How to replace a clarinet cork

Are you trying to replace the cork on your clarinet and you do not know how to go about it? We have got you covered. Read on to learn how to replace a clarinet cork at home.

If you play the clarinet, you may have come across one of the most delicate parts that are susceptible to wear and tear, which is the tenon corks. These corks connect the joints of your woodwind instrument and ensure seamless playing at all times. By maintaining the tenon corks properly, it becomes easy to slide the joints of your clarinet together during the assembly and disassembly process. Proper maintenance also prevents multiple trips to the repair shop, which can get quite expensive considering how many times you may need to replace the clarinet cork. Luckily, the replacement process is very easy, requires very few materials and only takes a few minutes.

So, how do you replace a clarinet cork?

The following steps should make the clarinet cork replacement process as seamless as possible. Ensure to follow them through to the letter for the best results.

Step One: Start by Peeling off the Old Tenon Cork from your Clarinet

The first thing you need to do is to remove the old cork so that you can create room for the new one. We advise using the blade of a screwdriver so that you can remove most of the old cork and create a smooth and even surface. It may take some time to remove most of the old cork, but you need to be patient as you try and remove as much as possible.

In addition to that, you can consider using a chemical degreaser, methylated spirit or any other cleaning agent to clean up the old tenon. Doing this ensures that you get a good bond when placing the new cork over the same surface.

Step Two: Measure a piece of the old tenon cork to get a glimpse of its thickness

In this step, you need to use a small sliding caliper or a cork sheet to measure the thickness of the old tenon cork. Place one edge of the caliper or cork sheet against the cork recess then mark the opposite edge using a pen. You will need a mark at the top of the sheet and another at the bottom for better results. When doing this, ensure that you are as accurate as possible.

Now that you have the correct measurements, you need to take your time and find a new piece of cork that is of the right thickness to replace the older one.

Step Three: Cut the Strip and Add the Bevel

Place a ruler against the left hand side of the clarinet internal jaw and hold it steady in that position. Once done, pick the cork sheet and do the same thing using its top part. Line up the dots on the cork sheet and cut the strip to the right width for the groove in the clarinet tenon cork using a sharp blade or a knife.

As for the bevel, you need to be as cautious and accurate as you can get. Cut a 45-degree bevel towards the end of the cork. The main role of the bevel is to ensure a secure bond on both sides of the cork. This way, your new cork will not slip from your clarinet.

Step Four: Glue and Sand the Cork into its Setting

Apply a thin coat of contact adhesive to the ramp/bevel, the groove found on the clarinet tenon, and the back side of the cork strip. Let the glue dry for about 10-30 minutes, depending on the type you have chosen to use.

Once the glue is completely dry, pick the cork strip and press it into the groove of the tenon. When doing this, ensure that everything is lined in an accurate manner. Using your fingers, press over the groove so that the surface area of the cork fully bonds to the wooden part of your clarinet.

Once done, trim away the excess cork as neatly as you can. Get sand paper and smoothen up the cork until it is round and even. Apply a generous amount of cork lubricant and you are good to go.

Step Five: Ensure that everything is in one piece

Generally, the cork fitting should not be too tight or too lose. Instead, you should be able to strike a good balance so that it is tight enough to create an airtight seal, yet loose enough for quick and easy disassembly.

How do you take care of and maintain the clarinet cork?

To maintain the functionality, durability and reliability of a clarinet cork, you need to always use cork grease. Cork grease is simply a container or tube of grease that you apply to your clarinet to soften its tenon corks so that the assembly process can be as quick and easy as possible. If you do not use cork grease on your clarinet, the tenon corks can become too dry and stiff. When this happens, it becomes very difficult to assemble and disassemble your musical instrument. Eventually, the joints on your clarinet can clump together and this can lead to damaged and cracked corks.

In general, you should only use cork grease on your clarinet when it becomes difficult to slide the joints of the clarinet together during the assembly and disassembly process. If you own a new clarinet, you may need to grease it often than a clarinet that you may have played for a while. This is mostly because the tenons may be very tight when still new.

When using cork grease, ensure to use as little as possible. Using too much cork grease on your clarinet can soften the cork. When this happens, the cork tenons slowly begin to crumble and eventually break away from your clarinet. Using too little, on the other hand, causes the cork to stiffen up and it eventually becomes immobile.

So, how do you use cork grease? Whether you are new to playing the clarinet or you have owned one for a couple of years now, the following tips should help you know how to apply grease on your clarinet so that it remains functional at all times;

When to apply cork grease on your clarinet What to do Caution factors
Before playing the clarinet Take a sufficient amount of cork grease on your finger and gently rub it across the corks Ensure that you are using just enough so that you can seamlessly slide the instrument together when the need arises
Once you are done playing the clarinet Use a clean dry cloth to wipe off the grease from the clarinet corks. Thereafter, dismantle the clarinet and place it back into its case for storage Remember, the clarinet is very delicate. So, be as careful as possible when handing the different parts of the instrument, especially the keys and mouthpiece

Final Thoughts

Ensure to check the corks of your clarinet after every 1-3 years to see if they need replacement. If the cork is thin or has started to crumble and break away from the clarinet body, you need to consider replacing it immediately. If you aren’t sure about how to go about it, ask an instrument repair technician to help you out.


How much does it cost to replace a clarinet cork?

It may cost about $30 to replace a clarinet cork.

How long does a clarinet cork last?

Clarinet corks last between 2 and 5 years, depending on care and maintenance routine.

Charlotte Moore is a Clarinetist by profession and has over time offered lessons on how to play the clarinet among other musical instruments. And while a majority of clarinet players are well versed with the process of settling with a good clarinet among other accompanying features. There is little information about clarinets. The reason why Charlotte prepared comprehensive experts touching on the various facets of the clarinet. The consolidated information will offer more insight on everything clarinets including the best stand to use, and the best plastic clarinet that you can invest in, among other information. Charlotte Moore is a devoted mother of two and a professional clarinet player.

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