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 Cork Grease Substitute
Author: rick77 
Date:   2011-12-07 23:37

So I'm out of cork grease and didn't make it to the music store today. I was thinking that chap stick seems to be pretty much the same thing but maybe it has ingredients that can harm the cork or the bonding of the cork to the tenons. Can chap stick be used as a substitute or is it a no-no for whatever reason? If I were still playing my E-11 I wouldn't be so concerned but I recently got an R-13 and would hate to mess up the corks.

Post Edited (2011-12-08 00:30)

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: EEBaum 
Date:   2011-12-08 00:00


Shouldn't need to grease up every day...


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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: alanporter 
Date:   2011-12-08 00:04

I have used nothing but Chap-Stick lip balm for many years with absolutely no problem whatever. I use the plain unscented unflavored type I buy at a dollar store. No doubt those who sell the "real" stuff will tell us how much damage I have caused over the past fifty years. My cork, however, will disagree with them.

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: rick77 
Date:   2011-12-08 00:49

EEBaum, I agree with what you said about not needing to grease the corks every day but I have to do so on this R13 pretty much every time I assemble it. I've played sax for 40 years and rarely ever needed to grease the neck cork but this clarinet has been a different story so far.

The tenon corks on my R13 are pretty tight and I don't want to have to use the "jaws of life" grip when disassembling the instrument. The cork (where the upper & lower joints connects) is ok but the cork for the barrel and bell are really tight and require too much effort when disassembling so I've been playing it safe and keeping them greased.

My R13 is 12 years old and was overhauled before I recently purchased it. I always disassemble the horn after playing it and put it in the case. Maybe I need to swab out the horn, regrease it then put it back together and leave it on the stand for a while so the corks will compress a bit.

Alanporter, that's good news to hear that chap stick is perfectly fine to use. It's cheap and readily available.

Thanks for the input!

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: Gretchen 
Date:   2011-12-08 03:04


Are you sure it's the cork that's sticking? Sometimes the wood on the tenon is not a perfect fit, where it is swollen (and be slightly too large), or change shape over the years. You might need to get the wood on the clarinet's tenon shaved or sanded down by a professional repair person. It might not be the cork at all. If you are cork greasing every day and it's sticking so much you have to use the "jaws of life" grip, this could possibly be the case.

Just my two cents! Good luck :)

Gretchen Roper

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: EEBaum 
Date:   2011-12-08 03:39

Also, sometimes the cork is so saturated by grease that it becomes more difficult to assemble.


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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: oca 
Date:   2011-12-08 03:53

The clarinets in my bamd are shocked and sometimes disguisted that I can keep a reed for half a year, but it is not about time that dictates replacement; it is need for replacement that dictates.

As you can prolong the life of a reed by preparing it well, so can you prolong the life of cork grease by apply it well and thus the life of the corks as well.

I may not be correct on this, but I was taught to apply cork grease minimally to the cork and then, with finger or paper, encircle the tenon and rotate it in boh ways.

Not only does this use less grease, it is also more effective in that the grease is evenly distributed and less likely to get squeezed off after assembly, leaving a pool of grease in your tenons, which might make its way into the bore of the clarinet.

It has been 8 months since I havr last needed to grease my corks, but I am expecting one very soon.

I am using vandoren cork grease out of inexperience with other greases; has anyone here tried a variety of greases and can give a recommendation?

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: DrewSorensenMusic 
Date:   2011-12-08 03:55


I had a problem with a sticking barrel, then a really good repair guy told me to stick it in the fridge. It works, and that's after I left a Moennig barrel on a R13 greenline for 4 years straight. Would probably work on the bell as well.

Side note* I had to get the Moennig off to try the Clark Fobes barrel, and it works fantastic with my Fobes Cicero 13 mouthpiece, but also initially had a sticking problem.

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: rick77 
Date:   2011-12-08 04:32

Gretchen may have nailed the problem, at least on the lower tenon cork where it accepts the bell. The lower joint (bottom tenon) may be slightly expanded making the bell difficult to pull off of the lower joint. But with fresh grease on the cork it's not a problem. Without grease it has been a problem so that's why I've been greasing it every time I assemble the horn.

I've had the bell on the lower joint for a few hours without playing the horn and the bell was easier to remove. Hopefully it was just that the cork was expanded and not the wood.

The barrel was easier to pull of too so maybe the corks just needed some compression for an extended period of time.

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2011-12-08 05:29

It's probably not hard to find people who have always used chap stick and never had problems. Same as you can find people who never had problem not swabbing their instrument, etc. But sometimes it can cause problems. I guess it might depend on the type of chap stick, type of glue used, or any reason it could penetrate into or past the cork in some cases more than others. I've seen more than a few corks falling off (i.e. the glue lost its ability to glue) from all sorts of chap sticks.

I would say from epople I've seen who use some types of chap stick, less than 50% actually had problems. I've seen some problems (though less) when using a "real" cork grease of a bad type. I guess the amount you use has a lot to do with it too. Like Alex said, some poor greases will need so much that eventually it will be harder to assemble from all the dried grease, needing more grease, etc. until it is cleaned and good grease is used instead. From people using a good type of cork grease I've seen almost none of the cork falling problems at all.

>> I am using vandoren cork grease out of inexperience with other greases; has anyone here tried a variety of greases and can give a recommendation? <<

Several repairers reported that Vandore cork grease is good. I've used it for a few years a long time ago and never had a problem. Now I just don't risk it and use what I consider the best ones. A small container or tube lasts such a long time (sometimes years), does it really matter if it's $2 or $6?

I prefer Alisyn cork grease. Not only because I think it's great, but also because its texture is less greasy than every other of the many types I've tried i.e. less annoying on your fingers. The small container they come in is pretty lousy though. The texture is creamy so not good as a lipstick tube.
My second choice is the natural type from Doctor's Products. He has it in a liptsick tube which is most comfortable for players IMO. It is slightly greasier feeling than the Alisyn.
Doctor's Products also has a synthetic type that is made with the same material as the Alisyn, but is actually very different and I don't like it at all.

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2011-12-08 14:22

Rendered yak fat works, too. Hard to find a yak in Northern Virginia, though, so I've been using regular old cork grease.

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: rick77 
Date:   2011-12-08 16:48

After leaving the my R13 assembled overnight (I swabbed it out after the last practice session) the corks seem to have compressed a bit allowing me to disassemble the horn with much less effort. The bell cork is still a bit tight but not as tight as it was. I'm just hoping the wood on the tenon is not expanded.

I have never left the instrument assembled after playing it so the corks have always had room (and time) to expand. Maybe the extra compression time will solve the problem I was having.

I got some cheap chap stick for when I need it.

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: JJAlbrecht 
Date:   2011-12-08 17:23

Even better than traditional cork grease (which contains petroleum distillates) is a natural product like the Doctor's "Dr. Slick." Check the sponsor links on the right sifde of this page, under ACCESSORIES.


Usual disclaimer: I am a satisfied customer of The Doctor, nothing more. No money has come my way for any endorsements of his superb products. :)

“Everyone discovers their own way of destroying themselves, and some people choose the clarinet.” Kalman Opperman, 1919-2010

"A drummer is a musician's best friend."

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: Tony F 2017
Date:   2011-12-09 02:28

For a long time now I've been using white plumbers waterproof grease. It has never reacted with the cork adhesive or caused damage to the corks, the joints always fit well and strip easily and a small tube will probably last beyond my lifetime at a cost of about $2.

Tony F.

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: Bob Phillips 
Date:   2011-12-09 04:40

While we're on the subject of cork grease, I have a question:

Where does the stuff go? I've probably put 4 tubes of cork grease on my wooden clarinet over the last 5 years, and I have to frequently add more. Does it evaporate? I swab the whole clarinet from the upper barrel socket down, so only the mouthpiece cork grease gets brushed by the passing swab, so I'm not wiping it off of the other three tenons.


Bob Phillips

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: BobD 
Date:   2011-12-09 12:19

The liquid that runs down the bore does get into the joints and some ends up in the space between the tenons and sockets. It's generally thought to be good practice to remove it before putting the clarinet away.....and....that it's a good idea to use something other than your swab.
The white plumbers joint sealers that contain teflon is interesting. They used to use plain white lead paste.
Some Techs. rub paraffin into new corks. Some cork grease ends up in the lining of your case.

Years ago some players used lard and some switched to Crisco when it came on the market but discovered that the horn played sharper......because Crisco was Shortening.

Bob Draznik

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: Caroline Smale 2017
Date:   2011-12-09 19:29

Why would one need a substitite when there are one or two really good proper cork greases available (and that does not include vitually all of the greases put in the cases of new instruments).

For 30+ years I made my own from tallow, beeswax and wool fat and on average my tenon corks lasted 25 years before replacement.
The key as noted in a post above is to use "little but often" and rub it well into the cork surface.

For quite a few years now I have used the "Doctor's" own natural product and been happy to dispense with making my own.

In an emergency virtually any animal based grease will work (and at least not destroy the cork like vaseline and most commercial cork greases.)

I have no connection with the Doctor other than as a satisfied customer.

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: LJBraaten 
Date:   2011-12-10 05:01

Would olive oil, or other vegetable oils work without damaging the instrument?

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: Caroline Smale 2017
Date:   2011-12-10 22:08

I don't think olive oil would cause any damage, it's not totally unlike almond oil which is widely used as a bore oil. However I would not think it's viscosity is really appropriate for a cork grease.
Oboe players in years long past often used duck grease for their corks and it most likely worked very well but I don't think current "health and safety" regulators would smile on it's use now. But hey in your own home anything goes.

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: BobD 
Date:   2011-12-10 22:26

Crisco is a non-petroleum product and works great. Do we know for sure that petroleum based products actually degrade cork......or is it the adhesive that gets attacked. I've used Doc's products.

Bob Draznik

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: Claire Annette 
Date:   2011-12-12 03:01

Bob, am I the only one who got your Crisco joke? Good one!

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: Sean.Perrin 
Date:   2011-12-13 00:56

I just use bacon grease, it tastes great, too! Haha... just kidding. I've never thought about what to do in the absense of cork grease, though I don't imagine that chapstick is a good substitute either. Perhaps it's best to just keep an extra in your case?

Sean Perrin
Host of the Clarineat Podcast

New Album "Dreamsongs" Now available

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: ned 
Date:   2011-12-14 03:37

David S writes: ''Rendered yak fat works, too. Hard to find a yak in Northern Virginia, though, so I've been using regular old cork grease.''

No yaks in Aussie David, but we have roos, koalas, emus (pr: ee-mew, for the benefit of you North American folks).

We also have possums and innumerable flying natives.................but hey, try catching one to boil down for its fat and's jolly difficult..............and oh, illegal as well.

Consequently, I use anything which is oil based. As the spoon salesman said in that episode of Fawlty Towers ''It matters not one whit''.

I strongly suspect that this thread and type of query can now, for evermore, be closed, as I have spoken.

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: donald 
Date:   2011-12-14 03:40

Ned, you might have to explain Fawlty Towers in addition to Emu...

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 Re: Cork Grease Substitute
Author: ned 
Date:   2011-12-14 05:02

Ned, you might have to explain Fawlty Towers in addition to Emu...''

Whaaaat....explain Fawlty Towers to a Kiwi? To an American for sure, but a Kiwi?

Yes, I know you don't have emus in NZ, but do you know what an ostrich is? It's our version of that.

Go to youtube and search for Fawlty Towers though. Clearly it's the funniest comedy produced for many decades. Here's a link to all the episodes

For our American friends...............I guess the Marx Brothers is the only (somewhat) equivalent I can think of, for sheer madness, that is.................and maybe Curb your Enthusiasm too, given it's predilection to anti-social behaviour.

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