Although based in Perth, Western Australia, Birch Woodwinds had its genesis in Brisbane, Queensland. After learning the basics of woodwind maintenance in a well-equipped workshop (thanks Rodney) I gradually developed skill and expertise on the job. This was always adjunct to a career in performing and teaching though. Playing a range of soprano and bass clarinets, and alto and tenor saxophones professionally, was invaluable in understanding the needs of professional musicians such as Paul Dean.

My own clarinets and saxophones were test beds for investigation into new products and new techniques. These investigations took me to Europe in 1988 to visit oboe and clarinet manufacturers, and instrument repair technicians. This experience as well as extensive readings in woodwind acoustics has helped me to voice instruments so that they sound clearly and in tune. My many years of teaching in primary and secondary schools has helped me to understand the needs of young players as well as the needs of professional musicians.

The birch in the title of the business name is a play on the surname of the proprietor: van Berkum. Berk in Dutch is the cognate of birch in English so you can talk Dutch (or German or French) when you drop off your contrabass clarinet to be repaired, and you'll be understood! 


Most jobs are charged on an hourly basis, with a minimum of $25, as it is difficult to assess what an instrument needs without seeing it. Replacing tenon corks on a clarinet, for example, is straightforward, but a bent key on a saxophone could also mean that the body is bent. Annual servicing is comprehensive and is charged for at three different rates.

  • Standard Service
  • Full Service
  • Repad.

In addition, there is a basic service called an 'adjust and oil'. Most of the time this is the sort of maintenance you can do yourself every six months or so, as it involves checking for wear and tear, adjusting regulating screws, and oiling the keywork. The difference, of course, is that an expert eye is cast over the instrument, and the best quality of oil is used. The instrument is checked for leaks but it is not test played.

On average, the following rates apply:

Flute $40 – $70

Clarinet $25 – $40

Oboe $40 – $70

Bassoon $40 – $70

Saxophone $50 – $80

© Birch Woodwinds 2012