Reeds.... Reeds.... Reeds....!
When I first met Bernd, he said to me he had never seen anyone tie-on a reed quite as badly as me. It's not a comment I am proud of, but it was true. Tying-on is really important. Why go to all that effort to select good cane (all those recalls) only to dress it in Granny's frock and expect it to look good on stage? (not sure the analogy is really still working, but I'll stick with it for the time being....)
Cigarette lighter, Thread - strong but not too thick, with a slight stretch to it,
D-11 Mandrel (OR Mandrel to fit your staple if you are using a different staple),
Klöpfer copy D-11 staples. I use staples by Möckel, but these are notoriously hard to
get hold of. The Guercio ones are readily available but not as consistent. Do check for
a perfect fit on the mandrel and discard a staple if it doesn't fit well. Staple length will
vary depending on your instrument and embouchure.
I use 46mm staples to play at 440, 45mm for 443. Most people will use
46mm or 47mm. In addition, add wire, pliers, easel, scraping knife and vernier caliper
(digital or analogue) to your tool list.
2015 Update: I have been having some success recently with the AM (Albrecht Meyer)
staple by Guercio. It is slightly wider at the top and gives a bigger sound. You may
have to adjust tying on length slightly (0.5mm shorter) to accommodate this.
1) Soak the cane only for as long as it needs to sink. You can time it and make a note as the length of time indicates the hardness of the cane, the hardest cane sinking first. If it is still happily swimming after 15 minutes or so, throw it out! Don't waste your time (time that could be used on those Gillet studies) tying-on a piece of cane that is obviously too soft. Experiment and make a note of how long the cane takes to soak. This way when you make a great reed, you'll know the ultimate "sink-time" to aim for. This also saves you the cost of an expensive hardness tester, which will do the same job.
2) Twist a piece of wire twice around your mandrel and make a loop by twisting
the ends tight. NB/ Make sure you use a mandrel designed for use with the
staples you use, ie. D-11. There is no point in trying to get one shape of
mandrel to fit with a different shape of staple!
3) Using the easel, scrape the ends of the cane up to about 5mm and then mark
a cross just above the scraped area to stop the cane from splitting and to allow
it to make a really good oval.
4) Place the wire loop about 6mm up from the base of the folded cane.
5) Take your cigarette lighter and heat up the mandrel for about 90 secs or until
it feels hot to the touch. DON'T hold it too close to the metal or you will leave
black marks on the mandrel.
6) Cool the tip only of the mandrel briefly in water and then take the cane and
place on the mandrel until about half way up. Pull the wire loop tight with pliers.
The cane should almost close at the sides. Make sure both sides close evenly.
7) Push the wire loop up the cane slightly and remove from Mandrel.
Put your staple on the mandrel. Check that it fits exactly. Discard staples that
are too narrow or too wide. Put cane on Staple and measure the total length to
75.5mm (for 46mm staples.) Check the wire loop is at 45mm
(or 46mm for 47mm staples). This will stop you over-tying the reed and strangling it.
8) Begin to bind up to the wire loop and then down to the base. Keep the thread
level and nicely taut. NEVER bind above the staple, preferably a little under it,
even up to 2 or 3mm under.
9) Make sure your knot at the base is really secure. I use good old nail varnish
for extra security!