Do you want to know how to oil your piccolo headjoint? I kind of wish I learned this when I got my first full wood piccolo because I could have prevented a crack or at least minimized it.
Luckily, you don’t have to make the same mistake I did. Read on to learn how to oil your piccolo headjoint, why you should, and when to do it!
But first, this post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure policy to learn more.
How to Oil Your Piccolo Headjoint
If you have a wood headjoint, you need to take special steps to care for it. You can’t just swab it out after you play the piccolo and expect it to stay in good condition.
While the usual piccolo maintenance is important, you may want to learn how to oil your piccolo headjoint. That way, you can keep the wood from drying out between visits to the piccolo repair tech.
Follow these steps if you want to oil your (wood) piccolo headjoint.
What You Need
First, you need to gather some supplies, especially if you’ve never oiled your headjoint or any other wood instrument before. You’ll want to have:
- Paper towels
- Cotton swabs
- Almond oil (or avocado oil if you have a nut allergy)
- A wood piccolo headjoint (you don’t need to and shouldn’t oil metal or plastic headjoints)
You can get most of this stuff from your local grocery or drug store. I ordered almond oil online since I wasn’t sure where to look when I wanted to first oil my piccolo headjoint.
Set Up Your Workspace
Once you have everything, you’ll want to find a clean workspace. Ideally, this would be in a place free of pets and kids because you don’t want them to distract you. But you’ll also want a space where you can let the piccolo headjoint sit for a few hours undisturbed.
I used my desk because it’s pretty clear of clutter, and I just moved my laptop to the side so that it was out of the way. Then, you can place a paper towel on the workspace to keep the oil from getting on the table or desk.
Keep an extra paper towel or two on hand in case you spill the almond oil. You can also grab a couple of cotton swabs if you haven’t already.
Grab the Piccolo Headjoint
After you’re done playing the piccolo for the day (or at least a few hours), you can take it off the body. Put the body in the case to protect it, and place the headjoint on the paper towel.
The headjoint may roll around, so you can hold it in place with one hand. But at least until you add the oil, it doesn’t matter if your piccolo head rolls to the side.
Dip the Swab in Oil
Next, you’ll want to open the almond or avocado oil that you bought. If it’s the first time you’re using it, you may need to remove a seal, which I’d do in your kitchen in case of spills.
Once you’re back at your workstation, you can dip a cotton swab in the oil. You don’t need to use a ton of oil just for your wood piccolo headjoint.
Run the swab over the outside of the headjoint, but be careful not to get too close to the tenon ring or crown. You can get close to them, but I wouldn’t risk damaging those parts.
Avoid the Embouchure Hole
As you swab the piccolo headjoint, you should also avoid getting too close to the embouchure hole. If you do, oil can get into the inside of the headjoint, which sounds fine.
However, the oil could then seep into the cork and break the seal. That can cause issues from tuning to making a good sound at all, so you don’t want to risk it.
If you want to watch a video from a professional tech about these steps, I recommend this one from Flute Authority:
Why Oil Your Piccolo Headjoint
As important as it is to know how to oil your piccolo headjoint, you may wonder why you should do so. Now, I already mentioned that you ONLY need to do this with wood headjoints.
So if you have a plastic or metal piccolo, this tutorial and these benefits aren’t for you. But you can save them for when you’re ready to upgrade to a wood piccolo.
Have a wood piccolo? Here are a few reasons why you may want to oil the headjoint between trips to the repair shop.
Reduce the Risk of Cracks
One of the best reasons to learn how to oil your piccolo headjoint is that wood can crack. You could be as careful as possible, and the headjoint could still develop cracks.
This happened to me in the summer of 2021. Sure, I may have been able to prevent it, but there’s no guarantee, and I can’t go back in time anyway.
However, I can start to oil my piccolo headjoint regularly to prevent future cracks and keep the prior crack from reopening (it was repaired). Oiling your wooden headjoint every so often is one extra safeguard to protect against damage.
Go Longer Between COAs
A clean, oil, and adjust (COA) is basically like the piccolo or flute version of a car’s oil change. You can take your instrument to a professional who can do a deeper clean than what you can do at home.
They’ll also usually oil the mechanism and the wood (if it’s a wood instrument). Finally, a tech can adjust the mechanism to make sure everything works properly.
While a COA is NOT a replacement for regular piccolo service, it can help you last longer between visits. That way, you won’t have to worry as much about the wood drying out.
Start to Learn Piccolo Repair
Maybe you love working in the music industry but not as a performer or teacher. An under-appreciated yet vital profession is that of instrument repair.
If you find that you enjoy oiling your piccolo headjoint or that of your friends, you may want to become a repair tech. The path isn’t for everyone, and it requires a lot of training.
But we need good flute and piccolo technicians, and we need them all over the country and world. So if you have an interest, doing small bits of work on your instruments is a great place to start.
When to Oil Your Piccolo Headjoint
You now know the how and why of oiling your wood piccolo headjoint. However, you may still wonder when you should break out your almond oil.
I can’t stress enough how you should only oil wood headjoints. If you oil a metal headjoint, it will just run off, and I’m not sure what would happen to a plastic headjoint, but I don’t want to find out.
A time to oil the headjoint is when the seasons are changing, so the weather is getting cooler or warmer. Wood can expand and contract in extreme temperatures.
While oiling the headjoint won’t always prevent cracks, it can keep the piccolo from getting too dry to where a crack is more likely to happen than not. For that reason, if you live somewhere dry, you may need to oil your headjoint more often.
Can You Oil the Body of Your Piccolo?
Technically, there’s nothing stopping you from oiling your piccolo body. However, I’d HIGHLY recommend not doing that unless you’re a trained and experienced technician.
If you oil the body at home, the oil could seep into the keys and ruin the pads and mechanism. A piccolo tech, meanwhile, can remove the keys and oil the body of your piccolo safely.
Should You Oil Your Plastic Piccolo Headjoint?
You don’t need to oil your plastic piccolo headjoint. Plastic is much more durable than wood, and it can handle changes in the temperature much more easily.
How Often Should You Oil Your Wood Piccolo Headjoint?
The frequency at which you should oil your wood headjoint depends on the instrument, where you live, and how much you play it. So I’d talk to your technician to see what they recommend.
As you advance, should learn how to oil your piccolo headjoint, especially once you upgrade to a wood head. That way, you can make sure it stays in good condition for longer.
Be sure to get the right materials, and don’t forget to take your piccolo to a professional for more advanced maintenance and repairs.