ABORIGINAL ARTS LONDON UK
 

 
Didgeridoo/Yidaki Care & Repair

Your beautifully crafted wooden yidaki / didgeridoo is a living, moving object which will expand and contract depending upon the humidity it is exposed to.

The warmer the air the more water vapour the wood can hold and the converse is true for colder climates where the air is able to hold much less water vapour.

Therefore, if your didgeridoo is transported between two differing climates (Australia to the UK, or from your warm bedroom to your cold garage) the instrument will need to acclimatise before (and after) being played.

Cracks can appear on the outside of the didgeridoo simply due the warm breath (high moisture content) from blowing down the inside. The warm wet breath causes the inside wood to expand at a different rate to the cold (dry) outside wood surface.

Other than carrying your fine didgeridoo, yidaki or mago in a purpose made high quality didgeridoo bag, another good way to maintain the structual integrity of the didgeridoo / yidaki is to oil it. With the aid of good lighting source you should be able to tell if PVA has been previously applied as it leaves a hard milky white residue, especially visible in the termite grooves and nooks and cranies. Many didgeridoos from Australia now have PVA painted 10cm up the inside from the base. However, it is not advisable for you to use an oil mixture down your didgeridoo if the inside of your didgeridoo has been previously fully sealed (from top to bottom) with a PVA solution. A PVA solution will cause a yidaki to play a lot brighter than normal and as such it is not recommended for a traditional instrument!

Eucalyptus trees are an oil rich wood, the oil being a natural deterrent to termites. Eucalyptus leaves are a traditional Aboriginal herbal remedy and the essential oil found in the leaves is a powerful antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antibacterial. Eucalyptus oil is used throughout the world for relieving coughs, colds, sore throats and other infections. Citronellal is an essential oil found in most Eucalyptus species (there are over 600 varieties) and is a natural remedy for repelling many flying pests. Personally, rather than using glue, I prefer to follow nature and oil the inside of my didgeridoos.


How to Oil a Didgeridoo

Here is a simple and effective method to oil your instrument -

First you will need some basic materials - cling film, two plastic carrier bags, brown packing tape, a clean cloth and a cheap plastic mop bucket with drainer on top.

Buy some pure 'Tung oil,' and you also wish to buy some 'eucalyptus oil' and 'citrus oil.'

Some people combine tung oil with drops of eucalyptus oil and a few drops of citrus oil (gloves are advisable). I used to use boiled linseed mixed with tung oil but after much experimentation I now prefer to use pure tung oil on our instruments. Although fairly expensive, tung oil has good penetrative qualities and you'll find it is used extensively in Chinese furniture treatement.

Prepare the didgeridoo by carefully wrapping cling film around the smaller (mouthpiece) end (if you stretch too tight a hole or tear can appear in the cling film and you will have to start again), then tightly wrap the packing tape over the cling film so that it fixes the film in place. Put a plastic carrier bag over the cling film and go round with more packing tape, being sure that the end is completely sealed!

OK, so now pour the oil down the big end (distal end) and seal the big end in the same way as you did when covering the mouthpiece.

With both ends totally sealed you can roll the instrument up and down and round and round for a good five minutes so all the termite grooves are well oiled.

Then, holding the instrument upside down, carefully remove the packing tape, bag and cling film from the larger end and quickly wipe around the edge to clean up and oil drips that could otherwise mar your paintwork. Stand the instrument in the mop bucket so the oil can drain away without going up the outside of your instrument. The mouthpiece tape, bag and film can then be removed from the mouthpiece end and be ready with the clean cloth to dry any drips that could otherwise spoil the outside paintwork.

You will need to leave the instrument draining for at least 24 hours and then to allow the didgeridoo to further stand on sheets of newspaper for a few more days to soak up any remaining drips.

Danish Oil - this is another oil that some people use on their didjeridoos, it is based upon Tung oil and is noted for its quick drying (3-4 hours) and hard finish properties. I used to own a beech, split-wood, didgeridoo which was treated with Danish oil. this particular oil showed the beautiful wood grain to great effect, a bare natural wood didgeridoo is perfect for Danish oil.

I oiled the inside first and in the same way as described above. I then applied two separate coats of Danish oil to the outside using a clean cloth and paying particular care to wipe off any drips so as to avoid small hard globules from drying on to the outside surface. The last coat can be applied with fine steel wool (rubbing in small circles) to get a super smooth glossy finish and which is then wiped clean before it dries! Properly done, this waterproof didgeridoo can be played in torential pouring rain, perfect for busking in Britain!


Do Not...

Do not leave your instrument on or very near to a radiator or other very hot heat source.

Do not drop your instrument and be particularly careful not to bang the mouthpiece end (it is fairly common for didgeridoos to have a cone shape, this causes the stress of the wood to be channelled towards the small mouthpiece end).

Do not pour water down your didgeridoo (an Aboriginal may do this in Australia before playing but the humidity is vastly different to that experienced in the UK and of course there are plenty of other didgeridoos growing around).

Do not play your didgeridoo and then put it away in a cold room.

Do not play your instrument and let it stand upright on its own (if it has a big foot) or it will go mouldy inside!


Do...

Do carry and transport your instrument in a suitable didgeridoo bag and you might want to invest in a foam beer can cooler to place over the mouthpiece end whilst being carried.

Do keep an eye on any cracks that might develop but do not be too alarmed. You can gently mark the ends of a crack to see if it is developing; a very small drill hole at both ends of the crack will prevent it from growing. It is probably best not attempt this if you do not feel confident but approach a professional instead. At Aboriginal Arts Ltd, we are very experienced in the repair of didgeridoos.


Beeswax...

If your didgeridoo requires a new, natural beeswax mouthpiece, please click here


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