New Heads for Existing Flutes

I get a lot of requests for heads for existing flutes - enough to warrant this special page on the topic.  Perhaps not surprisingly, as heads can make the biggest difference to flute performance and my heads are the most developed available anywhere.  Yes, I can and do supply such heads.

Benefits of a new head

A better head can bring these advantages:

  • easier playing
  • louder
  • lighter in weight, giving a more comfortable balance to the flute
  • cleaner tone (less hissing noise)
  • faster response
  • less tuning slide exposed

Who needs it?

There are two classes of flutes that can benefit from a new head - 19th century originals, and some flutes by modern makers.

Many 19th century originals are not performing anywhere near as well as they did, and still could.  Assuming that pads are sealing well, any weakness in performance is probably due to wear, damage or tampering in the embouchure or leakage in the head or barrel.  Head design has come a long way since the 19th century - if you're finding your flute heavy going, you'll be very pleased with a modern head.

The same applies to many modern flutes - unfortunately most makers are adhering to the traditional fully lined head, making their heads heavy and at risk of splitting through shrinkage.  

I suspect also that some makers who are extremely good players make heads that really need extremely good players to get the best out of.  Fine if you're naturally gifted and putting in a few hours playing a day, but not so good if you can only squeeze in a few tunes every few days.

New head - old barrel?

Yes, I can make a new head to fit your old barrel, but not without having at least the barrel with me.  Fitting a tuning slide requires very careful work indeed - a micron too small and it jams hopelessly, a few too big and the head falls out!  That kind of accuracy cannot be achieved by measurements alone - it requires careful hand-fitting.  Shipping the whole flute both ways will obviously cost more than shipping just the head one way.

New head and barrel?

That's much easier to achieve by remote control.  I just need some vernier caliper grade measurements.  Don't own vernier calipers?  No worries - your local garage mechanic, school science teacher, home machinist or the like will have a set and could take the measurements for you.  I'll list the measurements I need below.  I can handle either metric or imperial measurements (mm or inches).

New Head only?

This would suit someone with one of my flutes who wishes to try out a different head and/or embouchure design.  Just remove the male tuning slide from the old head and pop it into the new one.  Or for those who wish to make their own male tuning slide to fit their existing barrel or have it made locally (instructions available).

What about Cylindrical flutes?

Yes, I can do Boehm bore heads for wooden cylindrical flutes, but I'll need the instrument for hand-fitting the integral tenon/slide, so again we'll be increasing the shipping costs.  I prefer not to make wooden heads for metal flutes because of the fitting issue, but having it fitted locally would be an option..

Type of head

Check out the heads section of my Flutes for Irish Music tour - your head can have all the same features, including the screw stopper and New Improved Tuning Slide.  Decide which head shape and which embouchure type would suit you best, then use your browser's Back button to return here.  Irish Flutes - Heads and Barrels.


I won't be able to get a perfect match on colour if I don't have the rest of the flute with me, but we can probably get close.  If it's a modern flute and black, you can probably safely assume it's African Blackwood.  If it's an old flute and brown, it's probably cocus.  Give me both your best guess on timber and an idea of colour (e.g. "very dark chocolate brown", or "medium reddish brown").  

Cocus flutes were often stained very dark and a good match can be made by selecting a brownish piece of African Blackwood.  Alternatively cocus or another brown timber can be used, and stained to approximate the body.  Cocus is rather expensive and not always easy to come by, although I try to keep some in stock.

Matching rings

Prices below assume the use of the usual D cross-section silver rings.  Other types of rings can usually be imitated, but a good image will be needed (unless you're sending me the whole flute).


Including packing, postage and insurance, in blackwood or most other timbers:

Heads for existing flutes USD
new head, slide and barrel,   $761
new head and male slide only, to match supplied barrel,      $507
new head only, you to have tuning slide made and fitted locally, $380
new head for cylindrical flutes price will depend on approach taken

Note that timbers such as cocus and boxwood will cost extra.  We'll work out postage and insurance costs at the time of delivery.

Order Form

Copy and paste the information between the dotted lines below into your email program and amend it to indicate your preferences.  


Your Name:
Address for delivery:
Business hours telephone:
E-mail address:
Date of order:

Please make a head /head & slide/ head, slides and barrel for an existing flute ...

Existing flute type and maker:

New Head Design:  Traditional Cylinder, Thinned Head, Eccentric Bore Head.  

New Embouchure Design:  Improved Elliptical, Two Semicircles, Rounded Rectangle

Measurements of existing flute (calipers needed):

Tenon length:

Tenon diameter at tip:

Diameter of current tenon lapping:

Material of lapping (cork, thread?):

Tenon diameter at base of shoulder:

Diameter of top of body (just at shoulder):

Diameter of existing head at embouchure:

Dimensions of existing embouchure:

Length of female slide protrusion

Timber, colour:

These measurements can be taken with a rule:

Distance from centre of embouchure to start of body when flute is playing in tune:

Length of barrel not including female slide protrusion

Overall length of cap, head and barrel with slide closed:

Payment method preferred: credit card, bank transfer, international money order or bank draft, cheque, cash


Thanks for your order!   Send it to me at ...

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