Throughout this document the generic term flute may be taken to
include recorders and whistles, Many reed instruments may benefit
from these techniques, if in doubt contact the maker.
The instrument maker dries the wood before making your instrument to avoid distortion or cracking during the manufacturing process. When you start to play you introduce moisture from your breath into the bore of the instrument. The playing in period allows this moisture to permeate slowly through the wall of the instrument until an even moisture content is reached throughout its thickness. If you ignore this vital procedure then the damp wood on the inside will expand while the dry wood on the outside will not and, like an unpricked sausage it will burst!
Oil the instrument before playing it for the first time. (see oiling)
It will then be safe to play for as long as you like. Play your
instrument regularly, if you do not and it dries out over a period
of several weeks it will need playing in again. This should not be
seen as particularly onerous, or reason not to buy a wooden
instrument as it does not have to be you who plays it, anybody's
breath will do, nor does it matter if you miss a day or three, a
little bit of spit goes a long long way.
Cut up pieces of lint free cloth (old tee shirts are best) into small squares which can be threaded through the loop in the wire. This gives you the chance to change to a fresh piece if you need to have a second wipe through and to change again for oiling.
1. To retard the ingress of moisture from your breath, inside the instrument, especially in the areas where end grain is exposed such as shoulders in sockets and on tennons, and in tone holes.
2. The oil will enhance the surface of the wood, on the inside of the instrument, which improves the internal resonance of the instrument to the degree that both tonal quality and pitch are affected quite noticeably.
Do not get oil on the moving parts such as tuning slides and keypads or your instrument may suffer a seizure, requiring careful freeing up to avoid damage.
Use a wire rod as shown in DRYING with a clean piece of cloth, dipped in oil and the drips shaken off. Wipe up and down the bore two or three times until, when held up to the light it appears uniformly wet and shiny. Use the same cloth and wipe carefully in the tone holes, embouchure on transverse flutes, the surfaces of the ramp on whistles and recorders and also the ends of all the joints not forgetting the exposed shoulders inside sockets. After oiling the head joints of recorders or whistles should be stood vertically to ensure that any drips of oil drain away from the windway. Cotton buds may be useful in applying oil and in removing any excess from tone holes etc.
You can use oil or a good quality furniture polish on the outside of
Keywork hinge points and the rubbing areas of springs will also benefit from the addition of a little silicone grease but some dismantling may be required to get it in the right place, alternatively tiny amounts of sewing machine oil applied with the eye end of a needle will find their way in.
Put plenty of time aside for this job as it is slow and laborious and as with all jobs if it is worth doing it is worth doing well!
You should replace the lapping entirely when it becomes too tired to hold the instrument together firmly, this is the only way to achieve a regular surface which is the key to a firm joint. First remove all of the old thread, a sharp scalpel may help but be sure not to damage the tennon underneath. Ensure that the groove or grooves which stop the thread slipping are cleaned out, you can use an old toothbrush. use natural cotton or linen thread, which I find beds down better than the synthetics, a thin thread is better than one which is too thick, start by taking the first few turns over the loose end to secure it and then cut off the excess. Continue winding making sure that each turn lies snug next to its neighbour with no gaps, and that no turn overlaps its neighbour, even thickness of the layers is vital. When you reach the end of the grooves stop and try the joint to see if you will need another layer, you probably will; if so work back over the first layer being equally careful. Keep adding layers until the joint will not quite go together. Then comes the tricky bit, unwind the last six or eight turns and using a spsre piece of thread make a loop and lay it under those last turns as you put them back on, cut the thread a couple of cm. over length, pass it through the loop. Then pull out the loop which will bring the end through under the last turns where you can cut it off. Hey presto no untidy ends or knots. Massage some cork grease or vaseline into the lapping and try the joint for fit, if it feels tight DON'T FORCE IT but use the end of a rule or some other flat object to rub the lapping, pressing the layers together until you have the required fit.
1. If the cork apears undamaged, you can expand it by holding it in the jet of steam from a boiling kettle
Watch out for the jet of steam which suddenly shoots through the bore of the instrument to scald the hand at the other end ! Steam is also harmful to the flute in too great a quantity so work quickly and confine the steam to the surface of the cork 10-20 Seconds should be sufficient to expand the cork and release all the dried up grease, if not go to step2.
2. Damaged cork or cork so badly compressed that steaming will not bring it back to size should be replaced. The old cork must be removed and this can be achieved with a sharp modelling knife or scalpel, blunt penknives and the like are NOT good enough. A fine needle file will help to remove traces of old glue and strips of fine abrasive paper will get you back to bare wood. Suitable sheet cork can be obtained from instrument makers, their suppliers, craft shops and some automotive accessory shops where the composite type of cork is sold for making gaskets which, after all, is what we are using it for too. Ideally the cork should be 0.5mm. thicker than the depth of the groove in the tennon. poor manufacture or serious distortion may mean you need thicker material and this can only be determined by careful measurement. Cut a strip of cork which fits snugly in the groove and which makes a neat butt joint with itself. A light smear of glue is better than too much, use white P.V.A. and hold the cork in place with masking tape while the glue dries, or use one of the impact types following the manufacturers instructions. Before assembling a newly corked joint make sure the socket has a smoothly rounded edge and if it has not then make it so with abrasive paper, there is nothing worse than having the new cork all rucked up by a sharp corner on the socket. Rub plenty of grease into the uncompressed cork and the inside of the socket and assemble while twisting to assist the new cork into the socket. Over compression of the cork is best avoided by not leaving the flute assembled when it is not in use.
Special moisturising inserts are available from most music shops for people who live in especially dry climates (for their instruments, that is!).
Do not leave wooden instruments in direct sunlight especially in cars or on window sills.
Do not leave them near radiators or other heat sources.
Do not slam them in car doors (not as uncommon as you