Advertising and Web Hosting on Woodwind.Org!

Woodwind.OrgThe Clarinet BBoardThe C4 standard

  BBoard Equipment Study Resources Music General    
 New Topic  |  Go to Top  |  Go to Topic  |  Search  |  Help/Rules  |  Smileys/Notes  |  Log In   Newer Topic  |  Older Topic 
 1830's Boxwood clarinet help
Author: Curinfinwe 
Date:   2019-01-13 03:20

Hi everyone,

I've just acquired a Wood & Ivy 8 key instrument from Kijiji (the Canadian equivalent of Craigslist) and I'm trying to get it playable. It's not cracked, but is a bit warped, and all the keys move freely and some have pads (which seal to varying degrees...), and it has what appears to be the original mouthpiece. I have a few specific questions:

1. Mouthpiece- it's grenadilla, and was extremely dry with two closed cracks when I got it. After 3 days of regular oiling with almond oil, the cracks are unfortunately starting to open up slightly. Would there be any merit in soaking the mouthpiece in oil for a period of time?

2. Pads- there are no pad cups, just flat round discs to put the pads on, so regular pads obviously won't work. I made some cork pads from some sheet cork for the smaller tone holes, which seem to be sealing, but I just can't get the larger ones to work. Leather would be the clear choice, but I've never worked with leather pads before so I'm not sure what the profile typically looks like on them- would they be flat and thin enough, or is there another material I could consider? The tone holes themselves are countersunk and the raised ridge of wood for the pad is rounded and smooth.

Thanks for any ideas anyone might have!


Reply To Message
 Re: 1830's Boxwood clarinet help
Author: Liquorice 
Date:   2019-01-13 03:30

Send the instrument to Steven Fox (in your country) for restoration. It‘s very unlikely that the mouthpiece is original but in any case it‘s probably not going to be playable in the state you describe. Steven should be able to advise you on how to obtain a matching mouthpiece for this instrument. Good luck!

Post Edited (2019-01-13 18:09)

Reply To Message
 Re: 1830's Boxwood clarinet help
Author: Curinfinwe 
Date:   2019-01-13 04:10

The mouthpiece is stamped George Wood, so I believe it is original. It does actually play, with a cut down Eb reed, and surprisingly seems to be at 440. The top joint mostly seals so I've been able to play it a bit. I'm open to sending it to Steven, but if possible it would be nice to get it functional myself. It would just be for fun and my own practicing, so I'm not sure I can justify the cost.

Reply To Message
 Re: 1830's Boxwood clarinet help
Author: Simon Aldrich 
Date:   2019-01-13 05:10

Hello Anna,

I hope all is well with you.

I took a look at the photo of the clarinet you posted to Facebook and it looks to have been very well-preserved and restored.

There are two things you might want to consider.
The first thing is to soak the joints of the instrument (particularly the upper joint and barrel) in oil before playing the instrument for any length of time, to avoid cracking.

Secondly, I know period clarinetists who play original period instruments (as opposed to replicas) that have the upper side trill key (typical of English boxwood clarinets), and they plug that tone-hole (the tone-hole higher than the throat A tone-hole).
Boxwood expands and shrinks when you play it, enough that keeping that trill tone-hole sealing becomes a constant battle.
I don't have any period clarinets with that trill key (I have avoided them), but when I studied with Eric Hoeprich, he mentioned that on his instruments with that upper trill key, he plugged that tone-hole because keeping it sealing was difficult.

If you get the pads close to sealing, one trick you can do to make them seal is to wrap the pad and cup in plumber's tape. Often that creates a workable seal. I did a concert on period clarinets a while ago in Boston and New York and the two of us had plumber's tape on our throat A keys to create a better seal.

Period clarinet-maker Thomas Carroll recently joined this bboard and will have excellent advice for you, should he read your post.


Reply To Message
 Re: 1830's Boxwood clarinet help
Author: Curinfinwe 
Date:   2019-01-13 05:35

Hi Simon! Thanks for your reply. All is going very well with me, and I hope to come back to finish my degree maybe next academic year.

I'll definitely try the plumber's tape. I used it to make the tenons a bit sturdier but I ran out so will have to wait until I get some more. Plugging that top key sounds like a good idea too, as that's a pad that I actually had sealing well at first but now it's completely leaky.

For soaking it in oil, what would you use? I know there's contention about the best oil, but I've seen linseed oil in reference to boxwood. I use almond oil on my grenadilla instruments and I'm happy with that, but maybe boxwood needs something different?

All the best,

Reply To Message
 Re: 1830's Boxwood clarinet help
Author: Simon Aldrich 
Date:   2019-01-13 08:33

Hi Anna,

Ted Planas (bio: wrote the following in the February 1983 edition of "Clarinet and Saxophone":

"If you have a boxwood 
instrument, antique or new, oil it with one of the oxidising vegetable oils
 such as linseed oil (boiled or raw) and almond oil. The wood will absorb
 some of the oil (it does not penetrate very far) but if the oil is rubbed in
well and the excess is wiped off, it will oxidise (harden) reasonably 
quickly in about 2 or 3 days and form a very good surface finish - almost a
 varnish. (In fact, before the advent of modern plastic-based paints, the
 gloss in gloss paint was boiled linseed oil). If this treatment is repeated
 from time to time (more frequently when the instrument is new) it will
 certainly help to reduce the absorption of water. However, boxwood is very 
good at absorbing water - the instrument maker Mahillon remarked that it was
 more suitable as a hygrometer than as a musical instrument."

If you are in a rush, you can oil the clarinet in a vacuum infusion chamber. When I took a classical-era clarinet-making course in Cambridge, England ( the maker/teacher Daniel Bangham had devised a vacuum chamber in which one immersed the boxwood clarinet joints. In such a vacuum, one can see air bubbles emerge from the boxwood joints, as air is displaced by oil!


Reply To Message
 Re: 1830's Boxwood clarinet help
Author: donald 
Date:   2019-01-13 11:55

Post Edited (2019-01-13 19:45)

Reply To Message
 Re: 1830's Boxwood clarinet help
Author: Clarimellonet 
Date:   2019-01-16 08:48

Hi Anna, Simon, etc,

Restoring a boxwood clarinet is a relatively straightforward process. With the right care, you should be able to restore it to playable if not relatively stable condition. Here are a couple of the steps I take (which have been touched on in this thread already):

Oil the wood. Constantly, even when you think the wood doesn't need it, continue to oil the boxwood. Buxus sempervirens is a remarkably dense wood which means that the oil takes a long time to penetrate. Unfortunately, it also means that the dried wood can become brittle and prone to cracking if not brought back to equilibrium. There are many different ways to oil these instruments, everything from using a swab dipped in oil to a complete tear down. I always err on the side of a tear down. Take every bit of metal (keys, pins, etc) off the instrument and set them aside. Fill up a bucket with linseed oil and let the joints sit in the oil completely submerged for about a week, then let them dry on a flat surface for a few days. Use a fine cloth to gently clean the wood, (you'll find a lot of dust and grime will come off the wood) and repeat the process. I usually do this three or four times over the course of a month when restoring a "new clarinet."

Oil the wood mouthpieces. Take note of the facing curve if you have the ability to measure it (and it works), then oil the mouthpiece. Grenadilla mouthpieces need a slightly different type of oiling procedure. I use a mixture of oils that an oboe maker showed me several years ago: 50 percent almond oil, 25 percent mineral oil, 25 percent orange oil. The orange oil will open up the pores, the mineral oil penetrates the fastest, and the almond oil will polymerize and help form a decent amount of patina on the inside of the bore of the mouthpiece to prevent warping. If you want to preserve the integrity without risking the warpage of an original mouthpiece, make a copy, but plenty of grenadilla mouthpieces can be restored to a decent playing condition.

Replacing the pads on these instruments is quite easy. While some players prefer synthetic material (almost like a Valentino-type substance), I prefer the traditional 18th century means of affixing flat pads: leather and sealing wax. The sealing wax can be heated several times to make sure you have the perfect seat and the leather forms a perfectly airtight seal. I use cabretta leather (old golf gloves are an excellent source), but soft deer leather and calf leather works as well.

Polish the keys. This may seem like a purely cosmetic thing, but the cleaner the brass keys are, the easier it will be in the long run. The keys on these instruments are recessed into the wood body of the instruments, and the wood can swell around them causing them to bind. A clean key free of dust, mold, etc will mean less lateral pressure on the wood, and less of a chance of cracks in the future. If the wood binds, you can take a very fine grit sandpaper (1500 or 2000) and polish the keys to see if they move more freely. Similarly, graphite powder is an excellent lubricant.

It's not surprising at all that you find it to work at A440. Most English and American originals were around that pitch. It's the continental clarinets that get a bit more dicey, particularly in Vienna where the pitch could vary from 420 to 448 depending on which side of the city you were playing in. It's no wonder that the more expensive and well known makers in Europe made interchangeable corps de rechange middle joints to allow for different pitches. While the A430 I most frequently build and perform on is an almost purely modern construct to allow some level of standardization in period instrument ensembles, it DOES make things far easier given the amount of traveling I do and the various ensembles I perform with. At least with a 440 instrument you won't have to convince local string players to tune down or retune a modern piano.

Good luck! I'm performing this week on an 1879 Bb Clarinet made by Georg Ottensteiner that I restored back in 2015. I play on this instrument for a handful of performances every year and even after all the restoration work, I still need to baby it back into shape for a few days before doing any serious work on it. Such is life with instruments these old, especially when not in constant daily use. I ended up having to make a new barrel and mouthpiece for it because the originals were cracked, but I have plenty of originals without such problems.

Keep us updated!

Thomas Carroll
Historical Clarinets and Chalumeaux

Reply To Message
 Re: 1830's Boxwood clarinet help
Author: Curinfinwe 
Date:   2019-01-16 09:05


Thank you so much for the detailed response! The clarinet is soaking in a bucket of oil right now with all the keys stripped off. I've abandoned my initial attempts at cork pads and actually bought some leather yesterday, but i suspected it might not be dense enough. The golf gloves are an excellent tip, thanks.

None of the keys were binding and all of the pins move freely, luckily, and someone had creatively replaced one with a finishing nail, which works just fine. What would you recommend to clean the build up off the keys? There's garden variety linty gunk on the undersides and in the wooden slots.

For the mouthpiece, I've had a mouthpiece maker friend look at it and measure it. The cracks are staying at bay with a mixture of daily oiling and by storing it in a small container with fresh orange peels, so I'll get some orange oil too. As it happens, my fiancé works in 3D design and modelling and will have the opportunity next month to create a 3D scan of it and print it, so hopefully I can have a functional replica. Unfortunately the prairie climate I live in is about as bad as it gets for dryness and cracking.

Will report back in a week once it's finished soaking and I can try getting some pads on it.

Thanks again,

Reply To Message
 Re: 1830's Boxwood clarinet help
Author: Curinfinwe 
Date:   2019-01-16 09:07

Double posted- sorry.

Post Edited (2019-01-16 09:08)

Reply To Message
 Avail. Forums  |  Threaded View   Newer Topic  |  Older Topic 

 Avail. Forums  |  Need a Login? Register Here 
 User Login
 User Name:
 Remember my login:
 Forgot Your Password?
Enter your email address or user name below and a new password will be sent to the email address associated with your profile.
Search Woodwind.Org

Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale

The Clarinet Pages
is sponsored by:

For Sale
Put your ads for items you'd like to sell here. Free! Please, no more than two at a time - ads removed after two weeks.

Great reeds available from around the world

Music & Books
CDs, Sheet Music, and some of the greatest reference books ever written!

Instrument repairs, restorations, adjustments, and overhauls.

Retailers and manufacturers of clarinets, both modern and early replica

Mouthpieces & Barrels
Fine makers of mouthpieces and barrels, from wood to crystal to hard rubber and plastic

Major events especially for clarinetists

Accessories that every clarinetist needs - reed makers and shapers, ligatures, greases, oils, and preservatives ... and more!

Services and products too varied to categorize! Repair, recording, news

     Copyright © Woodwind.Org, Inc. All Rights Reserved    Privacy Policy    Contact