Crossed blades

One of the most persistent problems I experience when making reeds is the blades crossing a week or two after the reed is finished. This is because I’m still not very good at tying-on. The reed will still play if the blades are slightly misaligned, but the cane won’t vibrate as freely and this leaves the player struggling to produce a good, solid sound.

I bought these little doodads from Howarth’s in the hope that they would help solve the problem:

Photo 20-04-2014 13 13 57

But, while they do help, they’re incredibly fiddly to use and the success rate is not sufficiently good to justify the extra hassle. The width of the cane I use is such that these little oval rings won’t fit over the top so they have to be fitted from the bottom up:

Photo 20-04-2014 13 25 13

This means you can’t actually take the ring off again until the cane is completely dry – when it’s wet, it’s too swollen for the ring to fit over the top – so you’ll have to soak the cane a second time before you can scrape it. I don’t like to introduce this extra level of stress for the cane, especially at this stage of proceedings when it’s still so vulnerable to cracking.

More importantly, it’s almost impossibly fiddly trying to insert the staple for tying-on into an aperture only this big:

very small opening

So, on the whole, it’s probably wiser to look for another solution.

I attended a reed-adjusting session at The Big Double Reed Day in 2013, and the tutor came up with a possible solution which involves far less mucking about. Okay, so I tie on at about 74mm, which gives me 2mm of leeway: eventually the tip will be cut so the entire reed measures 72mm. I measure this out before I start tying on and make a pencil mark where the staple ends, like so:

pencil mark at top of staple

I start tying on about five thread-turns beneath this pencil mark:

Tying on five turns below

Now, the advice given to me about how to avoid crossed blades later on was as follows:

If the sides of the reed close before you reach the pencil mark: stop, pull the cane out a little, and then continue.

This is still a little bit fiddly, of course – having to unwind the thread and then wind it again is not that much fun and of course, you always have to be mindful that you don’t crack the cane, but it’s still much easier than trying to use those little hoops. Here’s that reed, now fully tied on:

Tied on 29

And I was quite pleased with how well the sides matched up:

Tight sides

Hope that helps. If I’ve not made any of this clear, please do let me know – you can submit a question via the form on the Contact tab. I’ve done my best with the photos, but I’m only using the little camera on my phone and it’s not very good. I’ve already put in a request for a sooper-dooper camera for my birthday, so things will improve, I promise.

Have fun!

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