A Rudall Carte Transplant

Interim Introduction

Sensing my interest in historically significant flutes, professional flute player Nigel Street contacted me from his home in Cypress to talk about a project carried out some years back.  The project involved taking the keys from a high-pitch Rudall Carte & Co flute and transplanting them onto a new modern-pitch body, giving the grand old flute a whole new lease of life.  Nigel was able to supply me with photos taken by the craftsman Harry Seeley that illustrate how the project was carried out.  I was able to track down Harry and get his permission to use the photos.  

Important Note

I have left the images below large to preserve the detail - I apologise that it will take a long time to download.  I suggest the first time you download it, you save it to your own system, so you don't have to download it again.  Wait until the whole page has loaded, then select Save or Save As in your File menu.  Accept or modify the details and press OK.

Background to the project

I asked Harry to tell us about himself, Rudall Carte and the Flutemaker's Guild ...

My name is Harry Seeley and I started work in 1948 making six key band flutes with a firm called Henry Starck, who also made Bagpipes.  After doing my National Service I went to work for Rudall Carte in 1956, staying till 1961 when the Flutemakers Guild was formed.  I stayed there till ill health forced me to retire in 1998.

At the time that I went to Rudall, Carte in Berners Street  the business was already owned by Boosey & Hawkes; in 1958 it was moved to premises in Islington, London, N1.  After B & H had a bad financial year in 1960 all outside small businesses owned by B & H were moved to the B & H factory in Edgware, Middlesex.  Some of the R C staff did not want to make this transition as the journey was too great and thus the Flutemakers Guild was formed. Those who stayed with RC carried on for some years but eventually it ceased to exist, my knowledge of these years are heresay as I wasn't involved.

The Flutemakers Guild was formed by a small group of RC workers in 1961, myself included, as I have stated, first at 48 Broadwick Street, London, W1  and then at 10, Shacklewell Road, London, N16.

About the project

These photos show various stages of taking a high pitch flute, using the metalwork and rebuilding on to a low pitch body.  This procedure was done many times at Cartes as there were many high pitch flutes floating around after the changeover to low pitch.  If the work is done properly it is very difficult to spot, one way to tell is to look at the straps on the right and left hands,  as the silver tarnishes the inserts used to lengthen the straps show the solder joins.  It was work I always enjoyed, bringing an old flute back to life.
These photos show only some of the work that went into transplanting a flute, altering the key-work to fit was quite a work of art, keys had to be lengthened, new barrels soldered in, new steel rods and so on.

This shows adding a pillar and wings to the foot strap.   As this flute was originally a three piece and the D# pillar was on the foot tip, to make it into a two piece the strap had to be lengthened and a new pillar added.   I'm not the tidiest of workers as you can see from my bench but most of the junk had a use.


Drilling tone holes in the new body.  The machine used for drilling tone holes is basically a pillar drill with an attachment fixed to the base of the stand.  The normal adjustable table can be seen swivelled out of the way.  The attachment consisted of a movable steel plate moved by a rack and pinion underneath and between guides.  By turning a handle it could be moved end to end.  On this plate was mounted an end stop (like the tailstock on a lathe) and a small rotating chuck which enabled the wood body to be moved through 360 degrees.  An indexing plate on this enabled us to drill the tone holes accurately.  It's almost a homemade version of a milling machine, in fact we used it to mill away the wood on thinned wood flutes and thinned heads.   The wood block I am holding is to stop the wood body from flexing whilst drilling.


Fixing straps to the new body.  Straps tied in place with waxed hemp to hold them correctly while pilot holes for the screws are drilled.  The small lathe being used is a multi purpose machine used for all sorts of things, screw making, pillar drilling being some of its functions.


Showing the difference of  the two bodies side by side.


Assembling key-work and fitting clutch pins.


Padding using a pad leveller, known at Rudall Carte as a "wango" ( don't ask me why).


Padding using a cigarette paper to test.


Drilling pilot embouchure hole.


Starting to turn the thinned head


Cutting the embouchure.



  • Who is Nigel? (Nigel)

  • What were Nigel's aims, hopes?  (Nigel)

  • Was Nigel happy with the result? (Nigel)



(Nigel for the photos)

(Harry for taking the photos and for the explanations)

(Robert for assisting me to find Harry)


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Created Dec 04.