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Copyright 2009 Dale Clark
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.