Leather pads for older clarinets
For a few years now, I've been using tan, kidskin pads almost exclusively on my older horns. Folks ask why, from time to time, so I thought I'd take a moment and answer some of the implicit questions:
I find that they last longer than bladder and can be oiled occasionally, further extending their useful life. As an experiment, I once oiled pads that had been in an early R-13 for 40 years and, after softening and adjustment, the instrument played fairly well!
I find that they take a better impression from aging toneholes. Slight warp-age, small nicks, uneven wear, can all be forgiven by a leather pad, which will take a better seat than the harder double skin felt pads in common use in modern horns. This often saves me having to reface a tonehole made slightly uneven from wear or abuse, which is my preference when possible: the Hippocratic Law for clarinets being "First do no harm".
I find that they give closed keys a feeling more consistent with bare fingers on open holes (especially on Albert/ simple system horns) versus hard felt. I am often distracted by the difference in feel between my fingers and hard felt or cork pads; its somewhat uneven.
Finally, I find that the tan kidskin shows less wear and discoloration than white bladder, keeping the horn looking fresh longer.
I hope that players and other techs will consider these pads and their advantages next time they undertake the overhaul of a vintage instrument of quality!
12/14/2014 05:32:31 pm
I recently (at the request of a customer) did the lower joint of a mid-90s R13 with the white Roopads from MusicMedic.com. The top joint had all cork pads in good condition. I like the way this horn came out and will probably do something similar on a 7-ring Selmer CenteredTone that I am about to start on. It really never occurred to me until recently to do anything but bladder pads. Funny that the larger clarinets have always had leather pads...even on the smaller holes, and old clarinets show up with leather pads, but somehow the bladders and stuff like the Valentinos have overtaken the market (for no apparent reason other than marketing AFAIK).
12/17/2014 10:37:18 am
good point, Jeff - I didn't discover leather for the first few years of my apprenticeship but, after working on a number of old Alberts, noticed that they'd been used almost exclusively and followed suit on my older finds...
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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.