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Keywork cleaning

I'm about to buy a used oboe, and its silver-plated keys are quite black -- I guess no one cleaned them for a long while. How can I clean them? Can I do it myself, or should I seek professional help? Can it be done without disassembling the keys altogether (I certainly won't try THAT on my own :p)?

uhh, well on an oboe, it's not really gonna happen unfortunately. The keys are in too tight, so you won't be able to clean them all. Disassembling instruments isn't really all that difficult, you just have to pay attention. Pictures help. Whenever I am disassembling an instrument for the first or second time *especially with saxes with different keywork* I'll take them off in order, and lay them out on paper in that same order. I'll also mark which key is which so they will go back on together. All of the rods go back next to the keys as they come off. Has worked well for me, been doing it since 8th grade.

Silver Polish will work to clean them up, just be careful not to rub too hard since it's silver plate.
I've also just bought an oboe and it is now in bits. To take one apart you:

MUST have a good set of screwdrivers that fit the screw slots well.
Store all the rods in the keys, and all the screws stay in the pillars
Clean carefully with a silver polishing cloth
Degrease the rods and pivots before assembly with lighter fuel and pipe cleaners
Oil with good key oil as you reassemble.
Care with the springs, using a small spring hook

Be prepared to knock off corks, so you must be able to replace them. You may notice missing corks if it is an old instrument - they need replacing. This work may be best done by a tech...

If all the pads sealed before you took it apart, there is a good chance that they will seal once you have put it back together again. If they didn't seal before, there is nothing stopping you taking it apart and giving it a good clean, but you then either have to move onto that next level of setting / replacing pads or take it to a tech.

Either way, as long as you do not force anything, use care with the screw driver, do not loose anything - it is always god to know how your instrument mechanically works, and what better way that stripping it and putting it back together.



Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
...if you have a digital camera, make snapshots of what key was where. If unsure, make snaps after each key you remove. Saves a lot of guesswork at reassembling time.
If you don't need the pictures later on, all the better. If you do, buy me a beer for having a clever idea. :cool:
where's waldo-Oboe

Take a shoe lace and tie, screw it, nail it to your work table.

Remove ONE 1 key at a time and polish the key with the shoe lace. Hold the key in your dominant hand, and secure the loose end of the shoe lace in the other hand. Now use a back and forth motion to clean off the tarnish. If you want to get it reallllllly clean, get a jewelery polishing cloth and cur it into strips and do the shoe lace thingy with that.

If you want to disassemble the entire oboe take a piece of thick cardboard and write the name if the key on it as you remove it, punch a hole in the cardboard and place the key, rod or screw in the labeled spot.

Good luck

Joe Piccolo
Thank you all for your replies!
I'm really hesitant about taking it apart myself, so I'll do what I can with a jewellery polishing cloth while it's still in one piece and let it be. I just hope the keys really are silver-plated (Rigoutat's website claims that current models are, but this one was manufactured a long time ago...).

Thanks again! :D
Dip, dip, dip,


Dipping is fine, it removes the tarnish quick, when you remove tarnish by this method you actually remove the silver, or silver plate.

An alternative for you to consider.

Buy gong back to grade 9 chemestry class you can convert the tarnish back to silver.

(If you have a bundy it ma not be so important, but if you have a heirloom quality instrument, you may wish to preserve every ounce of silver.)

What you need

1 plastic container ( shallow ) that all of your key work will fit in ( just submerged in water)

Tin foil ( shiney side up) to line the bottom of the plastic container)

HOT water ( wait for it to boil, let it est off the heat for a min.)

2 Tbl spoons of Calgon water softener ( baking soda )
1 Tbl spoon of salt.


Line the container with foil shiney side up
Add HOT water
Add water softener
Add salt
Add key work

And watch the tarnish transfer from the key work to the shiney side of the tin foil.

Remving tarnish from key work with a dip, or by using the above method does not leave the keys with a lusterous finish. If you looking for that then you need to polish by hand, or use a vibratory polisher.

Hoping this helps.

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Joe Piccolo
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