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SHWoodwind - Woodwind advice, reviews, care, repair & maintenance
Haynes woodwind maintenance manuals
 

Coronavirus advice for clients

 

I've had large numbers of emails from clients asking for advice and reassurance about bringing instruments in for repair during the current crisis, to the point where it makes sense to publish my guidelines here.

First up - please don't be alarmed.
I've spent all my working life working in very close quarters with your instruments. Some of them have been nice and clean, some have been rather less so (ahem). Most are nice and dry when they arrive in the workshop, some are still wet from a gig or a practice session. In all that time I cannot recall ever having been laid low by a bug I've picked up from an instrument.
This is partly because the majority of common bugs don't survive that long on such inhospitable surfaces, and because I exercise commonsense hygiene protocols - some of the details of which can be found in my article on mouthpiece hygiene.

However, the threat we're all facing is a new one - and while it seems to be one that's related to well-known pathogens, there are aspects about it that are, as yet, uncertain. In light of this it makes sense to follow the most current public health advice to ensure the safety of everyone - and as such these are the protocols I'll be adhering to for duration:

Incoming instruments:

The workshop is large enough to maintain 'social distancing', but you're more than welcome to simply 'knock and drop' the instrument by the door (please do make sure I'm actually in before doing so!). However, you must decide for yourself if a visit constitutes an essential journey. Technically I fall under the category of 'hardware stores'.
Current (as of May 2020) government advice is that those who are able to safely return to work should do so. So that's me. You are now allowed to travel by car to a place of exercise, and I'm happy to tell you that the workshop is situated in an area of oustanding natural beauty with many fantastic places to walk and enjoy the scenery.
Using a courier is another option - and a necessary one during periods of 'lockdown'. If using a courier I recommend UPS, who seem to take more care of packages than most other companies in my experience - and I also recommend using far more packaging than you might think is necessary. Simply putting a cased instrument into a box isn't going to cut it - and a couple of layers of bubblewrap isn't going to help much either. There are lots of a guides on the web as to how to do this properly, but if you follow the advice given in this series of videos you won't go far wrong. Note: It is not necessary to clamp the keys down.

It would be helpful if the instrument hasn't been played in the previous 24 hours and has been allowed to dry out completely.
On arrival the instrument is treated with a suitable disinfectant before inspection to ensure both the bore and exterior are as bug-free as it's reasonable to get. Disposable nitrile gloves are used during this process. If the instrument has been played in the last 24 hours I would consider it unwise to playtest it at this time - though as a rule it's rare to have to do this as part of the examination. The case handle and catches/zippers are wiped with disinfectant, just to be on the safe side.

Outgoing instruments:

Once repairs have been completed the instrument is play-tested and adjusted as necessary. Depending on the level of work carried out this process may take place over a number of days.
When I'm happy with the performance of the instrument both the bore and the exterior surfaces are disinfected before returning it to its case, and the case handle etc. suitably cleaned. Disposable nitrile gloves are worn throughout this procedure. I will not then touch the horn again, and before collection the case handle will be cleaned again.
For reed instruments I always use my own mouthpieces - but for flutes it is necessary to use the head that is provided with the instrument. Upon completion of playtesting the head will be washed and disinfected.
Upon collection you're more than welcome to try the instrument out in the workshop (disposable nitrile gloves are provided if you wish to use them). At this point I would normally play the instrument in front of the client to demonstrate that it works - but I will no longer be doing this unless specifically requested to do so. If so asked, this will be a gloved procedure and the instrument will be disinfected afterwards - and I would recommend that the client does not play it for at least 24 hours. For same-day jobs, I would not recommend playtesting the instrument in the workshop but to do so at home once 24 hours has elapsed.
If the instrument is to be sent out by courier, packing will be a gloved procedure.

Other considerations:

Because I work alone and see a limited number of clients, I intend to carry on working as normal until advised otherwise (it'll might even give me a chance to clear some of the backlog of work). Regular visitors to the workshop will know that I'm always willing to pass the time of day with my clients, but in the current climate it would be wise to keep the social interaction to a minimum - at least until such times as the public health advice changes.
In the event of any change to my health in the fortnight following a repair, you will be informed. Similarly I would request that clients inform me of the same.
For those of you who are particularly scrupulous, the door handles are cleaned after each entry/exit (including my own) and the tools/work surfaces cleaned after each client visit/job.
It should be noted that the virus appears to die after four hours of resting on a copper surface, and copper is found in most of the alloys used for woodwind instruments (brass, nickel silver etc.) - thus the bore of your horn (not so much the exterior if lacquer is present) is largely self-decontaminating.


 

 

 

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