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Discussion Starter #1
Are wooden piccolos more susceptible to cracking than other wooden instruments like clarinet or bass clarinet?

I'm thinking perhaps they are because of the small volume of wood relative to the volume of hot air in your breath making it easier for piccolo to heat up quicker.

What has been your experience? Have you ever had a piccolo crack on you? Do you take any precautions?

I have touch wood never had any problem with cracking with clarinet and bass clarinet, but then again I live in moderate climates. I've even read here that you should never play a piccolo when the temperature is below 65F (19C). This sounds a little extreme to me.

But if they are that liable to crack then maybe it would be better to go plastic.
 

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I personally have never seen a piccolo crack.

When I was in high school, I used a wooden school piccolo for half time shows with temperatures in the 40's and it never cracked. I always warmed it up with my hands first, though. I am not recommending that you do that, however. I only did so because that was the only working piccolo the school had available.

If you plan on performing in cold temperatures, then I would recommend plastic, which you won't ever have to worry about cracking.

The Pearl piccolo is highly recommended by others, though I have yet to try it myself. I hear it is just as good (or better) than a wood piccolo.

Good luck!
 

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Yeah, even though I have not heard of a picc cracking, I would not play MINE at 40 deg F. If you absolutely need to do this, keep the picc warm inside your coat before playing. Plastic or metal would be better.

Oboes are the most crack-prone woodwinds, probably due to their cylindrical bore. I dunno about tarrogatos.
 

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I have an old Haynes Db that was cracked and nailing pins were put in. Got it really cheap and it is my band loaner when Db is needed. Most crack at the head but can be repaired. The biggest problem is drying out in heated houses. I would not worry too much about it. Even if the head cracks, it can be repaired or replaced.
 

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bruce bailey said:
The biggest problem is drying out in heated houses.
This is a good point. If the wood gets too dry, it is more prone to crack.

That said, it is important that you dry out the piccolo thoroughly after each use since too much moisture can damage it too.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks.

Also what do you think about the argument that it's better to get a used wooden piccolo because the wood has matured making it less likely to crack, and also the sound of a new piccolo will change as the wood matures.
 

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Regarding the first part of your question, I've read that wood piccolos do indeed stabilize as the wood matures and becomes less likely to crack. This seems reasonable since nearly everything made of wood from instruments to furniture does most of its settling and stabilizing for the first few years after it is built.

As for the second part, who knows? I suspect everyone will have an opinion but it would be virtually impossible to prove or disprove any of them.
 

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Also wood can crack from repairs when heating in the pads. Too much head in a subject place will cause this.
 

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I've never encountered a cracked piccolo. I guess they would be less likely to crack, having a thinner wall than clarinet or oboe.
 

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I sure have found a lot of piccolo PLAYERS that are "cracked". Must be the high notes banging on their brains. When I worked for Gemeinhardt, I was at a convention where the exhibits were set up in a concrete parking garage. One day after lunch about a dozen band kids came by each trying to hit high B. I walked away. We had insurance if they were stolen.
As far as cracking, I think various brands have some bad history. I had a Selmer K series clarinet that had 11 cracks total. I had a guy repair them and you couldn't tell where they were. Some Oboe nuts claim that the instrument plays better after it cracks as the tension is gone in the wood. An interesting system was used by Schreiber (buffet) for mid line clarinets. They took low grade wood and compressed ABS plastic into it to fill the grain. These things actually played well. A plastic piccolo responds better than wood but the wood has a better sound. Hardy sells a plastic pic with a wood head and for the money it is not bad. A wood head is only about $60 mfg. cost.
 

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Ken said:
Also what do you think about the argument that it's better to get a used wooden piccolo because the wood has matured making it less likely to crack, and also the sound of a new piccolo will change as the wood matures.
Much depends on how the wood was seasoned before the instrument was made from it. I would guess that indeed, if the instrument is cared for properly, one would find less cracking of older instruments than newer instruments. There are stresses in the wood due to grain patterns, etc. that really can't be predicted before an instrument is made. Once it has been drilled, shaped, bored, etc., stresses that are inherent in the wood can cause cracking. If it hasn't cracked after a few years it probably won't--at least due to those inherent stresses. Cycles of heating and cooling, dry and wet, cause the wood to alternately swell and shrink, and this can eventually cause cracking, too, but again, it is somewhat the luck of the draw.

Since the dimensional stability of wood is poor at best, there is every chance that the response of the instrument could change slightly as the wood settles into its final dimensions after being worked, but I would guess that these changes are usually rather small.

If you find a used instrument in good condition there is no reason not to buy it just because it is used. I had two wooden Boehm flutes, one from the 1870s and a Haynes from the 20's as well as an old baroque one-keyer from around 1790, and the wood remained in perfect condition.

Toby
 
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