Use of PEG to stabilise Reeds

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Use of PEG to stabilise Reeds

Postby Tpfairfax » Tue Jan 13, 2015 10:30 am

I have been looking at ways to stabilise cane reeds under different humidities.
Whilst this has been catalysed by the need to get a stable reed to play wet for the practice chanter, I note that it might also help those who play in robust climates.

I have used PEG (Polyethylene Glycol) in the past to stabilise green wood for stick dressing and thought I would give it a try.

Initial test - to soak a working chanter reed in 50% PEG overnight. This was then removed and washed.

The test reed played true (pressure, feel and pitch) both wet and once dried using silica beads. (or at least the same as before the immersion).

I am now giving it a caning in a practice chanter - so we can see how it goes.
I am also testing a reed after longer exposure to PEG to see if there is a difference.

Has anyone had experience with This area - it would be useful to hear.
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Full Name: Tom Fairfax

Re: Use of PEG to stabilise Reeds

Postby pipemakermike » Fri Jan 16, 2015 4:38 pm

Hi Tom
Many years ago I was interested in Oboe reeds as my wife played one and she had a "fibrecane" reed that could always be relied on to play adequately if not brilliantly. At the time I couldn't find out anything about the material (it was pre-internet) but, having just has a chat with Nick Leeming, I looked again and found that there have been a lot of developments.
I found a patent which seems to have a lot of useful information:-

I may also be interesting to visit the website of one of the manufacturers:-

I am sure that there is a lot of info out there and would be interested in any findings.
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Full Name: Mike Nelson

Re: Use of PEG to stabilise Reeds

Postby RaySmith » Mon Jan 19, 2015 11:16 am

Stable reeds?
What a wonderful concept.
Here in South Australia I need several reeds (mainly chanter) to suit the weather. 45 degrees C and as dry as toast one day, -1 and pouring with rain a few months later. It's a smallpiper's Hell.
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Re: Use of PEG to stabilise Reeds

Postby Tedley » Sun Jan 25, 2015 7:20 pm

Some clarinet reed makers oiled their slips with wheat-germ oil to make them climate friendly.
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Re: Use of PEG to stabilise Reeds

Postby Tpfairfax » Sun Feb 08, 2015 12:15 pm

Mike - Thanks for this - I am currently devouring your links - excellent... There is much to be learned from parallel streams..... I will keep you back briefed on this.

Ray - You are a bold man - When doing the circuit a couple of decades ago, I took my GHPs up from Sydney to Cape tribulation - and barely kept them alive - NSPs must be a challenge... I will keep posting updates on this forum! One thing I have been trying is the use of rechargeable Silica Gel Crystals to keep things dry - involves a bit of messing about but there is a seed of something there....

Ted - I will try some slips with Wheat Germ oil and let you know what happens!

Overall - Treating the completed reeds seemed to work well though the drying was a bit tricky....I made the mistake of not removing the bridle before soaking and drying - with what should probably have been predictable results....(why do I walk into these things!!) A couple of the prototype reeds are working - though Jury is still out as to how stable they will be after protracted periods under very soggy conditions...time will tell.

I have now treated some slips with PEG - and am making some reeds from scratch - my reed making is not consistent yet - so I have also sent some to one to a proper reed maker (I would hate a workable Idea to be torpedoed due to my lack of skill!!). It makes the gouging very satisfyingly silky - I will let you know how I get on....

Thanks for your input...!


Posts: 35
Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2013 8:06 pm
Location: Mindrum, Northumberland. TD12 4QN
Full Name: Tom Fairfax

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