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After a period of time the oil on woodwind keys will thicken and collect dust and small amounts of metal worn from keys, rods and screws. This not only causes the key action to become sluggish but also contributes to premature wear of parts. For a flute to give long and trouble-free service all the oiled parts must be cleaned and reoiled regularly.

In my experience every wind instrument should be cleaned thoroughly every year or so depending on usage, humidity, etc.. The flute is no exception. Contrary to popular belief in some circles, it is not possible to do a good job of cleaning and oiling a flute without completely disassembling it.


You will need the following tools, etc. to work on flute keys:

  • Screwdrivers to fit all pivot screws and screw rods
  • Spring hook
  • Hardened pin driver (can be made by grinding down the shank of an old drill bit to a blunt point)
  • Small hammer
  • Lead block
  • Screw block (made by drilling holes of a size to receive screws and screw rods in a block bf wood-see diagram
  • Flat blade pliers
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Key oil (preferably in a precision oiler)
  • Work bench where disassembled parts will not be disturbed
  • Towel or cloth to work on (to keep small parts from roiling away and to provide a scratch-free surface on which to work)

As you disassemble each part of the flute place each pivot screw or screw rod in the screw block in order and lay out each key on one side of the work bench in the same relative position as it fits on the flute. Then you won't get confused about what goes where when it comes time to reassemble the instrument.

Using the spring hook, release the springs from the catches before attempting to remove the keys on which you are working. It may be necessary to partially disassemble a section before it is possible to reach all the springs in That section.

Remove the keys in the following order:

  1. Thumb keys
  2. Left hand section
  3. G keys
  4. Right hand section
  5. Trill section
  6. G# keys
  7. Foot joint keys

Removing the pins

You may find it difficult holding the pinned key steady while holding the pin driver and striking it accurately with the hammer. If this is the case it may be helpful to get someone to hold the key steady on the lead block while you drive the pin out.

N.B.-Pins must never be interchanged. Always be sure to keep pins separate and organised in such a way that they always go back in the same holes.

Work on one section of keys at a time. Remove the pins, clean and re-oil, and reassemble the section before going on to anything else.

Always drive the pin out from the bottom of the key as the tapered pins are always inserted from the top. Place the key on the lead block. Hold the pin driver directly in line with the pin and exactly centered. Strike the pin driver sharply with the hammer and the pin will be driven out of the hole into the soft lead. Set the pin directly in front of you (perhaps on a magnetic strip) so that it deos not get lost, until you are ready to reassemble the key section you are working on.


Wipe the old oil off the rod with a cloth and clean out the key rod tube with a pipe cleaner. Put a drop of oil in the end of the key rod tube and a drop of oil on the end of the rod. Turn the rod back and forth as you insert it into the tube to spread the oil. Line up the
pin hole and drive the pin back into its hole, being careful not to damage the key with the hammer. Wipe off any excess oil as this will eventually get into the pads causing sticking problems.

As you finish with each section of key work, set in back into position on the side of the work bench. When you are finished cleaning and oiling all the keywork and wiping off all the pivot screws you may like to clean the body of the flute. This can be done by immersing it in warm soapy water using a cloth that will not scratch the surface. If you use silver polish after cleaning in water, be sure to clean out all the key post holes with a pipe cleaner before reassembly.

Reassemble the key sections in the reverse order to the disassembly. Put a drop of oil at the end of each key where a pivot screw fits. If the pivot screw doesn't fit snugly. it may be necessary to use a drop of fingernail polish on the threads to hold it at the adjustment necessary to achieve free but not loose key action.