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Klarinet Archive - Posting 001521.txt from 1999/01

From: "Steven J Goldman, MD" <>
Subj: RE: [kl] Bore Oil
Date: Sun, 31 Jan 1999 07:24:35 -0500

I think we need to be specific here.

First, oiling the bore is not done primarily to prevent cracking per se, but
to facilitate the removal of moisture from the bore before it soaks into the
wood. Continually moistening then drying of wood causes many problems
besides cracking, warping being the more common. Wood needs to be aged and
broken in slowly to withstand the rapid changes in moisture to prevent the
physical pressures from deforming it. Black woods, being very dense and hard
are able to take more stress before being deformed, so they can take more
abuse without harm, hence the incorrect idea that they don't need oiling.
(Interestingly, as far as I known, no one knows for sure what breaking in
does to the wood that increases its durability, but I know of several flute
makers who are investigating this.) While there has been no scientific study
or statistical analysis, I never have seen a new boxwood or rosewood flute
or clarinet that was not properly broken in and oiled that did not suffer
from severe warpage after intense use, while properly cared for instrments
do ust fine. Black wood instruments on the other hand can take allot of
abuse, most without severe damage. But some suffer the same fate as their
softer cousins, and you just don't know which ones will go bad. So it's best
not to take chances.

Those who claim that oiling the instrument causes damage are correct, IF the
instrument was oiled improperly. The tendency is to put on too much oil
and/or leave it on too long or use the wrong type of oil. In these cases the
effect is worse that water damage. Very light oiling frequently with
non-polymerizing oil, or very light oiling very infrequently with
polymerizing oil will not damage the instrument - if it did no old
instruments in mint condition would exist. The idea is to control the amount
of expansion and contraction as much as possible.

Now the recommendation for oiling old instruments probably only refers to
those that have not been played for a very long time. In these cases, the
wood has to be broken in again, just as if it was new. In fact, even more
care should be taken with these instruments because they are more fragile.
Old instruments that have seen continual usage have built up enough oil and
are seasoned enough that there is simply no need for "kid glove" care.

My annoyance about the term folklore is that it suggests a mindless
following of what others have told you. Musicians certainly can have a
weakness for this. But my suggestion for oiling ones instrument comes from
experience and critical analysis, as well as a strong background in the
historical literature of flute and clarinet from the 18th and 19th
centuries, not to mention a scientific background. (That sounds kind of
haughty - its not meant to)

I would never claim that my opinions are the only acceptable ones and hard
data are lacking, but I have enough experience that it would take a whole
lot more than stating that so and so says bore oil is bad to convince me

Steven Goldman
624 Huber Lane
Glenview, IL 60025

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Charette []
Subject: Re: [kl] Bore Oil

From: Steven J. Goldman M.D. <>
>The companies you mentioned have their own ideas which I think are
>but which can be debated. However, insulting the understanding and
>intelligence of professionals with perfectly reasonable opinions is
>(A heated argument about bore oil! Who would have thunk it.)

This has been and _is_ a contentious issue. You presented as fact the
need for oiling new instruments but not old; there is a very common and
exact opposite opinion to yours (don't oil new, but oil old).

As far as I know, there has never been a statistically sound (or even a
statistically _unsound_) study of whether or not oiling prevents or
promotes cracking. If that is the case, then the opinions _do_ fall into
the folklore category. If there has been a study, please make me aware
of it and I'll make sure I put up a reference.

Oiling a clarinet to prevent cracking _sounds_ like good advice, but
does it really do anything? All I've ever seen or heard is anecdotal
evidence on both sides.
All-around good guy and devil-may-care flying fool.
"There can be no freedom without discipline." - Nadia Boulanger

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