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From Steve Prescott
Instrument Rep. Tech/Clarinetist

The following procedure is for soprano and sopranino clarinet with felt/skin pads.

Tools Needed:

Safety glasses
2 Screw drivers (small, large)
Smooth Jaw pliers
Pad "slick" or "stay"
Alcohol burner or glue gun
Needle spring or common pin
Feeler gauge (piece of cassette tape)

Supplies Needed:

Denatured alcohol (for burner)
French cement or glue stick (for glue gun)
Appropriate medium thick pad (thin will also do)
Water (just boiled) for pad seating

Procedure Outline:

  1. Remove the key/pad
  2. Size the pad
  3. Pierce the pad
  4. Press the pad
  5. Apply cement/glue to the pad
  6. Heat the pad cup
  7. Place the pad in the cup
  8. Put the key back on the instrument
  9. Level the pad
  10. Seat the pad
  11. Test the instrument

Procedure in detail:
(#'s above refer to #'s below)

  1. Remove the key(s) from the instrument using the proper size screwdriver. Use the smooth jaw pliers to pull out the long hinge rod (if applicable) after unscrewing. Heat the back of the pad cup with the flame from the alcohol burner until the old adhesive softens then remove the old pad and clean the pad cup by scraping out any remaining adhesive.

  2. Choose a new pad that fits the cup properly. To ensure proper fit, find a pad that fits snugly then use the next size down. For example, if a 10mm pad fits snugly then use a 9.5mm pad. A pad for a sopranino or soprano clarinet will set in the cup with the stepped portion of the pad protruding (the exception is indicated in step #9.

  3. Pierce the side of the pad using a pin or needle spring. Pierce only the edge of the pad; it is not necessary to poke into the felt. The skin is pierced so that the moisture in the pad will not cause the pad to swell when it is heated into the pad cup.

  4. If the quality of pad you are using is poor, you will have to iron the pad. A poor quality pad is one that the surface of which is puffy. A good quality pad will have a smooth flat surface to cover the tonehole squarely. If you are using a good quality pad with a flat surface then proceed to step #5. If you feel you should iron the pad, proceed as follows: dampen the surface of the pad with water. Heat the pad slick over the alcohol burner for approximately 5 seconds. Lay the pad slick down and press the pad onto the pad slick (approximately 5 seconds). The water on the pad should sizzle when the pad is placed onto the hot pad slick. If the water does not sizzle, repeat the procedure, heating the pad slick a little longer. If you heat the pad slick too much, you will scorch the pad surface and have to start over again with a new pad.

  5. Determine the depth of the pad and judge the amount of French cement or glue from the glue gun. Using too much French cement or glue will be unsightly, as the cement/glue oozes out between the pad and the pad cup. Too little cement will be evident in about a week or less when the same student is at your side again, telling you the pad you put in has just fallen out (no doubt this will happen right before a concert!). If you are using the French cement, hold the end of the cement stick over the alcohol burner until it softens slightly. Be careful not to set the cement on fire and/or allow it to drip. Your only objective at this point is to soften the cement so you can work the end of it to a point. Heat the cement again - this time a bit more - enough so you can dab it on the back of the pad. Remember to judge the proper amount for the pad cup. If you are using a glue gun and haven't plugged it in yet, now is a good time to do it. The method using the glue gun is simpler. All that you have to do is apply the proper amount of glue to the back of the pad.

  6. Heat the back of the pad cup over the burner for about 5 seconds.

  7. Place the pad in the cup, making sure it settles evenly. Do not press the pad into the cup. Let the assembly cool.

  8. Return the key to the instrument.

  9. Heat the back of the pad cup (be aware of where the flame is in relation to the instrument body), closing the key with normal (light) playing pressure or allow the spring to close the key. Once the pad cup has cooled, insert the feeler gauge between the pad and the tone hole at the front of the pad (the 6:00 position), close the key with normal playing pressure (or allow the spring to close the key) and pull the feeler out, noting the tension of the drag. Repeat this process at the 12:00, 3:00, and 9:00 positions, each time noting the drag. If the drag is equal all the way around, continue to step #10. If the drag is not equal (which is most likely to be the case unless you are really lucky), you will need to adjust the pad in the cup in order to get a proper seal on the instrument. With the use of the feeler gauge you have ascertained where the pad is not sealing. Heat the cup for approximately 5 seconds to loosen the cement/glue slightly. Using the pad slick, gently shift the pad toward the area where you felt the least drag. Usually a slight shift will do the job. You might have to try this more than once before you are satisfied with the result. If leveling seems impossible in that the 12:00 position always has more drag, then a thinner pad is the solution. If a thinner pad is not available, the next size down in diameter is the solution. The entire pad, including the stepped part, will settle down into the cup.

  10. To seat the pad, allow a drop of water to bead up on the pad slick. Insert the pad slick between the pad and the tone hole and dampen the surface of the pad. Be sure you clear the tone hole with the pad slick so it is not damaged. Use the pad seating clamp (unless the key is a normally closed key) or push a wedge of cork under the foot of the key. Allow to set for about 20 minutes or more if possible. Drying time can be shortened to seconds, using a hair drier. Return any other keys to the clarinet joint.

  11. As a last check, stop one end of the instrument joint with one hand and closing the tone holes with the other, use both suction and air pressure to determine if you have sealed the instrument and there are no more leaks. Play the instrument.

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