Continuing my adventures with the hardware side of recorder playing, I recently completed the Recorder Repair & Care course at Cambridge Woodwind Makers. This was a one-day course that cost £70. It was an excellent day and, for the money, an incredible bargain.
The instructor was Jacqueline Sorel, a Dutch recorder maker who makes beautiful instruments (one of the bonuses of the day was getting to try some of hers out, and my wish-list has just expanded substantially) and was an excellent teacher. It was friendly and informal - Jacqueline even made us a salad for lunch - and everyone learned a lot.
We started with oiling. Most people have probably done this, with more or less trepidation, but we all had questions and it was nice to have someone with loads of experience who could show us her method of doing it, answer our questions, discuss different options for type of oil, and leave us all feeling confident about getting stuck in on our own.
I think the general highlight was removing the block. Having done Tim Cranmore's recorder making course, I had done this, but nobody else had. Lots of people are quite intimidated by the idea of removing the block in case they cause expensive damage to the instrument, but we were allowed to try it out on one of Jacqueline's instruments first, and everyone took the block out of a recorder they had brought along. We were shown not just how to clean it (and the windway) properly, but how to check its profile, and even how to slightly modify the latter with sandpaper or a file if we wanted to.
Participants are encouraged to bring an instrument of their own with them to work on, but Jacqueline took all of them in hand and gave them a bit of a service, so we all left with instruments in better shape than we arrived with. That alone was worth the course fee. We also covered some useful theory on tuning recorders.
The day I did it, I was one of three participants, and it had run the previous day also with three participants. I think that's the minimum, but it meant we all got a lot of personal attention. Overall, it was an excellent day and I recommend it highly to anyone who would like to feel a bit more confident about getting more professional at looking after their recorders.
The venue was a few miles south of Cambridge, close to the M11, Stansted Airport, and a cheap-ish Travelodge for anyone who needed overnight accommodation.