Synthetic reed for Uilleann - FYI

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Synthetic reed for Uilleann - FYI

Post  wvh1946 on Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:10 pm

I have a Peter Hunter wide-bore in D with a cane reed. I go from Arkansas (wet) to New Mexico (dry!) with the usual chanter reed problems. Drones are ezees so no problems there. I've tried
making synthetic reeds for it and had "zip" success but as Edison said concerning his failures
at making a light bulb, "I didn't fail. I found 2000 ways NOT to make one." Happily, some of the
failures work well in my practice chanters and smallpipe chanters.

(The following is not an endorsement of eBay or the vendor! :~) )
On eBay I kept noticing a reed from Edinburg Kilt Co. for 15 bucks so I tried one. Not bad but
didn't work out of the box the way it should. Sunk as deep as possible, the bottom D was an Eb.

Had to lengthen the staple by grafting on a similar size bit of brass tube, 7/8ths in length, from
the local hobby shop to get it down from Eb to D. Sealed the graft with bit of plastic tube and
heat-shrink tubing (also from the local hobby shop). I then gave the factory wrapping and my
graft, a top coat of teflon tape (not from the hobby shop!).

The result is a synthetic reed that plays well. There's a couple of notes that are sharp in both
octaves and tape fixed that, and one that is flat but a bit of pressure on the bag cures that. In
the end you have a reed for all climates.

In looking back, I think these reeds were probably made to work in narrow bores. I don't have
a one, so can't say for sure. And I have to add, my Hunter chanter seems very easy to reed,
so it may be that these synthetics wouldn't work in other chanters no matter what. But for
15 bucks and a little bit of work, it may be worth a try if you have need or want a synthetic UP
chanter reed.


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Re: Synthetic reed for Uilleann - FYI

Post  Bob Salter on Mon Dec 06, 2010 1:13 pm

Do you have a link for that? I may give one a swirl.

Bob
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Reed link

Post  wvh1946 on Mon Dec 06, 2010 4:48 pm

Hi Bob,

If you want to take a look, here's the eBay link.

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and here's a link to Bagpipes Galore in Edinburgh. Same reed I think at 11 dollars.

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I have been talking with Malcolm Maclaren in Australia who makes a synthetic GHB reed. (nice
reeds!) He also has been playing UP for a while, and is going to attempt a reed type I sent to
him. I've had reasonable success converting a Gibson SSP chanter reed in A and he's going
to see if he can improve on it. Don't know when he'll be able to get to it. Great guy but very
busy.

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Re: Synthetic reed for Uilleann - FYI

Post  verdatum on Thu Dec 09, 2010 3:06 pm

wvh1946 wrote:I've tried
making synthetic reeds for it and had "zip" success but as Edison said concerning his failures
at making a light bulb, "I didn't fail. I found 2000 ways NOT to make one." Happily, some of the
failures work well in my practice chanters and smallpipe chanters.

Can you desribe some of the 2000 ways you've tried to make a uilleann chanter reed? I was actually specifically trying to find a good listing of things that have failed.

I'm curious to do some experiments with Polyurethane resin at the moment.

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2000 ways not to make an Uilleann reed...or fewer actually

Post  wvh1946 on Thu Dec 09, 2010 5:49 pm

What doesn't work?
"white" plastic like the yogurt cups but from a soft-drink cup with a recycle code of 5. Too thin
even with a doubler. Works better if you use recycle code 6.

Modifying a mylar GHB practice chanter reed.

Slips cut from a Downy laundry detergent bottle. Polyurethane I think.

What does work but with a lot of work.
Modifying polyethylene PC reeds like Gibson works better. But one sanding pass too many and
they're toast for any use. Use 600 grit and sand them like making a cane reed.

Cutting "slips" from polyethylene 2-liter bottles. You CAN make a decent reed after a lot of
sanding and trimming, but when it's playing well and all notes are a few cents sharp or flat,
DON'T try to "improve" it!!! And keep in mind that the next one you make from the same bottle
may not work at all. 2-liter bottles are blow-molded and the thickness may vary. You may cut
up an entire bottle and get only two reeds that play reasonably in tune.

Things I might try....
I was going to try making a reed from synthetic baritone sax reeds. They're a kevlar fiber in an
unknown resin. But at 54 dollars for materials and the uncertainty that it would work versus the
38 bucks for TWO synthetic reeds from eBay (see previous post) that do work in my chanter, I
probably won't go this route anytime soon.

Other sources.
Malcolm MacLaren at MacLaren Reeds in Australia has done a lot of R&D in making a synthetic
reed for the UP chanter. He could probably add a lot materials to the "won't work" list.
He says he's had the best success with polycarbonate.

Cast up some slips and let us know how they turned out.

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