And he was right, as usual. A recent example of learning from my students has to do with sealing bassoon reeds. Many bassoonists use glue to secure the binding on the reed and to prevent leakage and shifting of the blades. I always used Duco Cement even though I have long been aware of its toxicity. One of my students at the Capital University Conservatory of Music asked if I'd ever used beeswax to seal reeds. No, I hadn't, and I was only vaguely aware that some reed makers do use it. Further investigation ensued.
First I bought a brick of beeswax for $10.95 on Amazon. Then I researched the matter online. The one complaint I read about using beeswax was the problem of the binding becoming loose. The way I make reeds, Duco cement is applied underneath the binding before wrapping the reed. This prevents the binding from shifting later. Once I began this practice, I have not had any issues whatsoever with loose binding. So if Duco cement can be used underneath the wrapping, it stands to reason that beeswax can be used as an alternative underneath the wrapping. The wax is fairly easy to place where it needs to be on the blank, and then a heat source such as a candle flame is used to melt it slightly, making it harden and adhere to the reed.
My students at Capital University were concerned about candles setting off the fire alarms.
(Note: This speaks volumes about their level of maturity......I recall my classmates at Eastman purposely setting off fire alarms for entertainment, especially at the dorms in the middle of the night!) My Capital University students are not only mature-- they're also innovative. One of them solved the fire problem by coming up with the excellent idea to use a soldering iron as the heat source.
Here is a Capital University bassoon major demonstrating the application of beeswax to seal the reed, both underneath and then on top of the wrapping. He is using a battery-operated soldering iron (cost:$22.81):
The reed is immediately available as soon as the beeswax is applied....it hardens immediately. You can soak the reed, cut the tip, play on it, and proceed with finishing right after applying the beeswax. The immediate availability of the reed after wrapping is a big plus, along with the non-toxicity.
We had mixed conclusions, ranging from liking beeswax enough to use it exclusively to planning to never use it again. My opinion is that I found the beeswax too messy to deal with efficiently and effectively, perhaps because the beeswax I ordered was the cheapest available (or because I'm a klutz when it comes to the manipulation of beeswax). I shared one student's observation that the binding was not secure enough....I was afraid the beeswaxed reeds might fall apart at an inopportune moment! Most importantly though, it took too much time. I'm already a slow reed-maker, so adding a few more minutes onto my time required to make a reed is not an option. I'm disappointed though, because I love the fact that beeswax is nontoxic (assuming the bees were not exposed to pesticides or herbicides). I have not sworn off beeswax forever; I'll probably give it another try someday, maybe with a higher quality beeswax.
We "gave it the old college try" as my teacher K. David Van Hoesen used to say. If worse comes to worst and you decide you prefer not to use beeswax after trying it, you can always make beeswax candles out of it!