thick. The skin should lend itself to being worked without disintegrating or wearing easily.

It is easy to understand why any flutemaker who employs a pinless mechanism such as the Breugger mechanik, for their flutes, would find synthetic pads attractive. The pinless mechanism employs one long steel which runs through the right hand section and another for the left hand section much as you would find in any flute's footjoint. When you remove the right hand steel, all of the keys fall off of the flute. To assemble these keys you have to hold the keys in your left hand while you insert the steel with your right, a process I find awkward and cumbersome. And, once the mechanism is oiled, there is no simple dissassembly as it is necessary to clean the oil from the posts steel and mechanism tubing completely if you need to make even the slightest adjustment to the pad, Maybe the padders at Brannen use a dummy piece of hinge tubing or some other technique to make this process a little less tedious. In the traditional mechanism the F#, F and E keys are pinned together with the D key loose. When you dissemble or assemble this mechanism, you only have to deal with a pinned assembly not keys in one hand and steel in the other. And, you can pad the three pinned keys and add the D key when you have done the other three.

Consequently, if you want to solve some of the padding problems involved with the pinless mechanism, you use a pad that requires less work or, at least, the hope of less work to pad the flute. Therefore, if you engineer the pinless mechanism flute to have very flat key cups which rest absolutely square above the perfectly flat toneholes and use a very flat, rigid pad, you have a much greater chance of padding the flute without causing the padder to become a gray beard or seek refuge in a rest home before too many flutes are padded. This is the hope.

Now, I realize that this post may cause pause among some of you. Please share your thoughts with the entire list just as I have here. I think controversy and debate are healthy and important. I genuinely look forward to any comments my post my engender.

Mara Goosman
From FLUTE list March 1999


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