Flutes and recorders      -      Vincent BERNOLIN

Recipient of the Prize of Best Instrument Maker in France 2006




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Maintenance of your recorder


At the request of numerous musicians, here is some information on the maintenance of recorders in general and my own instruments in particular. Please note that I do not take responsibility for instruments not produced by me, notably concerning cleaning techniques.

The lifetime of a recorder can vary greatly according to the care it is given. To preserve your investment, pay attention to the following aspects:



atmospheric conditions


greasing and oiling





During the acclimatization period, play your instrument 10 minutes per day the first week, 20 the second, 30 the third, 40 the fourth. Always warm the head of your recorder before playing. Eventually, a daily period of use of about an hour is reasonable and will guarantee a long life for your instrument. In case of very intensive use, it is better to have two instruments played alternately as this will more than double the life of each. After having played, leave your recorder out to dry in the air.



Condensation problems are due to the difference of temperature between the windway and the air expired, so always warm the head of your flute before playing, the ideal being to slide it into your belt.

Never suck in air to unblock your recorder because the ambient air, passing through the windway, will cool it and aggravate the problem. When you play your instrument in an intermittent fashion (concert, practice, lesson) donít let it cool down. Put it back in your belt or keep it warm by holding it in your hand. Donít forget that condensation wets the windway and this humidity deteriorates the instrument. Humidity can also cause black mould (Aspergillus) which ends up modifying the regulation by blocking the windway.


Atmospheric conditions

The degree of humidity necessary to avoid cracks and distortions is 50% minimum for a temperature of 20įC. Check this with a hygrometer placed near your instruments. Donít hesitate to invest in a humidifier if the atmosphere is too dry. The small outlay needed to buy this appliance is more than justified by the value of your instrument. Humidifiers are extremely reliable and usually last more than 10 years. Maintaining an adequate degree of humidity is a point often neglected by owners of wooden instruments but is of primordial importance. It is mostly in winter, when the outdoor temperature falls below 0įC that the degree of humidity is at its lowest, often falling to 30%. If you have no humidifier, you can put saturators on your radiators, at least during the coldest months.



Black mould is caused by a common fungus, Aspergillus. It forms a deposit which becomes encrusted in the wood and is difficult to eliminate. It generally forms in the windway, sometimes in the bore of the head, more rarely in the bore at the top of the body of the recorder.

This is the same mould which sometimes invades the joints of tiling in bathrooms. Although this fungus eats cellulose, the amount it needs is very small so donít worry that it will devour your instrument! Moulds and other biological invaders which can develop in the bore of your instrument are all very difficult to eradicate. They resist most detergents, alcohols and most chemical products such as salicylic acid. However, there is a miracle product found in most cleaning cupboards Ė bleach, a universal sterilizing product which destroys moulds, bacteria, microbes, etc. Just insert a few drops through the window into the bore of the recorder whilst holding it upside down, using a pipette or a little brush with very soft bristles. Donít take out the block of the recorder for this operation. This treatment can be used preventively every six months if the problem persists. Remember to carry out this operation over a sink to avoid having to change your new carpeting! If you canít stand the smell of bleach, ask your chemist to obtain a product used for sterilizing surgical material.


Greasing and oiling

Donít forget to grease the joints of your recorder if necessary. If you have no cork grease (on sale in all music shops) you can use paraffin grease or Vaseline. Note that in emergencies, mineral grease used for machines can work just as well.

Oil the interior of your recorder with olive oil, which is non-drying and does not polymerize in the bore, which would alter the tuning of the instrument over the long term. Olive oil does not go rancid and has no disagreeable smell. Prefer a cold pressed oil which is highly vitaminized and more stable. A good quality kitchen oil will do the trick. Almond oil, often recommended, is not the best choice. It oxidizes quickly, smells rancid and has an unpleasant  sticky contact for a long time as it dries only slowly.

You can also wax the outside of your recorder with liquid beeswax for furniture, which will protect it from marks and fingerprints. I recommend Johnson or Liberon wax. Apply in fine layers and leave to dry an hour, then polish off the excess with a cloth.

To avoid problems of condensation, never put oil in the windway or on the block. Oil your new instrument once a month for 6 months, then every six months.



Use a cloth dipped in soapy water then wrung out well to clean your recorder. Certain textile stain removers such as Hascherpurr can be used to remove finger marks on recorders made of light wood. If your recorder is not varnished and feels sticky, you can use acetone or Essence F on European woods. Donít use solvents on tropical wood like African blackwood (Grenadille) or Brazilian rosewood (Palissandre). The recorder can then be waxed.



Never remove the block from your flute or try any other interventions. The simple act of taking out the block and rubbing it twice on your trousers could profoundly change the sonority of your instrument. Remember that any intervention by you leads to the suspension of the guarantee. It is more reasonable to return your recorder to the workshop since adjustments are free during the period of guarantee.

I advise you to use a stout cardboard box to send your recorder. At the post office you can buy boxes intended for wine which give good protection and are very reasonably priced. Adjust the inside cardboard with a cutter to accommodate your recorder. You can take out an optional insurance up to 1500 euros. Apart from special boxes lined with foam which I use for sending recorders and which are reusable, I recommend the use of new cardboard boxes. The economy realized by reusing an old box bears no comparison to the value of your instrument. For the same reason, always use registered post and put your name and address or those of your recorder maker on a document inside the packet.


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