Musikinstrumente + Verlag GmbH

MOECK • Lückenweg 4  D-29227 Celle

Tel +49-5141-8853-0  info(at)

Oiling wooden recorders

Recorders are heavily exposed to moisture. In order to maintain the tone quality and prevent the wood from cracking, it is necessary to oil the instruments frequently.

Which recorders have to be oiled?

Our recorders made of maple (not waxed with paraffin), boxwood, ebony, grenadilla, olive, palisander, plum or rosewood have to be oiled in order to maintain their quality. Instruments made of maple and pearwood on the other hand do not necessarily have to be oiled if they have been impregnated with paraffin. However oiling will not do them any harm.

How often does a recorder have to be oiled?

As a rule one can say that the bore should always be slightly greasy. The recorder is well protected when it shines a little from the inside. Should the bore however look dull and greyish then the instrument desperately needs a coat of oil. The instruments differ as to how frequently they have to be oiled and there is no overall rule. It is best to observe your instrument carefully and treat it with great caution. You will find this most rewarding!

Which parts of the recorder have to be oiled?

Wood that has been varnished does not have to be oiled. Otherwise one can apply oil to all parts apart from the windway. In order to avoid the oil from leaking anywhere near this area, one should refrain from applying oil to the block as well as the parts of the labium (see below).

Which is the right type of oil?

It is advisable to use sweet almond oil since its consistency is thin and odourless. It can be applied easily and does not leave any sticky remains. This vegetable oil is absorbed by the pores of the wood and forms a film that protects the recorder from moistness. The Moeck- maintenance kit contains almond oil but one can also purchase it at a chemist's or at a drug-store. For keys it is recommendable to use sewing machine or special key-oil. These mineral oils do not harden and prevent the mechanism from clogging.

What is needed to oil the recorder?

  • recorder oil – we recommend almond oil
  • a paintbrush – as fine as possible
  • a cotton cloth
  • an oil brush – one can also use bottle or spout brushes that can be obtained in a supermarket. These brushes are made of pig bristle or plastic and are quite stiff. Nevertheless you cannot damage the wood of your recorder with these brushes when employing them carefully. The fluffy woollen cleaning rods one used to use are not recommendable since bits of fluff can get stuck in the bore. It is best oiling recorders on a plastic sheet to avoid inevitable oil stains.

Many professional recorder makers and players that play on instruments made of palisander, plum- or rosewood or unwaxed maple like to use refined linseed oil which is thicker, hardens slightly and eventually seals the instrument. However, linseed oil has its disadvantages: firstly, often a resin-like residue remains sticking on the instrument which is very hard to remove and secondly, it goes bad rather quickly (you can tell by the unpleasant smell), so that one no longer can use it. Also linseed oil is inflammable and consequently not very safe. Cleaning cloths soaked with linseed oil should be carefully observed. We therefore advise our customers against the use of linseed oil and recommend to follow our oiling instructions using almond oil only.

Please feel free to ask the advice of our recorder makers on the use of linseed oil.

How to oil your recorder correctly:

Before oiling your recorder it should be thoroughly dry. Never try to oil a recorder you have just played on, since dampness will then remain in the wood. You can protect the key pads of your instrument from oil by covering the fingerholes from the outside with some tissue. The most important part that has to be oiled is the bore of the instrument since most of the moisture collects here.

The middle - and foot joint are the most easy to oil. Apply a few drops of oil on to the inner edge of the foot hole and push the cleaning brush with turning motion through the foot joint until it appears on the other side. Then pull the brush while turning it, back again. Now examine the joint carefully from the inside and check that the whole inner part is covered with a smooth coat of oil. If there are still some dry spots then repeat the procedure once more.

One should take great care when oiling the head joint and ensure that no oil drips on to the block. Always hold the head joint with the beak pointing up in order to prevent oil from trickling into the windway. Now take the oily brush and push it carefully with turning motion slowly into the head joint until you see the top of the brush at the window. Continue turning very carefully until the point of the brush (there should be no oil on it) touches the block very lightly. Now pull the brush out again while turning it, and check the inside of the head joint if it is covered all over with a coat of oil. If necessary repeat the procedure by adding a few drops of oil.

One can rub the exterior of recorders that are not varnished with a slightly oiled cotton cloth to give them an attractive warm shine. When oiling the head joint, always take care not to let any oil drip into the windway. Rub the head joint with a cloth but leave out the beak and in particular the blowing end. Oil the surfaces of the labium with a fine paintbrush while taking special care not to come near the windway. Since oil leaks it will cover the side surfaces of the labium by itself. The joints should be left standing vertically to dry e.g. on a plate, and left for several hours or overnight so that the wood can absorb as much oil as possible. After this, one should remove any excess oil with a clean cotton cloth.

Important rules when oiling:

  • The instrument must be dry before applying oil!
  • Hold the head joint vertically with the beak pointing up!
  • Ensure that no oil drips on to the block!
  • Take care that no oil drips on to the surfaces of the windway!
  • The wood of the recorder needs some time to absorb the oil!
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