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Re: Scraping V Sanding. Sean Mc Aloon's method


David Daye <[log in to unmask]>


David Daye <[log in to unmask]>


Sun, 11 Mar 2001 09:11:02 -0500





text/plain (108 lines)

Thanks Martin for these further comments!

At 08:40 AM 3/11/01 -0000, preshaw martin wrote:

  [ myself: ]
>> and the durability are all suggestive of a quality of cane
>> that is not presently available.
>i am not so sure david if the all the blame can be laid at the poor quality
>of the cane available to us today. i know that when sean was instructing me
>that he was using pretty much the same cane that was available to everybody

Ah, this definitely increases the evidence in favor of his skills.

> he was however very dissatisfied with the general quality and the
>very low success rates.

Understood. But there seems to have been another drop in quality
lately. I hear this from professional woodwind players as well.

What I have seen is clear mechanical inferiority. Cane is more
reluctant to deform in some ways, which leaves excess stresses
waitint to kill the finished reed early. Yet it is more likely
to deform irregularly (warp) in others especially around the
edges. Now as you say, perhaps this has always been a problem,
with Mr. McAlloon and the more skilled practitioners knowing
better how to avoid it or how to identify the trouble early
to avoid wasting precious labor.

>from fishermen's "baskets", the kind used for catching shellfish. these had
>been once quite plentiful around the docks in belfast. perhaps the
>continual wetting and drying of these baskets would have increased the
>longevity of a finished reed

It may very well have done so. At minimum it would have rinsed away some
excess sap and sugar. Rinsing tends to make different pieces of cane
more similar to each other in the way they react to changing weather,
and to react less, because the sap/sugars are part of the material that
attracts moisture. There is also some common feeling that "working"
cane this way gradually stabilizes the permanent part of the material.

For Bob May, I don't think salt is desireable, it only adds material
that absorbs water thereby increasing the reactivity of the cane
(first guess). But salt would rinse away in fresh water rather easily
I'd think.

>the quality of commercial cane in sean's day was just as poor. leo rowsome
>told sean that reeders were wasting their time with spanish cane and that
>there was only one type of cane that suited the uilleann pipes.
>unfortuneately he did not tell him what the right cane was.

From other sources, this seems to have been California cane. There are
several US makers who are using it, and Alain Froment has been a longtime
user. It grows wild as an invasive pest which is being aggressively
eradicated. There may be a complication about what "it" is, because
evidently some was transplanted from Spanish starts and some from
French. Just now Ted Anderson and Benedict Koehler are using it,
favoring some very light pieces i.e. sinking only 40% of their
length. I don't know how this might correlate with pieces favored by
Leo Rowsome.

>sean was encouraged and given a lot of advice on how to make reeds from leo
>rowsome when he lived in dublin. he also corresponded with leo by letter.
>i cannot help but think that the methods and style he employed were those
>gained directly from rowsome. indeed, i have several rowsome reeds in my
>shop and they too are very thick along the edges. this is the reason why i
>am steadily forming the opinion that the methods and style that we all, in
>general, employ today are not what the "old fellows" used.

This seems increasingly true. There are a number of people experimenting
in this area both with conert pipes and antique flat pitched pipes.

Almost everyone seems to be heading towards the large cylinders and
thin edges. I seem to be one of the only ones heading in the opposite
direction, although I end up in supposedly the same place in the end.
The goal is a very low level of pent-up stress, so that the reed can
tolerate severe weather changes.

My preference is to retain the old methods and results as much as
possible, discovering where the variation and problems lay and
modifying where necessary to improve the success rate and durability.

>rate, about 50%, is much lower than sean's yet i am using the same type of
>cane although i use an amalgamtion of "modern" techniques borrowed from
>everybody i have met and everything i have read.

Right, as it goes for many of us. But I am probably closer to you in
using medium rather than knife-thin edges, and definitely small
cylinders 52 mm diameter and less (2" - 1.75" ).

>reedmaking perhaps is just another facet of pipemaking that has been "lost"
>to us. we are continually swimming up stream against poor methodology,
>timber and cane.

Rest assured there are some detailed investigations going on
into both the methodologies and the materials, and both new
ways and old ways.


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