Checking Out a Used Flute
If you are buying a used flute, the list below will help you to determine its condition. Unless you are familiar with flutes, however, I strongly recommend that you bring along someone who is, to help you evaluate it.
Or you could bring the used flute to a repair shop for a professional judgment.
Keep in mind that, although you might think a used flute is truly beyond repair, most faulty conditions can be and are corrected during a standard overhaul in any repair shop.
In fact, the best bargains can often be found among used flutes that “don’t work”—they sometimes require only a simple regulating adjustment, accomplished in a few moments.
Pads. These are the soft inserts in the keys that actually make contact with the holes. They should not be torn or yellowed and dried out in your used flute.
Springs. These should be strong enough so that the keys return to resting position with a firm motion.
Action. The action should have a solid feeling. There should be free movement of all keys on the used flute. No key “clicks” should be heard. Try wiggling the keys sideways—there should be very little movement.
Tenons. The joints should fit together snugly on a used flute, but not tightly. There should be no side play when the used flute is assembled.
Head joint cork. Try pulling straight out on the crown (the piece at the very top). If it moves, the cork inside is too loose.
Mouth hole. This should have no nicks or scratches, especially on the edge you blow toward. This repair is expensive.
Dents (metal flute). Small dents on the body of the used flute will have almost no effect, but dents on the head joint can cause tuning problems.
Finish (metal flute). The condition of the finish has no effect on the playing of the used flute.