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I was wondering on average, how much does it cost to clean up a clarinet. Someone borrowed my instrument that I haven't touched in about 20 years. I didn't think to clean it up, replace cork, pads, etc. before lending it out. The person I'm lending it took it to a music store to repair/clean it. Since I'm the owner, I feel obligated to pay for it but they won't tell me the cost. Can someone give me a ballpark estimate? It doesn't have to be 100% accurate. I just want to give a little something back to the borrower, even if it's going halfway with them for doing this for me. Thanks.

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There are generally a few levels of "reconditioning" that could have been done, depending on the quality of the clarinet and how badly it had been neglected.

Re-Pad - All padded keys have their pads replaced. Typically also includes cleaning and lubrication of key hinges. Some shops will also replace felt and cork key silencers and any corked key pads at this level, others won't. Typically runs between $150-200 when using quality pads on a professional-quality instrument and replacing silencers/corked keys.

Overhaul/Recondition - Includes a repad, plus a complete teardown of the instrument for cleaning, resurfacing/refinishing and conditioning of the wood underneath, and replacement of all cork and felt on the instrument including the tenons between sections of the clarinet. Adds about another $50-$75 to the cost of a repad. An instrument sitting in a case is less likely to need a full overhaul; this is more often for "well-loved" instruments that are being played on a daily basis for some years, or for neglected instruments subjected to temperature extremes, damp conditions, etc while in storage.

Refinish/Replate - In addition to an overhaul or repad, all metal pieces are removed, smoothed and electroplated with whatever plating metal was originally used on the new instrument. Adds about another $100 for chrome or brass, obviously more for silver- or gold-plated hardware. I doubt your friend had this done to a borrowed instrument; as long as the keys function properly, worn plating is just an aesthetic detraction (and in some situations, this worn look is desirable for its "mojo"; shows the instrument's got experience and implying the player does too).

These are typical prices for an instrument on which all the parts are present and functioning (though perhaps not well), and the instrument itself has suffered no physical damage or serious decay. Cracks/splits, large dents, and damage to tonally-sensitive areas like tone holes are typically estimated on a case-by-case basis. Assuming the clarinet simply sat in a case in a reasonably climate-controlled environment for 20 years I don't see these being issues, even if it wasn't properly cleaned the last time it was played.

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It really depends on where it was taken, who it was taken to, and how much needed to be done to it. If it was taken to a small, local person with little demand and all it needed was new corks / pads, it wouldn't be too much. If it was local or taken out of state to someone in high-demand / highly regarded and needed a lot of work, it could also have cost a few or several hundred dollars. So, you can see why it would be inappropriate to just throw numbers around.

I have friends that will ship their instruments across the country to have it worked on by a particular individual.

Other than trying to talk it out with your friend, you could alternatively find out where it was taken and then call the business yourself and either inquire about the instrument or get a quote for a "hypothetical" instrument.

Honestly though, the best advice I can think to give would be to keep talking out with your friend and maintain honest communication about how you feel about it - let them know you'd like to contribute at least halfway. If they still refuse, invite them over for dinner and cook them a great meal with conversation - always goes a long way. :)

Hope that helps.

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Or ask for 10% of their busking earnings :-) . But srsly, look at it this way: if they're going to use it for more than a couple years (and it sounds like you have no plans to take it back), they'd need to do a full overhaul at some point anyway. –  Carl Witthoft Sep 9 '13 at 11:47
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