Post 48: What is an annual cleaning/set-up at Onks Woodwind?
“The mechanisms of an oboe and English horn are so complicated!” So who of you out there can agree with that statement? OK, I thought so. BTW, I also raised my hand. They are indeed complicated for many reasons. Oboes have many keys that interact with each other all at the same time. Oboes have many adjusting screws throughout the mechanism that connects one key to another. Oboes have joints that connect together with connecting bridge keys. All of the keys on an oboe are held in place with steel rods and/or pivot screws and said keys have to be “tight” on those rods/pivot screws to operate consistently. These few items all have to do with the mechanism, but there is so much more: tone holes, corks, springs, pads, octave vents, tenon connections, screws, rods, mechanism key oil, etc. As with any musical instrument, all of the parts must be in working order to make you, the player, happy, but as you can see, the oboe has many pieces and parts and can be very complicated.
Every week we have oboes come in with only “one thing wrong,” or “it plays well, but can you just check it over.” When our clients say these phrases, we tell them we will check it out and let them know our thoughts and recommendations. It isn’t that our clients are completely oblivious to the issues their oboe is having, it’s just that they have gotten accustomed to it over time and the parts of the oboe have worn down over time. This is very similar to cars and car repairs. If you drive your car very much, you will need to have maintenance on the brake system and eventually the pads will need to be replaced. The same thing is true with oboes. The longer you play your oboe, the harder you press the keys, the more the pads in those keys will wear out. Also, all of the connecting corks will wear through causing mechanisms to become loud and adjustments unstable. Because the oboe mechanism is so complicated, it makes the task of “fixing just one thing” very difficult. If your low notes are not responding like you prefer, it very well could be due to a pad or pads leaking on the upper joint of the oboe. Spring tensions could be wrong causing certain keys to not operate properly, etc
Due to this complexity, we recommend you have a full comprehensive cleaning/set-up in our shop at least once a year. So I know by this point you are asking, “What is included in this full comprehensive cleaning/set-up?” At Onks Woodwind Specialists we:
* Completely disassemble the instrument.
* Check tenon connections for stability, which is more than just checking the tenon corks.
* But we do check the tenon corks also 🙂
* Check all key bumper corks and adjustment corks. We usually change all of the adjustment corks on oboes vs. just changing one cork here and there because we have found it makes the overall feel of the mechanism more even and stable. Plus with all of the keys off the oboe, it’s a no-brainer! Takes only a couple minutes and makes the mechanism feel great!
* Clean all hinge tubes and pivot sockets.
* Clean all rods and pivots.
* Clean all post holes and facings.
* Clean all tone holes and oboe body with an enzyme cleaner to break down saliva build-up.
* Wash body and oil, if wood.
* Wash and clean keys.
* Before reassembling, we test wooden instruments to make sure the wood seals. This is especially important if the instrument has crack history. If the wood doesn’t seal we remedy that before reinstalling any keys.
* Reassemble the mechanism one key at a time checking each pad for optimal coverage. If the pad is leaking we level the pad. If the pad cannot be leveled, we replace the pad and if the key is too loose, we fit the key.
* As we are reinstalling keys, all springs are regulated to have proper tensions, which is critical for the complicated oboe mechanism.
* As more keys are added and pads checked, the regulations are also added.
* All rods and pivot screws are oiled with a heavy weight synthetic oil.
* Reassemble all three joints of the oboe, regulate the joints together and perform our first of many play tests.
As you can see the annual cleaning at Onks Woodwind is thoroughly comprehensive. And honestly, these items are only the highlights. There are many other small details that as oboists we pay attention to and can “feel” as we playtest the oboe. We have found over the years that when our clients have a thorough cleaning/set-up at Onks Woodwind, they magically do not have emergencies between annual visits!
If you are an oboist that simply wants their oboe to work and not have to worry when it’s going to malfunction “the next time,” we would be honored to serve you with our comprehensive annual cleaning/set-up.