I frequently receive old mouthpieces with every clarinet I buy, and I like to clean them and put them up for sale: some are collectible/desireable and others are just well made old mouthpieces that might be of use to someone wishing to save some money over a new mouthpiece. The main problem is - they often look terrible! Crusty...discolored...tattered cork...who would want that?!
Well, it turns out that cleaning up an old mouthpiece isn't that hard, so I'm going to share my experience:
Here's a recent set of untreated vintage mouthpieces - pretty ugly!
1) Start by washing - the rest of the process will work best if you remove any greases and oils. I use mild dish detergent, COLD water and an old toothbrush. A drop of soap on the brush, scrub inside and out, rinse. Why COLD? Hot water is the fastest way to turn that old hard rubber mpc green!
2) Soak in vinegar - the acetic acid will dissolve any mineral buildup and soaking (10-15 min on average) will help loosen any remaining stubborn gunk. More toothbrush scrubbing after this...Repeat as needed.
3) Rub with 3 in 1 oil - this trick rejuvenates the hard rubber and removes much or all of the age discoloration. Put a drop on the mouthpiece, rub thoroughly with fingers. Let sit for a couple days - you'll see darkening and increased shine - repeat if needed.
4) Rub with a polish cloth, gild logos with a gold crayon, and recork - polishing will remove the last of the oil and heighten shine, gold crayon will make faded logos pop, and corking will complete visual cleanup and make the mouthpiece suitable for use by the next owner! I generally use 3/64" sheet cork and 3M rubber cement.
As you can see from the photo below, its an amazing improvement from the original condition! However, if you don't see all the green oxidation disappear, just let it go. I haven't found any process that will get all of it, except buffing with compound...and you have to be GOOD at that not to ruin the mouthpiece! Let it be a little green...
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The Licorice Shtick Blog is the creation of the Vintage Clarinet Doctor, a Winston Salem, NC based woodwind instrument repair shop specializing in vintage and antique clarinets, saxophones, and the occasional flute.