Flute pads are prone to damage and hardened over time, and you may be asking if there is a possibility of fixing a brittle or hard pad to prolong its lifespan and skip a cumbersome and costly repadding job.
Can flute pads be softened? Unfortunately, softening flute pads will not be possible if they get hardened or torn. In this case, the best course of action is to replace them. For that purpose, hiring a technician with the expertise and tools necessary to carry out the procedure is recommended.
In this article, we'll discuss aspects related to pad maintenance and go over what to do when flute pads get dried or torn.
Why Do Flute Pads Get Hardened?
Flute pads tend to get harder with age, as the core material gets compacted with use and the outer skin loses elasticity. This is especially true in the case of bladder-type pads, as in those made of woven felt and covered with fish skin.
Lack of proper maintenance can accelerate this aging process dramatically. Saliva contains calcium and other substances that, if not removed promptly, may get to the innermost components of the pad, including the felt.
While it's virtually impossible not to expose your pads to these substances, you may prevent their absorption by performing periodic maintenance tasks (more on this shortly).
What To Do When Flute Pads Harden
Flute pads need replacing when they dry out and turn hard.
With that said, not all pads get hard or brittle at the same time because not all keys receive the same amount of finger pressure or have the same moisture absorption rate.
This last point is a very important one to consider whenever you are assessing repair options. In many instances, replacing individual pads can be more costly than a complete overhaul. If several pads present the same issue, your best choice is to have the entire flute repadded.
In principle, pad replacement jobs could be done by anyone, but the procedure is not easy. If you are not knowledgeable about using the different tools involved in a repadding job, you should entrust this task to professionals.
In this article, we'll only cover basic information related to pad replacement so that you can get a general idea of how it works.
How To Replace A Flute Pad
It bears repeating that replacing a flute pad is not an easy endeavour. Not only would you need to know what you're doing, but you will also have to equip yourself with the right tools.
Also, keep in mind that this is not a pad replacement guide. We're only outlining how the process is generally carried out.
In a nutshell, these are the steps to replace saxophone pads:
- You must first remove the keys. It's recommended that you lay them down on a clean towel in the same order you detach them because you can visualize how to place them back together.
- Then, remove the pads. If the pads are glued to the cup, apply heat to melt the glue. However, most modern flute pads are attached to the cup via screws, making the removal process much less risky.
- You must then compare the old pads with the new ones to see whether the new pads will fit. If the new pads are thinner or slightly distorted, that could be fixed by adding flute pad shims inside the cup. However, if their diameter is smaller or they're thicker, you may have to find a pad with the correct dimensions.
- After choosing the pads you'll be attaching, you might want to puncture the side of the new pads to let out all the retained moisture.
- To insert pads that need adhesive, first, make sure the old glue has been thoroughly removed. Then, insert adhesive pellets into the cup and apply heat. Finally, place the pad onto the cup and wait for the key to cool down.
- Make sure the pads are levelled and, if necessary, adjust them using a pad slick or a flat metal piece.
- Fasten the key again to its proper place and try the flute out.
- If you notice that it leaks after trying out the pad, proceed to adjust it. If the pad is glued, melt the glue and try to level it again.
With the information above, you can realize how complex a pad replacement job can get, with fire hazards involved in some cases.
Flute Pad Maintenance Tips
The best way to tackle flute pad hardening is by avoiding its very occurrence. Applying preventive measures could prolong your pads' life cycle in a significant way.
Saxophone players often recommend using certain types of oil to moisten the pad and retain its flexibility. However, it should be stressed that saxophone pads are considerably larger and more manageable than flute pads.
On the other hand, applying any type of oil on your pad's surface could elicit the appearance of grime spots, making matters even worse. Plus, oil takes considerable time to get absorbed (if at all) by the pads.
Our best recommendation is to clean your flute pads after each session using pad cleaning paper. It's also imperative to swab the flute often to prevent limescale from our saliva from getting into the pads.
In addition, when cleaning your pads, try to avoid using tap water or abrasive products. Whenever possible, if you need to eliminate any stuck grime, use distilled water instead. Tap water is bound to contain minerals that, with time, could cause the pads to turn stiff.
One product often promoted online for pad maintenance is Pad Juice (link to check the price at Flute World), a cleaning solution that presumably eliminates pad stickiness while also restoring its skin's flexibility and colour.
Finally, store your flute in a dry and cool storage cell when you're finished playing it. If possible, stow it inside its proper case and let it rest until you're ready to play it again.
Related article: Can Flutes Be Muted, And If So, How?