Clarinet swabs (pull-throughs)

A pull-through is one of those unglamorous pieces of clarinet kit that I haven’t really thought about much. In my approximately 25 years of playing clarinet, I can only recall owning maybe three pull throughs. The first was a piece of green fabric with a long nylon chord with a tubular weight at the end (on the outside of the nylon). The second was a home made job which was a hanky tied to a fat blue shoe lace on which I threaded through the same tubular weight from the retired green one.

When by Le Blanc had its latest service, the mechanic noted that amount of lint in the tone holes. ‘Oh yeah?’ I said, not really thinking much of it. ‘It’s that pull through you’re using,’ was pretty much the gist of the mechanic’s reply. Apparently a cotton hankerchief is a poor choice for a pull though.

I’m now the proud owner of a Black “Legend” Silk Swab Premium quality, generous sized, Pat (pend) balloon design, heavyweight China silk, sealed properly sized weight

It’s pretty good. The silk does a superior job at absorbing the moisture (I’d assumed otherwise) and the silk just feels nicer to use than the other materials available such as the micro fibre cloths or the sponge like materials. And yes, the metal weight is covered by the fabric.

The large balloon shape also helps get the swab through the instrument without getting stuck. On numerous occasions I’ve had students with the stubby little yellow pull-throughs trying to pull them through as a clump and get them stuck on the thumb hole metal on the inside of the instrument. (There’s a lot of pressure of me to then fix the situation with brute force without breaking anything).

If a cotton hankerchief is bad for link around tone holes, imagine how much of a lint-magnet those massive saxophone swabs (fuzzy light-sabers)must be. I don’t use them.

Funny enough, that incredibly old green pull through still has life as a wood oil pull through that I use to make a (reasonably ineffectual) attempt at getting wood oil through the clarinet. The instrument mechanics would shed a tear knowing that for a weight I used a half dozen metal washers. Shhhesh, that can’t be good knocking about the inside of the clarinet.

Now, should I be doing a better job of swabbing out my sax and trombone too?


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