Heated Mandrel – How Hot

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    Don Gerue

    Please advise on how hot the heated forming mandrel should be when it is used to form the reed. I have purchased 6 forming mandrels. I have a drying board so I intend to leave the reeds on the mandrel for aging. I have a soldering iron and a voltage control. What I now need is some additional information on how you can tell if you have the right level of heat. I have also read and been told to put beeswax on the mandrel when forming.

    Don Gerue



    I use a soldering iron, and time it for only two minutes. Then I insert it to form the tube.

    If you get it too hot it will burn the tube.

    Your way seems like alot of extra equipment with your six forming manderals.

    I have used the same single manderal for at least 30 years.

    Best always,

    Larry Fulton

    Gene Carter

    Hi Don,

    I’ve never used a heated mandrel so I can’t help much with that question. However, I have found that tube formation can be performed easily and successfully if the blank is well scored before forming. I use a Popkin scorer and it does a terrific job. I set the scorer so the scored section of the tube begins just below the top wire. The tube is formed with a well rounded base and virtually no cracking above the top wire. I use one of two forming mandrels, depending upon the particular tip I used in shaping the cane, an old Popkin mandrel for shapes with a wider throat and a Rieger flat ended mandrel for shapes with a narrower throat. I find this keeps the tube shape between the first and second wire more consistent. After placing the top wire and wrapping the tube section of the blank with a wet shoelace, I insert the forming mandrel in one motion with a little side to side twisting to help the process. Use some parafin on the mandrel to make the insertion process easier.

    Anyway, that’s my process and I know there are an almost infinite number of variations out there.


    TK DeWitt

    I use steam in addition to hand-scoring my cane with a drill bit to form my reeds. It takes a little longer, as I wrap the tube with string, but I’ve never had a reed crack during forming, ever.

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