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Author Topic: Clarinet Restoration Tips:  (Read 2761 times)

Offline Windsong

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Clarinet Restoration Tips:
« on: December 14, 2017, 08:36:41 PM »
I've been thinking about starting a thread about restoration for a little while now, and as this is a technical forum, where we share not only historical data and new discoveries and acquisitions, I like to think we also help one another with technique, and the perpetuation of this fine craft of preservation that so many of us share.  I believe everybody can chime in, and offer a tip or two, or a pitfall and perhaps we can offer a remedy to those in need, as a community.

With a resto underway, I am reminded of some rookie errors that irrevocably damage, and scare people away from finishing a restoration, and I suspect this is why we see, with relative frequency, clarinets in pieces on the internet auction sites, or in poor playing condition with newer components.

Let's face it; a full restoration by a reputable shop is not cheap.  While a re-pad can often be had for a reasonable price, an old clarinet usually needs everything, from key corks (they disintegrate over time, and must be replaced for proper regulation) to springs (they lose tension, and do not return the pad to their respective resting places effectively over time).  If there is a crack and especially if it runs through a bevelled tone hole, add an easy $100.00.  If parts are missing or broken and it's an odd-ball clarinet, just open your wallet.

I got started restoring clarinets because my interests outweighed my wallet, and knew I would have to learn how to do the work myself in order to maintain my collection.  I also once watched, agast in horror, as a local tech butchered keywork on one of my rarest clarinets, straightening a key with raw pliers and marring the surface.  I repaired the key, slowly filing and buffing his aggregious blunders away, and it took me several hours to undo what he did in 5 seconds.  While this tech had (and has) far greater experience and knowledge than I do, I knew I could do a more careful job, and would not be bound to a clock.  "Quick and effective" will never win out against "slow, cautious and methodical".

There are many hurdles to overcome in the first several restos one does--assuming a modicum of technical ability from the would-be clarinet restorer.  Without some technical skill, PLEASE do not attempt a restoration, unless it is on a clarinet that cannot be saved and you simply want to try a technique or two on a "gonner" before attempting it on something you wish to preserve.  I fully advocate technique-tempering on throw-away clarinets, and there are certainly enough of them out there. To be fair, though, if you jump into a restoration on a valued horn with no technical ability and no experience, chances are that you will never finish it, or if you do, your clarinet will be mired down in technical absurdities that will plague your conscience, long after you rid yourself of the clarinet, for pennies on the dollar for what you paid for it.  I'm genuinely not being unkind; just very matter-of-fact, here. 

I intend to share a few cautions that I think will benefit the new restorer, that I have observed--either from my own early failures or the foibles I have evidenced in "professional" technicians' techniques, and I will also share what I derive to be the right way to restore a clarinet.  For the intermediate-to-expert restorer who is reading this, please chime in.  We all benefit from alternate perspectives and techniques.  Even if you disagree with my technique, or find my methods overly cautious, I'd like to hear from you.  I am always interested in learning a better, safer, or more efficient method for all I do.

CLEANING KEYS, AND PREPPING PAD CUPS FOR NEW PADS:
1)  It is generally safe to use denatured or isopropal alcohol to clean varnish and shellac from pad cups.  SilverSorcerer notes recently that white, kitchen variety vinegar also cleans debris from keys, and I have found it to be quite helpful myself, of late.
2)  One should NOT use a flat blade screwdriver to scrape away at the old shellac, back and forth, scoring up the finish of the inside of the cup, no matter whether anyone ever sees it.  RESIST THE TEMPTATION!  It is simply unnecessary, and always damaging.  Get a few shot glasses, and soak the key cups in the alcohol for 20 minutes, and then take a cotton swab, and wipe out any residual adhesive, after it has been loosened by the alcohol.  You can gently pry the old pads out, often completely and before any soaking takes place, but certainly down to the cardboard under the felt with a small screwdriver.  Dig into the lowest part of the side of the pad you can access, and simply pull up.
3)  Do not use abrasive pads (Brillo, Scotchbrite, wet-sandpaper) on the keys to remove tarnish from key arms and post anchors.  Clean them slowly with a good, minimally abrasive paste, and be patient.  I use Weiman and Tarnex, personally, depending upon the state of the tarnish.  These products are NOT interchangable, and have distinctly different effects.  If a key is heavily tarnished, I first use Weiman.  Once I get to the point where the porosity of the key is still clinging to tarnish, I then soak them (after washing the key thoroughly in warm water, and drying it) with Tarnex, as it is thinner and can get into the deepest recesses of the key.  I then rinse it again, and go back to Weiman.   Remember;  "patience is a virtue", and "haste makes waste".  You may have to repeat this process multiple times, and there is no set rule OR expectation for key cleaning.  If you choose to use a high speed buffing wheel, use minimally abrasive polish, and make sure you have a very firm purchase on the key, and hold it at the right angle(s), or it may quickly become a projectile and either injure you, or bend itself into a pretzel when it hits the far wall of your garage or workshop (and it will).  At the very least, clear the room of pets and loved ones, and ALWAYS wear safety glasses.
4)  It is okay, typically, to use super-fine 00000 (equivelant to 800-1000 sandpaper, but gentler, and without the swirls) steel wool to GENTLY remove scale and grime from un-plated or thick-plated keywork, when you must.  Sometimes, you must, but go very gently, and ensure it is wet.  Doing this on thinly-plated keywork that is already starting to chip will most assuredly lead to further removal of plating, as you'll likely catch the edge of plating that was otherwise anchored, and you'll have a fine mess on your hands. (Ask me how I know).

REMOVING CORKS FROM TENONS AND KEYS:
1) When removing corks from tenons, DO NOT fire up the lathe and scrape it off at 1725rpm with a chisel bit.  I know this technique "works", and I've seen technicians do it more times than I can account.  It only takes seconds.  It also removes (or reduces, greatly) the grooves that help anchor the adhesive to the new cork, and compromises future restorations, and the inherant value of your clarinet.  This is an abusive practice.  Instead, take a small, flat blade screwdriver, and dig up, underneath the edge of the cork , and break it from the tenon.  Once you have permeated the cork, attempt to remove as much of it as you can simply with fingernails or the flat blade by pulling up, away from the tenon.  Once the tenon is clear of cork, manually saturate the tenon with cotton swabs, dipped in mild, oderless mineral spirits, so you can control the application.  NEVER soak your clarinet's tenons in mineral spirits, regardless of its composition.  There are more powerful adhesive removers on the market, but consider that the faster something removes adhesive, the quicker it does damage to your clarinet.  Again, take it slow, and leave nothing to chance.  Take a cotton rag and run it round the tenon, if need be, to remove the residiual adhesive.  If it's old shellac, be patient, and carefully take your smallest flat blade screw driver, and again pulling up and away from the tenon, slowly trace the grooves, until it is flaked away, but only after it has been loosened by a careful application of MILD mineral spirits.  If rubber cement was used, a small amount of mineral spirits, applied conservatively with a cotton swab will have it cleared in short order.
2) When clearing keywork of regulation cork, use a brand new, extremely sharp razor blade to remove all but the last 1/64"th or so of cork.  Then soak the key in alcohol for 20 minutes, and work at it with an old credit card, a fingernail or something else, softer than the key metal.  That's all it takes, usually.  For especially stubborn old shellac, you may need to revert to the use of 0000 or 00000 steel wool, but exhaust all gentler options first.

INSTALLING PADS:
1) Make certain that the pads you intend to install "dry fit" into their respective bores easily, but tightly, and seat level.  If you have to force a pad into a cup, and cannot free it easily with a fingernail, it's one size too large. 
2) Regardless whether you will be using shellac or hot glue to anchor the pads, go easy.  Often, the recommendation is to use too many pellets or too much shellac, which makes a mess on the sides of the pads, and compromises their ability to flex laterally when seated, leading to air leaks--perhaps not initially, but certainly prematurely.  Start with less adhesive than you think you will need, and add more, even if it means you have to let the key cool before doing so, and then re-heat the cup.  A little uniform "adhesive seep" on the sides of the pad where they meet the cup is okay.  Anything more is too much.
3)  Go easy on the heat!  2 seconds on, three seconds off, with a small torch and the flame turned low always works for me.  If your hot glue or shellac is boiling in the cup, you have overdone it.  Go slow; no point in rushing this most important stage of restoration.  When it comes time to regulate the pads to their tone holes, patience and careful application of heat not only preserves the pads, but also the body of the clarinet, itself.  A burned or melted clarinet is a throw-away item, and is so easily avoided.  If you have a Bernzomatic with a flame arrestor, this is a great item for regulating pads, once fitted to the clarinet.  It takes longer to get the heat up, but prevents damage.  Use it!
4) Do not even think about fitting the pad to a key you cannot handle by hand.  Some techs fit the key in a vice, with the pad cup level, and then torch up the adhesive and throw the pad in.  DO NOT DO THIS!  If you have applied so much heat that you cannot "bare hand" the key, you've gotten it too hot, and if the keys are silver-plated, you may well bubble the silver and destroy the finish.  Pads were never intended to be fit this way.  Once the adhesive has gone fully fluid, and covered the entire cup bottom evenly in a level pool, wait 15 seconds, minimum on a pad up to 12mm, and as much as 20-22 seconds on a pad as large as 17-17.5mm, and then drop the pad in, and push down with your finger or thumb to get it level.  You may also use a pad slick, if you prefer.  If you drop the pad into a cup where the adhesive is too hot, assuming you are using bladder pads (fishskins, etc.) The bladder will blow up like a balloon, rendering the pad useless.  I know techs who, when this happens, pop the "balloon" with a needle to settle it back down.  I've done it myself.  This technique destroys the fluidity of the bladder function, and greatly compromises the playability of your clarinet (oboe, flute, etc.).  It also wrinkles the fish skin, usually.  If this happens to you, yank the pad, throw it in the waste bin, and fit another one.  Do not feel bad or kick yourself.  You WILL destroy pads in the first few restos you do, either by over-saturating the cup with adhesive, and ruining the elasticity of the sides of the pad, fitting the pad while the adhesive is still too hot and blowing it up like a blimp, or by burning the side of the pad with a rogue flame.  I've done all of the above, as have all technicians, which is how we learned how to fit a pad properly.

BENDING (OR UN-BENDING) KEYS:
If you do enough restorations or repairs, you will come across clarinets that have been dropped, banged, or bent up by a green horn refurbisher.  The top joint RH index finger trill keys usually take the worst hit.  Most clarinets that come to me with bent keywork are so affected to varying degrees, as well as a mal-aligned top bridge key.  After you determine which direction(s) the key(s) need(s) to be bent in, (and sometimes it's multiple keys in multiple different directions) never, ever put a tool to a key before attempting to bend it by hand.  Sometimes this can be done with the key on the clarinet, and sometimes, it must be done with the key removed.  If that latter, take notes.  There is nothing worse than realising you've just bent a key in the opposite direction it needed.  Many clarinets use unforged keywork, and you only get so many chances before the key simply snaps.  If this happens to you, you have 2 options: re-solder the key (very time consuming) and then grind down the excess "flash", or find a new key from a doner (potentially more expensive, but likely more effective) if you can--and you may wait months to years, depending upon scarcity.  If you've had to make an extreme bend in a key, you may consider (if it's not plated or die-cast from pot metal) heat-treating the key, and quenching it.  I will make no recommendations on this process, (though I do it when I must) and there is much to be learned in cyberspace on this process of "re-graining" quality metal.   If you are a good technician already, you assuredly have felt or rubber-lined, even-draw pliers, reserved for when you absolutely must use a tool.  There are those times (Bundy is a fine example), when the pliers must be used, but honestly, I do 95% of my key aligning with my bare hands, and most higher end clarinets have soft enough keywork that a steady hand and a good eye is all that it takes to rectify a bent key.

Well, that's all for now.  I have been typing for a while, and I have a lower Pedler joint that isn't going to restore itself.
Cheers-

« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 08:30:05 PM by Windsong »
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Offline Airflyte

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Re: Clarinet Restoration Tips:
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2017, 04:11:17 PM »
This is inspiring. I have yet to restore any of my vintage clarinets.

May I post a picture of a rather unique problem that I have no idea how to approach?
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Offline Windsong

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Re: Clarinet Restoration Tips:
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2017, 07:38:18 PM »
My goodness, yes.  Please do.  We love a puzzle.
I will be adding to my list, as things come to mind.  Several things have already done so, as I re-read my post.

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Offline Airflyte

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Re: Clarinet Restoration Tips:
« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2017, 04:37:49 PM »
Ok, I hope this pic tells the story.

I was "bargain hunting" for simple system horns and thought this 2-ringer without rollers was interesting. Markings are sparse, I can see Trade Mark Band Instruments with a Penzel-ish eagle "coat of arms" type logo on it.

Anyway, the lower joint socket tone hole ( I think it's 'B' on this simple system) has good sized chip out of the ebonite. There must be a way to fix this!

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Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Clarinet Restoration Tips:
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2017, 07:50:52 PM »
Interesting case. You could try epoxy or something similar.

For chips in wood, grenadilla powder and cyanoacrylate works wonders.

My plastic contrabass has a bunch of chips like that, and I've been slowly filling them up with JB weld.
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Offline mechanic

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Re: Clarinet Restoration Tips:
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2017, 08:54:52 PM »
Interesting case. You could try epoxy or something similar.

For chips in wood, grenadilla powder and cyanoacrylate works wonders.

My plastic contrabass has a bunch of chips like that, and I've been slowly filling them up with JB weld.


My original thought was an epoxy putty would be the way to go.  It is easy to mold, sand and does not run like JB Weld.  But in that small of a space, it might be difficult to get it pressed in with no gaps.  JB Weld or a similar, more fluid epoxy is probably the way to go. 
 
Use multiple layers of painters tape to create a mold around the chip, then slowly drizzle the Jb Weld into the mold so you don't end up with air pockets.  I have been working on a lower joint bell tenon that had 2 sizable chunks out of it.  In my case I could work from the outside, so I used the epoxy putty.  Pictures below show how I used the tape to create the mold.  I'm nearly to the point of trying to color it. 
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Offline Windsong

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Re: Clarinet Restoration Tips:
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2017, 02:57:49 PM »
Airflyte,
 That is a seriously odd chip, innit?
I'll offer up another bid for epoxy.  That's the only fix that makes sense to me.  Perhaps drill a couple of small holes into the body to allow the epoxy to have "roots" and scruff up the rubber first, as it usually breaks cleanly, which makes for a poor anchoring surface.
if you have an old, unusable joint, use it to make a pattern for the new epoxy, and wrap it tightly and completely in teflon tape before inserting it, so that it will not stick, and destroy your handywork.
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Offline Airflyte

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Re: Clarinet Restoration Tips:
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2017, 04:32:27 PM »
Great advice!  Thanks for the pics, mechanic. I'm going the slow cure epoxy route with a Teflon taped tube with the same ID as the lower joint bore. The tone hole can be tweaked if necessary andI can clean up the socket if needed.
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Offline Windsong

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Re: Clarinet Restoration Tips:
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2017, 06:35:52 PM »
Good idea.  May as well find a suitable diameter dowel, and wrap that in teflon, too, to insert into the tone hole to protect it.
Best of luck, and be sure to report back.
 ;)




quote author=Airflyte link=topic=1515.msg11193#msg11193 date=1513643547]
Great advice!  Thanks for the pics, mechanic. I'm going the slow cure epoxy route with a Teflon taped tube with the same ID as the lower joint bore. The tone hole can be tweaked if necessary andI can clean up the socket if needed.
[/quote]
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Offline Windsong

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Re: Clarinet Restoration Tips:
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2017, 06:45:19 PM »
That's quite the repair there, Mechanic, and it seems you've done a fine job.  Let us know what you finally decide to use for dye or paint.
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Offline windydankoff

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Re: Clarinet Restoration Tips:
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2017, 08:04:25 PM »
You say to heat pad cups using a "Bernzomatic with a flame arrestor". Can you be more specific? I can't find reference to a "flame arrestor". And, do you mean a mini-torch, rather than the normal size?

Thanks for a great write-up!
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Offline windydankoff

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Re: Clarinet Restoration Tips:
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2017, 07:24:57 PM »
Yum ... golden brown!

Regarding your link to the torch, it says it includes a "hot blower" attachment. It looks like it works when the soldering tip is removed.

But more ... in French, on the label, it says it's a MICRO CHALUMEAU. So I ordered it immediately. But ... What do you use for the CLARION register?
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Offline windydankoff

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Re: Clarinet Restoration Tips:
« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2017, 03:30:46 PM »
That's right!  Not answering my question is the correct answer.
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Offline mechanic

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Re: Clarinet Restoration Tips:
« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2017, 07:04:17 AM »
Interesting case. You could try epoxy or something similar.

For chips in wood, grenadilla powder and cyanoacrylate works wonders.

My plastic contrabass has a bunch of chips like that, and I've been slowly filling them up with JB weld.


My original thought was an epoxy putty would be the way to go.  It is easy to mold, sand and does not run like JB Weld.  But in that small of a space, it might be difficult to get it pressed in with no gaps.  JB Weld or a similar, more fluid epoxy is probably the way to go. 
 
Use multiple layers of painters tape to create a mold around the chip, then slowly drizzle the Jb Weld into the mold so you don't end up with air pockets.  I have been working on a lower joint bell tenon that had 2 sizable chunks out of it.  In my case I could work from the outside, so I used the epoxy putty.  Pictures below show how I used the tape to create the mold.  I'm nearly to the point of trying to color it.


I'd like to report how great this repair worked.  I'd like to, but, not so great.  After the final sanding, I cleaned it up and gave it a coat with the Sanford Magnum 44 marker.  Let that dry overnight and gave it another in the morning.  That evening, I buffed it out and thought all was good.  It was, until I started to buff the bore.  Must have used a hair too much pressure and I noticed a small fault developing between the epoxy and the plastic.  At this point, I could probably cork it and it could still hold together for years.  Since I'm trying to find a permanent fix, short of full tenon replacement, I'll pop the chip back out, clean it up, and try something else.  Tiny re-bar maybe?


On the bright side, the Magnum 44 marker is the way to go for coloring.





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Offline windydankoff

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Re: Clarinet Restoration Tips:
« Reply #14 on: December 22, 2017, 07:44:13 AM »
I would just seep in some thin CA glue. You can wind some thin strong thread around before corking. CA soaked into that would be extra strong.
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