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Didjeridoo Maintenance - Frequently Asked Questions

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Didjeridoo Maintenance - Our Answers

I can't play my didjeridoo any more, what's wrong?

If you were able to play it in the past it's most likely an air hole in your didj. Check carefully around the mouthpiece seal and also look carefully all over your didj for small holes or cracks. You can test suspicious areas by sealing your mouth over it and sucking. If you can suck air through you will have to seal the hole or crack. The easiest way to do this is by pressing bees wax into it.

How can I renew a worn out beeswax mouthpiece, and how (or where) can I get a fine bees wax?

First get yourself a small piece of natural beeswax the size of an ice hockey puck. You can get beeswax from beekeepers, saddlers, health food stores, craft shops or hardware stores.

Warm your beeswax up by putting it in the microwave for 10 seconds or in the oven at very low heat (60 degrees Celsius) for about 15 minutes. On a hot sunny day you can just put it in a glass jar in the sun. Once your beeswax is soft and pliable, shape it into a 10 to 20 mm diameter snake (depending on the size of the mouthpiece) and then start pushing it onto the top of your didj into a circle (after removing the old mouthpiece with a knife).

Now go back over it to make certain that it seals well onto the wood both on the inside and the outside. Last you ensure that the hole is about 35 to 40mm across and evenly round. Any bumps and unevenness will make it harder to get a good seal when playing.

I just got my first didge. It's about 5' 2" ,and has a crack about a quarter of the way down. It didn't have a crack a week ago when I bought it. The crack seemed to form overnight. I can't play it, because the crack is getting worse worse. Is this common in didges? What can I do about it? I but I don't think using beeswax will stop the crack from spreading. Should I use some kind of wood glue or laminate it after I put on the beeswax?

Sorry to hear about your cracked didj. Sadly the vast majority of didjes sold are of poor workmanship. Cracking is a very common problem unless you buy from a reliable supplier like us (punt intended). When I have a look through retail shops in our local tourist towns, I often see didjes with huge cracks being sold to unsuspecting tourists.

My first advice is to take it back to the shop you got it from or contact the supplier and demand a replacement. If you cannot get a positive response out of whoever sold you the cracked didj, try to repair the crack yourself as follows:

  • first grind or carve the out side of the crack into a V-shape
  • then fill that groove with a mix of sawdust and wood glue (best to have consistency of the mix similar to bread dough - not too wet). For best adhesion, apply some wood glue to the edges of the crack before applying the paste.
  • put some tie wire around the didj to stop it from expanding even further
  • allow about a week to dry
  • refill any sunken in areas
  • allow another week to dry
  • using a sharp knife and / or a grinder and / or sandpaper, level the filled area with the rest of the didj
  • touch up any artwork if applicable
  • apply at least two protective coats to the treated area (best to use the same kind of varnish as has been used on the didj).
  • apply another coat of the same varnish over the whole didj

The finish has worn off the bottom rim of my bell didj. Should I touch it up with marine polyurethane or what? It's not a big area but I'm concerned about exposed wood swelling and contracting, etc. Also, I want to put my own design on a didj. Should I use acrylics? Could use a tip or two on that score.

We use a water-based non-yellowing varnish on most of our didjes. You can use a similar product or a polyurethane-based varnish. We do advise to give the area to be varnished a sanding with ~300 to 600 grid sandpaper to help varnish adhesion.

To put your own artwork on a didj, give the whole didj a sanding with ~300 to 600 grid sandpaper first and then use acrylics for the artwork. Seal the artwork in a layer or two of whichever varnish you like (a non-yellowing varnish is usually best, to preserve the original colours of wood and artwork).

I have an iron bark didjeridoo and I'd love to know how to care for it. I've read many things on how to look after it but I'd appreciate your views. I've read are to pour linseed oil inside it, to pour water inside it (for greater resonance) or to do nothing and leave the inside bare timber. I really enjoy playing my didge and I want it to last for many many years.

It depends a lot on what protection the didj already has.

If the didj has any protective coating at all, you will have to use the same or a similar product again. All the products you mention and more are used to treat didjes but some are not compatible with each other. For example, treating a painted didj with linseed oil (even if done only on the inside) is very likely to lift the paint off sooner or later.

By the sound of it your didj has no protection at all on the inside. So we'd advise getting someone to spray paint the inside with a non-toxic varnish (assuming that the didj has some sort of varnish on the outside and not an oil). At the same time you can get another coat or two on the outside - try a small spot first for compatibility.

If your didj has been treated on the outside with an oil, then stick to that and get linseed oil sprayed through the inside and apply more of it to the outside. If you don't know what your didj has been treated with and want to be sure, ask the supplier or take it to an experienced wood worker and get his/her opinion

I need to know how to stop my didj from cracking. It's going further each day, please help!!!

I am afraid this is a very common problem.

The problem is caused by the fact that most didjes are sold without sufficient treatment to prevent cracking to start in the first place. So the best advice is to check whether the seller offers a warranty and how well their workmanship is before you buy (if you had bought one of our didjes, you would not have this problem!).

The best way to fix a cracked didj is to bevel the cracks and fill them with a mix of saw dust and wood glue (extend the bevel and fill for about an inch beyond the ends of the crack). You might have to refill again after a week as the mix will shrink as it dries. Once the fill is totally dry (allow at least one week in dry weather) you can sand it back to level it with the surrounding timber. After that seal the area and the whole didj again, preferably with a varnish compatible to what's on the didj already. You might want to apply several layers of varnish to minimise the possibility of further cracking.

Hello. I just bought a didj (#ac140) from you and was wondering about moisture buildup when I play, sometimes enough moisture gathers that it drips out of the bottom. I know some moisture will not hurt it but I was wondering if I should do anything about this. Otherwise, I love my new (first) Didj and have already learned how to circular breath. It is more beautiful than the picture on your web site shows. Thank you very much.

There isn't much you can or need to do about it. Luckily, since our didjes are sealed on the whole of the inside, there should be no problem with moisture, even if it comes running out the bottom.

Glad to hear that you are happy with your didj and that the video helped you learn circular breathing.

Is it possible to improve the back pressure of a didj by reducing the diameter of the mouth piece with wax?

If your beeswax mouth piece is not optimised to your mouth, back pressure as well as other sound qualities will suffer, so it would be correct to say that reducing the inner diameter of the mouth piece will somewhat increase the back pressure if the mouth piece is too big. But this is really just a side effect of optimising the mouth piece. If you make the mouthpiece smaller and smaller, you will not keep increasing the back pressure but rather make it harder and finally impossible to play the didj.

I'm bored with my PVC didj and that stretched form. Can I heat the pipe and shape it a bit more like a wood didj? Will it influence the actual sound?
Yes, you can heat your PVC pipe and change its shape. I have never done it but heard of people who did.
So you need to find out how to best do it... I guess you want it just hot enough to soften so you can push something (maybe a wooden tapered stick?) into it little bit by little bit. I'd also try to twist the stick, but you need to find out by trial and error. Be aware that the fumes of the heated plastic are probably poisonous:-(
Another way to change the shape of your PVC didj is to get different diameter pipes and join them together getting bigger towards the bottom...

I have just arrived back from Australia where I purchased a didj. On the flight back home to England the didj has been cracked slightly and I can't get a good sound out of it anymore. What do you recommend to fill the crack with? Is there a certain kind of filler that would work best or a material that I could wrap it with?
Firstly, rest assured that there are thousands of people with the same experience. Almost all didjes in Australian shops are sold un-cured (they are cut green and sold as soon as possible). They also have only minimal sealing making the situation worse. Because people like you cannot go back to the shop they bought the didj from, those shops do not care about quality and workmanship at all but only about getting cheap supplies in order to maximise profits. In my estimation and past experience somewhere between 30 and 50% of those didjes crack in the first few weeks.

It is very likely that your didj will keep cracking as it dries further. Fixing the present crack might cause new ones and not fixing it will most likely make the existing crack longer and/or wider.

You can for now just fill the crack with beeswax. This will allow you to play the didj and will allow the crack to keep moving as the didj dries further.

Or you can now or later fix the crack permanently. Most people use araldite or fibreglass resin to fill cracks or holes in didjes. Both are fast and usually do the trick. We use a dough-like mix of sawdust and wood glue. This takes weeks to dry and will require re-fills but it will contract and expand at the same rate as the wood and consequently last much longer (if done properly).

How do I have to store a didj? Standing up, or somewhere flat? I've found an Internet page telling me to keep it standing up so the moisture can drain away, but I was also told by someone else to put it flat, because otherwise the didj could crack (his explanation was that it could start acting like some sort of chimney). So, which is best?
Whenever you play a didj you introduce moisture from your breath. The longer you play the higher the humidity/moisture in the didj at the end of playing. If the didj after playing is laid down or placed with one of the ends obstructed (eg bottom of didj flat on the floor) much of this moisture will be absorbed by the wood. This makes cracking more likely due to the resulting expansion/contraction of the wood. It is best to remove the moisture as soon as possible after playing. So after playing the didj you want to store the didj in a way that helps to remove the high humidity/moisture in the didj. The best way to do so is to stand the didj upright with both bottom and top ends open. This will allow a passive airflow through the didj (the chimney effect) removing excess moisture. So the chimney effect is real but it is small and it is helpful.

Removing moisture introduced by playing before it can be absorbed by the wood does help to minimise cracking.

I was given a didgeridoo and was told to put oil on it. Is this correct?
Please see our information on how to care for your didj.
We do not recommend to put any oil on or into didjes especially if there is any artwork on them.
Our didjes are already protected by at least five coats of sealant and varnish and do not need any further protection.

I bought a "D" didge from you some yrs ago. It is playing slightly flat; it can be brought up by increasing pressure, but is there a way to alter the beeswax mouth piece to sharpen it? Decrease the internal diameter some? (plays about a 1/4 tone flat)
The DS-196D didj you bought from us is exactly in tune according to our records.
Now everyone does play slightly different with experienced players usually playing over tuned and beginners playing under tuned.

You can somewhat change the tune of a didj by ensuring that the beeswax mouth piece is only minimally higher than the didj (the longer the didj, the lower the pitch).
You can also use more beeswax to decrease the inside bore below the mouthpiece. You can extend the narrowing as far as you can reach with a knife or similar - best to ensure that the beeswax is very soft so you can easily shape it and press it against the wood.
If all of that does not work, you can cut the didj a bit shorter ad then reseal its end. Do so carefully as it is very difficult to make it longer again :-). I suggest you cut about 5mm at a time because you can always make that up with beeswax again.

I was visiting Australia 2 1/2 years ago and purchased a high quality (beautiful wood) Aboriginal didge. I'm a professional brass player here in America, so I was looking for a good souvenir and a great instrument. Well @#$% if I didn't knock it over a week ago and give it a beautiful "U-shaped" crack down one side, over the top, and back up the other. It's relatively small... isn't a hairline crack, but it is large enough for air to escape, which makes it "unplayable". I wrapped it tightly with a web clamp to encourage it back into place until I can get it repaired. For the time being, it plays great like it used to, but it's quite unsightly. I've visited many web sites trying to learn how to repair it, but I just don't want to screw it up. Someone suggested using saw dust mixed with wood glue. Others said use saw dust and super glue. Even others said DON'T use wood glue because it doesn't expand and contract like the natural wood does (Using this method will lead ! to more cracks in the future). Someone even suggested going to a furniture repair shop since they work with wood all the time. The most logical suggestion said to use marine/boat glue, since it's water resistant and somewhat flexible. It's a beautiful instrument with Aboriginal art, so it's not an option to spread glue over the crack and sand it down. Got any ideas?
I find it interesting to hear how information gets twisted on the internet.

We are the people who use sawdust and glue since over 12 years and have advised visitors and customers to do likewise. We use it because this is the only mix in our experience that does expand/contract at a similar rate as solid wood, while fibreglass, car bog, araldite etc does not. Superglue we have never tried. It is true that marine grade wood glue is better than ordinary one.

We advise you squeeze as much high-quality/high-strength wood glue into the crack as you can and then clamp it for a day (make sure to wipe off any excess).
After that we advise to make a paste of sawdust and wood glue to the consistency of peanut butter and apply an about 5mm layer to the inside of the didj behind the cracked area (brush some straight wood glue on the area first).

This should preserve the artwork but seal and strengthen the area to avoid further splitting.

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About Didgeridoos + Didgeridoo Maintenance + Playing the Didgeridoo + Shopping at the Didjshop

Please email us with any other questions you'd like answered.