Stuck Swabs

For goodness sake, don’t pull it tight!

Put the oboe down and think carefully before doing anything drastic!    Seriously, no concert is worth ruining a valuable instrument over.  Borrow an oboe if you must, and read the rest of this page before doing anything.


Go to a movie!  

Get your mind off of the problem. Do not let your well meaning dad or band director poke anything into the bore.


Don’t do any further damage!

Do not try to pull or push it through the top, or push it down to the bottom. You can easily damage the bore and destroy the oboe if you use tools like these.


Take it to a repairer who has proper tools

These are swab extractors. The one on the top retracts into a protective tube, preventing bore damage. The one on the bottom is dangerous!


The extraction process

The screw is retracted into the protective tube and gently placed in the bore. Then it is carefully advanced and turned to catch the swab.



The swab can be easily removed, but it is only easy if you didn’t pull it too tight.



If the swab has been tightly packed into the bore in a desperate attempt to remove it, really the only option is to take or send it to a qualified repairer.


If there is no qualified repairer near you, the dangerous kind of swab extractor is available at Forrests Music. The swab extractor (aka swab remover) must be used very carefully.  It is a very sharp screw brazed onto the end of a rod.  You carefully feed it into the large end of the oboe, and gently turn it to grab the swab.  This works best if nobody has jammed the swab tightly into the bore.  Be very careful to keep the tool centered and straight so that it doesn't dig into the bore, and don’t go in too far.  Really, this is scary stuff and is best left to a professional.

To prevent this in the future, use a cotton swab that don’t go all the way into the instrument, or a silk swab that has a cord on both ends.  If you use a silk swab, go slowly and make sure that the swab does not get knotted.  Some people use feathers to clean their oboes. I don't recommend this for two reasons. First, it only pushes the moisture around rather than removing it.  Second, feathers tend to leave bits of debris that can get stuck under pads and cause leaks.