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Rottenburgh flute with special keys

This page describes a specially commissioned instrument we made in September/October 1999 to the specifications of a customer with hand problems.

The task was to add keys to a standard design so that the player, whose modern flute had also been altered to fit her left hand, could reach the top three toneholes without stretching the fingers. We decided to leave all the toneholes in their original positions and use open-standing keys to control them, locating the touchpieces in the specified places.

To make room to mount the key nearest the tenon-and-socket join in the middle of the flute, it was necessary to take 10mm of the length of the heartpiece, or lower middle joint, and add it to the bottom end of the upper middle joint. There was plenty of room to allow this modification, since the original design, by G.A. Rottenburgh, leaves enough space at the top of the heartpiece for a G# key to be fitted. A short reamer on a long shank allowed us to use the reamer that normally bores the top of the heartpiece at the bottom of the middle joint instead.


Closer view of the keys

We found the keys had to clear the toneholes by several millimeters so as not to muffle the tone of notes they helped produce, such as G# and Bb, as well as A and B. But though this high key-rise looked awkward, it proved easy to manage in practice, even in trills.

The open-standing keys, modeled on the C' key in a design by J.G. Tromlitz, were kept open by springs riveted to the touchpiece between the tonehole and the axle. The flute was made in grenadilla wood, with artificial ivory mounts, silver keys, and hammered brass springs.

Underside of a key, showing riveted spring

Text and images copyright © 1997,1999, 2001, 2008 FOLKERS & POWELL, Makers of Historical Flutes
PO Box 148, Hillsdale NY 12529-0148 USA
TEL: +1 518 828 9779