Topic: Split sides

Over the past couple years, one of the most persistent and frustrating problems with my reeds has been sides that are not fully closed. I explored every possible cause I can think of, with modest success. That is to say, my reeds generally generally aren't -as- split as they were in the past, but nearly every reed I finish still has split sides to some degree.

My first goal was to eliminate the creation of the reed blank as a potential cause. I have tried tying at various lengths, finding 73.4-5 with a Gilbert 1 shape on Chudnow staples to be ideal. I make sure the cane is tied abolutely "true" on the staple, and make my first few wraps a little looser than the rest. The result has been blanks with consistently closed sides, with occasional exceptions which I chalk up to "swayback" pieces of cane or other gouging issues.

When this improved, but did not eliminate the problem, I turned my attention to my scraping habits. It seems to me the most logical cause at this point would be the plaque, so I've been very careful to insert the plaque as little as possible, and keep it in for a minimal amount of time. I usually work on several reeds at once, scraping each reed for about 10 minutes at a time before rotating to the next. I also allow them to recouperate for at least a day between each stage (blank, definition of tip, initial definition of back/heart, finishing of tip and blend, final tuning/tone/resistance/response adjustments).

I have found that the point at which the sides split apart from each other almost invariably coincides with my scraping of blend and sides of the heart. Even as I execute the utmost caution at this stage of my reedmaking, I am continually stymied by the sides inexplicably splitting.

I would greatly appreciate any advice anyone could offer on this subject.

Thanks,

Lucas Brown
Lawrence Conservatory of Music

Und so lang du das nicht hast,
Dieses: Stirb und Werde!
Bist du nur ein trüber Gast
Auf der dunklen Erde.

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Re: Split sides

Lucas,

where along the cane does it not close completely? In the tip area or more back to the thread?

For me, the front part of the reed is not together sometimes, as long the reed is dry, but when I soak it, it closes. Have you compared the dry and soaked state of your reeds? Is there also a difference?

If I have tied a blank uncarefully (which should not happen, but sometimes does:) ), and it hasn't completely closed in the region where the thread starts, I help myself by wrapping kitchen foil around the reed, so that it does not leak.
Actually, this helps perfectly, and I do this to every reed (also the tight ones) while playing. But it is important to remove the kitchen foil after playing to let the reeds dry out properly.. An alternative would be the use of goldbeaters skin (sp?). Have you tried one of these?

Kathrin Brun
[url=http://www.oboist.ch]http://www.oboist.ch[/url]

Re: Split sides

The problem isn't that the reeds are leaky, as the sides of the reed usually split apart between 5-7 mm from the tip. There is usually a difference in how far apart the sides are before and after soaking, but they are nonetheless distinctly apart after the reed is fully soaked.

Und so lang du das nicht hast,
Dieses: Stirb und Werde!
Bist du nur ein trüber Gast
Auf der dunklen Erde.

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Re: Split sides

This is strange indeed. I have never seen this.. If you find out something new, will you let us know?

Kathrin Brun
[url=http://www.oboist.ch]http://www.oboist.ch[/url]

Re: Split sides

Hi Lucas,

Before talking about the tied blank, I think you would have to examine the gouge. Next, your shaping process. I try to keep the razor as low (flat) as possible and make a diagonal stroke over the whole length of the shaper from left to right (as though sharpening your knife). Do you slip your blades before tying? Clip the ears off before tying?

I would also try tying shorter, I use the Gilbert 1 and tie around 72 -72.5.

Once tied, I scrape the tip and clip open. Usually, I also try to take some out of the heart before letting the blank dry. Then I examine the blank the next day, try to resolve any balance problems, soak the reed for a while and let it dry out again.

Just a few ideas. Good luck.

Scott MacLeod
Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia, Spain
Solo English horn and oboe

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Re: Split sides

Hi Lucas,

I don't make oboe reeds anymore but when I did I ran into the same problem. Mine was caused by the way I put the window in the back of the reed. Simply put, I made the window too wide in the area immediately below the heart of the reed. As a result there wasn't enough cane left in the rail just below the heart to support the reed from that point up and the reed fanned out. Maybe that's happening to you?

Gene Carter, Owner
Linden Reeds

Re: Split sides

Hi Lucas,

I know how frustrating this problem can be. It seems that you have gone over a large list of potential causes.

For me, I would check the following things very carefully.

1.  Make sure that when you choose your pieces of cane to gouge, make sure that they are completely flat and do not sway in any direction. Lay them on a flat surface such as the side of a sharpening stone or piece of metal. Throw it away if it is not 100% correct.

2. Make sure your gouger blade is sharp, and that the machine is in good adjustment.

3. be careful when you shape your cane and always use a sharp razor blade to shape with.

4. See if you can barrow another Gilbert tip to see if the reeds shaped with it are a bit better. Sometimes shaper tips can vary or have defects in them.

5.Do not take off any wood from the bottom of the shaped pice of cane before you tie it to the tube. Leaving it thick can help the top of the blades push against each other a bit more.

6. When you tie the blank, make sure you you slip your blades against the direction of the thread when you wrap the blank.

7. Open the blank and slip the blades. Check to see if the sides are tight at the top by inserting a plaque between the blades as you normally would when scraping. Are you using a flat plaque or a contoured one? I prefer a flat one to eliminate the possiblility of the sides opening up.

Other than all of the above, if you still run into the problem, then I would suspect that the gouge and your shape  are not working properly together. It can be a tricky thing to get, but the results are so much more consistent.

I know this is a long posting, but I hope some of this stuff helps fix your problem.

All the best,

Joe

Joseph Shalita
www.makingoboereeds.com
www.sheet-music-search.com

Re: Split sides

If your blanks are standing apart along the sides, you should be sure to check your gouge is no too thin on the sides. Also, try a shorter tie-off length and/or make sure you are measuring the length accurately.

David Schast

Re: Split sides

In my experience there are several things that can cause loose sides, the curse of any oboist. If the shape is too narrow at the top, anything past being parallel, is number one. Make sure the cane is closed at the fold, and I mean really closed, no gaps at the top. Of course swaybacked cane, not as common as most people think. Staples can cause this too, try different staples. The gouge can cause this. I know this from personal experience over an entire year of loose sides which almost drove me to total insanity. The other thing that may be happening is you are scraping the sides too much, thereby breaking the seal at the top. I always leave bark on the sides, often up into the plateau.
And last, but not least, the particular shape you use.
It is best to change one thing at a time, so you don't get totally messed up and then have no idea what's causing what.

Respectfully,
Jonathan Dlouhy

--
Jonathan Dlouhy
Director of Marketing and Administration
Atlanta Baroque Orchestra

Re: Split sides

Hi Lucas,

A couple of  things: ensure flat side of your cane lines up as perfectly as possible with the flat of the mandrel handle & that your cane closes down on both sides a wrap before the crossover when tying. Ensure that after shaping & lopping off the ears (before tying) that there is no opening on either side of the folded cane, especially just  below the tip; you should see a straight lines formed on each side when you hold the folded cane together at the bottom (narrow end) of the folded cane. Pinch the soaked cane at the corners to eliminate any openings. And then of  course, as Martin Schuring says in his great article on oboe reeds from the magazine, "Don't make any mistakes." Oh, yes, I almost forgot, tie tightly. If I had a nickel for every piece of thread I've broken, I'd be rich. Just hope that if the thread does snap, it's the guide thread & not the wrapping thread. It took me about three years or so before I got it right. Timothy, Mr. Mack's great quote ("Don't take 'no' etc.) from his father kept echoing in my head  as I was trying to learn this basic procedure. When I  got tired of  that one,  I'd think of  Winston Churchill's command to the  British people/armed forces during the WWII: "Never, never, never give up."

Best,

john

Best,

john

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Re: Split sides

Hi,

The number one reason sides open, as Jonathan Dlouhy says above is the shape. Since it's easy to make sure your cane is straight, we can discount that and focus on shape. The actual shape you're tying is very much affected by the length you tie at. If you make shorter blanks you are effectively squeezing a wider piece around the same staple opening. The tension between the blades can get so great that they sort of "ricochet" around the belly of the shape and the sides open. As you tie longer and longer you get to a point where there is no tension at all between the blades (when they don't meet at the bottom) which is of course not good either. For all good shaper tips there is a length at which the blades are tight at the bottom and that tension dissipates evenly all the way to the top of the reed. Bad shapes would be ones where the sides get less than parallel which will automatically give you split sides, but a pronounced belly will do the same. Try handshaping a piece with an actual angle, then parallel sides to confirm this.

The staple works in conjunction with this. The "taper" has to be just right. Too little and the blades are not "pushed together" enough to maintain tension to the top. Too much and you get the same ricochet effect. I find that for any type of reed the right taper is one that if it were extended would come to a point around where the tip of your finished reed is (boy this is hard to explain without doodling). The longer your finished blades the less taper is "just right". Taper is indirectly related to the conicity of staples because these are flattened at the top. It's this flattening that determines the taper. Hope this made some kind of sense in writing...

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