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 Resurrecting a clarinet after 3 decades of storage
Author: WinnieS 
Date:   2021-10-24 18:10

Hello friends, long time no see!

I've got an older Normandy-8 that has been in storage for around 3 decades at least, could be longer, who knows.

I'm finishing repadding/recorking it now and there is a question on how to approach reintroducing moisture contents into the wood that has really shrunk over the years of storage.

I have a tenon rings swedging kit but I wouldn't like to swedge the rings while the wood is in its driest state. However I also don't want to assemble the clarinet while the tenon rings are loose (and they are really loose) so the female tenon's wood doesn't crack.

My plan is as follows: Put the clarinet in a box with a sponge humidifier for at least a week so it absorbs some moisture and the tenon rings completely tighten up.
I heard a professional advice also on adding some vinegar to the water to re-introduce acidity into the wood.

Then I'm planning to take the clarinet out and leave it for a couple days in normal dry environment so it looses the excess of moisture and the tenon rings become a little looser.
After that I can swedge the rings to make them fit tight.

Please comment on the above and feel free to add any thoughts you might have on the subject.

Post Edited (2021-10-24 20:46)

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 Re: Resurrecting a clarinet after 3 decades of storage
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-10-25 11:28


Just to offer some reassurance - I got an old clarinet out of storage after 60 years and just started playing it with total gung ho, and it was okay. I didn't even know about using a swab at first.

The only time when it didn't work out exactly right was when I was practising hard for my grade 1 exam. At that point I was just storing the clarinet fully assembled on a stand in my hallway and picking it up and practising hard three times a day. I think I might have been running a swab through it after, but I'm not sure. I was definitely removing the reed and drying it. I definitely wasn't disassembling the clarinet or drying the corners. After two weeks of that, it got a tiny hairline crack in just the most surface layer of the wood at the top of the top joint. That was a 1918 E.J. Albert clarinet with Boehm keywork.

I just thought you might like to know that in the hands of a rank amateur, taking no care at all, it did work out well anyway.


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 Re: Resurrecting a clarinet after 3 decades of storage
Author: DougR 
Date:   2021-10-28 16:03

In repair terms this is pretty much over my head, but if it were me (I have had some experience with irremediable mildew smell in old instrument cases) I would put the sections in plastic freezer bags instead of the case. Once a case acquires a mold smell (or perhaps in your case, re-awakens mold spores by introducing moisture) it's nearly impossible to get rid of.

The other question I have is, if you're working on the horn on a bench in your house, isn't it already acclimated to your environment? Why go thru the adding-moisture phase, only to let the instrument sit out, IN your environment that it's already acclimated to anyway? I seem to remember that cracking can be caused by abrupt changes in temperature, but also in humidity? (Although with an instrument that old I would think cracking would be far down on the list of hazards at this point.)

There are past threads here dealing with loose rings on wood instruments, with some very knowledgeable people weighing in on the subject, and frankly I'd start there. Searching for "loose rings" ought to do it.

Good luck!

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 Re: Resurrecting a clarinet after 3 decades of storage
Author: WinnieS 
Date:   2021-10-28 19:14

As far as I understand a wooden clarinet when played on a regular basis keeps its certain moisture contents inside the wood fibers.
Once left unplayed for long and in my case it's been a pretty long period it gets adapted to its new permanent "dry" state.
For some reason clarinets that were played regularly and then left in storage shrink in size as compared to new clarinets that were never played (there are such findings of never played oldies goodies from time to time).

Once a clarinet is being removed from storage and is started to be played hard without preparation it receives a burst of moisture from inside of the bore which is quite different from the clarinet that is being played regularly.

So it's wise to first adapt the wood to the moisture contents that it will receive anyway from the player's breath. In such a case moisture will not attack the wood from one direction rudely.
I would call it a "gentle passive wood warm up" for the lack of a better term.

Post Edited (2021-10-28 21:17)

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