Alternative Cane Drone Reeds revisited

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Alternative Cane Drone Reeds revisited

Postby RobSay » Tue May 13, 2014 11:21 am

For anyone who followed the previous discussions on setting up cane and elder drones reeds
(Elder: viewtopic.php?f=31&t=485
Cane: viewtopic.php?f=31&t=782)

I appear to have unwittingly followed Francis' advice of simply trying whatever is in the garden ...

After a session messing on with Spanish cane and considering how to reed a very old set of pipes I was out in the garden clearing the fruit patch down when I realised that the old raspberry canes I was pulling out were almost identical dimensions to some Elder I had considered using. It turns out Raspberry canes have a pith core and a wall of thickness of ~1mm. Outside diameters range from 3mm upto around 6 or 7mm. Can you guess what I did next?

Here's my working low G reed and a piece of the cane it came from for reference:
RaspberryCaneG.JPG (210.81 KiB) Viewed 1520 times

Outer 'bark' just peels off, the inner 'bark is scraped off, pith was extracted with a succession of 1mm,2mm & 3mm twist drills (hand rotated). I found the cane joins to be useless so just dropped them and used sealing wax. The cane is softer than Spanish which makes it hard to work, it needs to be dry and the thinner canes are really quite bendy and prone to crushing. I had to be very careful and use a thin sharp blade to cut the section out and the tongue. There is no feed to file to start the cut but I found any attempt to lift the tongue failed and I had to cut along the tongue length. If there is the slightest curve in the cane, I put the tongue on the outside. Once I had a good tongue - scraping at the hinge end and bridle adjustment produces a working reed.

Dimensions: OD ~5mm, length 60mm, tongue ~30mm.

Not an engineered reed solution but an interesting challenge with a pleasing result. Took ~45 mins including failed attempts, working reed was ~20mins end to end. I shall see how it survives and continue to experiment.

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Joined: Mon Jun 06, 2011 2:38 pm
Location: Northumberland

Re: Alternative Cane Drone Reeds revisited

Postby andymay » Wed May 14, 2014 3:39 pm

Hi Rob,

Interesting stuff. There's been a big discussion over on the CHiff and Fipple lately about alternative plants for uilleann drone reeds - with some very interesting sound sample comparisons. The range of tones possible is really surprising!!

2 thoughts i'll chuck in -

1. I've a good mate uses elder drone reeds a lot. He prefers to use a hot stout wire to remove the pith. This burns the inside a little but he reckons that 'seals' the surface and gives a less sensitive reed.

2. These blades - ... 3f34875817

are in my experience the best thing i have found for cutting tongues - around a quarter the thickness of a stanley knife blade, very sharp, and disposable.

Make us a sound sample when you have the set going!!!!

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Joined: Wed Sep 21, 2011 4:47 pm
Full Name: andy may

Re: Alternative Cane Drone Reeds revisited

Postby Francis Wood » Thu May 15, 2014 10:33 pm

There are many alternative plant sources for drone reeds. Willow twigs are just one example of what may be found and used easily.

Perhaps the most unlikely choice for anything that can be thought of as 'traditional' in the antique sense is small arundo donax. Reed cane has always been a commercial commodity in larger sizes because those tubes are needed for other wind instruments. I feel sure this has been so since mediaeval times at least. However there is no other musical use for the sizes that small-pipes players are interested in and although there may have been imports of these tiny canes, it is difficult to imagine what else it might be successfully used for. Combs used in 18th century fabric manufacture is the only example I know of and this is a highly specialised and uncommon usage.

I began to investigate elder because I was dissatisfied with the use of arundo donax in Dunn-style drones which, in those I have examined, have the larger drone with a diameter that gives too powerful a sound when driven by an AD reed. Elder provided better balance. It is specified as being in use for small-pipes in James Talbot's manuscript notes of musical instrument measurements in the late 1600's.

Arundo donax splits very easily, and this is just one of its properties which make it suitable for drone reed making since the tongue is formed so easily. Other plant examples require a much greater control of the blade and so need to be treated with suitable caution for safety's sake.

Blowing a raspberry is perhaps not a new practice, but Rob's use is the most musical I've heard of.

Francis Wood
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Joined: Sat May 29, 2010 7:38 pm

Re: Alternative Cane Drone Reeds revisited

Postby Richard Evans » Fri May 16, 2014 10:32 am

Francis Wood wrote:There are many alternative plant sources for drone reeds. Willow twigs are just one example of what may be found and used easily.

Hmm.... depends on your definition of easily! This is a skill I've never mastered in almost 40 years of pipemaking. I give it a go every now and again, look at the results with despair and move on.

It's funny how some skills develop and others don't... I can generally make keys almost without thinking about it but even bashing out the fishtail shape used to be tricky.

I've just re-read the above... " almost 40 years"... Blimey. No wonder I can make keys.

Richard Evans
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Joined: Fri May 27, 2011 8:00 pm

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