Oiling the Bore

Oiling the Bore of a Bassoon

I once heard that Heckel in the early part of the 20th century would soak the wood blanks for their bassoons in oil for ten years. This made these instruments extremely non-porous, stable and resonant although the pads apparently were prone to stickiness on new instruments. Most of these instruments are still in good playing condition. Sadly, the wood on most new instruments these days is desperately dry. If you doubt this, get a small bottle of raw (not boiled ) linseed oil (this will be a life-time’s supply) and, with your finger, dab a very little on to a small patch of bare wood on the inside of the bell or long joint. (Keep clear of tone-holes). Then notice how quickly it will get sucked into the wood. If it just sits on the surface for up to a week, you really don’t need to do anything. But, if it gets absorbed quite quickly, you need to do the following every summer.

1) Make sure your instrument is free of moisture (i.e. you’ve not played it for several days).

2) Carefully remove the U-bend.

3) Cover all the pads with a piece of aluminium foil twisted round the key or use a couple of layers of cling-film.

4) Buy one of those nylon filament ‘feather dusters’ that you can get really cheaply in shops like Poundland in the UK.

5) Use this to clean out the dust from the bell and long joints. 

6) If a deposit has built up on the surface of the wood from previous years’ oilings, I am told that this can be removed by cleaning it off with a little turpentine.

7) Next, drizzle some bore oil on to your ‘feather duster’. What I use is raw linseed oil (boiled is a bit too thick) but almond oil is also good, and you can get special bore oil from woodwind shops which I’m sure is fine. Work it round inside the bore of the bell joint and the long joint until all the wood is just covered with a thin film then leave it standing upright for a week if you can, turning it the other way up every so often.

8) Next, trim another ‘feather duster’ with scissors so that you can repeat the above with the wide (unlined) half of the butt joint, paying particular attention to the lowest 2 or 3 inches which are prone to water exposure.

9) When all the  oil has been absorbed, screw the U-bend back with a small smear of Vaseline petroleum jelly or cork grease or almond oil on the gasket. Tighten the screws finger-tight and then use pliers to tighten them another eighth or quarter of a turn.

Chip Owen from Fox Bassoons wrote an article on bore oiling which used to be on the Fox bassoon web site. If you can find it, it is very informative and I bow to his superior knowledge.

He also wrote an article on maintenance which is worth reading: https://www.foxproducts.com/sites/www.foxproducts.com/files/TakingCareOfYourBassoon.pdf