Topic: Techniques for Preparing to Form

What are the techniques everyone here uses after putting on the first wire?
I've seen covering the reed with medium cotton string, heavy cotton string, nylon fishing line, rubber bands, or nothing at all.
I've seen heating the mandrel with fire, steam, or nothing at all.

Principal Bassoon, Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra & Washington National Opera Orchestra

Re: Techniques for Preparing to Form

I soak, score, bevel
Wrap first wire quite tightly (not something everyone does)
Wrap in wet packing twine, which I guess you could call "medium" cotton string, from the collar to about 2mm from the butt.
Cut slots in the butt end (through-scoring) only about 1-2mm
Insert a waxed Rieger forming mandrel slowly straight up, using a pliers to hold the reed.
Eventually the first wire needs to be squeezed from the sides to get the mandrel in all the way.  This is the only point that can cause a crack for me.

Once the mandrel is in to the proper point, I unwrap and add the other two wires.
)If my bevel is wrong I take the first wire off at this point and fix it.)
I then crush the cane with my pliers from the second wire to the butt.
Then I tighten the wires again so they are snug.

I then set the reeds on my drying pins (not tightly, just to keep them upright).

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: Techniques for Preparing to Form

Joey,

I've done just about every way, and the key for me to not get any cracking is that I cut the collar before I form.   
Now I cut the collar, bevel, score the cane, fold, put on 1st wire, wrap with thick cotton string (above collar to above the butt a little), and insert forming mandrel.   I'll use pliers to form the cane to the mandrel.    I take the string off and see if the opening at the first wire is what I want, if too flat, push in the mandrel a little more.   
I then put on the other wires fairly firm, score the cane with a file sideways between the 2nd and 3rd wires, and let dry for a couple of days.   Retighten wires, put on Duco cement, let dry for 10 minutes or so then wrap and cover with Duco.

Mark

Mark Ortwein
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
OrtweinWoodwinds.com

Share

Re: Techniques for Preparing to Form

I too, soak, score and bevel.
Then I apply the first and second wires and insert the mandrel ( I use Reiger), slowly, to where the butt end of the reed meets a file mark I've made on the mandrel 3mm below the already scribed mark on the Reiger mandrel. I don't wrap or heat anything. Then I knead the cane (with smooth jawed pliers, very important!), gently, below the second wire, apply the third wire, adjust or tighten, if needed, the first and second wires and let the blank dry on the mandrel ( I have several ) for two to three days. Retighten all the wires, third a lot, second a little and the first wire the least. Then I apply clear nail polish, cotton wrapping and another coat of nail polish. Let that dry another day or so and then remove it from the mandrel.
Hope this is helpful. Thanks for asking the question, it's always interesting (to me, at least) to find out how others make their reeds.
Best Regards, Charles McCracken

Share

Re: Techniques for Preparing to Form

I have released a video of Norman Herzberg demonstrating his reed beveling and forming technique. Members may view the vieo at


Norman Herzberg Memoirs

Yoshi Ishikawa
Professor of Bassoon, University of Colorado at Boulder, College of Music
Editor, IDRS OnLine Publications

Re: Techniques for Preparing to Form

Like Charles (hi Charles!), I find it very interesting to hear how other people do certain steps. Over the years, I've tried many different things, either looking to improve what I'm doing or to help validate and understand better what it is I have been doing.

First off, I score and bevel dry! Found I could be a bit finer in my shavings. I use various combinations of tools to bevel, depending upon my mood (that's all): a very sharp, small knife, sand paper and/or a fine file.

(And if you haven't read the late, great Hugh Cooper's article about beveling in a recent IDRS journal - go get it! It's outstanding! There's an equally good paper by Norman Herzberg. Yoshi also just put up a link to a video of Mr. Herzberg about beveling, although I couldn't get it to play. Problem's probably on my end.)

(I'd be curious to hear from people that score all the way through the cane. There's a machine that does this, and I just cringe every time I see it. I would think that there might be problems with having a tight seal, and/or it would vibrate funny.)

OK, cane is scored, beveled. I soak it for several hours, 3 minimum. Put first wire on, wrap the cane with a cotton boot lace (also soaked, why? I don't know, that's the way I was taught 40 years ago.)

Open the butt end with pliers so I don't smash the end of the tube inserting the forming mandrel. (I don't like crushing or squeezing the cane, in any way, like with pliers to round out the tube. That's why I use a thick lace.)

Insert mandrel at least up to the second line on the mandrel (most forming mandrels have two scores, one for a finished blank, the further one for forming), being careful to keep the edges of the sides parallel, straight and not twisted. It's ok if the sides aren't touching. At this point you want to spread the cane apart a bit, in addition to making it more or less round. Also make sure that the fold is relatively straight or flat. I want both blades to have the same shape/slope, so that they vibrate the same way. No smiles or frowns. Or worse, sneers! Now is the best time to fix any irregularities.

As I remove the lace to put on a wire, I frequently tug on the lace to gently round the tube. I feel squeezing and crushing with pliers hurts the fibers of the cane and adversely affects the way the reed vibrates. This even goes for what happens in the tube. (Maybe that's thinking a bit too hard.)

To avoid splitting the cane up into the blade, I make sure my first wire is tight and not loose, but not so tight as to actually squeeze the cane. Also, that's why I soak for at least three hours. Even when I'm playing around with a thicker profile, if I stick to this regimen, I don't have this problem. And we're talking like 0.048" at the back of the blade! Collar, if you prefer. (I love the German word for the collar on a reed: kerbe.)

I put four wires on my reeds because I hate string wrapping, haven't done it in 30 years. Preferred method of sealing the tube (for the moment) is melted toothbrush handles in acetone. (The cheap CVS clear colored plastic work best.) Not too thick, and not too much. Makes for a fantastic seal, reeds last longer because there's a lot less expanding and contracting (which is what I think contributes the most to a reed's decline), and as long as I don't put too much on, they vibrate very well.

(Shrink tube isn't a tight seal, and the tube still expands and contracts a lot. It is aside from nothing, probably the fastest way to finish a tube. Hot glue is pretty good, but I think it dampens vibrations a bit. String is just awful - eventually becomes loose, allows a lot of expansion and contraction, takes too long. Just Duco cement or just nail polish are pretty good, but they don't seal as well, and eventually wear off unless you put a lot on. At least, those are my opinions.)

Back to my four wires, second wire is about 5/16 of an inch behind the first. The 2nd and 3rd are close to the back end of the tube, a little apart from each other so that my melted plastic sort of settles there and makes some weight, just like you would have with a Turk's ball using string.

If the first wire is too flat (usually), I'll open it from the sides, using pliers that grip in a parallel manner, so as not to put unequal pressure on the sides. Very important that you the sides have the same contour. As this will affect how each blade responds (or doesn't.) Check the throat opening on the inside, is it symetrical? It should be.

Let the sucker dry on a mandrel type drying board, force it down all the way. Then wait at least a day, tighten the wires, wrap/coat (whatever), and get going!

Whew, that took longer than I thought it would! Hope it was helpful!

Last edited by DaHah (2007-08-27 10:28:28)

Harry Searing
Bassoon, Contrabassoon, Heckelphone
Faculty: Manhattan School of Music Precollege Division (NY), Montclair State University (NJ) &  CUNY (NY)
President, LRQ Publishing - featuring the bassoon music of Francisco Mignone

Share

Re: Techniques for Preparing to Form

That Herzberg video is very enlightening.  He ensures his bevel removes the smallest amount of cane and still gets cane removed from all four portions to make a flat bevel.  I like to remove more cane to create more spring in the tip and I do what I suppose Herzberg would call "medium" bevel.

Thanks so much Yoshi!

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: Techniques for Preparing to Form

Yoshi - I also want to thank you for the posting of Norman Herzberg videos. Very helpful -- and since I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Herzberg, it's a pleasure to hear and watch him present his way of doing things.

Susan

Share

Re: Techniques for Preparing to Form

You are very welcome. I wanted to dismiss any myth regarding the Herzberg bevel! You may be also interested in photos of the original Mechler Reeds circa 1930. Norman wanted me to take photos of these reeds also to dismiss any claim that there is one and only Mechler shape. In fact, Mechler used differenct shapes, I believe, to accommodate for varieties of cane hardness and vibratory characteristics..

Yoshi Ishikawa
Professor of Bassoon, University of Colorado at Boulder, College of Music
Editor, IDRS OnLine Publications

Re: Techniques for Preparing to Form

Yoshi, do you have any video or document that details the steps Herzberg goes through before getting to the points on that video?  How does he prepare the tube for the rounding process?  I would assume based on what he did in the video that he hadn't put any wires on yet, so he must have let the reed dry on a drying pin still covered in string or a rubber band.  My problem when doing this is that I tend to get more cracks without the first wire.  I'm also interested in if and how he scores the bark and if he does any crushing.

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: Techniques for Preparing to Form

There has not been much talk about what type of mandrel is being used to form reeds.  I use a Rigotti forming mandrel because of the taper, it is long enough to open the tip, and large enough that I can form the reed without having to ream the reed afterwards. 

Dale Clark
Clark Bassoon Reeds

Share