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Another member of my band has a set of plastic recorders that are at least 20 years old and played often. Similar to this one:
Plasic recorder They're plastic, not wood, so shouldn't be subject to fluctuations from weather. But the joints (particularly the ones connecting the head to the body) have become loose on some of them. How can he fix this? I assume he should be adding a thin layer of something, but what?

There is no obvious damage to the plastic (e.g. chipping). He stores them (disassembled) in the foam-lined case they came in.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Cut a piece of paper to fit and scotch tape it to the joint. If still loose fold the paper over. The length of the paper should be a little less than the circumference of the joint so it will stay there because the tape will be on the paper and the joint.

I use this technique for all my recorders and all joints. It's completely reversable and cheap.

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Is there any concern about long-term damage to the plastic from the glue on the tape? (I'm not assuming there is; I don't know and don't want to trade one problem now for another later, hence asking.) – Monica Cellio Oct 27 '13 at 19:16
No, any residual stickiness is easily cleaned off. – ohmi Oct 28 '13 at 13:33
This is what he ended up doing and so far it's working fine. Thanks. – Monica Cellio Dec 10 '13 at 22:03
Another useful method is plumber's teflon tape. I have used this to fix loose joints on both plastic and wooden recorders. – Alan Munn May 17 '14 at 18:57

Soprano and Alto recorders are pretty cheap, relatively speaking. Honestly, it may be worthwhile to explore the possibility of purchasing new instruments. Unlike wood recorders, a plastic recorder's sound will not improve / mature over time, so if the cost of fixing them is comparable to purchasing new ones, it may be a viable alternative.

Personally, if your friend is bent on keeping them, I would recommend cork - the type used on clarinets and oboes. This guarantees a snug fit while allowing for adjustments in intonation, does not hurt the instrument, and can be replaced regularly. It's relatively inexpensive and is easy to apply. Keep in mind that because the cork is designed for clarinets and oboes that it may be too thick for the recorder, so some delicate shaving may need to take place in order to get the cork to the desired thickness.

Also, instruments are made to be adjusted and should never be permanently affixed together - this is a sure-fire way to damage the instrument. I know someone (a music teacher) that welded the slides of his school's brass instruments so that they would never go out of tune. He promptly and rightfully lost his job.

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Sopranos and altos are inexpensive, but the tenors and basses run into more money. (I believe it's his tenor that's currently giving him trouble.) Thanks for the tip about cork. (Re: your last paragraph -- shudder.) – Monica Cellio Oct 27 '13 at 19:42
Yes, tenors and basses are not only more expensive, but rarer as well. Knowing now that the recorder in question is a tenor, I would definitely explore all options of repair before replacing. Another thought - they can always take the instrument to an instrument repair technician to see what they would recommend as well. – jjmusicnotes Oct 27 '13 at 21:41
Sorry, it didn't occur to me that size might be a factor, so I failed to specify. – Monica Cellio Oct 27 '13 at 21:46
@jjm. That's as bad as the parent who returned his daughter's new school trombone, having fixed the problem of the slide moving with a pop rivet.True. – Tim Oct 28 '13 at 11:25
In my experience cork cannot be added to plastic instrument joints, the tolerances are already too close. – ohmi Oct 28 '13 at 13:39

Sticky-backed plastic. Sellotape (other brands are available...) will do the job, but he's better off not assembling/dismantling them. If they were mine, I'd probably put a bit of superglue or suchlike on the joints, mount the whole instrument together, and leave it permanently like that.There seems little point in taking them apart, unless there's a very long one, but even then, it's maybe only as long as an alto sax, and folks don't have a problem transporting those. I'm guessing the problem is them self-dismantling rather than leaking air.

I assumed at the time that it would be a descant causing problems - as tenors aren't cheap, probably don't fix permanently !

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Thanks for the tape info. The way you tune a recorder is to make minor adjustments in the top joint (pull out or push in slightly), so permanently fixing them in one position doesn't work. (Sure you can make some adjustments through how you blow, but sometimes more is needed.) – Monica Cellio Oct 27 '13 at 17:12
Also cleaning the interior would become much harder with a glued together recorder. – Ulf Åkerstedt Oct 27 '13 at 17:28
Minimally harder, not much harder, Ulf. I still think that 2 parts could be permanently stuck together. – Tim Oct 27 '13 at 18:06

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