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Wooden instruments do tend to crack more readily in the dry, cold periods of the year. Some precautions can be exercised:
- Try to minimize exposure of the instrument to freezing temperatures.
- Avoid playing the instrument immediately when it is brought in from the cold. When it is cold, close the keys and blow warm air in at the tenon end (without the headjoint). The wood body changes temperature much more slowly than the silver keys, therefore, don't assume the body is warm when the keys feel warm. Take your time. Separately, wrap your hands around the headjoint and blow warm air through the headjoint while cupping your mouth over the embouchure hole. Assemble the piccolo, then you are ready to play.
- If you must sit in a performance waiting and waiting for that piccolo entrance, try to keep the instrument warm by keeping it close to your body or in your hands.
- Do not leave the instrument close to a heat source. Example: Check to see if there is a radiator or baseboard under the desk you always place your briefcase or instrument case on.
- Oiling the body does not prevent cracking. Oiling by the player is not recommended as it is easy to get oil on the pads and adjustments. Oiling may be done in the repair shop, and it is only a surface treatment.
Low to mid price flutes are silver plated. Even flutes with solid silver body are usually silver plated over the solid silver to reduce manufacturing time and cost. Plating is applied to a surface with a 'strike' or thin coat of nickel or copper and then a thin coat of pure silver. The pure silver does not tarnish. However, if there is ever damage (scratches, dents, etc) to the body, it cannot be repaired without removing the silver plating and exposing the 'strike' layer - a permanent, unsightly mess. Also the thin layer of silver plate can erode in the hands of a player with acidic perspiration.
The solid silver flute (un-plated) is superior in sound to silver plated flutes. It is also easily repaired to as new condition. Silver is a precious metal and, like gold, it is too soft for flutemaking in pure form. To make it more durable and stronger it is often alloyed with small amounts of copper and other metals. It is this copper which reacts with atmospheric sulfides, chlorides, ambient humid air, etc., to form a thin cloudy to dark area on the flute. The good news is, it's no big deal. Tarnish in no way affects the way the flute sounds, and can be removed upon overhaul which includes a machine buffing of the keys and body.
When you perspire, salts and acids released in the perspiration can cause tarnish. This problem can be worse in seacoast areas where chlorides combine with perspiration. Medication and changes in hormone balance during adolescence can cause elevated levels of perspiration acid. Frequently, the developing flutist advances from a student model flute to a professional silver flute during adolescent years, and we note that the accelerated tarnish issue often disappears by the time a first overhaul is done (8 to 10 years after purchase).
Burkart does offer two silver flute bodies with superior tonal attributes that are not alloyed with copper and do not tarnish like sterling silver. See 998 flute and 5-95 flute in Metal Options.