Forming the tube without cracking

Originally posted at the IDRS forum.

1.) I score 7 times on each side of the future-tube, so 14 total scores on a reed. My scores only go from the second wire to the butt. I score first two passes with a metal scribe and then a single light pass with a razor blade. This gives each scoring a pronounced “V” shaped crater.
2.) I make sure the cane is saturated before any work prior to the finishing process. Saturated means that the cane sinks in water. If it sinks it’s not going to get any wetter and if it floats that means there are dry pockets that not only lead to cracks but also to unevenness of the cane fibers as you’re working on it. There is no set time limit this takes, as some cane takes water slower than other cane, and some methods of soaking don’t force water into the fibers as fast (vertical in a tall glass tends to help the cane sink faster than laying it horizontally).
3.) Just prior to forming I soak the cane in the hottest water my tap produces. You don’t want to cook the cane, so not boiling, but steaming is OK. I leave the cane in this warm/hot water for about 10 minutes to make sure it gets up to temperature. This further relaxes the cane so it’s more pliable and less likely to crack.
4. I don’t put on the first wire until after I’ve let my formed tube dry. I find that if I do the rest of these steps right and do as Adam recommends with centering the forming mandrel I don’t get cracks that require the first wire to stop from getting worse. Putting the first wire on is another security measure you can take though. I find that tightly wrapping my twine around the ENTIRE tube, just past the collar area, is enough.

If you do it right, your scoring will continue a slight crack in the top layer of bark just a few millimeters beyond where your scoring stopped, but it won’t go as far as where you place the first wire. This will mean you won’t have any peaks in your tube and your reed will have an even curvature from side to side.

Forming the tube consistently without major cracks (and the peaks and angles associated with them) is one of the most important parts of reed making, and too many people just blow by it to get to the scraping-the-blades part.

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