[ Bill Finch asked how reed tongues are cut. ]
Hello Bill: The reed tongue stock is somewhat brittle because of
its hardness. I have a scoring tool that is used to make a line on
the stock. The stock is then put in a flat faced vice with the score
along the vice edges.
Using a piece of steel stock to move the protruding tongue you want
to break off, you slowly push down and the tongue will snap off. The
jagged sides then need to be filed. If the tongue is to be brought
to a specific thickness you need to mic it (use a micrometer) then put
the tongue in a reed vice and file it down to the correct thickness.
Most of these tools you make yourself during your apprenticeship.
I have mine, my late dad's, and my grandfather's which are almost
The newer punch and die sets have a bad habit of becoming dull which
pulls the phosphor bronze to cause distortions or leave rough edges,
some I have seen put a curve in the stock from the shear forces. The
thicker reed tongue stock for higher pressure fairs better with the
newer devices and the punch and die method is faster.
True too, you get what you pay for, I'm sure the expensive ones have
hardened tool steel punches and dies that should last; but, I still
prefer the low tech snap-off method.
I have given thought to using a chemical milling operation not unlike
doing printed circuit boards. Sprayed hot etchant removes exposed
metal leaving just the tongues attached by a few lines that could be
removed later. Unfortunately I gave my very expensive spray etcher to
a local community college for their electronics program before I tried
the chemical machining. Just think though, you could do many tongues
of various sizes at once.
Randy, that dark glue you saw on the Austin reed tongues was burnt
shellac. It makes a great glue. There was also a really odd fish
based glue made from cartilage that rivaled today's super glues. It
too was very a powerful adhesive. Some reed makers even used screws
or rivets to attach the weights.
Best wishes to the list,
again back into lurk mode