How to Repad a Flute

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How to Repad a Flute
Even well-maintained flutes may need their pads replaced. (flute image by saied shahinkiya from

The pads on a flute's keys may last twenty years before needing to be changed. If you feel like the pads do need changing, it may be worthwhile to bring the flute in to a specialist to see if an entire tune-up is warranted. It is possible to change the pads on your own, but the utmost care must be taken to avoid damaging this very delicate instrument.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Replacement pads
  • Replacement shims
  • Shellac
  • Toothpick or other thin picking utensil
  • Piece of cellophane (around the size of the flute's largest key)

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  1. 1

    Remove the keys from the body of the flute. Be aware of how they are attached to the flute for reassembly.

  2. 2

    Remove the old pads from the keys one at a time, starting with the smaller keys. Use a toothpick to clean out the well and remove all the old shellac. They key well should be entirely empty at this point.

  3. 3

    Heat the key cup under a warm---but not too hot---flame; a Bunsen burner is ideal. Place the shellac inside the now-warmed key cup.

  4. 4

    Slightly wet the replacement pad and place it carefully on top of the shellac so that it gently floats.

  5. 5

    Put the repadded key back on the flute in its proper placement and depress the key. Trim the outside of the pad as necessary.

  6. 6

    Move down the line of keys until you reach the largest keys whose pads sit on a paper shim rather directly in the cup. Each instrument may vary as to which keys are constructed like that.

  7. 7

    Clean out the cup, add a replacement shim, then fit in the pad and replace the key on the flute. There should be no need for any shellac on these keys.

  8. 8

    Place the piece of cellophane over the key hole and depress the key several times. Remove the cellophane and check to see if the depressed mark around the cellophane appears even (imprinted evenly around). If not, remove the key and add or remove shims on the uneven sides. A shim may be cut in half to make one side higher.

  9. 9

    Complete this process on all remaining keys, making sure to check for a good seal on each.

  10. 10

    Replace all keys back onto the flute and tinker with the adjustment screws on the keys to compensate for the new pads. After several weeks of playing, the pads may need to be shaved a bit, but no major overhaul will be necessary.

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