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Author Topic: Caring for long-stored and dry grenadilla  (Read 656 times)

Offline 350 Rocket

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Caring for long-stored and dry grenadilla
« on: March 06, 2024, 06:23:58 PM »
What are the best practices for reviving wood clarinets that have been unused for a long time and seem to be very dry? Does ambient humidity have an impact? (i.e. is it detrimental to do anything in low-humidity winter conditions?)

What additional concerns are there for an instrument with a noticeably dirty bore? Is it okay to clean it first, and then oil, or is there too much risk there with immersing a dry instrument in water?

If it matters, the instruments in question are an early Normandy Special that looks like it was well-cared for but then stored for quite a while, and a Conn 424N which has not had an easy life, is very dirty, and has had a crack repaired in the past. I'm in no hurry with either so doing it right is more important than any other consideration.
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Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Caring for long-stored and dry grenadilla
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2024, 06:10:45 AM »
Sounds like it'll drink oil right up.

I would soak an old rag in pure thyme oil - this supposedly has antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties, so should get rid of any germies in the bore. Run it through a few times and you've got a pretty clean bore, barring any actual soil or dirt inside. I would blow it out first with some compressed air to knock loose any cobwebs or whatever.

After that, I'd take it all apart (if you haven't already) and generously apply your oil of choice. I like almond oil myself. It will likely drink some oil, so keep applying until it's no longer thirsty. Wipe off excess and you're all set.
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Offline windydankoff

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Re: Caring for long-stored and dry grenadilla
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2024, 06:45:26 AM »
First, inspect carefully for any cracks (even hairline) or chips that you may wish to fill. Dry wood will accept adhesives but once it's oiled, the cracks will be oiled too.

I would replace tenon corks first, and then oil the outside as well as inside. The best grenadilla will accept very little oil because it is naturally saturated with its own internal oil. If it absorbs very little oil and the rest just sits there, you can stop. End grain absorbs far more, watch how it absorbs inside the tone holes (assuming you'll have it disassembled.)
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Offline Windsong

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Re: Caring for long-stored and dry grenadilla
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2024, 08:35:40 PM »
I echo the sentiments of those above, but caution the use of Thyme oil.  As least for me, the smell is so revolting that it drives me away for weeks.  I just have no tolerance for it.  Pure organic coconut oil has the same disinfectant properties, is equally thin, has no odor whatsoever, and you can buy it in liquid form if you look hard enough.  I do not know that it has the gumption to stand on its own as a long term bore oil, but it may.  My first oil is usually with orange oil.  I like its smell, and it is a very thin, great cleaning oil.  It is often a perfectly suitable replacement for a water bath, because of its natural cleaning properties.

However, as for washing wood, I have personally done a warm water wash on many old grenadilla clarinets I have owned, and I have never cracked one (knock wood, lol).  If you decide on a wash, I recommend a nearly dry (warm water) felt or wool swab run several times through the bore.  It will not absorb much of it.  Wash the swab every other pass, and ring it out again.  Then, take a dry swab and make several more passes.  Then, disassemble the clarinet and allow it to air-dry inside for 24 hours before oiling.  You do not want to trap moisture in the grain.
I advise this at one's own risk, of course.  If the grain is open on the clarinet, or if already cracked, you run a greater risk of the water adversely affecting the horn.  Use caution.

Almond oil is wonderful stuff.  I know professionals who thin it a hair with acetone, which I strongly disapprove of.  When I do use acetone on a clarinet, it is only to clear tenons of the last of the cork debris for good adhesion of rubber cement.  I certainly think there is no quicker way to damage a clarinet than by allowing acetone into the pores and then suspending it in oil. 

Topside, a small detail brush with soft pig hair bristles is ideal for clearing off the undesirable accumulation of time.
Cheers!
« Last Edit: March 07, 2024, 08:50:58 PM by Windsong »
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Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Caring for long-stored and dry grenadilla
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2024, 01:59:22 AM »
I echo the sentiments of those above, but caution the use of Thyme oil.  As least for me, the smell is so revolting that it drives me away for weeks.  I just have no tolerance for it.  Pure organic coconut oil has the same disinfectant properties, is equally thin, has no odor whatsoever, and you can buy it in liquid form if you look hard enough.  I do not know that it has the gumption to stand on its own as a long term bore oil, but it may.  My first oil is usually with orange oil.  I like its smell, and it is a very thin, great cleaning oil.  It is often a perfectly suitable replacement for a water bath, because of its natural cleaning properties.

However, as for washing wood, I have personally done a warm water wash on many old grenadilla clarinets I have owned, and I have never cracked one (knock wood, lol).  If you decide on a wash, I recommend a nearly dry (warm water) felt or wool swab run several times through the bore.  It will not absorb much of it.  Wash the swab every other pass, and ring it out again.  Then, take a dry swab and make several more passes.  Then, disassemble the clarinet and allow it to air-dry inside for 24 hours before oiling.  You do not want to trap moisture in the grain.
I advise this at one's own risk, of course.  If the grain is open on the clarinet, or if already cracked, you run a greater risk of the water adversely affecting the horn.  Use caution.

Almond oil is wonderful stuff.  I know professionals who thin it a hair with acetone, which I strongly disapprove of.  When I do use acetone on a clarinet, it is only to clear tenons of the last of the cork debris for good adhesion of rubber cement.  I certainly think there is no quicker way to damage a clarinet than by allowing acetone into the pores and then suspending it in oil. 

Topside, a small detail brush with soft pig hair bristles is ideal for clearing off the undesirable accumulation of time.
Cheers!

Ha, just so happens that I quite enjoy the smell of thyme oil. It is very strong indeed, but I'm a huge fan. I can definitely see how a lot of (normal) folks would be repelled. Then again, I also like the smell of gasoline and skunk (separately, not mixed...) so maybe don't give heed to my olfactory opinions.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
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Offline Windsong

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Re: Caring for long-stored and dry grenadilla
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2024, 08:00:35 AM »
 ;D
Well, my friend--I have a whole bottle of organic Thyme oil for you!
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Offline 350 Rocket

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Re: Caring for long-stored and dry grenadilla
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2024, 12:10:55 PM »
Thanks for replies.

Pictures of the Conn's bore (as best as I could get them) are below - it's bad enough. I'm not too worried about germs in anything that's sat this long, it's the grime/deposits. Worse than some plastic clarinets I've overhauled. I know the conventional cleaning method for a wood instrument is lukewarm water and Murphy's oil soap - is that too risky in this case? If the grime doesn't succumb to anything else, would a bristle brush (as used on a plastic clarinet) be too damaging to the bore?

I know opinions on oil are numerous, but I had planned on using the Doctor's Products bore oil simply because the science behind it appears sound.
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Offline Windsong

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Re: Caring for long-stored and dry grenadilla
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2024, 01:46:20 PM »
That appears to be a combination of filth, and a very dry bore.  The light color shows the lack of oiling.  I think highly of Doctors Products, and I have used them many times.  I typically buy random things in bulk these days, because I process so many clarinets.
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Offline philpedler

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Re: Caring for long-stored and dry grenadilla
« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2024, 08:24:53 AM »
Washing old dry clarinets in water: I have had this crack the bell. The bell would be especially sensitive to large changes. I would use oil and let that also clean the bore and outside. Sparing use of a damp cloth and soap would probably be fine. Soaking in water will probably cause damage.

This conversation has to do with what oil is best. I still think that Omar Henderson was right. (Was that his name? The one who created Doctor's Clarinet products.) Anyway, he created Bore Doctor (oil). The difference between his oil and other natural oils is that his oil does not harden, or hardens much less than many natural oils. Soak a rag in some natural oils, and let it dry. The rag will become like cardboard. You don't want that process going on inside the clarinet wood. In my opinion, Bore Doctor oil is great, and it was created with input from people who restore museum instruments.

Offline modernicus

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Re: Caring for long-stored and dry grenadilla
« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2024, 03:47:26 PM »
Many old clarinets are encrusted with tobacco smoke residue.  It looks reddish kind of like what the pics show.  I use denatured alcohol and physical scraping to get it off.  Been tempted to throw a few gems into the garbage because it, but they will come somewhat clean eventually.  I also highly recommend The Doctors Products bore oil.  I have washed very dirty clarinets in warm to hot water with seemingly no ill effect.  I submerged a whole joint in water and blew air out to find leaks in the body, also caused no problems.  I once put a badly shrunken bell in water for a while to try to expand expand it as an experiment.  It sort of worked, but always has looked a little cloudy and dull on the surface since then, no matter how much oiling or polishing, etc...  Prior to that, I had oiled it and then soaked it in oil, with no changes in dimensions.  Not sure if the combo is what caused the surface condition, but it didn't crack any more than it already had.
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Offline 350 Rocket

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Re: Caring for long-stored and dry grenadilla
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2024, 02:44:09 PM »
Many thanks for all the input.

I used a cup of lukewarm water and some Murphy's oil soap with an ultra-soft toothbrush. I shook out as much water as possible from the brush before scrubbing, and followed up by immediately removing the excess water with a rag. Two rounds of brushing and drying on each portion got all the scale and grime out of the bore, so it proved to not be quite as stubborn as I expected it to be. There's a little bit on the inside of the bell that wouldn't come out, and some tough residue in the barrel tenons as well, but overall I'm pleased with how clean it got. It doesn't seem to have suffered any ill effects.

The previously-pinned crack is indeed leaking, so I'll seal that while I wait for the bore oil to arrive.
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