Clarinet Bore Oil Information

22nd February 2024

In this blog (with demonstration video) we discuss the how and why of oiling the internal bore of a wooden musical instrument. In this example we’re demonstrating using a Bb Clarinet, but the same technique and reasoning applies to any wooden bodied instrument.

Why Use Clarinet Bore Oil?

It’s very important to keep the wooden body of your clarinet (or indeed any wooden instrument) well conditioned with bore oil. This prevents the wood from drying out and will help defend against cracks.

Before a wooden instrument is made the wood is treated by the manufacturers but then it is machined and someone starts blowing into it! This means the wood is constantly heating and cooling whilst moisture forms inside which can be damaging.

How & When To Apply

Firstly, be sure to use a separate pull-through (swab) for oiling compared to your daily moisture removal pull-through. Follow the steps below (and check the video above) to complete the process:

  • Lay out your oiling cloth + add 10 drips of oil (if you over-oil it can cause damage to the pads)
  • Starting with the barrel pull your cloth through each joint a couple of times in each direction
  • When pulling through the top joint start at the barrel end so you can pull it back more easily if it gets stuck
  • Check that you can see a thin smear of oil down the bore – if not you may need more oil on the cloth
  • Wipe the end sockets with the cloth at the end of the oiling process

We’re often asked “how often should I oil my Clarinet?” and it depends on a few factors such as age, usage and atmospheric conditions. These would be our recommendations:

  • New Instrument: Oil the bore twice weekly for the first 2-3 months
  • Ongoing Maintenance: We we recommend once or twice a month
  • Older Instruments: Once every 2-3 months but more regularly won’t harm it
  • Condition Changes: The change of seasons and/or storage conditions are important times to ensure good maintenance

Which Clarinet Bore Oil Is Best?

Clarinet bore oil can be created from a range of different base materials. We prefer the oils that are fully natural in their ingredients. So, our main recommendation is the Weinberg Bore Oil.

This oil is made from pure flower oils and is hydrophilic. This helps the wood to breathe whilst moisturising its fibres. It’s suitable for use on new and/or older instruments. Check out our full range of clarinet bore oils here.

Contrasting Advice/Opinion

Some manufacturers and/or players suggest that oiling is not always necessary on new instruments. Based on our experience of 50+ years selling many thousands of different wooden instruments to players of all levels and in different locations, we would argue that’s not necessarily the most sensible advice!

If a new instrument in particular is (a) over-played and (b) not correctly dried & moisturised there will be a higher percentage chance of cracks occurring. We know this having spent a large amount of time in the 2000’s tracking and measuring cases.

Buffet E13 Clarinet

More importantly there is no scenario where the correct oiling of a bore (with good oil) would cause any harm whatsoever. Whereas, we have seen many instances where new clarinets that are not oiled (or dried out properly) have a much higher percentage chance of cracking.

In summary, oiling the bore of your clarinet should be part of your regular maintenance routine to ensure the long-lasting performance and health of your instrument. Download our Clarinet Maintenance PDF here.