Grenadilla Wood and Clarinet Care

by Allison Horky
Clarinets are made from grenadilla wood, which must be oiled regularly.

Clarinets are made from grenadilla wood, which must be oiled regularly.

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Caring for your clarinet also means caring for the wood the clarinet is made from. The wood should be oiled about once a year, depending on the amount of play the instrument is getting and how old it is. Younger instruments should be oiled more often. There are, however, daily, weekly and monthly cleaning rituals you must do to keep your clarinet in premium working condition.

Clarinet Build

A clarinet is made from grenadilla wood, chosen for its ability to resist moisture and maintain strength over time. The wood must be oiled once a year to prevent cracking. The bore is the instrument, meaning the hollow piece of wood that the keys and mouthpiece are attached to. The bore becomes filled with moisture during play, often producing a gurgling sound when the water pools too much in one area. Even though the wood was treated with oil when it was made, constant attention to the joints and holes keeps your clarinet's wood repelling moisture and playing a cleaner sound for longer.

Oiling the Bore

You can have your clarinet sent to an instrument shop to be detailed and cared for, but with the right tools and oil, you can ensure proper up-keep of your instrument. Oiling the bore means applying a liberal amount of oil to the wood, retreating it so that it resists moisture during play. Use an organic oil, from plants or animals, to oil your clarinet. These are what instrument makers use, and they are healthy for your wood. Fully coat a non-fuzzing cloth in organic oil on the end of a wiper, commonly used to clean the inside of instruments. Drag the cloth through the clarinet's body (not the mouthpiece), coating the interior surface. After 15 minutes, use a clean cloth to wipe away the excess oil the wood has not absorbed.

After Playing

After you are finished playing your clarinet for the day, you cannot just pull it apart and throw it back in its case. You must dry excess moisture to ensure the longevity of the instrument. Run a clean cloth through the mouthpiece and each body piece. Let your reed dry thoroughly before storing it. Dry the pads with a clean piece of paper, pressing each pad down onto the paper. Wipe the body down with a cloth, removing excess dust and hand oil. If the cork on your joints seems dry or tough, use a cork lubricant to moisten the material.

Weekly and Monthly Care

Each week, you should clean the small spaces along the clarinet. Use a small piece of plastic wrapped in a clean cloth to reach between the keys and under the longer pieces of metal. Each month, check the keys for loose screws or malfunctioning movement. Oil the keys in their joints and move the keys around to work the oil through the joints, making sure not to let it drip onto the pads. If it does, wipe it away quickly.

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