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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.



26 Comment(s).

Posted by Dale Clark:

Hi Thom,

Thanks for the comments. Like you, I wax the mandrel before insertion but instead of heating the mandrel I heat the cane in hot water, in a slow cooker on low, 15-30 minutes before I form it. I go ahead and put all the wires on and once the reed has dried enough for them to be loose I tighten them up. After I wrap and glue the reed I let it stabilize on the drying rack. I figure that getting the reed to this stage, where the tube is in its final position, is the best for stabilization before finishing. I observed this once when visiting Richard Svoboda and seeing the reed blanks wrapped, glued and sitting on his drying rack. I know there are many other methods of forming and I welcome other's comments.

Sunday, February 21st 2010 @ 11:03 AM

Posted by Dale Clark:

I'm forwarding the following comment from Mark Ortwein:

I'm developing a new forming tip with the Accurate Double Reed Tool company that will be similar to the Rieger eliptical mandrel (which really forms the 1st wire/collar area well), but be longer and bigger at the back to work for contra as well.

I bevel differently depending on if I want the throat to be smaller or bigger. One of the bevels I do I also only bevel the right side of each half, but at a 45 degree angle from 9mm to the butt. I then put a wire at 8mm and another at the back (I use 4 wires) which creates the fulcrum and gets a great seal.

Saturday, February 27th 2010 @ 6:04 PM

Posted by Richard West:

Interested in your comments about Gary Echols. Are you in contact with him? I played in a quintet with him many years ago and would like to get in touch with him again if he is still with us. Could you pass this on to him or let him know of my interest? The flutist in our quintet, Phyllis McFall, also lives nearby(coincidentally). We'd both be interested to know how he's doing these days. Thanks, Richard
Wednesday, November 14th 2012 @ 8:54 PM

Posted by Elliott MacDonald:

Hi Dale,

Here's another twist to your Skinner Saga. I studied reed making through undergrad with Gerry Corey who studied reed making with Skinner and I believe they played in the Baltimore Symphony together. Then I went on to do a Masters degree with Jim McKay who literally wrote the book on Skinner. The process that I walked away with for forming tubes was to soak the cane in simmering water (just shy of boiling) for 30 minutes, remove the cane, fold and wrap in butchers' twine (no wires). Then, hold the first mandrel and the reed tube opening with a pair of long-nose pliers over a concentrated stream of steam from a boiling tea-kettle for 30 seconds. Gerry advocated the use of three different mandrels to form. The first is a very pointy pin mandrel. I use the #9 as described in Jim's book on Skinner. Then, remove the pin mandrel, hold the tube opening over the steam for another 10 secs and insert the Stanley brand 69-007 scratch awl to form the throat and the basic round shape of the tube. Then do the same thing with a normal brass-tipped holding mandrel that Gerry gave me - saying it belonged to Skinner. With that mandrel, remove the butchers' twine enough to put on the third wire, second etc as per McKay's Skinner book. Working with Jim, he does things a little different but openly acknowledges whenever he diverges from the published version of Skinner's methods. I'm really interested in lubing my tools now before forming tubes. although, I should point out that in all my years making reeds, the steam method taught to me by Gerry Corey has never resulted in a cracked tube.

This blog is a cool find. thanks for sharing!

Elliott MacDonald
Ottawa, Canada
Thursday, November 29th 2012 @ 8:31 PM

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