Making a Stabilized Traditional Reed
for Uilleann Pipe Chanters and
Regulators and Penny-Chanters
Partial Notes for Experienced Reed Makers
Copyright 2001-2 David C. Daye
Latest edition 04/02
Previous edition 08 Feb 2002
First edition 10 November 2001
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Traditional and Other Reed Methods
I have labelled this rather radical method "traditional" because
it creates the complex interior shape mostly by bending the cane, which
is true of all the historic methods I have found. The shape created is,
or should be, completely identical to the shape created by historic methods.
The vibration of the finished reed should also be identical.
An example of a classic historic type method is given on the web site
of the pipemaker Seth Gallagher, and there are also some useful closeup
photos of certain steps shown on my own educational web site. Both are
linked below. A number of printed references are also entirely useful for
the Penny-Chanter or other Concert D chanters when the dimensions tested
for the particular chanter are substituted. Excellent compatible books
include those by David Quinn and Dave Hegarty. These methods however do
not include substantial stabilizing operations such as this method gives.
The method of Timothy Britton is not compatible with this method or
with Penny-Chanter. I have not been able to get its smaller size reed to
tune in the Penny-Chanter.
The "chamber carving" methods of Andreas Rogge and Evertjan
t'Hart are also not compatible with the method given here, although if
there are problems they may respond to the "resurfacing" section
below. Links to this alternate type of construction can be found at the
bottom of this document.
Stabilizing Traditional Reeds
An interview some years ago on Canadian radio featured a Scots fiddle
maker, whose name I do not recall, who discovered principles that cause
a fiddle to improve with a few years' playing. He discovered that it was
settling of the structure, caused not by the actual playing but by exposure
to damp and dry air over the course of time.
This caught my attention immediately because pipers have always known
that both wet- and dry-blown reeds improve in tone and stability with use.
Like fiddlers, pipers have believed that the action of playing has been
the driving force of playing-in. But like fiddles, good pipe reeds can
play dependably for a very long time after breaking-in, with little if
any futher change. In fact the Australian pipe-maker Craig Fischer owns
an original 140-year-old Coyne chanter reed which he has carried to Ireland
and found to play very well in quite a few antique pipes, in different
musical keys. This makes it very unlikely that vibration is what "plays
in" a reed. The reed vibrates throughout its career, so it would seem
that vibration would change the reed constantly and destroy it very soon.
A few tests quickly showed me that it was the exposure to variation
in air moisture that was the most likely force causing playing-in. I began
subjecting my partly-finished reeds to severe humidity cycles in the mid
1990's and quickly found that it reduced the instabilities of new reeds,
and nearly guaranteed that new reeds would not fail permanently in most
changes of weather.
I would have published a formal method immediately except that the quality
of my cane supply deteriorated radically. It took me almost 4 years of
experimenting and testing to discover what my former excellent cane had
been doing for me automatically, so that I could learn to control and finally
to describe to others how to apply these principles. Along the way some
formal scientific and engineering studies of cane and reeds were conducted
by Craig Fischer, so we hope that the double-reed community will ultimately
benefit from my painfully long detour.
By the turn of the 21st century I became the first maker to advertise
formally reeds for delivery into "any climate on earth."
About This Method
The steps given here are radical because they expose the reed to very
harsh conditions several times during the construction. This verifiably
settles the shape permanently before the final voice is created. The new
reed can be finished to a more complete degree than with other methods
since there is little further settling remaining that would alter it.
An extremely important addition to this method is the "refinishing"
step in which the reed is taken apart after it is nearly completed, and
the topmost interior is resurfaced.
The reason for resurfacing is that it has been known for many years
that a double reed is actually not so much a vibrator as it is a pressure-feedback-driven
valve. The sound is created by the lips closing together, sending a pressure
wave down the chanter at the speed of sound. Much of this wave radiates
out the first open hole for us to hear as musical tone--but some of it
reflects back up the chanter at the speed of sound, popping the lips open
so that the cycle can repeat. This happens hundreds of times per second
for low notes, and thousands of times per second for the highest notes.
It is well known that certain irregularities in the top few mm of the
inner lips can compromise tone and performance. The aggressive heat and
humidity exposures used in this method, and milder variation experienced
by all dry-blown double reeds during their service life, often create such
irregularities in this surface. They can be optimized directly by re-smoothing
the active surface itself, improving or curing a surprising array of reed
problems. Experience with this manipulation suggests that much of the wizardry
needed to learn traditional reed tuning can be avoided completely!
This is the main advance that came out of my 4-year struggle. I had
originally been very lucky to have cane that rarely developed irregularities
under my process. I needed to do seemingly interminable testing of suppliers
of different cane and treatments of raw or semi-processed cane before I
recognized that steps can taken during the reed construction to make the
character of the raw material much less important than it is for historic
In the end, this method becomes almost purely a mechanical construction
process until the last steps when musical considerations finally arise.
By verifiably finishing all settling during construction, almost all reeds
that survive construction will play usefully, with more predictable tuning
and tone, and long stable service lives.
This method works for all uilleann pipe double reeds for regulators
and different pitches, brands and musical keys of chanters. All that is
required is to substitute the pipe maker's intended staple and blade dimensions
for whatever specific dimensions are quoted here for Penny-Chanters.
Parts of the Reed
Tools and Supplies
A modest collection of tools and supplies is required for making reeds.
Generic or Widely-Available Tools
- Sharp knife and/or
single-edged razor blade for cutting shapes in cane.
- Sandpaper - medium, fine and extra fine grades.
- Pliers - small needle-nose
and also small cutters for various tasks with staples and bridles..
- Saw - a fine model-making
saw or hacksaw for cutting cane and possibly tubing to length.
- Files - 2 small metal files, if you are making hand-rolled staples,
or 1 for general use otherwise.
- Gouge - 1 or 2 wood gouges
(curved chisels) for rough-carving the initial interior curved surface
of the blades.
Hammer - small fine hammer, with fairly straight claws, if you need
to make staples.
Dial caliper for
- Common brands are "Swiss Made" and "Ashley-Isles"
sold by woodworking suppliers
- Widths 15-18 mm, a bit wider than 1/2"
- Curvature is termed "sweep"
- #7 sweep most useful for this method
- #5 sweep optional, for occasional larger diameter pieces of cane
- "In-cannel" type normally used for reeds -- has bevel on
inside of gouge curve
- Makes quick, level cuts, remaining at starting depth
- For amateur use, the more common outside bevel works OK
- Slightly slower to use
- Tends to rise, cutting more shallow, requiring multiple passes
- Irregularities are easily removed in the normal sanding stage
Pliers - small flat-bladed
needle-nose pliers for forming the ends of staples (either rolled or tubing
Tapered Hand Reamer
- small hand tool for cutting metal away from the inside opening of tubing.
Tools That Must be Made or Changed
- Shooting Block - a
device for holding strips of cane as they are gouged to make blades. It
consists of a piece of wood with a shallow trough to hold the curved strip
of cane, with a stop at one end against which the cane rests when being
gouged. This one is carved into a common kitchen cutting board and also
includes other features.
- Cane Sizer - hole(s)
of various known diameters used for measuring the outer diameter of tubes
or strips of cane.
- Sanding Cylinder
- any cylinders at least 4" long with straight,
smooth outer surfaces ranging from 1-1/2" to 3" or 3-1/2"
outer diameter, for fine finishing of the interior surfaces of the blades.
Sandpaper is wrapped and held onto the outside, and the gouged cane slip
is rubbed back and for in order to finish the inside surface. Probably
only 2-3 will be needed with diameters clustered near that which is appropriate
for your particular recipe.
- Eye Mandrel - if
making any type of staple, a short thin metal rod with a somewhat smaller
diameter and a carefully tapered end, for use in creating the top end of
either tube-type or rolled-type staples.
- Staple Forming Block
- piece of wood with a narrow groove(s), into which the sheet metal blank
for the staple and the forming mandrel are tapped in order to begin forming
- Rolling Mandrel
- if making rolled staples, a short thin tapered metal rod around which
the sheet metal for a rolled-type staple is hammered and then shaped. Illustrated
mandrel was made in a hand-drill by filing while being spun against a support.
- Gap measuring wedge
- a very narrow, long wedge of cane or other material glued to some sort
of holder or identifying material, shown above centimeter stick in photo,
to measure elevation or gap between reed blade lips from .010" to
- Plumber's teflon tape
(very thin non-sticky wrap) for making bindings, reed seat wraps airtight
- Waxed twine, or waxed "artificial
sinew" flat nylon fiber for wrapping reeds
- Sheet metal .015" thick brass or .021" thick copper if rolling
staples and for cutting bridles
- Soldering torch or fireplace or kitchen stove element if rolling staples,
for heating sheet metal to anneal.
Special Reedmaking Supplies
- Cane -- tubes of Spanish,
French or other cane sold for bassoon or bagpipe reed making 4"
or longer, 7/8" to 1" outside diameter.
- Bees' wax -- lumps of
wax for coating and re-coating bindings, sealing leaks
Caution About Treating or Altering Existing Reeds
Reeds built by most other methods, except for the chamber-carved method,
do not usually tolerate rough handling gracefully. The humidification,
drying and heating steps used in this method are very rough indeed. Many
reeds do not fare well from simple taking apart and re-assembly.
I strongly recommend not applying any of the heating and humidity-cycling
steps of this method to reeds built by other methods or to finished, playing
reeds made by any method.
Making and Finishing the Reed Head
Note-- For most pipers it is best simply to purchase staples already
shaped and ready to use, from the maker of the chanter. 3-5 are needed
at minimum to allow 1-2 working reeds with 3-4 under construction. 1-2
dozen might be needed for a touring/performing piper to have 4-6 working
reeds set for different weather, having very specific tone and performance
requirements, remainder for reeds under construction and breaking-in.
- Diagram of cane dimensions
specifically for Penny-Chanters
Gouge the slip
- This method will work for all chanters--substitute the chanter maker's
staple and reed dimensions
- Cane density: I use tubes that sink 50% to 56% of their length in water
- Tubes should be slightly smaller diameter than for dry-built methods
due to greater settling
Sand the slip
- I use a #7 sweep gouge
16-18 mm wide
- Edges are left very thin
- Slips can be wider with harder or larger diameter cane; narrower with
softer, smaller diameter cane
- Leave centerline .05" - .07" thick. The thinner value is
faster but requires better control of the chisel
Cut slip ends to make tails and outline shown above
- Use narrowish cylinder 1.6" - 1.75" diameter
- First coarse to medium grit #60 - #100, then finer grit #100-#150
- Centerline thickness .040" to .050"
- No gouge marks or pits remain in the slip; if so, it must be discarded
or it will break or misbehave
- Edges still thin but not knife-sharp; this is critical only in the
middle 1/3 of slip
- Do not polish interior super smooth at this stage--later steps will
roughen the interior
Pre-humidify the slip
- Leave sides parallel, full width for most of head length in the beginning
- Lower sides will be tapered later as part of final adjustments
1st temporary assembly to create main internal chamber shape
- Make cane extremely damp but not water-wet
- Store just above water
inside covered container
- 12-24 hours for gouged slips
- 48 hours for split strips not yet gouged
- Humidity needs time to penetrate all the way through length and down
to the bark, or forming will be uneven and incomplete
Air dry 24 hours or longer
- Cut blades in half carefully using sharp knife
- Temporarily bind the blades with firm but open wrap. I like to bind
the entire (future) exposed head, over 1" long
- Insert staple to form the internal chamber shape
- If entire head is bound, insert over time to avoid cracking
- Go halfway, rest 5-10 minutes
- Then 3/4 of the way, rest 5-10 before reaching final depth
- Deeper insertion gives greater internal chamber air space; shallower
Staple Insertion Table
Reasons for Deeper
Reasons for Shallower
|Thinner brass staple
||Thicker copper staple
|Reed's destination climate is much drier than reed shop
||Reed's destination climate is much more humid than reed shop
|Reed will be finished for quiet playing
||Reed will be finished for loud playing
|Cane is hard and stiff
||Cane is soft and easily bent
|2nd octave tends to be flat
||2nd octave tends to be sharp
- For brass staples & Penny-Chanter, overall length 1/16" less
than design reed length
- For thicker copper Penny-Chanter, insert to intended length
- Intended overall length for Penny-Chanter is 3 1/4"
- Temporarily bind the
rest of the head and tails. Bring edges together slightly below staple
- Don't forget to bind tails too, to make sure that interior and tails
settle properly rounded
- .05"-.06" gap between lips at start
- If necessary, bridle
1/3 above staple squeezing against edges to open, or against
faces to close
- Bridle if used must not be too low or internal chamber will be too
- Bridle must not be used too high or internal chamber will be too large,
especially near lips, which can make hard D difficult and make back D and
2nd octave too sharp
- Hold the elevation very slightly less than or equal to unscraped lip
- OK to pinch lips gently with fingers to help bridle reduce any excess
elevation. Do this in beginning when cane is most damp
Heat-dry 1-3 hours in mild dry heat such as on top of TV or computer
- Check several times first hour or two and adjust elevation with opening
or closing bridle if necessary
- If closing with bridle, make only 1/2 the desired correction at first
- Damp cane continues to settle under closing-type bridle due to shrinkage
as it dries
- Gap should decrease
slightly to .04"-.05" at finish
- If too open or closed, rehumidify and bridle during drying to reach
- Irregular interior deformation during next step increases with shorter
air drying period
Inspect the interior
- An opening type of bridle, squeezing against edges, is usually needed
to prevent reed collapse
- Set elevation gap .05"-.06" to start
- Make sure entire head remains temp bound to prevent edges from opening
- Stand reed upside-down so that bridle does not fall loose
- Check elevation every 10-20 minutes for first hour, adjust bridle if
elevation closing or remaining too open
- Maintain elevation gap at .04" - .05"
2nd Temporary Assemble
- If lips have mostly closed, discard. Make future reeds from that tube
with greater elevation or use stronger opening-bridle during drying
- Take reed apart and examine interior curve near the top end under harsh
- Moderate warping or irregular curvature is normal and acceptable
- If warping or irregular curve are severe, discard, reed will probably
deform again when in service
- Lengthen prior air drying for next reeds
- Temp bind top 1" of head
- Insert staple for exact nominal length ( 3 1/4" for PC )
- Optionally glue tails
temporarily onto staple with 1 tiny drop of
- Bevel or chamfer the
edges of tails so that binding can wrap smoothly and lie airtight
- Use final-assembly type of waxed lower binding
- Wrap neat and airtight so that reed can be tested during first scraping
- Add temporary head wrapping
so that entire length of exposed head has an open but firm temporary binding.
- Heat two cycles to moderate high temperature to give sufficient settling
without burning or over-cooking
- Heat tails & perm binding
- Hold about 2" over small flame, keep moving
- If too close, binding heats too fast before tails are warm enough to
- Heat one area till wax begins to melt, then move on.
- Rotate to heat other side
- It is OK to Briefly heat 1/4" of head beyond the
- Be certain that edges remain bound or they will separate
- Let cool 1-2 minutes, only enough for wax to solidify, then repeat
before the tails go cold
- Face and edge views of
reed after flame stabilizing
Re-humidify in damp air all day or overnight
- Shape of first scrape
will be a narrow long V
- Do not cut or scrape as deep along the midline as for other methods.
- This style of reed does not tend to close during scraping
- Midline will become too thin unless care is taken
- Scrape or sand full length and width, removing about 2/3 thickness
at center of lips
- Fit a very tight temporary bridle 1/3 of the way up.
slide it down to bottom, closing the lips completely tight before continued
scraping and sanding
- Immediately ease the bridle after each operation
- Never leave reed closed shut even for a few minutes
- Get reed barely sounding
under strong suction through staple
- Leave slightly thick in the middle
- Too stiff and sharp to play in chanter
- Do not worry about tone or performance. Even if excellent, the next
step will degrade the quality
Air dry at least one full 24-hour day
- Fit with temporary bridle to prevent excess opening or closing
- Check several times during first 1-2 hours and readjust bridle if necessary
- Ideal humid elevation gap range .05" - .06"
Heat dry 1-3 hours as in # 12 above, guarding against excess closing
or collapse caused by drying
- Reed usually closes more as cane dries
- Guard against collapse, consider using temporary bridle and head wrapping
- Ideal dry elevation gap range .04" - .05"
- If reed closed too much
- Irregular deformation during next step increases with less thorough
Take apart to refinish interior
- Stand reed upside-down so that bridle if used does not fall loose
- Check several times first hour, add or readjust bridle if needed
- Ideal drying elevation gap range .04" - .05"
- If reed closed too much
Final Permanent Assembly
- Virtually all reeds will have degraded performance, resistant crow
etc.caused by slight warping
- Inspect under strong,
harsh side light
- Pencil shading is used in photos to illustrate shadow of strong side-light
- Edge warped outward: dull tone, resistant, difficult response
- Edge warped indward: bright tone, difficult 2nd octave
- For significant irregularities
or elevation too great or little
- Lightly moisten top 1/4"
- Too much moisture will travel towards tail
- Some chamber and tail formation may reverse
- Bind top 5/16" - 3/8" against large cylinder 2 7/8"
- 3" diameter
- Let dry all day or overnight
- Sand on 2-3 progressively larger cylinders
- Sand on large sanding
- Diameter 2 7/8" to 3 1/4" -- wider than main curve of lips
- Cylinder not too narrow or reed will require excess bridle force and
- Use medium then fine paper
- Hold tail, press
medium hard just below scrape
- Make lips match curve
of cylinder or else edges may be sanded too thin
- Push and pull cane along direction of grain
- Only 3-5 strokes
medium paper, 5-10 strokes fine paper
- Inspect interior to verify
- Even very tiny, narrow irregularities often degrade tone and performance
- Be very careful not to sand through cane
- Sand lower edges slightly
narrower if they have gone too round, leaving gaps between
Fit final permanent bridle
- Top end of lips have probably been sanded too thin in some spots
- Tie reed 1/32" to 1/16" longer than ideal to allow trimming
of excessively thinned cane
- Permanent binding extends 1/16" to 1/8" above staple top
- Elevation only slightly greater than desired for playing
- Ideal elevation gap range .03" - .04"
with no bridle
- Bridle should be required to apply modest force to reach desired elevation
- Modest bridle force at medium strength allows bridle adjustment of
- Excess bridle force requires too much scraping of cane, leads to early
- If elevation gap is .05" or more without bridle, repeat final
humidification and drying with lower elevation, then refinish interior
- If bridle is not needed for medium strength, reed may not be adjustable
- Repeat final humidification and drying with higher elevation, then
refinish interior again
- Diagram of lower reed and
bridle shapes for proper control
- Lower end of reed edges should taper slightly, narrower towards binding
- Lower end of reed faces should taper slightly, wider towards binding
- Bridle typically adjusts lips 30-50% elevation change
- Typical bridle travel 0.5 to 2 bridle widths
- Lowest bridle position for most closed lips, ideally at binding top
- Highest bridle position for most open lips, anywhere in lowest 1/4
- Higher normal bridle location gives sharper pitch and stronger, sharper
- Lower normal bridle location gives lower pitch and weaker, flatter
Optional final scrape method using sandpaper and tight bridle
- Store reed 1-2 days in destination climate if significantly different
to reedmaking conditions
- (More than 30% drier or damper, measured by Relative Humidity)
- Scrape varies according
to slip and cane
- Narrow, flat, with lips more thick for softer, initially thinner slip
- Wider, deeper, lips thinner for harder, initially thicker slip
- Check all 4 upper edges
- Thin any excessively thick upper edges
- Thick edges can make 2nd octave unstable
- Note excessively thin edges, avoid when scraping or sanding
- Thin edges can make back D unstable, sinking or gurgling
- Proceed carefully, testing in chanter after every modest adjustment
- Reed should play stiff overall at first but should jump the octave
without much excess pressure
- Test back D and 2nd octave stabilities before each thinning step
- Trim to 1/64" to 1/32" more than design length before final
- Thin towards sides of scrape if 2nd octave is difficult
- Limit--back D will become weaker from this thinning
- Thin towards center of scrape if 2nd octave is easy but 1st octave
is sharp, stiff and squeaky
- Limit--2nd octave jumping will become more difficult from this thinning
- Do not test or assess reed after resting
- Play for 5-10 minutes before testing and adjusting
- Be sure to scrape along sides and not only along middle of reed
- Click here for view of
normal edges against mm scale: very thin but not knife-sharp
- Reeds often perform best
with slight concave sideways shape to scrape, thicker along vertical
- Elevation often decreases slightly
- Playing elevation gap with no bridle should be .02" to .035"
- Works best when lips are too long 2-3 /64"
- Excess length helps protect top corners against sanding through edges
- Close lips completely shut with bridle
- Protects midline zone
- Helps correct for results of internal resurfacing
- Use medium to fine paper
- Sand both along grain
and across grain to avoid uneven shaping
- Press slightly along each side so that midline is not over-thinned
- Check top edges for excess thinning very often!
- Reopen immediately after
- Remove temporary tight-closing bridle
- Fit a temporary test bridle to hold elevation as desired for playing
- Trim lips halfway to ideal design length when it is playing well
- New reeds often play fine with a tiny amount of extra length, 1/64"
- Slight future settling may leave back D and 2nd octave flat
- Extra length can be trimmed at that possible time
Seal the cane
- Crow sounds obtained by sucking through staple bottom, gently then
- Do NOT blow through reed by mouth -- can warp or collapse
- Partly scraped reed,
2/3 finished, strong suction needed, sharp crow tending to squeal
- Working reed, 2 different results depending only on geometry of the
mouth during inhaling
- Defective reed, crow
never makes 2nd tone, because inside of upper edges are deformed
Troubleshooting / Adjusting Dimensions
- Open lips very slightly with bridle
- Dip entire head down into almond oil or thin type outoor
- I strongly recommend against sealers that contain poisons such as antipfungus
- Keeping reed upside-down, blow carefully through staple to clear excess
fluid from inside reed
- Do not get wood sealer or other non-edible oils or chemicals into mouth
- Do not use varnishes, super-glue etc. which coats and stiffens cane
- If reeds are tuning sharp in the 2nd octave, insert staple slightly
less during first assembly and humidification to create less internal airspace
- Finished reeds can be sanded narrower at the edges
- If reeds are tuning flat in 2nd octave, insert staple slightly more
during first assembly and humidification
- Finished reeds can be trimmed slightly shorter and resanded for proper
- Hard D or back D problems
if reed is otherwise good
- Curve may be wrong in top end
- Or, re-bind head, bridle as necessary, re-humidify and redry
Chanter Reed Fine-Tuning
/ Problem Chart
- Dull tone and/or resistant response is caused by warping of lips
- Take reed apart to diagnose and repair--heat settling makes this safe.
- Use harsh harsh light shining across grain to magnify curve and surface
- This photo illustrates desired interior
- Most curve near staple at left, least at lips, with gradual transition
- Here is interior warping
- Resurface lips with fine sandpaper on large
diameter cylinder 3 1/4 " - 3 1/2 "
- Sand interior tip in/out, applying moderate
pressure, 3-4 strokes
- Then light pressure, hold blade level, to smooth only the very top
- When interior curve of top 1/4" appears uniform from edge to edge,
reassemble reed and test
- 2nd octave difficulty is often caused by stiff corners and/or thin
- Inspect corners & upper edges; identify 1-3 thickest
- Thin these areas carefully on the thicker
It is not especially difficult to make staples, and most pipers will
only need 1 or 2 dozen for the lifetime of their chanter. Pipers rarely
keep more than 2-3 reeds playing at any moment because uilleann chanter
reeds can have lifetimes of decades and possibly much longer.
- Diagram of dimensions
for making staple specifically for Penny-Chanters
- Obtain thin sheet metal brass (typically .015") or copper (.021"
to .021") from metal supply, roofing contractor etc. Hobby shop brass
is usually too thick (.025") and stiff, more difficult to form, makes
smaller internal diameter.
- Cut into modest size pieces 2-1/4" or wider (equals length of
staple) and several inches long (to obtain several staples side-by-side).
Larger pieces of metal may be difficult to raise to high enough temperature
- Anneal (make metal
soft enough to bend easily) by heating to red glow using small plumber's
torch or other suitable flame. It is not necessary to plunge red-hot brass
or copper into water to preserve the softness (as is necessary with steel)
but of course it makes the metal easy to handle immediately.
- Cut into individual
staple shapes according to recipe. Leave slightly oversize. Many rolled
conical designs used evenly-tapered blanks, which can be laid out in alternating
directions on the sheet metal as shown in this photo. Some are tapered
only in top half, leaving bottom half cylindrical.
- File into exact final shape.
Notice metal appearnce (copper, but brass would look similar at this time).
It is black from the annealing process. Finally, lightly file all the edges
to remove burrs and roughness especially from the surface which will become
the critical inside of the staple.
- Prepare for bending.
Lay the metal blank over the forming-groove, then lay the forming-mandrel
over the metal blank. Be sure everything is carefully centered.
- Tap mandrel and blank
into the forming-groove. The claws of an ordinary claw-hammer are convenient
for tapping the slender mandrel into the narrow groove.
- Tap edges of blank fully
around the mandrel. First remove from groove, then tap edges with modest
force using hammer. Some makers use a wooden block for smoother initial
roll. Next view shows edges
sufficiently close at right, still partly open at left.
- Finish forming by rolling
the staple, with mandrel inside for support, firmly between 2 metal
files. The files will impart a bit of roughness to the outside of the staple,
seen at right in clean area of copper. Section at left has not yet been
rolled and remains blackened from the annealing process. Notice the seam
between the edges. It virtually disappears after a few seconds' rolling
between the files. This seam is nearly airtight at right.
- Notice shape of ends
of staple, perfectly round, and seam is no longer visible. The process
of rolling between the 2 files makes this very easy to accomplish.
- If desired, seam can be soldered together to be perfectly airtight,
and to make it easier to form the eye.
- Taper the bottom by
filing, to allow staple to fit farther into chanter. Clean area at right
end has been tapered. Not necessary for Penny-Chanter which has a straight
sliding reed seat; also not usually necessary for brass staples because
metal is so thin.
- Insert eye-forming mandrel
which is a steel rod whose end is tapered to match the taper of the top
end of the staple. Most modern tapered staples will leave the larger end
round, and have the eye formed at the narrower end. View shows the taper
visible from the side, and the oval-shaped end which is the correct thickness
for the finished eye. The oval must necessarily be much narrower than the
width of the eye since otherwise it would be impossible to insert and remove
- Tap (and/or squeeze with pliers) the eye end of the staple onto the
forming mandrel to begin forming the taper and the eye.
- Notice shape of partly
finished eye. It is generally oval in shape but uneven, often too open
at the sides. Often the the seam re-opens under the stress of forming.
- Finish shaping the taper and the eye by tapping and/or squeezing. If
the seam is open, tap with a glancing blow in order to push the edges of
the seam close together again. Be sure to tap or squeeze towards the edges
of the eye to form the eye into a narrower, evenly shaped oval.
- Notice the shape of the
Finish the staple by filing the tapered surface smooth of any small
bumps. Large bumps must be first tapped away since they will also be present
inside the staple, making the tuning and tone difficult to predict.
style of reed
Questions, special order questions email David Daye
Bottom of Stabilized Traditional Style Reed for Penny-Chanters