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Tuesday, November 6th 2012

7:20 AM

Vote Clark Bassoon Reeds! Fedex Small Business Grant

Dear Double Reed Friends,

Clark Bassoon Reeds has entered the Fedex Small Business Grant Contest, $25,000 first prize. For eight years my business has grown from one to two bedrooms in my home and now I hope to build a shop. Please vote once a day until Nov. 24th at:

http://www.facebook.com/Fedex, click on the Small Business Grant icon, click on Arkansas on the map and my business is on Page 2.
Thanks,

Dale


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Sunday, May 20th 2012

8:01 AM

Profile Equations

Making reeds for players other than myself is one of the biggest challenges I have faced. For the styles I have developed, other than my favorite style A, I found the need to explore the profile requirements for reeds of different length. I found that if I profile a piece of cane for a reed  longer than style A I would need to set the profiling machine .05 millimeters thicker for each extra millimeter of length given that I use the same shape. So if style A, 54 mm long, is set .075 mm thick at the shoulder then style B, 57 mm long, is set .90 mm thick at the shoulder. Other variables may affect the thickness of the blades. My style R is 56 mm long but .95 mm thick at the shoulder.  Style R is made with the Rieger 1A shape, wider than the Fox #2 shape I use on styles A and B. Wider shapes are less resistant and so one solution is to make the profile thicker.  Also, the profile, Udo Heng's machine, has a more blended spine than you would see on my other styles resulting in the need to make this profile thicker.  Of course, with variations in cane hardness many, if not most, reeds will be finished to a different thickness than where you started. As always, I would like to hear comments from you regarding this subject.

Best,

Dale

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Monday, September 5th 2011

7:27 AM

Throat Mandrels and Throat Reamers

Because of a recent request I decided to write about throat mandrels and reamers. In my shop I have several mandrels made the late by Lou Skinner.  I’m not sure he actually made them as I know he had a machinist do much of his metal working. My favorite is a # 10 throat reamer. I use this to open up the throat and tip. The reasons for a closed tip are variable. However, often the slight differences in cane will result in a tip a little more closed than you want it. If the second wire is very round you can open the tip by squeezing the second wire from the top and bottom. But, many times the wires seem to be as I want them and then I use the throat mandrel to open the tip.  I also have a throat mandrel from Forrests Music that I use on occasion but the parabolic curve is less dramatic. The reason for a closed throat relate to the proper use of the forming mandrel. If you don’t have the forming mandrel in the proper place when you tighten the wires before wrapping then often the throat will be too small. This is one of the most common mistakes I find in student reed blanks. So, I make sure that my mandrel is set in the proper place and most of the time I won’t need extra reamer and mandrel work.

I have two different throat reamers that I use to enlarge the tube when necessary. One of the reamers is from Forrests Music and the other I ordered from machine parts supplier as a reamer bit and assembled it with my pin mandrel.  I almost never ream my reeds but with some others’ reeds I have found it necessary.  It makes for a more open and, to me, a deeper sound. I welcome other opinions and questions on this topic.

Best,

Dale

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Tuesday, February 15th 2011

3:41 AM

Sanding Film - Undercutting the Tip

Sanding Film, Undercutting the Tip

After a very busy fall and early winter season I decided to make a moment and post a blog I had started a while back.

At the IDRS conference in West Virginia, I was given a couple of pieces of sanding film by a student of Mark Popkin.  This film was plastic backed.  I believe the grits I had were the equivalent of 400 and 600 grit.  You could sand many reeds, wash the film, and it would retain its original shape.  It seemed practically impossible to wear out.  I eventually lost those pieces of sanding film and the closest product I have found is the Testor’s sanding film used primarily for models.  If anyone knows of other brands please let us know on this blog.

Undercutting the Tip

A sanding technique that I use, mentioned in the Skinner’s Bassoon Reed Manual, is the undercutting of the tip.  Skinner’s method was to insert a piece of sandpaper between the blades and then insert a plaque behind the smooth side of the sandpaper.  You then hold the reed tip closed and pull the sandpaper out.  I usually do this three times on each blade using 400 grit sandpaper.  This is a method I use for increasing resonance after I have tried my usual scraping methods.  There is a slight risk of splitting the reed especially when inserting the sandpaper if much care is not used.  Sometimes I have made reeds for others that request a reed that’s tip is cut almost at the center fold line.  There may be rough edges or splinters inside the tip and undercutting is essential.  Sometimes, if there is only a small splinter, you can omit the use of a plaque, insert the sandpaper, and hold the tip closed while you pull it out. Sometimes if the splinter is tough to remove a lower grit sandpaper can be used.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

Best,

Dale

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Thursday, August 12th 2010

1:39 PM

Reed Finishing, Pre-forming scrapes

While studying with Gary Echols I learned a process of pre-forming scrapes that he developed after studying with Lou Skinner.  After the initial profile by machine, place the reed on an easel for making the scrape.  A well-defined fold mark is required on the cane, a little deeper than may be required for folding so the knife will stop at the end of each scrape.  A triangle file is good for this purpose as the cut is a little wider than with a knife and less likely to cut all the way through.  I then divide the blade of the cane into three equal sections from shoulder to tip. In the section closest to the tip I draw a straight line with a pencil from the edge of the blade to the center line/fold mark.  This makes a small triangle that I will scrape with the knife towards the tip 12 times.  The scrape starts at the top of the mark I have made and goes to the fold mark in the center of the cane.  (Please see a drawing I have made of this stage of the finishing on page 2 of my photo album). I used a large V-shape knife for this process rather than a beveled knife as I would be pulling the blade towards me.  I don’t want to dig much into the cane where I start and I increase the pressure slightly along the scrape.  I then follow the same procedure in the next two sections though I decrease the number of scrapes with 8 scrapes in the second section and four scrapes in the third section.  When I am finished I have accomplished a taper of the cane much like Roy Skinner’s Straight Taper type of reed.  This is only the first stage of this finishing process.  The main difference with this and Skinner’s process is that rather than scraping parallel with the edge of the blade Echols scraped parallel with the spine.  Since this process is performed before forming a dial indicator may be used to check the scrape I have just described as well as the subsequent scrapes on the right and left side of the blade as well as on the opposite blade.

After the reed is formed Echols would then finish the tip of the reed and obtain the usual half-moon appearance.  The advantage to Echols’ pre-form scrape is that he could use the dial indicator and obtain a symmetrical blade that is more difficult to obtain once the reed is formed.

This has been a difficult process to describe though I hope the drawing helps. I look forward to your comments and observations.

Best,

Dale

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Sunday, June 6th 2010

8:21 AM

Reed Finishing: the Last 10%

Today I'm going to begin a series of blogs addressing bassoon reed finishing. At one of my bassoon lessons Dr. Matthew Ruggiero, ret. Boston Symphony and honorary member of the IDRS, told me the hardest part of reed making is the last 10%.  He also said that anybody can make a reed blank.  I believe that this is substantially true, even though there are some excellent, individual ways of construction blanks, that work is futile if you can’t finish the reed to play as you want.

Finishing reeds is a combination of art and technique.  Most of us learn the technique first.  There are several ways that individual tools might be used in reed finishing but I am going to list the most common ways I have learned.  First, reed knives are used primarily on wet cane though there are instances that I do a little cleaning up on a dry reed, especially with an x-acto knife when I finish up the shoulder.  Knives may be used either with or against the grain. With my single-beveled knife I scrape the cane, keeping the blade perpendicular to the cane.  My Panzier knife from Reeds’n Stuff has a radius tip that works well to finish the tip and also in the channels. My steel grooved files are used wet and dipped in water often to clean them out.  I work them with the grain except occasionally to file on the corners of the tip toward the heart.  I always work diamond files on dry cane otherwise the abrasive surface clogs easily.  Though the sand paper I use is made to work wet or dry I find that the most effective sanding is done dry.  I use grades 220 up to 800-finish.  I always work the sandpaper with the grain of the cane.  Reamers should usually be worked dry though my very sharp spiral cut Christlieb reamers can be used wet and are especially useful when a student brings a reed to a lesson already wet that won’t fit the bocal.  Diamond files are especially good at cleaning up the tube after reaming. I always use a long mandrel when tightening the wires as it gives more support especially to the first wire. 

I’m sure there are many other ideas about the proper use of tools and I welcome your comments.  I’m off to play a trio at the local convent today as our group prepares our performance at the IDRS conference.  We will be performing with the OU dancers at 11:30 am on Friday, June 25 in Holmberg Hall at the University of Oklahoma.  I hope to see many of you at the conference.

 

Best,

Dale

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Wednesday, May 19th 2010

12:47 PM

Wrapping

After stabilization, I re-tighten my wires that have loosened and clip the third wire close to the bark.  I wrap my reeds with #10 Aunt Lydia’s crochet thread.  I wrap with the colored thread closest to my desired color so that I can save on nail polish costs.  When I have wrapped about half the Turk’s head I wrap around the tube a couple of turns on the butt side of the blank in order to tighten the cane to the mandrel and make a nice round tube.  After applying two coats of Duco Cement I apply nail color as desired.  The glue covers the blank from the end of the tube up to the first wire.  The nail polish covers the thread and the tube all the way to the end.  I have tried hot, soft glue and found that it did not provide the support to the tube that thread does.  I have not tried shrink wrap but also question the support to the tube compared to thread.  Gluing between the first and second wire is usually omitted when using shrink wrap.  I question the effectiveness of the seal with this type of reed as it ages.  As with all my blogs please submit your comments and questions.

 

Best,

Dale

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Tuesday, May 18th 2010

6:37 AM

Reed Stabilization

There are so many ideas about this topic but I can talk only from my own experience.  In the near future, I plan to do research in this area that may prove helpful, giving reed makers information about scientific tests on reed stabilization. 

Stabilization, related to reed making, means that once a reed has been finished it will retain its performance character from day to day requiring little adjustment for the normal life of the reed.  There are several steps that may be taken to insure stabilization but I believe the most important is to profile your reeds as close to the finish dimensions you desire as possible.  I have seen many students who profile their reeds too thick and then complain about having to scrape their reeds daily.  A reed that is new and vibrant may seem fine one day and then too heavy the next.  A little scraping will usually make a reed more vibrant but, if the cane is still too thick, in a short time it will need scraping again.  Many students think that a thick and water-soaked reed is just worn out though if the reed is dried and then scraped to a proper dimension it works better than before.  A thick reed will become water-soaked easier because it has greater water carrying capacity.

Another factor in stabilization is the stabilization of the tube before the reed blank is finished.   Matthew Ruggiero, ret. Boston Symphony and honorary IDRS member, used a rotation of reed blanks that insured the blanks dried eight weeks before he finished them.  He also checked the blanks and tightened the wires once the reeds dried enough to loosen them.  I have found that, at this point,  going ahead and wrapping the thread and gluing works best for me to insure proper stabilization.  Wrapping the thread is the final stage of the forming process as it tightens the cane to the mandrel to its final form.  Stabilization means not moving, or made steady, so I want the read in this final wrapped form so that it is not moving any more before the time I finish it.  That is why I don’t use some of the intermediate stages that others do in their forming process. 

I seem to be moving backwards in the stabilization process so now what about having cane dry enough for our use?  Most manufacturers claim to dry their cane two years before putting it on the market.  I like to buy my cane in advance so that it al least gets several more months if not years of drying time.  As I mentioned in a previous blog I stack the split cane carefully in even stacks with the bark down so the segment can settle into a straighter form.  This should result in a more stable reed.

I know there are other opinions about this topic and I welcome your comments and ideas.

 

Best,

Dale

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Thursday, April 1st 2010

9:29 PM

Forming process

My forming process closely follows what I learned from Gary Echols in Nebraska that he learned from Lou Skinner.  Skinner’s process depended on the style of reed you were making as well as when he taught you the process. Several of Skinner’s reed making students have commented that his reed making process changed over the years.  I studied with three other teachers who also had studied with Skinner and their takes on Skinner’s process were all slightly different.

After the cane is beveled and scored, as I have described in a previous post, I soak the cane in hot water for 30 minutes.  My slow cooker set on low feels slightly cooler than very hot tap water.  When I fold over the cane I make sure the sides align perfectly so I don’t start off with an overlapped blade. I put the first wire on tight; the placement depends on the style reed I’m making, 25 mm from the butt for my style A.  The wire should be tight enough that you see no light showing between the wire and the bark.  If the wire is too loose the cane may split past the first wire into the blade, a common problem for students.  If your profiler does not cut a shoulder into the cane, mine does, you may want to do this before forming as it makes splitting much less likely.  I wrap the reed with cotton string from the first wire to the butt of the reed.  Some makers wrap the blades as well.  I don’t because the cane in the blade is not trying to push away from the mandrel as in the case of the tube where you need to produce a counter force.  I place the cane back in the water a moment while I wax my Rigotti forming mandrel.  I then insert my mandrel past the last mark, there are three marks, pushing it straight in with no twisting that helps avoid blade shifting.  By inserting the mandrel this far I insure that when I set the final wire tension I will not have to ream my reed.  I remove the string far enough to put the first wire on but leave the string tight above that.  The third wire is placed at 5 mm from the butt and at first with enough tension just to hold it in place.  Then I squeeze around the butt of the reed with needle-nosed pliers so that the cane joins at the seams.  I then tighten the wire snuggly.  Removing the rest of the string, I place the second wire at 16 mm from the butt of the reed, again with minimal tension.  I then squeeze the cane between the second and third wires to bring the cane close to the mandrel before final  tightening the second wire.  I use a triangle needle file to make four shallow markings on the cane between the second and third wires on both sides as well as top and bottom.  Once the string is applied, and glued,  these marks will help keep the string in place.

Once placed on the drying rack the reed should be allowed to dry until the wires loosen, often a day will do this, and then the wires should be retightened. I like to wrap and glue my reeds at this point and then let them stabilize on the drying rack.  Matt Ruggiero found that eight weeks was sufficient stabilizing time.  I know that many reed makers have other ideas and I welcome your comments on this subject.

Best,

Dale

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Sunday, February 21st 2010

8:23 AM

Forming Mandrels

Studying for my master’s degree at Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln I learned reed construction techniques from Gary Echols.  Gary Echols studied reed making with Lou Skinner and Don Christlieb.  Gary later gave me some of Skinner’s mandrels that I still use in my shop.  Gary used a two mandrel process in forming: a long thin mandrel, labeled #10 by Skinner, to open the tip and set the first wire opening and then a shorter working mandrel to set the tube opening for the 2nd and third wires.  I used this two mandrel process until I studied with Matt Ruggiero at Boston University who suggested “Why don’t you find one mandrel that will do the entire forming process?”  It took me a while to find a mandrel that I was satisfied would open the tip properly as well as form the entire tube.  Dr. Ruggiero suggested that I insert the mandrel far enough into the tube that I would not need to ream the reed after forming.  I found that the Rigotti bassoon forming mandrel was the best tool for that process.  I could insert the reed past the last mark when forming and, when I tightened the wires after letting the reed settle, I lined the reed up at the last mark and the reed would fit the bocal well without reaming.   I insert the mandrel straight without a twisting motion in order to avoid overlapping the blades. This process has worked for me very well over the years.  Carefully aligning the blades before tightening the first wire, when forming, also helps avoid the overlap problem. 

I’ll write more about my forming process in a future blog entry.  Please submit your comments and questions that are always appreciated.

Best,

Dale

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