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:
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.
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
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.
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
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.