How to fix the corks on your mutes

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One question I am asked about fairly often is about fixing mute corks. The worst offenders are some recent mutes with “peel and stick” synthetic corks, they fall off too easily, but cork issues impact all mutes eventually.

The key thing you need to fix a mute cork that has fallen off is the right kind of glue.

I am over 50, and one thing that might be noted is that “back in my day” as a young person people often had analog hobbies such as building model kits. I did–and I still work with models–and the glue I prefer for mutes is a great contact cement you will find in any hobby shop specializing in model trains, Goo by Walthers. It is a strong and flexible contact cement and has been around for years and years. Follow the directions on the tube, it is great stuff! Easy to buy online too, if there is no model train shop handy.

Straight mute corks are a very easy thing to fix with Goo. Just don’t be tempted to use super glue, it won’t work well in this application as it will crack and not hold the cork well.

To the more difficult project, I was recently given a vintage Tom Crown stop mute. The cork was broken off the mute itself, and also almost half was missing. The remaining original cork is at the far right in the photo.

This one is more on the level of difficulty that you might want to take it to a shop, a woodwind repairman will have what they need to fit a cork to this mute. But if you feel up to trying to fix it yourself, this is what I did.

The first step to repair it (besides having a tube of Goo handy) is to have a sheet of cork. Looking online, I realized that the cork sold for use on cork boards should work, the thickness was correct for a stop mute. I bought one inexpensively on Amazon. It comes rolled up, and having been rolled up is also helpful as you apply it to the round surface of the mute as well.

The next step is to make a template from paper. I started out trying to use a compass but ended up freehand cutting paper to the correct shape.

Next, cut cork to match the paper. How? Going back to the hobby shop or craft store, you need a sharp X-Acto knife, a standard tool in model making. If it is dull at all the cork will tear. Mark the shape on the cork and then cut with multiple passes of the knife.

In the photo you will see in the middle a cork cut out, and not used, as it was too short. Cut the cork at least 1/4 inch longer than you need to be sure you have enough material to go all the way around the mute and more.

After that, do the final trimming of the cork to fit and “Goo” it on, following the instructions. To be certain that it was held down firmly as a final step I put the mute in a horn bell overnight.

The mute works now as good as new and will be a spare for studio use. Don’t retire a good mute due to lack of corks, it is not a difficult fix.

University of Horn Matters