TAKING CARE OF YOUR INSTRUMENT : (3) OILING A DIDJERIDU

PLEASE READ THROUGH THESE INSTRUCTIONS THOROUGHLY BEFORE STARTING !!!


What you will need :
- Masking tape, wide
- Oil
- Jug with spout
- A larger tin can or other container
- Absorbent rags
- A rough-and-ready drying stand (nothing too nice)
- Somewhere to do it all (consider temperature, humidity, mess)
- An assistant with a steady hand

SAFETY NOTE: in rare cases, oil-soaked rags can spontaneously ignite when left to dry. Place used rags in an airtight container (for example a tin with a lid) after use.


PREPARE THE DIDJERIDU :

- Seal the outside of the instrument before you start (see the sealing page) so that if any oil does manage to get on the outside of the instrument, it won't stain or damage the paint and artwork

- Examine the outside of your instrument very carefully for possible cracks - oil can leak out of even almost invisible hairline cracks and create stains which cannot be removed without at least repainting - especially disastrous if they occur in the middle of fine artwork

- Remove wax mouthpiece (as necessary)

- Build a tube on the mouthpiece. What you're aiming at is a kind of funnel made of masking tape which will allow the oil to escape in a precise and controlled way, whilst protecting the mouthpiece end from running or splashing oil.

First, fix a ring of making tape to the inside of the mouthpiece, with at least half of the width sticking firmly inside the bore. Press the tape firmly against the wood several times until you're sure it's firmly stuck, with no gaps where oil can leak through. Depending on the size of the mouthpiece (and your fingers), it can be very tricky to fit a whole ring to the inside at once, but you can happily use two lengths of tape as long as you ensure that both pieces adhere firmly to each other.

 

Depending on the width of the tape you're using, you will probably want to add an additional ring of tape to extend the length of the funnel

 

Lastly, build a final ring of tape between the outside of the mouthpiece and the first ring. The tape should be broad enough to allow you to fix it well to the outside of the instrument, across the flat of the mouthpiece and join it to the outside of the tape you fitted inside the bore before. Again, make sure that the tape sticks firmly throughout. You will have to create folds in the tape everywhere but around the side of the instrument.

 

PREPARE THE WORKSPACE:

Probably you will want to spread something over the floor to catch possible drips and spills. Clear enough space for two people to manouevre comfortably. In summer, you can work outside, in winter it's a bad idea due to the low temperature and humidity.

Place the tin or other container you're using to catch the oil on a flattish surface, likewise the drying stand. Note that the drying stand in the photograph has two smaller strips of wood which keep the bell away from the bottom board. This is to allow surplus oil to escape from the bottom so that a pool isn't created which can then creep up the side of the instrument: it also makes drying faster. Especially when working inside, place ample amounts of newspaper or similar under the stand to absorb any oil that may run over the edges.

Put a rag each in arm's reach of both you and your assistant (in case of accidents)

Put a generous amount of oil in the jug. Don't be afraid of putting too much in the jug - any oil that doesn't stay inside the didjeridu will run out into the container and can be re-used.

 

LET'S DO IT:

Turn the instrument upside-down (bell upwards), at an angle of about 45°. The person at the bottom crouches on the ground, holds the mouthpiece end, and ensures that all the extra oil ends up in the container. The person at the top holds the bell with one hand and the jug with the other. The oil is poured slowly and carefully into the bell, while contantly rotating the instrument. The rotation is necessary in order to ensure that the oil is evenly distributed throughout the bore.

 

Tip the oil into the bell 2 or 3 cm from the end of the bell to avoid drips caused by rotation - this area will automatically be amply oiled when the instrument is put on the stand to drip off later.

When you've poured the contents of the jug, wait until the oil has more or less stopped dripping into the container, and then tip the oil back into the jug. Get back into the original position and repeat the whole process two or three times, until you're convinced that the entire bore has been oiled. If the bore is relatively wide and straight, you may be able to check by shining a light down the inside.

When you're satisfied, raise the bell until the didjeridu is vertical, with the mouthpiece still over the container, then wait a final time until the oil has more or less stopped dripping.

The next step has to be done carefully and quickly. The person at the bottom wipes all the oil off the outside of the funnel, and then, quickly before any more drips appear, keeping the rag wrapped around the mouthpiece, the instrument is turned the right way up (mouthpiece at the top) and placed on the stand. Still keeping the rag wrapped around the top of the instrument to catch oil that may have got caught in the tape, remove the tape carefully, immediately wiping off any oil that might be underneath off the mouthpiece before it can spread and run down.

The oil will usually need to dry at least overnight before you can be sure that it's finished dripping out of the bell. Because of nooks and crannies in the bore, it may well be that surprisingly large amounts of oil are trapped in pockets, and will only drip out when the didjeridu is the right way up. Be prepared for this: initially, when putting the instrument on the stand, keep your shoes out of the way (!), and allow for the fact that the oil dripping out will slowly spread over a large area.

While the instrument is drying, to make absolutely sure that oil doesn't gather and creep up the sides, you may want to go back every so often and wipe the oil from the bottom of the bell two or three times.

Oils are aromatic. For a day or two, your didjeridu will smell pretty strong - but not unpleasant. When the oil is completely dry, the odour will be minimal.

We recommend waiting until the oil is properly dry before using the instrument again. Playing will create moisture and hinder the drying process.

If you want to fit a wax mouthpiece, wait until the oil is dry, otherwise it will not stick properly.