The last word in nineteenth-century tuning devices By Robert Bigio
The flute was so popular in the nineteenth century and the market was so large that makers vied to develop instruments with what would now be called a unique selling proposition. These are three masterpieces of ingenuity (or perhaps masterpieces of unnecessary ingenuity). Rudall & Rose’s patent headjoint (1832) On this device a twist of the crown extends the tuning slide and moves the stopper to its correct position in one easy motion. Inside the headjoint one tube slides within another. The inner tube is connected to the tuning slide at one end and to a threaded shaft at the other, which is in turn connected to the crown. The threaded shaft is an extraordinary piece of engin­eering, particularly for its date: the main part of the shaft consists of a four-start screw (to produce rapid extension of the tuning slide) on the end of which is a very fine single-start thread that controls the position of the stopper. The headjoint is very heavy as it contains two lining tubes, the threaded shaft and its associated mechanism. (Private collection.) Ward’s ‘Terminator’ (1842) Cornelius Ward’s gadget for positioning the stopper in the headjoint was his Terminator. The stopper (left) moves up and down the headjoint by the action of a cam (centre) operated by a dial on the outside of the headjoint (right). The dial is positioned over a number stamped into the wood. This number corresponds to a line scribed on the tuning slide. The player has two operations rather than one as on the Rudall & Rose headjoint, but the headjoint is lighter. (Private collection.) Card’s ‘Melodion’ (1851) William Card was a successful orchestral performer and teacher who owned a music business in St. James’s where he sold flutes of his own design, some of which were lavishly decor­ated. The Melodion has a rack-and-pinion mechanism with which the player can shorten or lengthen the tuning slide. Card’s advertisement in The Musical World in 1852 claimed the Melodion would permit the player to ‘…either flatten or sharpen the pitch or tone of the Flute whilst playing, which may be done with the greatest ease and exactness without removing the flute from the mouth, or the left hand from its position—the inconvenience of doing which every flute-player must have found whilst playing in concert. This instrument may be attached to any kind of flute, and may be detached at pleasure.’ (Dayton C. Miller Collection, Library of Congress, Washington: DCM 1230) These, and other inventions, are described in detail in my two books. Please follow this link.
The crown from a Rudall & Rose patent headjoint Photograph by Robert Bigio Rudall & Rose patent headjoint Photograph by Robert Bigio Three views of Ward’s ‘Terminator’. Left to right: The internal stopper; the external dial; and the cam that operates the mechanism. Card’s ‘Melodion’ Photograph by Robert Bigio Robert Bigio Flute maker
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