Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Straight Stuff, Part 1

"The fundamental problem is still that of cane selection 
to prevent subsequent failure."
~ Jean-Marie Heinrich, The Bassoon Reed

In his article, The Bassoon Reed, Jean-Marie Heinrich (bassoonist and botanist) maintains that it is possible to condemn a piece of cane even before you process it (Journal of the International Double Reed Society, 1979).

This statement is based upon two concepts.

Everyone can agree that symmetry in all dimensions at all points between the two halves of a bassoon reed makes for a reed with the greatest potential to function well. While perfect symmetry is impossible to achieve, a reed that has good symmetry has the optimal vibrational potential because at each point the blades can vibrate at the same frequency due to their unity of thickness and shape in three dimensions.
Good symmetry is imparted to the reed through proper selection of the piece of cane, a symmetrical gouge, profile, and shape and a scrape that is as even-handed as possible. Also affecting symmetry are the wires, the bevel, and the forming procedure. Even how one fits the reed onto the mandrel, reamer or bocal (without twisting in one direction) plays a role in the symmetrical shapes put in the reed by the reed maker.

Defined as the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation, elasticity in bassoon reeds refers to the degree to which the tip opening retains its size and shape when vibrated over time. The life of a bassoon reed can be accurately charted through the degradation of its tip elasticity through repeated use.
It can be said with confidence that everything that is done to the cane from tube to finished reed has as its primary goal predictable elasticity. This includes gouge, profile, shape, wires, scrape, bevel, ream, etc.
Cane also has a built in elasticity with regard to its circumference in tube form. Even the thinly scraped tip of a finished reed will tend to arch more if it came from tube cane with a smaller circumference than that which came from a tube with a larger circumference. This needs to be taken into account when choosing tube sections for gouging, or when choosing gouged cane to profile.

Cane Selection

Thus, proper care must be taken in the selection of cane for processing! Whether you start with tube cane or gouged cane there are steps to take at this early stage that can save a lot of time and frustration.

Gouged Cane

Examine the piece of gouged cane by placing it on a 1" (25.4mm) piece of wooden dowel. It should fit uniformly around the circumference of the dowel.

Place the cane on a flat surface and check to see that all four corners of the piece contact the surface. Also look to see if the cane bows up in the middle or rocks from end to end. Most cane is not perfectly straight, so with some pieces you'll have to decide how much rocking of the corners you'll allow.

Tube Cane

In a previous post I outlined a method for selecting the straightest pieces from a section of tube cane.

In my next post, I'll offer an improvement upon this method with plenty of photos and instructions.

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