Who was the first maker to make keyed flutes? This was the question that was on my mind when two early keyed flutes by Schuchart came into the shop for restoration earlier this year. The first flute that came to my attention was made in dark-stained boxwood, with three keys (Bb, G# and short F) and was missing its foot joint. The owner was asking me to make a new foot joint in order to make it playable again. This sent both of us on a bit of a wild goose chase looking for any other keyed flutes by the same maker on which to base my reconstruction. A second keyed flute by Schuchart turned up in a private collection in Boston and after visiting the owner, I ended up with that flute in the shop for restoration as well.
It was fascinating to have these two flutes side by side in the workshop and to be able to closely examine and compare them. The two instruments shared some similarities, but were different on several levels. It was time to do some flute detective work and try and sort out who had made them and when.
The darker, three-keyed flute is stamped “SCHUCHART” on its head and right-hand joints, although the stain is so dark that the stamp can hardly be seen. There is no visible stamp on the left-hand joint, but it looks like it was made by the same hand as the rest of the flute. The second flute, is stamped “SCHUCHART/SENIOR” on all its joints. It is made in lightly stained boxwood with ivory mounts and has six silver keys.
Apart for the colour of the stain the two were very similar in style, although comparing the finer details of th turning of the two flutes made it obvious that they had been made by two different hands. Looking at the bores of both instruments, the two looked similar, especially the left-hand joints. The right-hand joints, however, differed somewhat, especially towards the end of the joint. It is unclear if this was because the two were made using slightly different reamers or if the extra conicity on the darker flute’s end was a part of its design and could perhaps indicate that it originally had a d rather than a c foot joint.