I don't know why I do this to myself, but I do. I thought I had the perfect seat strap, but then I changed my setup again, so the perfect seat strap that I had went out the window. I was using a thick leather strap with a swivel snap that I attached to a ring that was fastened to the bottom of the metal butt cap Pretty standard, foolproof, and not a bad way of doing things. But detaching the bassoon every time I wanted to put it in its stand was a bother, so it was time to change things again. I started using a bassoon stand, so I wanted a seat strap that would never move and a cup that would hold the bassoon in a death grip, but that was also loose enough that I could take out the bassoon simply by lifting it. It also had to be stiff enough that it would not sag and that I would need both my hands to straighten out before I could put the bassoon back in; light enough that I could easily carry it in with all my other crap, and small enough that it would stay on the bassoon in the gig bag. Once again, I found nothing in any stores or websites, which led me to that point that I know all too well, Do-It-Yourselfer's desperation.
I was in Tandy Leather when I saw what I needed. In Montreal, there is a belt maker or furniture maker who sells its scraps back to Tandy, and I found a bin that was full of a nice thick latigo (vegetable oil and wax treated) leather scraps. I decided to sew myself a cup, and use a long scrap strip to make myself a matching seat strap. Being a typical DIYer, I did not let certain things stop me... such as a total ignorance of simple procedures like sewing leather. I went and bought leather needles and strong nylon thread. The leather gods looked at what I bought and just started laughing at me.
Sewing leather is not easy. I tried a needle and thread, (logical, but impossible) using a thimble, (lol) and even using pliers to push the needle through the leather. I succeeded in bending a lot of needles... and not one stitch. I even resorted to a hammer and finishing nails. It worked, but it was ugly. After turning fingers and thumbs into human pincushions trying (and miserably failing) to push the needles through the leather, I decided that heavier artillery was necessary. Back I went to Tandy where I bought myself a sewing awl. Then I had to learn how to use it. What better source of learning and instruction than... you guessed it, YouTube! I found a nice video of a nice man using an awl to make a holster, which makes some sense if you think of a boot cup as a holster for a bassoon.
For this project, I needed the following materials: three quarter inch nylon webbing, a three quarter inch welded D ring, a nice piece of latigo leather with some method of cutting it in a straight line, and of course, the sewing awl.
1. Take the boot cup of your bassoon and wrap the piece of leather around it. Mark it with a pencil to find both the length and the angle at which you have to cut it. Then take the leather lay it flat and make some kind of sacrifice to the leather gods. Pray. Aaannnd cut. Once you have the proper size, lay it aside.
2. Take the 3/4 inch webbing and the D ring. Put the webbing through the ring and sew it together right below the ring One end of the webbing should be about two inches long, while the other end should be about eight inches. The two inch end will reinforce and hold the D ring, while the longer end will go under the cup and up the opposite side to hold it in its oval shape. Now comes the hard part. Start sewing the webbing and d ring to one end to the leather piece in such a way that when the leather goes all the way around, it will meet the other (sewn) end inside the nylon webbing. Don't worry, I will post a picture. Once you have finished the first line of stitching, you then have to do the second line. This one is far more difficult because you have to go through the strap and the leather, but this time you have no support behind the workpiece. Good luck keeping it straight. The leather gods will not help you here. When you have finished, you should have an open ended cylinder of leather with a piece of nylon strap and a D ring hanging off one side. If you have this, you are on the right track, if you don't, well, have fun making whatever you are making, because I have no idea what it is. Then, put your metal boot cap into the cup and glue the long end of the nylon webbing into position with contact cement. You do not have to sew it, as it will be sewn in the two next steps.
3. The next step is the reinforcing strap. Is a three centimetre wide strap (1 1/8) inches of leather that goes around the top of the cup to keep it from stretching and to help the cup hold its shape. Why 1 1/8? I have no idea, but it looked good. Then, sew the leather strap around the top of the cup to reinforce and stiffen the top as well as to ensure that it will not stretch much, if at all. If you want extra insurance against stretching, sew a nylon loop to the same circumference as the bottom of the cup and put it in under the reinforcing strap as you sew. If your leather is thick enough, the nylon loop is not necessary. This takes a long time. You can use your metal boot cap as a support while sewing. It makes driving the needle through the two layers of leather much easier.
4. The next (and last) procedure is the bottom. I have made nine of these cups, and I hate this part the most. First of all, cut a last piece of leather larger than the bottom of the cup. Take your metal boot cap and put it inside the project to ensure that the shape is correct and remains so while you are sewing. Start sewing around the side until it is done. If you are lucky, the bottom will be covered. If you are not lucky, the bottom will have shifted leaving a part of the bottom uncovered. Don't ask me how I know this. To avoid any shifting of the workpieces, make sure that you are always lining up the pieces of leather as you are sewing them. Once you stitched the pieces all the way around, cut the edges off, and you should have a wonderful bassoon boot cup. In order to avoid having the ridge on the bottom of the boot cap unduly stretch the centre line of the bottom of the cup, you can glue two small hemispheres of leather together and then glue them inside the bottom of the cup so that the ridge has enough space to settle into the bottom. This also keeps the bassoon from twisting inside the cup.
The seat strap was much easier. I found a piece of scrap about two and a half feet long that was tapered from about four inches down to one and a half inches. I went to a hardware store, bought a swivel snap, and a 2 inch furniture retaining bolt. I bent the narrow end of the leather strap around the furniture bolt, and riveted it in place, then cut off the unneeded extra. I then cut a slit in the middle of the bend to allow the eyelet of the swivel snap to pass through. At the other end, I rounded off the seat strap just to make it look nice, and voila! One luxury looking and acting seat strap and cup.
If the straps are made of leather that is thick enough and tapered enough, it will not move. I set mine in position at the beginning of a practice or concert and I never touch it again the entire evening. If I get up, it is heavy enough that it does not move on the chair, and I just sit back down, put the bassoon back into the cup and start playing. This is due to the fact that leather seems to offer more friction than does nylon and extra friction is provided by the extra area of the outward taper So my bassoon does not move. Ever. Unless I want it to.
Another advantage of this system is that you can use the seat strap with the cup or with a ring that attaches to metal boot cap. The disadvantage is that the seat strap and cup are heavier and far bulkier than any others that I have seen on the market. They have to be made for a specific bassoon as they cannot easily be stretched to fit another one. Bell, Fox and Moosmann all seem to have very similar sized caps, so as far as I can see, they are interchangeable. So if anyone else is crazy enough to do this, the resulting cup will fit their bassoon but it may not fit another one that you want to play. As an example, Heckels are very inconsistent in size, so if it fits one Heckel, it might not fit another. If you should decide to try to do this, one warning I must give you. When sewing with an awl, make sure that you know exactly where your fingers are. If you don't know, the awl will find them. Don't ask me how I know that either.
Things were going swimmingly until I made one as a surprise for a friend. She said thank-you and then told me that it worked great on her Fox but did not work on her Moosmann. When I asked what the problem was, she sent me pictures of her bassoon. I got quite the shock. It has a trombone-like water drain on the bow of the bassoon which is accessed by a slot which has been cut in the metal. On the opposite side from the key, three holes have been drilled that allow the water to drain. (It turns out that it was played be a musician in India for quite some time, and the constant high humidity caused huge amounts of condensation in the instrument.) At any rate, when she put the bassoon into the cup, it pressed the key and there was a major leak in the bottom of the boot joint.
On looking at the pictures, my first thought was that making a cup for this was impossible. Then, I thought of a few solutions, all of which hinged on one thing I did not have. The obvious solution was a cup with a slot that would allow access to the water key. But in order to have any structural integrity, I had to make the cup with a reinforcing strap that was uninterrupted. But doing this would mean that the player would be unable to remove the bassoon from the cup without pressing the water key first. Failure to do so could result in the key being ripped off the bassoon, which was not acceptable. I needed something that would give the cup stiffness while providing a gap through which the water key could easily move.
Basically, I needed a bridge.
To make one, I needed to be able to make a piece of plastic that would hold the cup in the shape of the bassoon, but would also provide enough clearance so that the key could pass by unimpeded when the player simply lifts the bassoon. However, I do not have a way to mould plastic, so that looked impossible. Then I remembered hearing about thermo-formable plastic, which can be heated and formed, and when it cools it keeps its shape. Finding it on the web was very difficult, as they wanted to sell me bulk amounts, which I will never use. Then, by sheer coincidence, I found sheets of Kydex in Tandy Leather, and one of them came home with me.
Kydex is a thermo-formable plastic. I cut off a half inch strip, put it in the oven and then formed it around a metal butt cup. Then, when it was cool, I used the other handyman’s secret weapon, a Dremel, to grind off the parts that I did not need and to thin it out so that I could easily fit it under the reinforcing strap. Yes, the reinforcing strap is wider than the other three centimeter straps that I usually use. To lock the strap in place, I used a Dremel with one of the smallest drill bits that I have and I drilled through both the leather and the Kydex bridge. Then I stitched it in using an awl, and the result is a cup with a gap that is even stiffer than a standard cup.
On the other end of the cup, clearance had to be provided for the three holes through which water drains. Here, I had to make a matching gap in both the wall and the bottom of the cup. Here I simply cut a gap in the wall that accommodated the hole there. In the bottom of the bassoon in question, there are two holes, and I matched the gap in the wall with a gap in the bottom. This allows the water to flow freely out of the bassoon and the seat strap cup.
Now it’s off to England for this cup where it will begin its user trials. We’ll see how it works in the real world.
I have started making these on a limited basis, so if you would like to purchase one of these fine looking and working seat straps, feel free to send me a personal message.
Bassoonist Ordinaire, all around nice guy.
If anyone needs a damn fool, I'm your man!