Editors Note: For more information on console maintenance, check out Zen & The Art Of Mixing Console Cleaning & Maintenance.
I’ve cleaned a lot of faders over the years and suppose I’ve gotten a little bold when it comes to tearing a fader apart and giving it a good bath.
And I’ve learned the hard way just how much punishment a fader can take before it breaks.
In some cases, a certain amount of brute force is required to crack open a fader, but then a certain amount of gentle finesse is needed to clean its individual parts.
I recommend practicing with old junk faders – without experience, it’s all too easy to ruin a good one.
Cleaning a fader is not brain surgery, but it takes practice and a lot of care.
Before we getting into a total fader rebuild, let’s talk about quick cleaning. Much of the time, if the gear has been well cared for and the faders are not too dirty, then a little routine maintenance is all that is likely required.
Besides, keeping faders clean is always a good idea, preventing dirt from becoming embedded deeper inside where it can cause more wear and tear.
Keep in mind: with relatively new faders in particular, do as little as possible in order not to undo the original lubrication. And overall, don’t go any further with this process than you feel you need to.
The first step is to use compressed air to blow as much dirt as possible out of the fader.
Figure 1: Start by blowing one end, and then the other. (All photos by Alex Welti)
There is usually “dust bunnies” in the fader that will come out easily, and this might be all that needs to be achieved in terms of cleaning.
Move the fader carriage to one end and blow air into the slot aiming away from the carriage so that dust can escape through the slot. Then move the carriage to the opposite end and blow air aiming the opposite way.
Skip this step and compound the laziness by spraying some off-the-shelf cleaner-lube into the fader, and it’s likely that the dust bunnies will be matted down and stick in the corners.
Laziness can lead to temporary improvement but later, the dreaded “dust bunnies” in the corner syndrome.
A fader might seem to work better for a while, but this won’t last and might lead to the need for a more substantial (and time consuming) cleaning effort.
Note that the compressed air must be clean and dry.
I do a lot of cleaning, so I’ve invested in a $100 air compressor and then added an air filter / dryer unit for about $40. To this I’ve added a dryer cartridge that contains silica beads for about $5.