How to Keep Yourself Supplied With
Great Chanter Reeds
March 2007

Copyright 2006-7 David C. Daye

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If you have enough reedmaking experience to get between 1/4 and 1/2 of all the reeds you start building to operate successfully in your chanter, even if they're not always ideal, it's a simple matter of statistics to keep yourself supplied with 3-4 excellent reeds continuously.

One of the biggest factors in reed quality is irregular warping at the top end of the lips. While there are tests to find ideal ranges of overall stiffness or hardness, and skilled corrections can usually avoid breaking or collapse, to date I've not heard of any test that can identify the suceptibility to warping. So until that discovery, the old-time tradition of making reeds in numbers and abandoning them at the first signs of inferiority remains the best strategy. It works with every reedmaking recipe and method.

We can minimize wasted labor by making batches of test-reeds. Make one test reed from each of several separate tubes, discard the bad reeds and the tubes they came from, and make followup reeds only from the tubes that produced the best test reeds. This way, even if 80% of your test reeds go bad, you'll still have an overall rate of 50% or more reeds that are quite good.

Suggested Steps

  1. Buy or make a stock of about 10 staples carefully tailored to your chanter.
  2. Pick 5 cane tubes of your preferred hardness or density.
  3. Make one test reed from each tube, noting its source tube.
  4. Allow plenty of settling (or perform thorough forced settling) at each resting stage.
  5. Stop initial finishing at about 90% done.
  6. Reject all reeds with dull tone and resistant performance unless you elect to attempt revival.
  7. Expose surviving reeds to mildly damper and mildly drier air to maximize natural settling.
  8. Finish only the remaining (typically 1-3) reeds gradually over a period of several weeks.
  9. Reject all but the very good to excellent reeds, and discard their source tubes.
  10. Repeat entire process with successive batches of 5 tubes.

Reviving Warped Reeds

Certain inferior (especially warped) reeds can be rescued, sometimes with breathtaking improvement in quality.

Click here for an illustrated outline of some remedies you can try if you have the time and inclination for revival work.

Questions or suggestions, discoveries & comments, email David Daye at: this email address
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