I have been teaching for more than 22 years (at the time of writing this article), and I have encountered this same problem of a stuck footjoint only twice. And, both times happened within the last 6 months to two of my students. But when a stuck footjoint happens, it’s usually really scary and not much fun.
When the flute is properly put together the joints are to be “twisted” into place. Make sure that you assemble your flute correctly. Not pushed straight on. The ends are actually “tapered” a bit. So, when pushed straight on or pulled straight off, the metal is forced to stretch just a bit. Over time, the joints become loose. (problem)
Here in this article, I’m going to address what happens when the footjoint has the opposite problem. It’s actually frozen on. I mean, completely stuck. A stuck foot joint is usually not movable at all. Sometimes a footjoint can be accidentally “cross-threaded”. I know it doesn’t look like there are threads on there, but there are. Believe me.
Both flutes were ruined because of a stuck footjoint!
BTW, if this hasn’t happened to you. Be glad. Very glad. It takes a good repairman to get it apart without breaking the flute.
I’ve had a couple of sad students who took their flutes to their dads, who then used the pliers (!) out and worked on it themselves. Bad move. Both flutes were ruined. One was a brand spankin’ new $4,000. flute. Yikes!
I believe in both cases above, a small piece of dirt or lint from the flute case was caught between the joints when the students were putting them together. Because the joints are supposed to be completely airtight, it just made it impossible to get off. There are important steps to keeping your flute and tenons spotless. Clean your flutes, friends. A lot.
Please, if this happens to you. Do not take the pliers to your flute.
How to get your footjoint unstuck:
If your footjoint becomes stuck, you will want to explore the following options:
Untwist instead of pulling straight off. If it moves that’s a good sign that you can continue working on it and it’ll work.
Hold the footjoint with your thumb either on the actual pinky key (E-flat key) or on Db key. Then use the palm of your hand and other fingers to aid in the twisting motion. Be careful not to grab and smoosh the mechanism.. This will cause other issues.
If it doesn’t move, you have the option of calling your flute technician to help you. The flute will have to be taken in to be manually fixed (or mailed all in one piece- oh dear) by someone who will not further damage your flute.
How to avoid a stuck footjoint:
Every single time you put your instrument together, take your special flute cloth (microfiber, silk etc) and carefully wipe the tenons. Keeping your flute clean is important since small fibers from your cloths or your case are usually the cause of a stuck footjoint.
When assembling your flute, knowing how to treat your footjoint is a very important step.
Make a habit of always twisting your footjoint on instead of pushing and pulling straight. This will protect the integrity, size, shape, etc. of both the tenon and the receiving box.
You may be wondering if you should use a special product for flute maintenance. The answer is ‘no’. Don’t ever use oil or cork grease on the footjoint tenon especially. Keep it impeccably clean, and that will help to prevent any binding or scratching. Oil or grease is sticky and attracts dirt and lint that will scratch the tenon.
So many things to learn about flute maintenance. It’s actually very easy once you know the basics and have used your flute enough times.
Thanks for learning more about your flute and specifically a stuck footjoint with us today!