Tuesday, October 9, 2018

reed making tip

A student recently asked me if my reeds ever crack during the reed-making process and unfortunately my answer was an emphatic YES.   I don't take it lightly, either......each time a reed cracks I manage to convince myself that the cracked reed would have been the reed of my lifetime if only I hadn't destroyed it.   Depression ensues once the anger dissipates.....it's all part of the mourning process.

In my experience the cracking almost always happens during the tip profiling step.  The blade on the underside of the large metal plaque that the reed is inserted on for profiling is the one which cracks.  While the top blade is being profiled, the bottom blade is cracking.
the devastating sight of a cracked blade when the reed is turned over after tip profiling the other blade

This does not indicate a flaw in the tip profiling machine, though.  (I highly recommend using a tip profiler!)  I suspect that the cracking is most likely caused by not soaking the reed long enough before insertion onto the plaque.  Also it seems that when I'm impatient while making reeds, I'm much more likely to end up ruining the reed.  I've been known to become overzealous with the knife during the shaping step with dreadful results, for example.

Although my reeds rarely crack, today was one of those days.  Today's cracked reed could have been a victim of not enough soaking (it was soaked for maybe 5 minutes) before tip profiling, and I was definitely in a hurry (which is why I only soaked it for 5 minutes!).

It's time to slow down, take a deep breath and get back to the drawing board......and remember:

Don't make reeds when you're in a hurry!



Christopher Millard said...

Hi Betsy, glad to see you posting again. I’m quite interested in seeing a crack while tip profiling. I don’t think this happened to me more than once in years. Your report of using a 5 minute soak sounds like the problem, but I wonder if there is a misalignment of the mandrel with the tongue if the template. I’ve seen this happen when there is a hairline crack in the column supporting the mandrel. Do you bother using the clamp? Could it be machined in such a way as to cause unnecessary downward pressure from the tube?

Conor Bell said...

Hi Betsy, I really enjoy your blog! I also really like using a tip profiler, when I have gotten cracks in the blade from using it, I think it stems from how open the tip is. If the tip is too closed, it forces the blade to be more open than the wire allows, if it's too open then the blade isn't fully supported by the plaque, or the clamp puts too much pressure on it. Just a thought that occurs to me!

B.S. said...

Hi Christopher! I didn't realize there were any comments on this post until just now. I have now revised my opinion of what the problem is, and it's not the soaking time. I think it's what Conor describes in his comment. The problem seems to be caused by the tip not being open enough. To answer your question, I do use the clamp, but it doesn't really seem to secure the reed. I will try to figure out if there is also a misalignment as you described.

Thanks for your comment!

B.S. said...

Hi Conor! I just found your comment (I used to receive an email whenever a comment appears, but that didn't happen for some reason.) Anyway, I do think you're right. After I wrote this post, I had several more reeds crack after being soaked for a LONG time, and I saw that the tips of those reeds were too closed! Now I'm trying to remember to check the tip opening before inserting the reed onto the plaque.

Thank you!!

William Safford said...

I'm glad that you're keeping this blog active.

I also had several reeds crack on my tip profiler in the last year.

Here are a couple details that I identified:

-Most often, these were not fresh blanks, but reeds that either I was still working down, or older reeds that I was re-profiling. For example, I may tip-profile a reed, work it down, decide that it's a bit flat and/or the E is sagging, clip it, re-tip-profile it, and have the bottom blade crack.

-Several times, when inserting the reed on the tongue, I felt resistance before feeling the blade crack. At first I thought that the mandrel was binding, but even after lubricating it, I noticed this.

I am going to keep an eye on the tip opening, now that I have read your blog entry and the comments. I tend to play with a smaller tip opening than most others, due to an overuse injury of my embouchure a decade ago that leads me to favor reeds that require little lip pressure to work properly. I may need to open the tip to put the reed on the profiler, then close it again after profiling.

William Safford said...

I had another thought.

My reeds have been getting shorter and shorter (to the point that I wonder if I should investigate trying shorter bocals--but I digress).

I wonder if the short blades (~25-26mm) may be overstressed when the reed is inserted on the tongue.

How long are your blades?

Just a thought.

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