One of the most common woodwind repair needs is replacement of a clarinet or oboe tenon cork (or bassoon, if you have cork joints, or wooden piccolo, or recorder…). It’s an easy job, and doesn’t require much more than a piece of cork and a few minutes. Let’s do it.
A few weeks ago, I replaced the bell tenon cork on this clarinet with a composite cork product, made from compressed cork bits. It’s cheaper than traditional solid cork, so I thought I would give it a try to see how well it compares. But the cork I used was too thin, and the bell was too loose. I’m going to try the experiment again with a thicker composite cork, but you can do this exactly the same way whether you’re using solid or composite. You can get either kind from MusicMedic.com.
First peel off the old cork.
Remove as much of the old cork and glue as possible, so the new cork will be smooth and even.
Measure a piece of the old cork to see how thick it was. A small sliding caliper is handy for this, if you’ve got one.
Find a new piece of cork that’s the right thickness. In this case, I’m intentionally going a little thicker than the old cork.
Cut a strip to the right width for the groove in the tenon, long enough to wrap around plus a little extra. Since the cork is crumbly, especially the composite cork, you need a very sharp blade to get a clean cut. I’m using a new razor blade.
At one end of the strip, sand one side to make a ramp.
Wipe off any leftover cork dust from the sanding. Apply a very thin coat of contact cement to the ramp, to the entire back side of the strip, and to the groove in the clarinet tenon.
Wait a few minutes until all the glue is completely dry.
Starting from the ramp end, press the cork into the groove on the tenon. The ramped side faces up. The dry contact cement bonds instantly, so take your time and make sure everything is lined up right. Sort of massage the cork into the groove with your fingers, to make sure as much surface area of the cork as possible bonds to the wood.
Wrap the cork all the way around, and up onto the ramp. Pay special attention to where the cork overlaps onto itself, and make sure it’s securely bonded.
Trim away the excess cork, and sand the seam smooth.
With the composite cork, the seam is practically invisible if you do a good job with the sanding.
Generously apply a quality cork lubricant.