Contrabass Flute facelift

I mentioned in the last blog post that I’d been doing some reading into the world of big flutes in relation to a possible job a client had asked about.

As it turned out, it was an enquiry into the possibility of getting a contrabass flute keywork silver plated from it’s raw brass state. As I’d not had the chance to work with this particular instrument before there were alot of questions to ask before I could say for sure.

The first question really was whether I could find a gilder who would do this! Luckily I’ve done some work for a well respected silversmith who recommended the gilder that he uses and after a number of phone calls and emails backwards and forwards he agreed.

Next I had to try and work out how the instrument could come apart in order to be able to have all the metal parts sent away for plating. Obviously the keywork would all come apart (as all the felt, cork, pads and shims would need to be removed) in a similar way to any other flute. The principles are all the same, just much bigger! The pillars (the bits holding the keywork to the body) on the other hand were a bit of an unknown. On a normal flute, the pillars are attached to a strap which is soldered to the body. Wooden flutes and pics, this strap is screwed into the wooden body which while removable if need be, have quite a small thread which can be easily damaged. If it is, then the only recourse for repair is to drill out the damaged hole, make an insert , glue it back into the hole, then redrill and tap the ‘new’ one again. It’s alot of work and time consuming and best avoided if at all possible!!!!

Again, thanks to the power of email I was able to get the client to send me across some close up pictures to try and work out just how the pillars and straps have been attached. Certainly from the pictures, it appeared that they were simply screwed straight through the body into the bore!

As it turned out, this was indeed the case and the thickness of the body and thread of the screws sufficient that it was safe enough to remove them and be able to reattach them safely and firmly.

So after many pictures and care to make sure everything came off in the right order and would go back where it needed to, all the pads, cork etc was removed and the cleaning in earnest could begin!!

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As I’ve mentioned before, all my cleaning is done by hand. Although more time consuming it’s safer with delicate keywork. The tarnishing was very heavy and suffice to say it took much longer than I was expecting but as always, the results were worthwhile.

The pieces were all packaged up and sent down to London.

Eventually all the pieces arrived back.


Stunning. The guilder, Steve Wood had done a fantastic job. It looked like it had just come out of the factory!

Next to do was reattach the straps and reassemble the keywork. There was a bit of reworking required to do this. Even though there was only a relatively small amount of material added to the keywork, in places it was enough to make it bind or stick so small sections had to be carefully sanded back to allow it to run freely.

Once done and all the keywork working as it should, time to repad, regulate and setup the flute. The principles are exactly the same as a ‘normal’ flute both in padding and the setup and regulation of the keywork. Only bigger and a bit more awkward to work around. Very reminiscent of working on a Baratone Saxophone…!

Once it was all back together I had a chance to try and learn to play it!   I’d never played this size of flute before and it took quite a bit to get my head around it, using more air less forcefully and having to try and cover over quite alot of the lipplate. No mean feat given the size of it!!!

Theres a small vid of me murdering In the hall of the Mountain King over on my facebook page, and a load of before and after pics, here!


And if you wanted to buy one yourself, heres where you can get them from!  Hogenhuis Flutes