Wood Headjoint Maintenance Guide

Before playing your new wood headjoint, I highly recommend reading the section on breaking in a wood or ivory flute in John Solum's book, The Early Flute. Wood headjoints do not fare well in quick temperature and climate changes. For example, when going in an air-conditioned room from the outside on a hot sunny afternoon, you should leave the instrument in its protective environment for 5 to 10 minutes before taking it out to play.

Playing a wood headjoint outdoor on a cold day is not recommended. The hot breath passing through the bore will make too drastic a drop in temperature in too short of a time resulting in sudden contraction of the wood.

The condensation inside the headjoint should be wiped dry each time after playing. The inside bore, the embouchure wall, and the outside should be oiled every few months depending on frequency of use and climate. I use almond oil that can be purchased at most fine grocery stores. Any other edible nut oil can be used as well. On boxwood headjoints, I recommend Tried and True food safe Danish oil.

I keep all my wood instruments in a large Tupperware when they are not in use. For a single headjoint, a small Tupperware will suffice. Inside the Tupperware is a small dish of water or humidifier gel crystal, half a nutmeg and a digital hygrometer. The humidity is kept between 65% and the low 70’s. Don’t let the humidity get too high. It’s best not to keep the instruments in their respective cases because the cases won’t need humidity control and can only provide more places for mold to grow. Mold would start to grow when the humidity approaches 75%. Enter the nutmeg. Fresh ground nutmeg has anti-fungal properties. The characteristic smell of nutmeg is due to isoeugenol. Plants develop compounds like isoeugenol as natural pesticides, as defenses against grazing predators, against insects and fungi. In order for the nutmeg to work, you have to be able to smell it by grinding the surface slightly. Do not eat the nutmeg; it’s quite toxic. It’s OK to use it as a spice.


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