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Technology, Innovations & Flutemaking

Handmade vs. Machine-Made Flutes

When looking for a new flute, the terms "handmade" and "machine made" are used frequently to describe different makes of flutes. These terms can be confusing, so it is helpful to learn the differences in cost and workmanship in each.

Machine made flutes are a wonderful way for the beginning flute player to get started. As all the parts are machine made and quickly assembled, these flutes require less time to manufacture. Traditional felt pads are used. They are installed and typically leveled by bending key cups. Deep impressions are set into the pads to offset small leaks. Headjoint embouchure holes are drilled by machine. These efficiencies result in a flute that is affordable for the beginner. Entry level machine made flutes are usually made of nickel silver that has been silver plated. Intermediate models may have a sterling silver headjoint or solid silver tubing, but they are manufactured by the same process as the entry level models.

Handmade flutes, regardless of metal content, are superior in quality to machine made flutes. Careful craftsmanship is involved on every level. Each key is individually hand shaped and fitted for a precision fit without the side to side play commonly found in machine made flute mechanisms. To ensure a dependable pad seal, each key must come down in exactly the same place on each tonehole every time a key is pressed. This is accomplished by careful key fitting. A meticulously fit mechanism provides increased sensitivity and stable regulation. The end result is a mechanism that is smooth, quiet and will retain adjustment well.

To compliment the mechanism, handmade flutes are padded with professional level pads such as the Straubinger Pad. A skilled technician spends hours meticulously leveling pads with partial shims up to .0005 of an inch to provide a perfect seal with the lightest touch. No seats are set into the pads.

In addition, most handmade flutes are offered with various headjoint styles to choose from. Handcut headjoints are designed to provide the player with the ultimate in tonal color, flexibility and defined response. Within these headjoint styles are other options, such as gold or platinum risers, to expand the color palette and/or enhance the projection of tone.

Machine made flutes generally are made for beginners or used as an intermediate step. Some players outgrow their "step-up" flutes quickly and are disappointed to find that their machine made flute has decreased in value. Handmade flutes provide a more substantial instrument for the player to grow with over time. Handmade flutes are a true investment, representing years of experience in providing intermediate and professional level flutists with instruments that will last a lifetime.

Miyazawa offers quality handmade flutes in a wide range of models to fit any budget while providing uncompromising tone, response and longevity. Please see our Models page to learn more, or contact us for additional information.

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