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Irish Flute Maintenance

The rule of thumb is that wooden flutes require a great deal more care than metal flutes. Wooden flutes can crack, for example, and regular cleanings and oilings of the bore and tone holes of the flute may help prevent cracks from forming. Vigilance regarding your instrument's condition is the best preventive measure.

Before playing, grease each joint with cork grease. Your cork fittings will last longer if you develop this good habit. After playing, run a soft dry cloth through the bore of the flute to remove moisture and dust. Oil your flute monthly. As you perform these maintenance activities, take careful note of your flute's condition. A leaky cork, for example, can result in weak, out-of-tune playing. Is there a leak in the cork in the head joint? (Replace it.) Does your inspection reveal any loose joints, loose liner, cracks, leaks, or an improperly seated key? (Ask around for a referral to a professional who regularly repairs instruments similar to yours.)

Storage Tips

Rapid temperature changes are to be avoided, as they can lead to cracks. Because it helps your flute avoid excesses in temperature, a flute case is a required piece of equipment. The best strategy is to always keep your flute broken down in its case when you are not playing it. By breaking the flute down completely before storage, you are saving your cork fittings from needless compression, which can in turn produce looseness in the joints.

Oiling

Every month, oil your flute inside and out, taking care to keep oil away from inside metal liners and the keypads. In the case of newly made flutes, some experts think a weekly oiling can improve their tone. But which oil is best to use? Some of the most popular choices are raw linseed oil, cosmetic-grade almond oil, and woodwind bore oil. Mineral oil and petroleum-derived oils may be harmful to instruments, so refrain from using those. If you choose linseed oil, ensure that you have raw linseed oil, not boiled; the boiled kind could gunk up the bore of the flute.

Moisten the tone holes with a Q-tip swab dunked in oil, and swab the bore with a lightly oiled cloth. After the oil has soaked in for a couple of hours, wipe the flute down with a dry cloth, removing all oil around the bore and the joints. You're done!