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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.


Post 47: Remove, Clean and Re-install Oboe Octave Vents

Here in the professional oboe repair shop, we are frequently asked about cleaning and sealing octave vents.  The standard questions are: How often should I clean the octave vents?  What’s the best way to clean octave vents?  Should I seal octave vents?  How do I seal octave vents?

To answer how often, it really depends.  I know, I know, you’re saying, “Thanks a lot for the great advice, Jason!”  It really does depend on how often you play, how much you swab/feather out your oboe, and the environment in which you play.  At a minimum, we recommend having your octave vents cleaned once a year.  This would also go hand-in-hand with a full service for your entire oboe.  Oboes have complicated, temperamental mechanisms and should receive a full service once a year.  See our articles post 3 “Maintain on a yearly basis” and post 4 “Maintain on a yearly basis, Part 2.”  However, if you are a professional oboist playing 6-8 hours a day or more, it may be necessary for you to clean your octave vents several times a year, before your next annual full service.  

No matter your age or level of playing, it may be necessary for you to clean your octave vents at some point in the future.  I feel it is especially important for you to have this knowledge if you are a studio teacher, either at your residence or a university setting.

Previously we posted blog post 33, Should you seal your octave vents?  You may also find this article helpful when trying to answer questions about octave vents.

To help assist you with this necessary task of removing, cleaning and sealing octave vents, we created a couple of videos and posted them on our YouTube channel:



Post 46: Definition of #Onksd

Post 45: Young Harris Clarinet Summit, April 1 2017

Here at Onks Woodwind Specialists we love educating our clients about instrument maintenance just as much as serving them through instrument repair.  We feel if we can help our clients extend the life of their instruments through general knowledge of handling and maintenance, our clients will be equally happy with their instruments over time, not just after they have been serviced in the shop.

Recently Jonathan was honored to speak at the 4th annual Young Harris College Clarinet Summit.  During his time at the summit, Jonathan spoke to the participants about acceptable clarinet handling and general thoughts on maintenance.  Jonathan also performed several evaluations of participants’ clarinets.  This gave those lucky participants a one-on-one session with Jonathan specific to their own clarinet’s needs and maintenance.  A special thank you to Leigh Miller for inviting Jonathan to speak and experience the Young Harris Clarinet Summit!



Post 44: Overnight Success

After visiting the Laubin oboe shop in Peekskill NY, Jason is yet again reminded that success is not gained “overnight.”  In our fast-paced world, we often forget that work which is important, work that matters, is work that is done day in and day out without fanfare.  If you are looking for greatness or public reward in your daily work, you will all too often be disappointed.  But in the case of A. Laubin, Inc., daily diligence for decades has afforded them public success!