Extant Siccama flutes



As an aid to understanding the extent of Siccama's direct contribution to the flute world, and in understanding how his flutes may have changed during the period, I've opened a list of Siccama flutes that remain extant.  Further down, we'll look at some of these flutes.


Let's all make sure we're talking the same language:

  • Siccama flute - one where the third finger of each hand is extended by a key, permitting the holes to be better placed and sized than on an 8-key flute.  Pronounced "Sick-ama", incidentally.

  • Speaking length - the distance form the centre of the embouchure to the end of the foot with the slide fully compressed

  • Body + Foot length - the distance from the top of the upper body tenon to the end of the foot.

  • C#-D# Length - a measurement indicator of my own devising that tells us a lot about the scale of the instrument, see C# to Eb - a more useful indicator of flute pitch? for an illustration of which points to measure between.

  • Brille - a device for improving c#, involving two ring keys and a covered key over a duplicate c hole

  • Key Mounts - Block, Post or Mixture

  • Key type - One piece, "Hudson" type, Rod & axle, Additional and Full. 

    Keys similar to those on 8-key flutes are noted as One-piece.    Hudson keys consist of a shaft and a cup which screws into a hub on the far end. Some employed Rod & axle style keys. Some later Siccama-based flutes had Additional keywork (ie more holes were covered with keys than just L3 and R3), and some (F) had keys on every hole.

  • Metal - Sterling silver (tarnishes black) or Nickel Silver (tarnishes green/yellow)

Extant Flutes by Siccama

So far, we've tracked down these Siccama-made flutes that still are known to exist:

Body +
 foot length
Brille Key
Metal Collection & Cat No
32 569 432.5   N P H N Migoya Collection
205 573   255 N M O S For sale on Ebay
208 572.3 431           RNCM MPL 34
227     252 N P H S Private UK collector
321 577 434 253 N P H S McGee Flutes
Research Collection
400 574 434 244 N M O S David Levine
405 575     N M O S Lewis Carson
406       N P H S Larry Mallette
480 577 432   N P H S Robert Bigio
497 574 436 246 N P H S Terry McGee
515 572 422 250 N P H S Penny Grant
5(6?)75 575 431   N P H S Edinburgh University (ex Sir Nicholas Shackleton)
672 575     N P H S Peter Spohr
735       N M     Patrick Gillard
742 568 431 250 N M O S Cindy Salwen
802 572 428     P H S Bate
833 569 427   N P H S Ray Castell
845       N P H S Glennis Stout
891 573 425           Helen Valenza
895     248 N P H S
Sven Henrich
900 574.6     N P H S Musurgia
930 570     N P H S Sold on Ebay
1024 573 425 250 Y P H S P. Patterson
1030 570 425   Y P H S Horniman
1032 574 424   N P H S Simon Waters
1104 576 429   Y P H S RNCM

Further Notes:

Siccama seemed to use a range of C#-D# lengths, suggesting he was aiming at different pitch ranges.  I've marked the greater lengths orange and the shorter ones green in the chart above.  As you can see, the shorter ones are distributed throughout the serial number range, while the longer ones are closer to the start.

205, 400, 405, 735, 742  - Block mounted with saltspoon-styled keys, see below.

"Hudson-style" keys seem only to be available in post mount.

Only one Nickel-silver flute noted so far, and happens to be the first noted. 

515 - ornately engraved lip plate and wide rings.  Shield on barrel (usually for engraving owner's initials)

672 - Appears to have a L thumb operated c-key independent of the R1 c-key.  An additional touch between holes R1 and R2 appears to operate a duplicate G#.

1032 - four equidistant incised lines on the tuning slide; cork/stopper mechanism similar to the one below but with wood rather than ivory screw, and three equidistant incised lines on the protruding metal pin rather than one.

Note the Brille appears to be a late addition.  1024 is the earliest so far noted.  Even then it remained an option, see 1032 without Brille.

Variation in C#-D# scale length with serial number.

It appears that the early Siccama flutes started out with scale lengths similar to the more typical Improved era flutes of the time.

A sudden reduction in length appears at #400 and continues to #497. 

Flutes from #515 on then seem to have settled at an immediate length.  This simple picture may change with more data.


Note that the Speaking Length for the shorter-scaled flutes does not vary significantly from the others.  This suggests two things:

  • Because a change in one flute parameter can be obscured by a change in another, Speaking length is not a particularly useful indicator of anything!
  • As Siccama's flutes were intended for the general market, it makes sense that the overall speaking length wouldn't vary significantly.  But the dramatic changes in scale length have a message for us.  Can we interpret it?

Examples of Siccama Flutes

Hudson Keys

The flute below is an example of a Siccama flute with keys understood to have been made by Hudson.  The flute is fully post-mounted and the keys are unusual in that their semi-cylindrical cups screw into a boss at the end of the key-shaft.  This is a little reminiscent of the arrangement Monzani used, although his cups were designed to float and thus pick up the best seat.  These cups screw up hard and have no apparent additional purpose other than to excite speculation in 21st century flute enthusiasts (see the flute fitted with Brille below for a closer image of the keys) .  It seems likely that Siccama was following the appearance of the keys fitted to Boehm's 1832 conical ring-key flute.


Siccama Flute No 321, McGee Flutes Research Collection

Block mount with saltspoon keys

While other Siccama flutes seem all to come with post-mounted "Hudson keys", here's one with the more traditional block mounts (except on the Siccama keys for L3 and R3) and with saltspoon-style cups.  Presumably for a customer who preferred the traditional appearance.

This image, kindly provided by David Levine, also offers us a closer look at the pewter plugs on the lowest two holes, and the offset Short F key fitted to Siccama flutes.  On the 8-key flute, the gap between R2 and R3 is reduced to what the hand can take, and there is just room to squeeze in the short F key and block between them.  On the Siccama flute, the R3 key enables the holes to be where they should be.  Siccama clearly wanted that to apply to F natural as well, hence the offset needed to operate it from where the touch has to be.

Siccama No 400, David Levine

With Brille

While relocating the open finger holes did great things for the general intonation of the flute, c# (fingered ooo ooo) remained flat, due to inadequate venting.  Opening the c key provided the additional venting required, but who had time for that in the middle of a torrid scherzo?  The "Brille" (German for spectacles) could fix that automatically.  In c# (ooo ooo), it opened to provide the needed additional venting.  In any other fingering, it remained closed.

Siccama Flute No 1104, Royal Northern College Of Music

We see again, in the image above, the style of key-work ascribed to former Siccama employee, John Hudson.

A foot with card-backed pads

Eight key style flutes tended to cling to the old pewter plugs for the lowest two or three notes.  Pewter plugs would keep their shape while pursepads were unworkable on large holes and especially on normally-open keys.  Early Siccamas used pewter plugs, but note the foot below employs card-backed pads on all holes.

Siccama Flute No 1104, Royal Northern College Of Music

The Stopper and the Cleaning Rod

Not particularly fashionable parts of the instrument normally, but Siccama's attention to detail is evidenced here too.  Siccama's stopper (which you can see below) is a piece of ivory which passes right through the cork and terminates in a silver facing plate at one end and a silver indicator rod at the other.  This is handy for us as it means that even after the cork has been replaced, the stopper length will be the same.  And this keeps the incised mark on the rod that protrudes through the hole in the cap meaningful.

But still not enough for Siccama.  Obviously of a "belts and braces" mentality, he also puts a stopper setting mark on the end of the cleaning stick supplied with the instrument.  As you can see, when the stopper is set so that the incised mark is flush with the face of the cap, the mark on the cleaning rod appears central in the embouchure hole.  And this is no mere speculation, as he mentions all of this in an addendum to his "Theory of the Patent Diatonic Flute".  Very Siccama.

Interestingly, the mark is at 17mm, the same as is now used for Boehm flutes and 2mm less than that normally proposed for conical flutes.  This confirms that Siccama was opting for "best 2nd and 3rd octave performance and tuning" rather than "best low octave performance".

The embouchure of Siccama flute #833 showing the mark on the cleaning rod central in the embouchure.  I am indebted to UK flute owner, Ray Castell for these cleaning rod images.

More Siccamas Sought!

If you have or know of a Siccama flute not listed here, or that appears significantly different from those shown, do let us know!  We'd like to know:

Serial Number:
Speaking length:
Body + foot length:

C#-Eb length:
Brille? <Y/N>
Key Mounts? <B/P/M>

Key type: <O/H/R/A/F>
Touches dished or domed:
Metal: <S/N>

Collection & Cat No:

(and remember, the definitions appear at the top of this page.)

You might also be interested in seeing Siccama-style flutes by other makers.

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