The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #61733   Message #995749
Posted By: Uncle Jaque
02-Aug-03 - 10:29 PM
Thread Name: Jacob's Wooden Flutes
Subject: RE: Jacob's Wooden Flutes
I hope it works for ya, Garg.

Oiling will also increase the density of the wood, which in turn will increase it's harmonic resonance. When wood is dry and spongy, it absorbs a lot of the sonic impulses - vibrations, if you will - sort of like a... well,.. a sponge!

When oil replaces the air inside and beween those parched cellulose structures, things start to respong differently.
Oil, of course, unlike most gasses (like air) is pretty much non-compressable. That's why it's used so much in hydraulic systems like bulldozers, for instance.

When an impulse hits one side of an oil-saturated wood cell, it gets transmitted right on down the line essentially as it arrived, instead of being cushioned and dissipated by a microscopic "air-bag"... actually millions of 'em.

It can take a while to adequately permeate a wooden instrument with oil, and no doubt some Concert Oboest out there will take me to task for reccomending a practice that is generally condemned by conventional woodwinds wisdom - but it works for me!

In the Summer I have been know to lay my well oiled fife on some paper towels (to sop up the excess) on the dashboard of my van and give it a good solar baking to drive the oil even deeper into the grain.

On my "Sweetheart" Bb Military Fife, if it drys out too much not only will it sound a little dull and "off", but hitting the high register "B" (that's as high as I go!) becomes difficult if not impossible.

In my musical kit-bag I keep a little plastic squeeze-bottle (recycled; came with dishwasher drying agent) of mineral oil, and another of dark sesame seed oil to assure that my fifes stay regularly lubed up.

A section of shotgun cleaning - rod tipped with a .410 or 28-guage shotgun bore swab (depending on the instrument's bore) keeps the bore oiled as well. Sometimes I stick the oily swab down into the breech end as far as the cork (carefully so as not to knock it sharp), unscrew the rod from it and store it right in there. There is usually room for a bottle cork to stop the end if you like, corking the swab right in there ready for the next greasing, and the oily swab does not get oil all over my kit-bag (and stuff therein, like sheet music) when the rod is stowed. Some old wooden shotgun rods come in short sections which can be taken down into a couple of pieces and stowed in a haversack while on parade, etc.. - these also come in handy if you need to re-tune somewhere along the way.

For people to say that wooden flutes etc. should only be "lightly" oiled, I have this retort;

What is one of the most popular kinds of hard, dense, resonant exotic wood for building wind - driven musical instruments?

Ebony, right?

It seems that ebony is getting so scarce and expensive that it's classified as a "semi-precious wood" these days, if not an "Endangered Species" and like ivory, verboten to use after a certain date.
Does anyone know about that?

Anyway...; do you know how ebony is prepared for market?

From what the Sawyers at our local exotic-wood Supplier tells me (I pop in to scrounge scraps and cutoffs from time to time), they haul the cut ebony trunk in, rough-saw it into beams about the size of railroad ties, and submerge them "racked - up" in big vats set into the ground underneath the surface of a pool of - OIL!!! Nice black, crude, tarry oil. Apparently they are not above using used motor oil for the job, in a pinch.

Then they leave them in there for several YEARS to soak up all the oil they can, to the point of total saturation, before moving on for export and processing.

Might that suggest anything about how much oil you might want to annoint your wooden flute, fife, or (as far as I know) recorder with?

I rather opine that it does, actually!

Let us know how much of a difference it makes, won't you?