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How to Take Apart and Swab Your Oboe

Oboe lying on side next to Hodge silk oboe swab.

Why should you swab your oboe?

To ensure your instrument is well maintained, you must clean it after every time you play. This will help keep the pads in good condition and stop them from swelling, which can cause a leak in the instrument.

The Process

Oboe reed being twisted out of oboe body.

1. Begin by taking your reed out carefully, again ensuring you do not touch the cane.

Person blowing through oboe reed.

2. Remove any excess water by either blowing through the staple end of the reed, or very gently brushing the water away with your fingers.

Oboe reed being put into reed case with 2 other reeds.

3. Put the reed back in its case.

Hands on either end of oboe, twisting.

4. Holding the top of the top joint and the bottom of the bottom joint, slightly twist them apart without putting pressure on the keywork. Be careful to avoid hitting any keys together.

Two images side by side. On the left, the bottom half of the oboe is placed on a table. On the right, the bottom half of the oboe is placed into the oboe case, resting.

5. Place the bottom half down on a steady surface, such as on a table or in your case.

Oboe swab is pulled through a hand.

6. Taking your cleaning swab and check that there aren’t any knots or twists in it.

Weighted end of the oboe swab is being guided through the end of the oboe.

7. Guide the weighted end through the larger opening of the top joint.

Oboe swab is being pulled through the top joint with an arrow pointing towards the smaller end of the joint.

8. Slowly and gently pull the swab through, stopping about halfway. Do not attempt to pull the cloth all the way through this joint as it will get stuck. If this happens, do not attempt to remove it yourself with pliers as this can damage your instrument.

Oboe swab is being pulled back through the oboe, with an arrow pointing towards the larger opening.

9. When the swab is halfway in, pull the swab out again in the opposite direction. Once should be sufficient to clean the joint.

Two images side by side. On the left, the end cap is being placed over the tenon. On the right, the top joint is being put into the oboe case.

10. Replace the cork cap and put your cleaned top joint back in the case.

Oboe swab being pulled through bottom joint, with arrows pointing into the bell and out the other end.

11. Take the bottom joint and guide the weighted end of your swab through the bell and bottom joint. You can pull this straight through and repeat as needed.

Two images side by side. On the left, the bell has been removed. On the right, the silk swab is being used to wipe water out of the joints.

12. Hold the joints as you did while assembling and twist the joints apart. If there is any excess water in the joints, wipe it out with your swab.

Oboe case being closed.

13. Place both pieces back into your case and close it securely.

Now your oboe is clean and dry, ready for your next practice session!

Bonus Tips

Tip 1. Not all moisture can always be removed from your reed, so you may get some build up inside the staple. You can use a small dental floss brush to remove any build up in the staple. When doing this, make sure you hold the cork or binding.

Small brush is being inserted into the bottom of an oboe reed.

Tip 2. Keep your swabs in good condition by letting them dry out after use and washing them in a cold cycle every few weeks in a laundry delicates bag.

Swabs are inside a white delicates bag and are

What to do if your swab gets stuck?

A. Tug it reaaaaally hard?

B. Pull it out with some plyers?

C. Poke it out with a skewer?

D. Call a professional instrument repairer.

That's right - D is correct! A professional instrument repairer will have the right tools to remove your swab safely. If you are in Melbourne, Australia, come and see the skill technicians at Windcraft Repair.

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