Bassoons are made of wood.  Wood dries out.  There is a lot of discussion and disagreement in the bassoon community about how frequently a bassoon should be oiled and with what.  Do your own research to decide what is best for your instrument.  I own a beautiful old Heckel.  I oiled my instrument once.  I did this because the wood looked like it needed it, it seemed to dry out when I moved to Australia, a warm climate.  I did not notice a difference in sound quality after I oil, but I did notice a difference in projection.  After I oil, the bassoon seemed to project better.  The bassoon was also shiny and looks pretty.  However, my repair-artists, Marcus Wheeler in Ontario, told me not to oil.  They said that if it needs it, they will take care of it.  So I have headed their advice, but it hasn’t been very long yet.  So I don’t know where I stand on this at the moment….

I used sterile light mineral oil.  It seemed to work very well for my instrument.  The bassoon absorbed it quickly and when the appropriate amount is applied it didn’t leave any oily residue.  A great article, by expert repairman Chip Owen, on the types of oil that can be used for bassoon bore oiling can be found at:

This is an advanced maintenance technique. Consult with a bassoon teacher or bassoon repair specialist before attempting this yourself!

To oil a bassoon bore:

  1. Take off all the keys.  I don’t recommend leaving on the keys because any oil that comes in contact with a pad will mean the pad needs to be removed.  So I take off all the keys but put all the screws back in so over the extended period (sometimes days) that the keys are off you don’t loose a screw.
    1. I lay out all my keys in order, with a post-it marking the start of a new joint.  I also put the boot joint rods in bags that are labeled.
    2. When it is time to reassemble, then I take the keys for the joint I’m reassembling to the floor, in the same left to right order (left = last off, first on; right = first off, last on.)  Then I’ll take out all the pivot screws and oil the keys as usual.
  2. Take off the boot joint U-tube.  I mark a line on it with a permanent marker so I know where it lines up when I want to put it back together.  Make sure you get it back on in exactly the same location!!!!
  3. ONLY oil the BORE of unlined joints.  If your bassoon has a rubber lining, do not oil it.  Usually the wing and first half of the boot joint are lined.  My bassoon only has a wing joint lining so I oil both sides of the boot joint.
  4. Place a small amount of oil (do not over saturate the cloth) on a cotton cloth that can pull through the joint.  I use a “boot joint” cloth that I purchased.
  5. Pull the cloth through the joint.  Make sure you coat evenly.  Usually I run the cloth through a few times and pull it back and forth to ensure an even coating.
  6. Lightly rub the cloth over the external side of the instrument.  Because this is on the external side, it can be done on ALL joints, even those that are lined.  Pay special attention to oil the areas where your hands hold the wood while playing.  For me, the wing joint tone holes dry out the fastest so require the most care when oiling the surface of the bassoon.
  7. Rest the joint that has been oiled upright.  You don’t want to lay it on a side because oil may pool there!
  8. Give the bassoon time to soak in the oil.  If I have used the proper amount of oil (not too much!) and I wait till the next morning, the bassoon has soaked in all the oil and I don’t need to wipe any off either the outside or the bore.  If there is any extra oil after a period of time, wipe it off.  I have a second clean cotton cloth swab that I pull through the instrument to make sure there is no excess oil on the inside.  Usually I run the clean swab through even when there isn’t any oil visible just to make sure.
  9. Usually only one oil application is needed.  But sometimes more are required.  The bassoon will tell you what it wants.  It will only soak in what it needs.  So when it stops soaking in oil and you are wiping oil off, stop oiling!
  10. Reassemble the bassoon as per instructed on oiling the keys.