Hello Steve, I rec'd an email that you had answered my query re the reasons and method I use to have live steam soften my folded cane profiled pieces preparing them perfectly for making fine and reliable reeds over the years I have done so.
1. I know that the vascular bundles of all arundo donax cane are chaotic in their order during the natural growth process.
2. I also know that other problems of salts and more deposits in the cane while it is growing (and later in dry storage) are not beneficial to best vibration of the piece of cane in use. I soak all my cane for 3 24-hour periods over 3 days to leach out all minerals and salts. This procedure has me dumping into the sink the distilled water each morning after each day and a night of soaking. Afteer the first dumping of distilled water, the water is strongly smelling and discollered very much. At the second dumping of distilled water, the water is a little clearer and smells nicer too. At the third and final dumping of soaking distilled water, the water is almost absolutely clear of any signs of further leached minerals or salts. At each dumping time, I also soak each cane piece in hot water to clean it completely. This is a good procedure to follow, I am convinced. Cane thus soaked over 3 full days/nights, is more consistent in color, has a more generally easier ease to be sliced with knife or profiler blade in shaping/profiling. And when I form the tubes of my reeds, thus soaked and having minerals removed, the new reeds play without any need for a breakin period. Try this and you will see the improvement after the very first soaking 3 day/night session.
3. When I have profiled my cane, I strap each piece to a dowel rod of wood 1 1/8 inch in diameter, using wide rubber bands. I let the cane dry for 3 days on this drying rod.
4. I am now ready to proceed with reed making using cane thus prepared.
5. I soak the pieces in an electric frying pan set on the "simmering" position of the rheostatic heat control - for 25 minutes.
6. When the cane has simmered for this time period, I take my electric tea kettle (bought at Walmart, the new ones exactly like the first one I bought made by GE. now are made by Proctor-Silex their kettle number K5070.)
I fill with tap water to the max fill line at 32 oz. of water and turn the kettle to "on".
7. I now score my cane piece(s) using a large Exacto knife taking a number 2 blade, in the same manner as Lou Skinner did (shown in the book "The Bassoon Reed Manual" Lou Skinner's Theories and Techniques" by James McKay, Russell Hinkle and William Woodward. However, because of the advantage gained in steam softening of the tube section of my reeds, I only score from point for wire II to cane butt end. Skinner scored from the collar down to the butt end. The scorings are set 1, 2, and 3, mm in from each side edge of the shaped tube section of my reeds. For the final 2 mm of the score cutting, I cut all the way through the cane on to my easel with the point of my Exacto knife.
8. During the few minutes I have before steam is emitting from the spout, I wrap the folded cane piece(s) with butcher's twine from about 3 mm below reed collar up towards reed tip 5-6 mm, and then one wrap all the way back to my start point at 3 mm below reed collar and on down to 3 mm before the cane piece butt end. I use a half-hitch to secure the twine.
9. By now there is live steam pouring out of the spout of my electric kettle. I line up my 3 mandrels used in forming my bassoon reeds: 1. a sharp-wedged tip scratch awl bought in a hardware store many years ago.
It is a "Hoppe" brand number 245, but any small scratch awl will work. Be sure to grind a taper for the final one inch near the tip of the awl, making a sharp wedge shape instead of the awl's original taperd conical point to the tip. 2. My second mandrel is a Lou Skinner mandrel with oval shaped tip and length of 4 cm shank. The stop mark is scribed on this mandrel at 20 mm. 3. I use my Lou Skinner "Universal mandrel for tip taper reeds and contrabassoon reeds. I think you can order this mandrel still from William Woodward: Custom Cane Inc. Pittsburgh, PA (tel. 724-834-6749) email email@example.com
10. I use a small pair of long-nosed pliers to hold the back of my wrapped cane piece in the path of the steam with my left hand. With my right hand I hold the mandrel that is ready to be inserted. For the first of 3 steam periods in the path of the spout of my kettle, I wait 30 seconds. This is long enough to really fill the cane vascular bundles with steam (this having the effect of lining up the bundles in straight, not original chaotic pattern) lines, and softens the cane enough to easily insert any of my mandrels. At the 30 second point, I take my mandrel number one and insert it straight into the back of the eventual reed tube butt end. I do not turn this mandrel during the insertion. I insert it to the stop mark on my scratch awl with sharp wedged point, at 31 mm.
Then I remover reed from steam and remove mandrel no. 1.
11. I now hold the back of the partially opened reed butt end with pliers in the path of the steam and take mandrel 2 and hold both for a time of 10 seconds. Now I insert mandrel 2 to its stop mark at 20 mm.
12. I remove reed and mandrel from steam and remove mandrel no. 2.
13. I now hold the back of the more open reed butt end with pliers in the path of the steam and take mandrel 3 and hold both in the steam for 10 more seconds.
14. I remove reed and mandrel from the steam. As I insert my Universal mandrel no..3. I turn the mandrel to the right (clockwise) during insertion. [At the point of folding my cane piece, I sideslip the cane by 1 mm so that looking down on the cane from tip of reed area to butt end of cane piece, the bottom half is sideslipped 1 mm sticking out. John Mack explained the use of the sideslip for oboe reeds as "When you place one half of the reed directly on top of the other half, you have an edge meeting an edge at all points of the shape. This can easily cause a leak. If you sideslip the cane halves, you always have an edge meeting a surface. This eliminates and leaks on the sides of the reed shape". Another advantage of sideslipping bassoon reeds is that we trim the reed quite thin along the side edges of the shape from 43 mm forward of the reed butt end to the reed tip - these are the "wings" of the trim of the reed blades. As you thin the side edges when they are sideslipped they will be easier to control as far as their vibrating along the shape, not opening up in an uncontrolled manner as happens when you do not sideslip the reed halves. ] The rotation of mandrel number 3 while inserting it "locks" the sideslip more strongly in the direction you have imbedded the sideslip half.
15. After the tube of the reed has now been fully formed, I complete the wrapping of the butcher's twine on down to the reed butt end and further on so it wraps around the mandrel behind where the reed is inserted. Now I set this cocoon of a bassoon reed aside on a drying board to dry for at least 24 hours. After that time period of rest, I perform the Herzberb bevel on the back end sides of my formed tube halves. Then I add the 3 wires and complete the finishing of the reed blank.
16. Usually I cut the tip of the blank within minutes of having added my 3 wires. Then I can see the effect of the Herzberg bevel in making the tip more open than normal and wanting to remain open. I then test the crow of the reed and continue trimming it if the crow shows promise (or discard the cane at this point if the vibration is not a good one.) It all depends on the quality of each individual piece of cane. Hope this expanation is clear and easy to understand. Just send me an email reply if there are any remaining questions. Sincerely, Gerald Corey firstname.lastname@example.org