Cork grease should be used on tenon corks in the beginning every time. Eventually the cork breaks in and you only need to use it from time to time. Fresh corks are tighter because when it breaks down it will be much smoother. If the new cork was a smooth fit it would break in and be too loose.
Make sure to swab it out during practice. Piccolo toneholes fill with condensation a lot quicker than on a flute because the toneholes are so small. Swab it out at least once or twice during a 1-hour rehearsal or practice. Don’t shake it to remove the moisture because it will get into the mechanism and cause problems. Some players even note swab times in rests during performances.
The biggest worry with a wooden instrument is cracking. The 2 common causes of cracking are temperature differences and internal stresses.
Most cracks happen when the instrument has a difference in temperature across the body caused by fast changes in heating. For instance, it is cold from being in a cold car and the player starts blowing warm air into the bore. Warmth expands on the inside while cold shrinks on the outside and CRACK! If the instrument is a little cold it should first be put inside the players coat (not in the case) between the players shirt and jacket. Just tuck it in an inner pocket for a few minutes to let it gradually warm up using your body heat before playing the first note.
If the piccolo gets really-left-out-in-the-car-over-night-in-January cold it should be brought inside far away from any direct source of heat. The case should be left closed from a few hours to overnight until it has come up to room temperature. It is fast changes that cause temperature related cracks. If walking long distances with a piccolo in winter you can even put the case strap around your neck and zip the case up inside your coat to keep it warm.
Sometimes a crack comes from internal stresses from the genetics of the tree. There is no way for anyone to know that it would eventually crack. These kinds of cracks usually make themselves known in the first year or two. There is nothing the player can do to prevent these cracks.
If it does crack it is not a huge deal. We now have some wonderful industrial quality cyanoacrylate glues, my favorite is a basically a very thin superglue that has been reinforced with particles of rubber to keep it flexible once it dries and allows it to breathe with the wood. I would need it for up to a week to fix a crack and re-oil the wood, but usually it would be an under $100 repair, and you would have a difficult time seeing that it was ever there. Gone are the days when pinning or banding was necessary, although you will find some holdout techs who aren’t ready to let go of the old techniques.
Like your flute it should be given a Clean, Oil, and Adjust once a year. I will remove all the keys and oil the wood of the instrument. I will do everything that I would usually do to a flute COA.
All of my new instruments come with a 12 month warranty against manufacturer defects in parts or craftsmanship. I can usually take care of them right in my shop for you, usually in under an hour while you wait.
~ Erik Nugent