Powell Flute Co. Case Study

At Controlled Thermal Processing, we hear success stories from the field every day. Here’s one satisfied customer that used our deep cryogenic treatment of musical instrument services to dramatically improve the sound quality of sterling silver flutes.

Dr. Jeffrey Levine on Powell Flute Co.

Some time in the late 1980’s I was approached by Steve Wasser, the owner of Powell Flute Co., with a manufacturing problem. He was trying to draw tone hole chimneys in his sterling silver flutes. The traditional method was to build the chimneys by soldering short cylinders around holes in the flute body, a labor-intensive process. Drawing material out of the flute body would be a faster method; however, the drawing process resulted in cracking of the chimneys.

Relief of residual stresses by cryogenic treatment eliminated the cracking. I advised Steve to test the acoustic performance of treated flutes before adopting this new method of fabrication on the suspicion that stress relief might alter the acoustic properties of the material. To my surprise, tests by the in-house “golden eared” QC expert brought rave reviews.

This was the beginning of three years of blind and double blind testing with customers, mostly professional, world-class musicians.  The procedure was to have the customer audition several head joints (the top portion of the flute which has a major impact on the performance of the finished instrument). One head joint in the each batch had been cryogenically treated.

The customer was not aware that any special treatment had been performed and in some cases neither the customer nor the Powell employee involved in the test was aware of the treat sample.  In every case the customer chose the treated head joint. A complete flute was built around the chosen head joint and the completed instrument was cryogenically treated.

We subsequently sold Powell two Cryo-processors, which are used to treat flutes, and brass instruments till this day, which were also manufactured by the company.

Work with CTP Today

As you can see, deep cryogenic treatment of metal components includes instruments like flutes, trumpets french horns and guitar and piano strings. If you’re looking for a way to improve the sound quality of your instrument — even adding as much as an additional octave to your scale — reach out to the cryogenic specialists at Controlled Thermal Processing by contacting us online or calling us at +1 (818)-445-3030.