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Reed Maintenance

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Reed Maintenance

Saturday, August 29, 2009 6:13 PM
Author: Not Found

We started talking about this on another thread, but what are some of the solutions out there for reed storage? I have done the mouthwash/water in the bottle and it worked well but needed refilling about every week to keep mold away. I have also heard of using tea tree oil but have read it is hazardous to digest. (a little scary) I have done the rock salt and a sponge in a nylon made bag in an air tight tupperware container (it was the new kind made by snapware or lock n' lock) however, this had mold growth as well. It doesn't help that the places I have done these things in was the humidity of Hawaii and Louisiana. I have thought about getting the reed vitalizer bag or case by Rico. Any experience with that? Anyway, I would really like a solution for storing reeds. I like my reeds as soaked as can be though.


Reed Seasoning: Humidor
Saturday, August 29, 2009 10:43 PM
Author: Robert Tralka

Try a cigar humidor. Here is picture of the one I use. website You can purchase a small humidifier to place in it which is mold growth resistant, too. website AND, you can purchase an inexpensive hygrometer to monitor the humidity. website Here is how I season my reeds: Reed Care and Seasoning. Buy reeds on the slightly hard side and adjust them from there, rather than clipping, which can affect the balance. I use a Japanese made reed knife (sharpened with a water stone and ceramic rod), a Vandoren glass “reedstick” file, and sandpaper with a Ridenour ATG holder for adjusting at various points; but first, the reeds must be seasoned. I soak new reeds about 5 minutes in water. This prevents saliva penetrating deep into the cane. I play the new reeds for 5 minutes, not above mezzo forte. I dry out the table slightly, then sand them over 3200 and 6000 micromesh sandpaper (this is an abrasive that was developed for polishing commercial aircraft windows—it goes up to 12,000 grit which is too fine for reed work but excellent for mouthpiece refacing) on a piece of granite which is flat to within one micron. I also sand the front of the reed extremely lightly, just for the comfort of very smooth cane on the bottom lip—not enough to change the acoustics. Then I place the reed table down directly on the granite and press much of the water out with my thumb, pushing from the stock up to the tip. I repeat this the next two times I play the reed. It is now about 80% seasoned and just needs to be played a few more hours to be performance ready. It takes about a week in all. I find the most results come from the first sanding, but each time the reed is soaked, just a little more fiber comes up in the table; that’s why I do it 3 times. This gives an incredibly smooth surface that seats well on the mouthpiece table and seals the reed to the rails and tip of the mouthpiece when vibrating. I estimate about 10% better response and smoothness. The pressing out on granite seems to prolong the life of the reed. They dry more evenly on granite than on glass. I moisten the reeds for playing by soaking in water, not saliva. 1-2 minutes for clarinet up to about 3-4 minutes for a Baritone sax reed. When on the road, I to keep all my reeds in a custom made reed case which has a synthetic granite rather than glass plate, with 3/64th inch air holes drilled in through the sides. This allows the reeds to dry while held in the case. If traveling to a drier climate than Vancouver (everywhere!), I place the reed case in a portable aluminum cigar thermidor with a mold resistant humidifier and a hygrometer to monitor the % moisture. When the reeds are about 3 weeks old, they are at their absolute best, generally. At about 4 weeks, the backs get a little rough and “pulpy” and they frequently require one more table sanding. If the table feels rough at any point, I just give them about 3 passes over 6000 grit micromesh. At about 4-5 weeks, the reeds are still comfy and expressive, but can start to get “flabby.” At this point, a great reed can sometimes be “brought back” by clipping the tip by about ¼-1/2 mm. This doesn’t always work, but is worth a try, and the reed can be improved a bit in response after this by sanding it extremely lightly up to the beginning of the heart with the Ridenour ATG system. This however is the beginning of the end for the reed, and they are not suitable for performance, only practice. Another week or so and they are a goner.

Saturday, August 29, 2009 10:49 PM
Author: Not Found

Forget the mouthwash! Store the reeds in a jar (o medicine vial) of vodka mixed with water.

Sunday, August 30, 2009 2:32 AM
Author: Adam Risch

This is a particularly beautiful reed case. I want one, anyway, if someone's thinking about a gift. Excellent monitoring and control of humidity, exquisitely crafted; definitely a mercedes-class case. website

Monday, October 12, 2009 11:08 PM
Author: Not Found

Thank you for all the suggestions. The reed machine looks incredible. I purchased a small hygrometer and that seems to help out A LOT. No problems yet. I keep them in a lock & lock® airtight container that is nice and compact. I keep it moist with a wet sponge and a separate nylon bag of rock salt. Having the hygrometer and keeping the moisture at or below 75% humidity has taken care of any of the previous mold/mildew issues. It looks like water gel crystals would work excellent also. Thank again for all the help.

Reed Maintenance
Friday, February 15, 2013 8:37 PM
Author: Not Found

Hey guys, just thought I'd chip in some knowledge as well. Me and a lot of my colleagues down here in Florida are using the Rico Multi-Instrument Reed Vitalizer Case. http://www.wwbw.com/Rico-Multi-Instrument-Reed-Vitalizer-Case-581623-i1446429.wwbw and we really like them because: they're cheap, they can be used by multiple saxes (or clarinets!) and the replacement humidity packs are also cheap and come in different humidity levels. 


Also if any of you guys are in Region 6 don't forget that the Regional NASA conference is only a couple weeks away and will be at the University of Central Florida, probably my favorite vendor will be Mike Smith from Powell giving a live demonstration of the brand new Silver Eagle Alto saxophone!

Salt box
Wednesday, March 6, 2019 10:50 PM
Author: Susan Hawthorne

 I use a food starage container with the following contents:

small pane of glass with edges sanded to make it smooth
rubber band or o-ring to hold reed down on glass
hosiery filled with rock salt, to which has been added a bit of water

I struggled with mold until my teacher suggested this. No more mold now, and my reeds don't warp anymore.



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