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Detune Or Leave Alone?

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I have weighted big reeds to flatten them on more that one occasion, I slip a a bit if shim steel under the reed leaving the end of the tongue in fresh air above the surface of the reed frame. I then put a small metal G clamp to hold the teed tongue onto the shim and i the reed frame, not tightly, only firmly. This forms a heat sink to protect the belly of the reed (the working part). you can then grip the G clamp in a vice to hold the work at the right height and angle and so you are not chasing it around the work top with a soldering iron. Don't forget to clean the reed tip before you start assembling clamps etc.


I've done this quite often, mostly to give my anglos a low D on the LH side (one tone above the lowest note) This involves quite a blob of solder to bring down a reed which is typically a Bb. I've never used a heat sink, but I do have a lot of soldering experience. It's important to get the tip of the reed (the face, where the joint will be) very clean, using fine sandpaper and acetone, or other degreaser and then heat the tip for as short a time as possible to get a good joint. If the tip is dirty it will take a lot more heat to get the solder to flow over the surface. I also wonder if a heat sink, won't necessitate a larger soldering iron (I think mine is only 15w) and require more heat to get the tip to accept the solder? I use a card, rather than metal shim under the tongue for the same reason - making the operation as fast as possible.

The biggest problem is paring down the solder blob afterwards to allow the tongue free movement in the frame, since it tends to make a bulbous form, wider than the tongue. For this, I carefully pull the tongue away from the frame and support it on a block of wood, then pare away the solder using a scalpel, which cuts the solder easily enough, without risking any damage to the tongue itself.

Getting it to work afterwards often needs a bit of extra fiddling with the reed set, but I generally try to copy one of the other weighted reeds of a similar pitch. Idem with the tuning, as some reeds seem to to have been filed with a 'step' in the solder, presumably to give the maximum cross-section to the joint, while maintaining the thickest part at the very tip. When tuning, you have to be very careful as you bring the reed up to pitch - if too much is filed away and it goes sharp, you'll have to go back to the soldering iron and start again...



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I have adjusted a few A#s to D plus I have put solder on many new reeds. It is straightforward, no need for heat syncs though I do not hang around overheating the reed. I clean the top of the reed with a file as far as I want the solder to travel. Prop it up enough to get the iron underneath and heat starting at the tip. As soon as the solder flows (electronic solder is fine) move the iron and solder in tandem slowly along the reed as far as you want it to go. Feed plenty of solder in. Best to have too much on and bring it up to pitch. It is much harder to put more solder on if it is too high as when adding more it tends to run under the reed.


Clean it up with a scalpel, scrape and pare the sides back down to the steel (the solder bellies out over the edge). Clean away any crystalline flux.


It is easiest done with the reed removed but if you do not have the gear to make a nice job of refitting reeds this might be best avoided.

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I have been using low temp silver solder ( melts around 450 degrees F). Which doesn't bother the existing temper, and tends to flow better on steel ( with proper flux). Good lead fee solders are in common use these days since the lead ones are mostl banned from manufacturing and plumbing. I switched a few years ago to Kester lead free solder with synthetic rosin core which is water soluble for clean up ( hot water) but I usually just wait until the solder frosts over and wipe off any flux with a paper towel while it is still molten but the solder is hard. It melts in the 400 degree range as well and is primarily tin and copper with a small amount of silver. It stays bright rather than turning grey like the lead solders do. It also wets the steel very well. Other fluxes like paste flux stay quite acid and need to be cleaned off well and neutralized with baking soda in water, or rust can develop. Rosin fluxes are better in this regard, though with lead folders may not clean the steel sufficiently for good wetting.

Like Dave says, for existing reeds, weighting is the way to go. It doesn't take much.


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Adrian and Chris, I greatly appreciate your further advice! Chris, not sure if I'm mistaken here, are you suggesting to not have the iron in contact with the solder but just the steel, from underneath?

Yes, heat rises and also you can get plenty of surface area connection between iron and reed. If you are doing it with the reed in the frame you need to make sure the iron is not touching the frame.

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A great big "thank you" to all who contributed to my taking up the challenge with confidence and knowledge! I considered and appreciated every bit!


A wonderful present I've thus been able to make myself, sounds so lovely in the keys of F maj and A min and...


Had a thought about going bisonoric with a F# but skipped that idea. F# would be nice to have too, but the low F comes so natural even after just 10 minutes of trying out and harmonic noodling...


Very happy with this outcome - Wolf

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I use a heat sink because I think it good practice, I understand the metallurgy and I know there is usually little risk to reed temper from conducted heat, but if you are working on large baritone ( the original post) or bass instrument reeds; and thus are soldering on brass weights rather than just adding solder to weight the reed then the process needs more heat and is a little more fiddly. The clamp/ sink, also is a holding device which holds the reed tongue rigid during the process, and helps me set it up with a best access for the soldering iron tip. I works for me and enables me to not need to rush the jib. Not that I dawdle. There is no need for a large soldering iron.


Solder usually melts about 180 - 190 degrees C, The first tempering temperature (pale straw) like my Wheatstone Aeola reeds is 170 deg C, the darker straw temper is about 205 deg C so the solder and the first reed temper temperatures are quite close together. the dark blue tempering temperature is over 280 deg C.



Edited by d.elliott
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Wolf - happy these great tips worked for you.

Now I need to find the time for my bari - Christmas project I suspect.

Thanks everyone for the tips.


One thing might be pointed out in advance: You should check (or at least I should have checked) the tuning in situ as soon as you have got your solder on the steel. I just picked the reed with a piece of cardboard to find out that it was still way to high sounding,


Once I had augmented the amount of solder and then reinstalled the reeds they were sounding unexpectedly low, and I had to file quite a bit of the solder away (however to very proper results).


So according to my (admittedly occasional) experience the discrepancy between the reed's frequency outside of the box and the tone produced inside the chamber has been uncommonly wide with this weighted reeds.


Good luck with your Christmas project Steve!

Edited by blue eyed sailor
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  • 2 weeks later...

Congrats that it's working for you too Steve, and the best of luck with the further tuning process!


P.S.: I'm still under the spell of that lowest tone which is forcing me to expand my playing to new keys and bass runs...

Edited by blue eyed sailor
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Wolf - thanks - the low F does open up more possibilities.

Now imagine that low F on a bari - the bari I have has very broad reeds and an amazing resonant quality to it.

Can't wait to get the rest of the tuning fettled.

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Now imagine that low F on a bari....


FWIW, my 64b baritione-treble has that low F, and the F#, and right where they belong in the pattern of Wheatstone's layout.


But now I'm waiting for you to get around to, "Gee, that F is so nice, I bet the E right below it would open up even more great possibilities." ;)

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