Monday, July 6, 2009

Repurposing A Broken Flute!

I remember tearing stuff apart when I was a kid just to see how the little parts that made the whole worked together. I'm waiting to acquire some piece of electronic equipment to see what I can salvage, but I was even more excited when a student-model flute beyond repair was handed to me at work. There was a deep fold underneath the A flat key that couldn't be smoothed out, and it was offered to me. I had first used it to study the instrument, as I am a flute player myself. The flute, in its rudimentary form, is documented to be the oldest instrument in the world, with its most current discovery to be more than 40,000 years old! The flute that we know today is traditionally known as the Western Concert flute. The flute keys used below were acquired from a Buffet-Crampton student model.

If your wheels are turning with these pieces, and you have a clarinet, saxophone or flute sitting, rusting in a closet, basement or attic, it's very easy to remove the keys without damaging the instrument. You'll see the keys are attached to sections of long rods. On one end of the rod is a screw that can be easily removed to loosen the rod and pull the keys off. These screws are used to adjust and regulate the keys and make sure they're level over the air holes and seal properly when closed. When the instrument receives service, these screws are an easy way for repair techs to work around difficult keys and problem areas. A lot of these keys are angled in ways that make for some interesting design ideas.

I resisted playing flute at first. I was crestfallen because my heart was set on learning the saxophone; I wanted to be just like those famous jazz players I'd heard, like John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and David Sanborn. The classic rock my dad had me listening to had a lot of tenor sax solos; Pink Floyd's Money is always going to stand out in my head as one of my favourite instrument solos. I had moved to a new school where everybody got to pick their instruments already, and I was the new kid stuck with the leftovers, this time being the flute. I still enjoyed it, and found it to be less maintenance than what the saxophone players had to deal with. My musical tastes had expanded, as well, listening to Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull, my biggest exposure thus far to 'rock flute', and I will eternally be moved by James Galway's music, especially with his involvement in the Lord of the Rings score.
I'm still going to learn to play saxophone, eventually. I'd like to credit my open mind to music that made me stick with the flute, although my heart was set somewhere else. I've found that the fingerings on a flute are very similar to a saxophone and to clarinet (which my father has begun to learn at the young age of 58!), so I would imagine it'll be rather easy for me to adapt. The important thing to know is that these is never a reason not to learn what interests you, and there is no age limit! I have heard people, over and over, tell me at work that they're 'too old to learn an instrument now', although I see the yearning in their eyes when they gaze at a random instrument they'd wished they had learned 'way back when'. My father's a great example; being a lifelong appreciator of Benny Goodman, he recently express interest in learning the clarinet. I didn't hesitate to buy him one for Christmas, a Yamaha student model. Surprised at the gift from my boyfriend and I, he immediately took it out Christmas Day, put it all together, strapped the reed on the mouthpiece and gave it a go! I was so happy to see him with it, and knowing that he has the instrument at his disposal to learn when he has the time to invest. (I say that, because he hasn't had that time to 'invest' for lessons, but still vehemently tells me that he will!) I certainly think he got the inspiration from my stepmom, Lynda, who asked about banjo lessons. I had rented her a banjo for her birthday, she found a nice lady in Streetsville for lessons, and bought her an Epiphone banjo for Christmas, as well. We're on our way to a family band!

Both my parents had the desire to pick up instruments as hobbies, no less, but have found the rewards of playing through acquiring a new form of expression. My stepmom loves playing her banjo and practices regularly. My parents are artistic people whom I credit for being one of my inspirations for trying new things in all of my crafts. So, these pieces would attribute to folks like them who support me in expressing myself through my art.

So, as you can see, jewelry isn't the only art I express myself in, and jewelry isn't the only thing you can turn those old instruments into! My assistant manager, Dan, has turned a few defunct instruments into fantastic lamps, an idea he had when he found a site called He had bought a lamp-making kit at Michaels and made his first lamp out of a clarinet. He's made a few more so far out of a flute, bass clarinet, and I believe he has a french horn on the way. A great conversation piece!
In an era of self-expression and DIY solutions, those sentimental items you have stored away in keepsake boxes can be displayed beautifully, however suits your personality. And however you choose to display them will certainly shine a new aspect that will surprise everyone!

Photography credit: Brian O'Brien, Cassandra Watsham

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