Rocky Mountain Alphorns - Alphorn Owners’ Manual (Alphorn Care)
1) Keep a tube of vaseline in your accessory pocket. Gun barrel grease can also be used. Lubricate the inside sleeves and the O-rings. Avoid getting sand or grit into the sleeves, as this will cut the O-rings. Extra O-rings are provided (four in each size) in the accessory pocket. If more are required inquire at a machine shop for metric O-rings in the sizes 60 x 1.5 and 36 x 1.5 or order more from Rocky Mountain Alphorns for $1.00 (small size) and $1.50 (large size).
2) When assembling the Alphorn, make sure to slide the sections together carefully. Avoid pinching the O-rings. This can cause the sections to become stuck. If this occurs, rotate and slide the Alphorn apart by holding on to the metal part of the sleeve section. This avoids stress on the metal to wood glue joint. After the Alphorn is assembled, align the sections so that the black dots are on top. This provides the straightest line for the Alphorn.
3) Oil your Alphorn yearly; generally in the Fall before the Alphorn is to be stored for an extended period. Use peanut oil, walnut oil or tung oil (China Nut oil). Be aware that some people are highly allergic to peanut oil. You can add up to 20% varnish to the nut oils, but this is optional. Do not use sticky furniture finishing oils such as Danish oil. Close off one end of each section and pour in the oil while rotating the section to distribute the oil. Let the oil soak in for an hour or so. Pour out the excess oil and stand the section on end on a newspaper overnight to further drain. It is best to wear old clothes and to be outside when oiling your Alphorn. Reapply vaseline to the sleeves after this operation is completed.
4) Do not leave your Alphorn in the car on a hot day. Avoid temperature extremes in general. Playing your Alphorn will introduce moisture into the bore of the instrument. This is normal and good for the Alphorn, although long term exposure to rain or excessively humid conditions is not recommended. If this occurs, leave the Alphorn out in the air to dry, taken apart into sections, with the sections upright so that they can drain. If you live in a very humid environment you should make a drying swab for your Alphorn. Tie a string, slightly longer than the longest section of your Alphorn, to a small cloth rag. Tie a metal weight to the other end of the string (a machine nut is good). To swab out the Alphorn, drop the weighted end of the string through the bore of each section of the instrument to the other end and pull the cloth swab through the length of the instrument. This precaution is only neccessary in an unusually humid environment. In normal use, Rocky Mountain Alphorns have encountered very few problems in service.
5) The outside of your instrument (and the inside of the bell) is finished with spar varnish. You may wish to have some spray varnish on hand to refinish any scratches. I use Behr brand spar varnish. Do not use urethane or plastic finishes on your Alphorn. These finishes do not adhere well to varnish. After a few years of playing the lacquer finish on the mouthpiece may start to wear off. Because a small number of people may have an allergic reaction to lip contact to some woods it is a good idea to refinish your mouthpiece yearly. Clean off the mouthpiece and give it a light application from spray can of clear lacquer. If you suspect an allergic reaction to your mouthpiece suspend use of that mouthpiece immediately. To refinish the mouthpiece, clean the mouthpiece carefully, and apply light coats of spray lacquer. Never use a finish that contains lead when refinishing the mouthpiece. Oil the inside of the mouthpiece with nut oils.
6) When sliding the sections in your case, you will note that there is a lip near the bottom of the case where the padding wraps around the base. Experiment to find the best angle so that each section slides to the very bottom of the case. Put the first and second sections in metal end first.
The Sitka Spruce from which Rocky Mountain Alphorns are made is air dried for at least three years. The quality of this material, and the care taken in the preparation and finishing of Rocky Mountain Alphorns insures that the instruments are very sturdily built. Problems have been rare, but
as with any
wooden instrument, joints can come unglued or hairline cracks can occur. Please call or email me to discuss any
problems that might occur. It is best
for any minor repairs to be handled locally by qualified woodworkers or string
instrument technicians. Your instrument
is of great value, and any challenging repairs should be returned to my Rocky
Mountain Alphorns workshop.
Phone: (403) 283-4468