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Flute Lip Plate & Key Engraving: Customizations to Consider

Are you thinking of getting your lip plate or keys engraved? Engravings can be a wonderful way to personalize your flute and make it stand out. Many clients that come to me for engraving are surprised to learn that there are a lot of decisions to make beyond just the initial design. There are so many ways your engravings can be customized for you so it's important to know what to consider before you make the final decision on a design. I've created the following list of the most important points to consider while choosing an engraving that should be explored prior to starting your project.

1.) The Depth of the Engraving

Below is an example of a medium textured design: lines are lightly cut and some texture is present for grip.

I’m often asked whether an engraving will change the way the lip plate feels on the chin or if it will feel rough under the fingers. The answer depends completely on the depth of the engraving. Typically I offer my clients a small brass plate to feel the three different depths of the engravings I offer in order to get an idea of how each one feels. Some flutists prefer to not feel much of a texture on the chin or under the fingers and for those I recommend a very shallow engraving. The advantage of this is that it adds just a hint of texture but is free of rough edges. Some flutists prefer an engraving that gives them a feeling of stability and would prefer an engraving that is deeper and more textured. The advantage of this is that it adds quite a bit of texture to combat the slippery lip plate feeling that creeps up during a performance or during a hot summer concert. For flutists that want an engraving that falls somewhere in between the low depth and high depth engravings, I use a medium depth that gives some grip but isn’t so deep that it feels edgy. Choosing the engraving depth that is right for you is an important step in ensuring you get an engraving that is both beautiful and functional for you.

2.) The Location of the Engraving

Below is an example of an engraving that covers the back of the lip plate while leaving the top and sides of the embouchure hole free.

Some flutists prefer a lip plate engraving that fills the back of the lip plate and up to the sides of the embouchure hole. Some flutists prefer to leave the majority of the center of the lip plate mostly plain while the engraving snakes along the outer edge of the lip plate. To help my clients decide, I often show them some examples of engravings that are full coverage and examples that are more minimalist. The only place on the lip plate that can't have engraving is anywhere that might interfere with the airflow across the embouchure hole or down the front of the lip plate. Beware any engraver that agrees to engrave the front of the lip plate as this is never a good idea and will change the sound. As far as the keys are concerned, I have requests for all of the keys to be engraved, only some keys to be engraved or sometimes flutists prefer to only have the areas they touch to be engraved. It is important to note that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to which keys to engrave and it is just a matter of personal preference.

3.) The Theme of the Engraving

Below is an example of butterflies and flowers, a beautiful theme that, despite its popularity, doesn't appeal to every flutist.

Do you plan on keeping your flute forever or is this a flute you may decide to sell in the coming years? This is an important question because beautiful engravings of birds, flowers, Celtic themes, patterns or textures, though very common requests, are not all universally favored. Consider choosing an engraving that is completely personal and special to you if you don’t plan on selling your flute any time soon. Engravings such as initials can be a problem later if you plan to sell your flute down the road. If you do think you might sell your flute later, stick with engravings that are neutral, such as textures, western scroll or filigree so that they will appeal to a broader audience when the time comes to list it for sale.

4.) The Size of the Engraving

Below is an example of an engraving the covers the outer perimeter of the lip plate but leaves most of the central area free.

I love to design custom engravings for flutists, but a question that often comes up is how the design will translate when transformed into a very small size. Some things don’t look quite right on such a small and curved surface, so great care should be taken in choosing something that is easily identifiable at the size it will be on the lip plate or keys. For example, a sketch of your cat sleeping curled up can be cute but when sized down and engraved it may be difficult to recognize. Typically I size down the design so that it is lip plate or key sized and engrave it on a brass blank that we then look at together to determine if, due to size, it needs any adjustment to make the image completely clear. If we're not quite sure I let my clients take the blank and show it to some trusted friends. If they can’t discern what it is quickly from a reasonable distance away, this indicates that the design may need to be altered somewhat before we can proceed with it.

5.) The Complexity of the Engraving

Below is an example of a complex engraving that has a lot of texture and shading.

Along the same vein as the size of the engraving, the complexity makes a big difference in how the engraving will come across once completed. A simple outline can be clear and easy to see, while something complicated with more detail, shading and nuance might get lost at such a small size. That said however, more detail and shading can make animals, plants and flowers easier to identify, while the same level of shading can make scrollwork, initials or filigree look too busy. Typically I spend a good amount of time going over the design with clients as it develops so they can decide how much texture and complexity they would prefer. I show them examples of the design in simplified, moderate and heavily complex versions so that they can get an idea of how the design changes with each version.

6.) The Price of the Engraving

Below is an example of a moderately priced design; the lines are simple but deep, shading is nonexistent.

Pricing depends primarily on the complexity of the design, and is often one of the top concerns when I’m working on an estimate with flutists. Luckily this is a completely customizable part of the process. The more detailed the design, the higher the price in general. Simple outlines, lettering and patterns can be the cheapest options, while complex designs such as filigree, western scroll or highly detailed and textured designs come at a higher price point. This may seem like an obvious part of choosing a design but with all of the other ways the engraving can be customized, the pricing can also change depending on the other choices that are made. If you're on a tight budget I can work with you to design an engraving that meets your needs design-wise as well as budget-wise.

So what's the takeaway here? There are lots of ways to customize your engraving and you should go over all of these options prior to settling on a design. As an engraver I try to offer a service that is customizable in as many ways as possible so that the flutists I work with come away with an engraving that not only fits their design and performance needs, but also fits into their budget. Thinking about getting your flute engraved? Don't hesitate to reach out to get the process started with me!

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