We recently spoke with Powell’s Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, about the importance of tenon fit in woodwinds. According to Rachel, there are three main reasons why proper tenon fit is so critical: (1) creating a proper seal and avoiding air leakage (2) keeping the joints together and fitting properly so that the instrument does not fall apart, and (3) keeping the instrument mechanisms in proper adjustment (particularly with clarinet and oboe bridge mechanisms).
Rachel shared a couple of her tips and tricks for solving tenon fit issues. For metal tenons that are too tight, she recommends cleaning the tenon (both male and female sections) with alcohol on a clean cloth or Q-tip. She says not to use any type of grease on metal tenons. If the metal tenon is too loose, a quick fix is scotch tape. For loose cork tenons, white pipe threading tape wrapped around the cork should improve the fit. The various methods mentioned above are, however, temporary. Make sure to take the instrument to a repair person to remedy tenon fit issues for the long run.
Curious as solutions for a broken tenon, Rachel asserted that a tenon replacement is possible for both plastic and wooden instruments. Tenon replacement is also available in the case of a tenon that becomes extremely worn. Having seen metal tenon caps on newer clarinets for instance, I asked Rachel about those as well. She said that metal tenon caps could certainly be put on the instrument but may be problematic if the wood shrinks due to extreme temperature changes. We thank Rachel for her advice on emergency tenon fit solutions!