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
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:
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
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
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.
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.
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.