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 stinky clarinet & oiling it
Author: Roxann 
Date:   2014-05-03 00:24

I just had my clarinet oiled for the first time since buying it a year ago. I opened up the case to play it today and was greeted with what smells like rancid oil. It's a smell that nauseates me and I can't imagine playing it for any length of time at all. What oil SHOULD have been used to oil it? Also, I assumed the keys would be removed and the entire clarinet submerged in an oil bath then reassembled after the oil had been removed. Is that what is normally done when you ask to have it oiled? What SHOULD be done once a year as far as oiling goes? I DO use a turkey feather and refrigerated almond oil to oil the inside once a month as recommended by Kessler Bros. Any recommendations on what to do to get rid of the awful smell?

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 Re: stinky clarinet & oiling it
Author: tictactux 2017
Date:   2014-05-03 00:50

well...there's two kinds of "oiling" in a clarinet:

1. the keywork. It means to put a bit of oil everywhere where metal moves against metal, to minimize friction. Just like you'd oil a sewing machine.
2. the wood. It's meant to protect the wood from bad watery fluids (like condensation and saliva) and to replenish the wood's natural content of oil. Like you'd oil a wooden floor or a plain (unlacquered) kitchen table.

It is rare that a clarinet is immersed in oil - normally one would run an oily rag through the bore and oil the outside with an oily paintbrush, then wipe the excess off after a night. Same for the keywork.
I usually oil my bore *) maybe once a season (twice a year), same for the keywork, unless I've spent some time playing in the rain, after which I first properly dry the instrument and then oil it. I don't think once a month is really necessary.

Why exactly your clarinet now stinks is beyond me. To remove the stench, you might try to
- swab and wipe the instrument as good as you can.
- air your instrument in the open case, away from the sun and drafts.
- air your open case in plain sunshine.
- generously put tea bags (peppermint, scented fruit tea, whatever rocks your boat) into the case prior to stowing it away.

*) I mean the instrument's bore. My personal bore is getting a red wine treatment right now. [tongue]


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 Re: stinky clarinet & oiling it
Author: Bruno 
Date:   2014-05-03 01:37

Sounds like somebody used organic oil of some kind in the bore, and it's gone rancid. Organic oils should never be used in a clarinet. People think that just because the wood of a clarinet has an organic origin they should use organic oils in the bore, which is definitely not ever the way to go. The manufacturers don't use it. We shouldn't either.

The only cure I know for your problem is to remove all of it that you can with multiple clean clarinet pull-thru swabs pulled thru the disassembled sections, and then use a washed out and dried pull-thru first dipped into 3% hydrogen peroxide, squeezed out and pulled thru each section several times with a H2O2 dip and squeeze-out of the swab between pull-throughs. This will neutralize and deodorize it. Then do a dry, clean pull-thru at the end.

Let the disassembled clarinet dry over night, then do your turkey feather thing with Selmer or other major brand inorganic bore oil. (I personally use a large cotton ball with some bore oil dribbled onto it. I push it thru the separated sections with a plastic or wooden dowel and also oil the sockets with it).

I wouldn't dip the instrument in anything.


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 Re: stinky clarinet & oiling it
Author: Steven Ocone 
Date:   2014-05-03 01:48

I use natural (not mineral oils) to oil clarinets and have not had a problem. Oiling every month is excessive. I think the quantity of oil may be a problem. Also, the oils I use have antioxidants to stop them from going rancid. I do not have a schedule for oiling. I do it when the bore looks dried out and oil is quickly absorbed.

Steve Ocone

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 Re: stinky clarinet & oiling it
Author: Tony F 
Date:   2014-05-03 04:21

It sounds as though the bore was oiled with an oil that was way past its use-by date and has gone rancid. I never use mineral oils on the wood of my instruments, I use sweet almond oil with about 5% of alcohol (methylated spirit) added. This is to increase penetration of the wood. A friend in the trade prefers to use peanut oil in the same way. Both seem to work well and neither smell.

IYou may be over-oiling your instrument. I oil mine once a year and it seems to be about right for where I live and how much I play. Your mileage may vary. I'd certainly get back to whoever oiled your clarinet. They may not be aware of the rancidity problem. If they have any integrity they'll rectify the problem for you at no charge. If you decide to do it yourself, then this is how I would set about it.

If you're comfortable with removing the keys, then do so. Then clean the bore with a clean swab moistened with methylated spirit. Carefully clean the tone holes and tenons with alcohol-moistened cotton buds. Wipe the outside in the same way. If you're not comfortable with removing the keys, put a piece of kitchen wrap (Gladwrap, Saran Wrap or similar) under each pad and clean as above as best you can. When the instrument has dried and you're satisfied that it no longer smells, then re-assemble. Check the pads as you go, to make sure there has been no oil transfer to them If there has, carefully clean the pad with a cotton bud. Make sure there's no oil on the tone-hole surrounds. As it dries out it will become sticky and cause more problems.

For the keys, I use sewing machine oil and a hypodermic-style oiler. some techs prefer a more viscous oil, as it quietens the key action.

Tony F.

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 Re: stinky clarinet & oiling it
Author: The Doctor 2017
Date:   2014-05-03 16:21

(Disclaimer - I make and sell a wood cleaning product, plant derived bore oil, and genuine Grenadilla oil) Aside from the question of oiling or not oiling clarinet wood IMO organic plant oils are the best product to use.

I would never use, clean, or formulate an oil that is petroleum based or use petroleum based volatile solvents to clean the wood. There are water based cleaners which will remove several kinds of oils that do not strip the wood of the natural oil found in the wood. These may include my formulation, Murphy's Oil Soap, or other proven cleaners. These water based cleaners will not remove too much of the natural oil from the wood while removing surface build up of natural oil and dust crud formed from the natural oil in the wood and environmental pollutants.

It is very difficult to keep some plant derived oils like Sweet Almond Oil, Olive Oil, etc. from autoxidizing and becoming rancid either with storage or on the wood itself. Many people will use these oils with a little added Vitamin E as antioxidant. Well, Vitamin E is a decent antioxidant in animal based oils and oil mixtures but actually does not do very well at preserving plant oils. There are powerful antioxidant compounds derived from plants that will keep and preserve plant oils from turning rancid for long periods of time.

Certain mixtures of plant based oils combined with emulsifiers and antioxidants have remained stable and not turned rancid in my tests at extreme temperature extremes (my garage) for over 14 years now. Also, certain mixtures of plant oils IME and research will penetrate wood deeply. Old wife's tales suggest plant oils like Sweet Almond oil are the best to use but the science of wood preservation and museum conservators of wood artifacts use a mixture of plant oils with powerful antioxidants specifically from plant oils.

If the oil that you use from some major sellers is clear and colorless it is mineral oil, sometimes with added petroleum distillates used to give the impression that the oil is penetrating the wood. Mineral oil is not a wood preservative, does not penetrate wood deeply, and in the end will destroy the wood by changing the oil content in the wood surface from natural to petroleum based oil which breaks down wood structure over time. Clear mineral oil bore oil is the most expensive "Baby Oil" that you will ever buy!

Most of the cadre of technicians that I know use a plant based oil applied on the surface but not dunking the entire clarinet. Some notable exceptions are well known technicians but this takes years of experience to know the right oil to use, temperature, and timing to get it right. Applying a thin coat of plant derived oil and let standing overnight will tell you if the wood is absorbing the oil and repeating the process until no more oil is absorbed lets the wood tell you that it has sufficient oil.

Oiling frequency depends on your playing schedule, environmental conditions of heat and humidity in your area, and individual needs for oil of each piece of your clarinet (because they come from different trees). Some clarinet wood retains oil permanently while other wood looses oil and needs oil replenished. Since plant oils, including the oil in Grenadilla wood must interact with water in the plant they can be washed out of wood by the condensation formed in the bore of the clarinet. Most clarinets, in most environments, IME only need to be oiled quarterly or twice a year but YRMV. If the wood in my top tenon looks dull and grey rather than shiny and black it is an indication to me that I should oil.

L. Omar Henderson

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 Re: stinky clarinet & oiling it
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2014-05-03 18:36

I use orange oil which smells like oranges.

..............Paul Aviles

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