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Topic: Waxing string-wrapped tenons

I need some advice regarding waxing my string-wrapped tenons.  How often and how much should I put on them?  Also, is it OK to put wax on them in a liquid form (heat the wax and lightly brush it on)?  My new Renard 240 appears to need wax but I don't want to over do it.  Thanks.

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Re: Waxing string-wrapped tenons

Hi DJ,
   You can melt the wax into the threads if you want. Rub it on the threads and then use a hairdryer to melt the wax. Another way to wax threads, (its the one I use most often) is to rub the wax onto the thread and then grip the threaded tenon with your hand and rub the wax into the threads with a quick twisting motion of the hand. You'll find that your hand will generate enough heat to melt the wax into the thread.
  From your post I suspect that your new 240 has swelled a bit because of humidity. Don't force the joints all the way together if this is what is happening. A little bit of space isn't going to make much difference in the playing of the instrument, but joints getting stuck together can be a pain to get apart. Try to keep your bassoon in an air conditioned room and keep a couple of those silica packets in the case.
Jim Kirker

www.kirkerbassoonrepair.com

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Re: Waxing string-wrapped tenons

Excellent.  Many thanks as always!

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Re: Waxing string-wrapped tenons

Jim - Can you tell me what the preferred humidity level is for a wooden bassoon?  I live in FL and would assume the humiduty is too high.  However, I would not want to over dessicate it.

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Re: Waxing string-wrapped tenons

Probably the best humidity level for a bassoon would be whatever the humidity level  was in the factory in which the bassoon was made. And having said that, I really couldn't tell you what that is. LOL! I have a fairly wide range that I think is "safe" humidity and that is between 40 and 60 percent. Under 40% and the wood starts to shrink a bit too much and the tenons can become loose in the sockets. Above 60% and the wood begins to swell enough to cause problems with tenons getting stuck in the sockets. Keeping the bore well oiled will help a bit with this problem, but its a problem that rarely goes away totally.
Jim Kirker

www.kirkerbassoonrepair.com

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Re: Waxing string-wrapped tenons

I know 45% is typically considered optimum for guitars.  I'll shoot to maintain it around 50%.  Thanks again.

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Re: Waxing string-wrapped tenons

Jim, et al,

I've owned several instruments by various manufacturers and have even a bit of experience working with one of the big ones.  In addition, I spoke at length with a small maker of great reknown a couple of years ago about this very thing.

I have noticed, and seek your opinion on this, that certain instruments with a lot of wood aging and, as you say, oil impregnation have little difficulty with this.  Certain manufacturers seem to be able to compensate for this influence enough that even new instruments with cork joints seldom if ever have wood-to-wood contact let alone binding joints.  For instance, I have always had my string-wrapped tenons rewrapped with cork but have never had to resand the corks or supplement the cork with string or the like on these certain manufacturers but I've had to actually have the tenons sanded on another major brand, three different instruments, even thought they were all fantastic in other playing qualities.  Also,  I've seen a lot of instruments with metal bands on the bass joint tenons (colleague's intruments) get stuck regardless of the manufacture.  So, my question is: Do you think that this is an across-the-board kind of phenomenon or one that seems to only occur with certain types of wood and manufacture method (not quality, I don't mean to imply this). 

I'm curious about thoughts on this beyond my limited experience.

Thanks!

Matthew Harvell
Richmond Symphony Orchestra


deanie wrote:

Probably the best humidity level for a bassoon w
ould be whatever the humidity level  was in the factory in which the bassoon was made. And having said that, I really couldn't tell you what that is. LOL! I have a fairly wide range that I think is "safe" humidity and that is between 40 and 60 percent. Under 40% and the wood starts to shrink a bit too much and the tenons can become loose in the sockets. Above 60% and the wood begins to swell enough to cause problems with tenons getting stuck in the sockets. Keeping the bore well oiled will help a bit with this problem, but its a problem that rarely goes away totally.
Jim Kirker

Last edited by harvellm (2008-07-12 04:46:47)

Re: Waxing string-wrapped tenons

Hi Matthew,
   Probably the person here that can speak on this subject with the greatest knowledge concerning bassoons is Chip. Most of what I know is from observation (often misleading) and reading up on wood from various mags and books. I know moisture exchange is a problem for everybody that works with wood. There are a lot of articles and essays written in fine woodworking mags and books concerning this subject, detailing the many ways to limit moisture exchange in fine furniture etc. The problem with instruments is not only limiting moisture exchange, but doing it in a way that doesn't have a negative effect on the accoustics of the instrument. I have never seen a bassoon of any age or make that doesn't have this problem to some degree.
I, like yourself, prefer cork on the tenons of my bassoon. I've had the same cork on my 601 for almost 16 years now. The string wrap is good for the bass joint of student model bassoons, as it adds a bit of strength to the lower tenon. I've never liked it on any pro model bassoon. I've only had one case with all the Renard bassoons that I've sold where the wood swelled so much that there was wood on wood binding. It's usually the thread, which is a bit less forgiving than cork which seems to bind. With the exception of the tenor joint, I can't see any advantage to putting metal bands on tenons. Here in New England they invariably come loose in the winter and sometimes get stuck in the sockets of the boot or bell, making it incredibly hard to pull the joints apart.
As for reeds in the summer I have to disagree with the reasoning above. Humidity affects reeds way more than it does bassoons. Take a reed that on a cool, dry day has a nice healthy crow, take it out to use on a hot, humid day and the crow will be high and pinched. I know that for a long time, and perhaps even today, people thought that the pitch of the bassoon went up during the summer because of the bore closing up due to swelling. But a narrower bore would probably make the pitch go down a bit, not up. The change in pitch is due to temperature. I think the ratio for pitch change/temperature change on a bassoon is for every 1 degree F the temperature goes up, the pitch will climb 2 cents. So, all things being equal (reed, bassoon, bocal etc) using a reed that was made to play at A440 in 70 degree weather and playing it outdoors in 80 degree weather will cause the pitch to climb around 20 cents.
Jim

www.kirkerbassoonrepair.com

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Re: Waxing string-wrapped tenons

Waxing string-wrapped tenons on bassoons - NO.
Hugh Cooper explained to me years back that string wrapped tenons of a bassoon should never be waxed and expecially never use cork grease either. The wax can actually over short time, deteriorate the string! 

Therefore, I have always followed Cooper's maxim: Use parafin on string wrapped tenons. Stick parafin, available in grocery markets is fine. No need to heat the parafin, just apply it as it comes from a  parafin block or candle, then use a cotton cloth to rub around the tenon and to distribute the parafin equally around all of the wrapping. This will assure good lubrication, and it will protect the string wrapping for many years. Sincerely, Gerald Corey

Last edited by COFOUNDERIDRS (2008-08-10 16:50:02)

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Re: Waxing string-wrapped tenons

Um, parafin IS the type of wax we use. Heating it either by rubbing by hand or heating it with a hair dryer helps distribute it evenly on and somewhat into the string wrap. Heating it also helps it bond a bit with the string so that it actually lasts longer. I also find that heating it helps form the string to the shape of the socket for a better fit.
Jim Kirker

www.kirkerbassoonrepair.com