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Is "Do it Yourself" Learning Repair Worthwhile?

I'm thrilled with my return to clarinet playing and making great progress, but I'm unsure of DIY repair and maintenance value. I tend to value independence and willing to learn, but I rather devote my time to the musical performance skills. I am to decide whether to invest in tools, supplies, learn from U-tube videos and probably buy a cheap sacrificial instrument or simply take my needs to a local professional. Presently, my clarinet is in fine condition, but I need a tendon joint cork replaced at the bell; a small cork cushion pad on my register key and a single pad adjusted that is not closing tight on one side.

What are the experience thoughts from this community? I have a 1975 LeBlanc Noblet in very good condition and very suitable for my present level of skill. Is there some intrinsic value in caring for all yourself? Should I expect quality local repair to be common and easily found in most major cities (I'm a frequent transient on the US east coast)? What's your advice?


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
It all depends upon everything.

The cost of the proper tools to get the job done are very expensive.
If you are just talking about putting cork on a tenon that is one thing.
That just requires high quality cork (the right thickness), glue and time.
Of course, after I add tenon cork I put it on a lathe to round the edges and make sure the thickness is close to perfect as I can. Some others use other methods and other don't do anything after putting the new cork on.

Also, if you repair makes it worse then that's another thing.
Getting into repair is best if you use a 2nd clarinet in disrepair and get it as best as you can. Then repeat and improve it.
If you mess up your primary clarinet (break a spring by accident, break the tenon .. who knows, then you have other problems and other costs on new tools and learning new techniques.

Watching videos on it does not teach experience. Just a basic process. many times one learns a basic process but then have to evolve as their knowledge & experience evolves.

MusicMedic.com sells tools for repair if you want to get into it.
Or at least peruse the prices for stuff.


Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Yes there is value in learning to simple repairs and maintenance yourself. I second the idea of purchasing a "beater" clarinet to practice on. There are some tricks to removing the old tenon cork and adhesive before putting the new cork on. This article may be of help: Clarinet Tenon Cork Replacement A handy tool (if you don't have a lathe) is a Bench Peg. You drill a 3/8" hole in the front of your wooden work bench, insert the bench peg and then place the end of the joint you are re-corking over the peg, and hold it in place with your stomach. This allows you to sand the overlap area and bevel the edges using a narrow strip of sandpaper or emery cloth (about 240 grit) without needing an assistant to hold the clarinet. When doing this it is important to be careful to only sand the cork and not the wooden (or plastic) areas of the clarinet around the cork. To add corks and felts to the bottom or feet of keys requires some single edge razor blades, a straight edge, and contact cement.
Most clarinets take 3/64" cork for tenons. You can use 1/6", but it generally involves more sanding.

A great introduction to DIY clarinet maintenance and repair is to disassemble, clean and oil, and then reassemble your "beater" clarinet. Do this several times until it becomes easy and you become familiar with all of the keys and the best assembly order. For this you will need a good screwdriver (check out WIHA), key oil (I like Music Medic), and a spring hook (Music Medic). Good luck.


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
To add on to this, if you've never done any repair you want to start slow.

Such as take the register key of and put back on first. (screwdriver needed)
Look at how the key operates first. Notice that the spring is normally in a small slot (or maybe not) you'll have to judge and replicate the setup once you put the key back on.

Then try the throat keys take off/ put back on. Paying particular attention to the needle springs which are on a cradle (screwdriver & spring hook needed)

Then the side trill keys - off then back on. (screwdriver)

If all of that was no hassle,

Then take all the above off, and then take the upper stack off and back on noticing the needle springs (screwdriver, spring hook).

That will give you the confidence and knowledge of how to take things on and off.

For example, you normally would take the keywork off as the upper stack has the bridge key which can get in the way to replace the upper joint, lower tenon cork.
Also for me, with a lathe, all keywork is off for any tenon cork as when the instrument spins (slow speed) you don't want the keywork there as the forces may break something.

For the lower joint or upper joint upper tenon cork you don't have to take the keywork off.

When you take tenon cork off you need to get the cork off (razor blade works) and make sure it's off really good clean.
mine get's wisked clean using the lathe and ragging tape which clean it to the wood without many issues and is very fast.

If you get regular sheet cork this is the best option.
You can use calipers to measure the width of the tenon cut
Then cut the sheet cork to match (very sharp razor blade, metal ruler to butt up against and a flat smooth hard surface which is soft will get cut by the razor blade). test it couple times wrapping it around the tenon/
shave a 45 degree angle to one edge of the cut cork strip
then glue that edge and the bottom of the cork, and also the tenon with a thin layer of contact cement
wait about 10 minutes - when you put the cork on start with the 45 degree cut side first.
be careful, with the 10 minutes wait time the two surfaces will stick immediately and be hard to take off.
then slowly wrap around tightly.
As you wrap it, it will overlap the start of the cork which has a 45 degree cut into it and make it a flat connection between the two pieces.
then cut off the excess and sand the joint flat/round.

it's really quite easy once you've done it tons of times.
The quality of the cork really matters. If it has "chunks" in it you'll feel it as you cut. If it's too porous or dry it may break as you bend it.
my cork is stored in a mostly humidity controlled environment as I also deal with wood.
Thank you Steve & jbtsax. With your advice I'll take care to start with minimal tasks and with a measured and serious approach. I believe I'll take my clarinet for professional repair now and just stick to some baby steps at this time.