Finish differances and ocarina care

Ocarinas are commonly available with 3 different finishes. Fired glazes are the most durable, the instrument is coated in a thin layer of glass. Natural shellac is the original finish used by the original Italian makers. Finally there is the plain finish of the ceramic itself.

Besides looking different they feel notably different to play. In my opinion glazes have the worst feel of the 3. As they are mirror smooth and non porous any moisture on the fingers becomes trapped between the skin and glaze. This causes the fingers to cling to the surface similar to how a glass can stick to a table. This gives the ocarina a 'sticky' or clingy' feel and make smooth finger sliding difficult.

The plain finish does not have this issue. As earthenware is porous it absorbs any moisture on the fingers keeping them dry. It is also not mirror smooth. Because of these two factors sliding movements are very easy.

Shellac is a half-way house between the two. Shellac is not porous but it also has some surface roughness. Moisture will still accumulate on the fingers but wont become trapped to the same extent. Sliding movements are easier than a glaze but harder than the plain finish.

If a small amount of talk or chalk dust is applied to the fingers sliding movements on glazed and shellac ocarinas are significantly easier. This acts as an interface and prevents the gripping surface of the skin touching the instrument.

Finish care instructions

Ocarinas should be cleaned by wiping them over with water on a lint-free cloth.

Do not clean ocarinas using scented cleaning products or anything with a strong chemical smell. Earthenware is porous and will absorb the cleaner. It gradually seeps out over time leaving a lingering smell that can only be removed by re-firing.

Do not use alcohol based cleaners on Shellac finished ocarinas as it will damage the finish.

Plain finished ocarinas will discolor over time as they absorb skin moisture and oils. This can only be removed by re-firing. 600 to 800C is adequate to burn out most organic compounds. Do not fire above 1060C as this may change the tuning of the instrument.

After playing

As you play moisture from your breath will be absorbed into the earthenware. This is desirable as it stops it clogging the wind-way and accumulating internally.

After a playing session your ocarina should be kept in open air so any absorbed moisture can evaporate.

Thoughts on...

Article Headings