This is preventative maintenance – cracks in fifes occur because simple precautions are not taken. So please take note of these points:
1. Always take the multiple piece fife apart after playing. This allows the moisture to dry out better without getting into the wood. Store it away from extremes of temperature, and keep it wrapped in a cloth or in a case, preferably in a vertical position to allow for drainage, and so it can adjust gradually to climate changes.
2. Before assembling a new fife, grease the cork tenons with vaseline or cork grease. This will aid assembly and make the joints perfectly airtight. You should take great care at all times when assembling the fife, the joints should be brought together with a twisting motion and not pushed straight on.
3. If the fife is dry – i.e. before playing (oil immediately, and if possible allow several hours for the oil to soak in), push through the bore a swab or cotton rag dampened with bore oil. This prevents moisture from getting into the wood. You should also rub a little oil into the outside of the fife.
4. After playing remove excess moisture from the bore with a dry cotton rag on a pull through, or with a dry swab on a rod. This prevents localized wet patches. If possible buy two cleaning rods with a swab on the end of each. One rod has a dry swab, and one has a few drops of oil. Always keep rod(s) and fife(s) together.
5. For the first month play only 1/2 hour at a practice session. Playing time can be gradually increased after this. This allows the wood to gradually acclimatize to the moisture.
6. If the joints are loose then wind on a little cotton thread evenly along the length of the joint. Pull the cotton through a piece of beeswax to wax the thread first.
7. If the joints become stiff and dry don’t force them together. Rub on a little joint grease (from a music shop). Vaseline is O.K. but needs renewing frequently. If the joints are cork lapped, remove any grease from the tenon, and gently sand it with 200/400 grade abrasive paper until it is a smooth fit.
Woodwind instruments should never be submitted to extreme changes in temperature, or placed near any form of heating or in direct sunlight. All woodwind instruments perform best when played regularly, otherwise they tend to dry out. Store it away from extremes of temperature, and keep it wrapped in a cloth or in a case, so it can adjust gradually to climate changes. Cracks in woodwinds are usually caused by a damp instrument drying out too fast. You can avoid most problems by not allowing the dampness to get into the wood in the first place, by wiping out excess moisture after playing, oiling the bore, greasing the joints, and finally leaving the cleaning rod(s) inside or next to the fife(s) (keeping everything together).