Recommendations for vintage boehm flute repair?

Recommendations for vintage boehm flute repair?

I was recently been gifted by a family member a lovely late 1800’s Boehm wooden (rosewood?) flute, maker Claire Godfroy. It appears to be in decent condition but hasn’t been played in decades; there are some cracks in the headpiece. It seems like it would benefit from a little TLC, or at least a solid look over from someone knowledgeable. I am naive to the flute world (I play fiddle), might anyone here have a recommendations for a good shop in the USA that specializes in vintage Boehm system flutes? I searched the past and posts related to flute repair are 10ish years old or specific to Europe.

Thank you!

Oh yeah - also, any thoughts on whether such a flute is suitable for playing Irish? What attributes of the flute would determine this? I can’t comment yet on sound I’m just working on my embouchure to make the thing peep. :)

Re: Recommendations for vintage boehm flute repair?

My first thought was to say that there are really good instrument repair guys all over. Check with the local symphony guys. Then I looked at your location. You might have a problem. Still you should find somebody in AK after a few phone calls. If you’re willing to go off-shore I highly recommend Maurice Reviol. Or you might inquire with Chris Abell in North Carolina. They make very high end Boehm flutes.

Now as for playing trad on it, why not. An "Irish flute" is the one you’re playing an Irish tune on. Yeah I know there are plenty of naysayers. It’s an opinion. There’s a reason why the Boehm flute was invented and it wasn’t to separate Irish trad from other music. Learn to play it and make your own decision. There are a few ornaments that will be harder, you may have to adjust your lip to get a darker sound (or not). I often hear some speaking of Boehm flute players with the passive aggressive comment "not my cup of tea". It’s their opinion and they are welcome to express it (no hard feelings). The best way to reply is to learn to play well. I know, and know of more, Boehm players that have no need apologize to anyone. If you decide for yourself it’s not "your cup of tea",well, keyed and un-keyed flutes aren’t hard to find. Good luck!

Re: Recommendations for vintage boehm flute repair?

Yes, location is indeed the issue! I expect I’ll need to ship this somewhere regardless, hence asking around a bit about recommended places. The previous owner indicated the flute might have some value, so would like to find someone well familiar with the make/vintage of the flute…

Thanks!

Re: Recommendations for vintage boehm flute repair?

It would be cocus, by far the most popular flute wood at that time.

I guess you could call it "rosewood" which people use as a broad general term for dozens of different species.

About suitable for Irish traditional music, there have been, and currently are, a number of good traditional Irish trad fluteplayers that play flutes with the full Boehm system, or one of the numerous 19th century hybrid Boehm systems.

Re: Recommendations for vintage boehm flute repair?

Oops! Correction, if it makes a difference to the reader. I think is more of a transitional Boehm flute than full. It has 5 keyed holes, the remaining are unkeyed.

Re: Recommendations for vintage boehm flute repair?

There is an active facebook group on historic flutes. Many of the people who post there are into historic Boehm flutes, not just the simple-system ones.

Or try asking at the flute forum on Chiff & Fipple: http://forums.chiffandfipple.com/viewforum.php?f=2

Posting a photo at chiffandfipple would help with identification.

Re: Recommendations for vintage boehm flute repair?

I would very much second what Tom Stermitz suggested. It might also be helpful to contact Terry McGee http://www.mcgee-flutes.com/ He can advise you as to the exact system on your flute. Another consideration will be the intended pitch of this instrument. If it is set to English High Pitch, it may not be suitable for playing in Sessions without modification. Terry should be able to help with that as well, as he has had some experience with such modifications. Good Luck.

Re: Recommendations for vintage boehm flute repair?

You have a simple system 5 keyed French flute. It will likely be low pitched 435 (most French flutes are) and may be hard to play at 440.
French flutes are more consistent in that even cheaper grade flutes play well.
The issues you’re likely to face are Flat F#, overall less volume, pitch.
Personally I find French flutes very fast and nimble and have enjoyed having them for quieter practice and playing.

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Re: Recommendations for vintage boehm flute repair?

If it is a 5 key French Simple System flute, as Patrick suggests, made by Clair Godfroy, the first thing to say is " Congratulations lucky you !! " These particular flutes were made by one of the most esteemed makers of the day, were ( and are ) made to a very high standard, and are great playing instruments. They are also highly collectible, and as such pretty valuable. Unlike the their English and American counterparts who often favoured Cocus, quite a few of the French made flutes were made from Rosewood, although there are some Cocus examples along with Boxwood, Ebony and African Blackwood. Oddly enough, not all French made Simple System flutes are shrinking violets, as occasionally, some of the high end flutes with slightly larger ( for a French flute ) tone holes, and flared bore to the foot, can project with clarity and surprising volume. Let’s hope yours is one of those. As you appear to be in the U.S. I would strongly recommend you take it/send it to Jon Cornia based in California for appraisal and any necessary maintenance or repair work.

Re: Recommendations for vintage boehm flute repair?

Best wishes with your project - it is satisfying to bring an instrument back to life. And most likely a Claire Godfroy will be a quality instrument - it certainly has the pedigree to make the effort (and some expenditure) worthwhile. You are very lucky to have been gifted this little piece of musical history.

If this were an early Boehm style Godfroy flute it might be quite valuable (in the $3-6K range). But without pictures and serial number we’re guessing. From the five keys further information you offered it is more likely to be an early 19thC simple system conical bore instrument and probably made of cocuswood. In all likelihood it isn’t actually especially "valuable" from a monetary perspective but has reasonable historical and sentimental value.

Similar to the picture offered for reference by kkrell - this is an antique French simple system flute which I had restored: https://flic.kr/p/KmfoE4 - these five key models wouldn’t be classified as Boehm as they predate the design.

The restoration was done by Jon Dodd in Milltown Malbay. The required works included cleaning, fixing a (stable, no effect on sound) crack in the barrel, re-padding, re-corking and replacing head-cork. Once it was back in good playing order the flat F# (typical for those instruments) was evident. Hammy Hamilton kindly did some delicate re-tuning (enlarging of the 2nd hole) to render it playable in a modern session. After 50+ years lying idle - it is back in daily usage playing Irish Trad!

Assuming it is playable and economic to restore - tuning (A440 pitch) will be the main determinant as to likely use in Irish trad (at least in group/session play). It isn’t and won’t have that typical "Irish flute" sound. It will have a softer, quieter and distinctive sound by comparison with the English types (R&R/ Nicholson/ Pratten inspired models). Where the early English flutes ended up in Ireland - many of these early French flutes ended up in Cuba where they are highly valued for Charanga music and their especially sweet in-tune 2nd and 3rd octaves.

Perhaps contact Blayne @ https://www.irishflutestore.com/ - I’m sure he will give you pointers as to who/where you might get it looked at. Pat Olwell (yup, that Pat O) regularly restores and offers for sale antique French Flutes.

Re: Recommendations for vintage boehm flute repair?

Wonderful! Thank you all for your information, and suggested contacts! So it is not Boehm, my mistake. At any rate, indeed, I am lucky. The dear piece has definitely inspired me to play flute. And how interesting about the French flutes making their way to Cuba!?

Yes, my flute appears identical to the photo posted by @kkrel. It is stamped Claire Godfroy Paris on the wood, and the only serial numbers on it are stamped on the metal ring of the head piece, and read "9709" (woa… I JUST noticed thats also the last 4 digits of my zip code….!). I did a little internet searching and couldn’t find anything specific to this number, most seem in the 1XXX range.

Right now I am mostly concerned with getting it looked over/cleaned/repaired. I think I’ll want to revisit the notion of re-tuning at a later point - I certainly wouldn’t be in session any time soon with it- and get some more input as it is historical piece.

Re: Recommendations for vintage boehm flute repair?

Antique Boehm flutes and their cousins—Radcliff, Rudall-Carte 1855, RC 1867, etc.—are beyond the abilities of most modern flute technicians and specialists in simple system flutes. The approach to padding and key-height adjustment, among other issue, has evolved significantly in the last century and a half, and even talented workers on the more common flutes run into problems—I speak from experience on this! The worst case would be actual damage by someone applying modern repair to a mechanism they don’t fully understand. More likely would be persistent leaks and weak tone and response.

I know of two people in North America who are unquestionably qualified to sort out your Godfroy: David Chu in NYC https://www.sideblown.com/ and Gary Lewis in San Fransisco http://www.garylewisflutes.com/ . Gary did a superb job restoring 1920s Rudall Carte Radcliff flute for me several years ago, and was very pleasant to work with. I know David only by reputation, but he was recommended to me by by Robert Bigio http://www.bigio.com/ , who literally wrote the book on Rudall Rose and Carte. I am sure there are others who could do a great job, but if David or Gary will take it on, you will have no doubts about the outcome. They are both devotees of the French school of flutemaking, and I expect if they can fit it in, either would love to get your Godroy playing. Good Luck!

Bill