#WednesdayWisdom: Lubricating Your Instrument


We’ve gotten a lot of requests recently for additional instructional materials to go along with our Instrument Repair Kits from musicians who are exploring instrument repair. 

For Todays job of oiling your instrument you’ll need:

Your Instrument

Ultimate Key Oil

Ultimax Pivot and Roller Lube

Woodwind Screwdriver

Hinge Tube Cleaner

Today we’ll be talking about lubricating your instrument.  There are a lot of moving parts on woodwind instruments, and they all need oil to keep them moving properly, quietly, and to prevent corrosion.  Some keys are secured to the posts with pivot screws, and some have a rod passing through the hinge tube of the key. On the saxophone and clarinet, you will notice that there are multiple keys with a single rod passing through them.  On the flute, you will notice a system of rods passing through some keys, which are secured in some spots with knock pins.

The Ultimax Key Oil included in your repair kit is a Medium Viscosity Oil, which is a mid-weight non-reactive oil.  It can be used with the existing oil on your instrument.  Your first task is to look your instrument over and identify all of the places where metal contacts metal.  You’ll find where a key end meets a post, where a screw or rod meets a post, where a key on a rod meets another key, and where a spring rests in a cradle.  Go through the entire instrument and put less than a drop of oil on each of these junctures and activate the keys to allow the oil to work its way into the mechanism.  Don’t forget your neck key!

For pivot screw keys, if you’re comfortable removing and replacing pivot screws, apply a small bit of Ultimax Pivot and Roller Lube to the key ends. The lube is thicker than the oil and may help quiet noisy pivots.

If you have any particularly sluggish or clanky keys, you may want to remove the key.  If it has a hinge tube, remove the rod and the key from the instrument, pass the Hinge Tube Cleaner through the hinge tube to remove oil and any debris, work a few drop of oil through the mechanism with the rod, and then put the key back on the instrument. If you have any trouble removing it and you feel at all uncomfortable, stop. If the key is mounted with pivot screws, clean the ends of the key with the Hinge Tube Cleaner, apply oil, and reassemble.

If you’re a true novice, know that nothing needs to be forced that a novice should force. Just locating the problem is step one in repairing it!

Now take a look at the rollers.  If you have a vintage instrument with pearl rollers, you’ll want pay special attention to these because they are notorious for freezing if left un-lubricated for a long time. 

If your rollers move freely, simply apply a small drop of oil and each end and work it through by operating the roller.  If your rollers are sluggish, remove the rod that passes through the roller and work a drop or two of oil through the roller before reinstalling.  If the roller is frozen and the screw will not come out, apply oil to each side and allow it 24 hours to seep into the mechanism and try again.  

If you think the hinge screw in the roller is bound and that you may damage the screwdriver slot, stop. Pearl rollers can crack, so don’t apply significant force if they are frozen.  

Now wipe up any excess oil around the instrument with a paper towel or cloth, and you’re done! Happy repairing!