Home

Uilleann Pipes
♦In Brief
♦In Detail
♦Prices
♦Owner's Manuals
♦Project Photos

Reeds
♦Chanter Reeds
♦Drone Reeds
♦Reedmaking Equipment & Supplies
♦Prices

Other Projects
♦My Music
Wind and Wire
My Tunes
♦Make an E Whistle

About Me

Links

 

Chanter Reeds

Not for nothing has the reed been called "the heart of the instrument." It is the most important component of the pipes, and can be the greatest pain in the neck. Reed and chanter work together as a system, and reeds must be custom-fitted to the chanter.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Moisture is bad for the chanter reed, since it is made of cane & designed to be bellows-blown. Never blow into the bag. When making or testing reeds it may be helpful to blow through them for short periods of time. Make it two seconds, maximum. Do not repeat too often. Then give the reeds a chance to dry out by putting them into the pipes and running bellows air through them. Too much moisture will quickly ruin your reed.

On this page:

Goals

Slips of dried cane (a species of grass) are tied to a metal tube, the staple. This arrangement must meet several criteria. A reedmaker strives to meet these goals:

A reed that

  • doesn't leak
  • that is stable over time and in different seasons
  • that plays in tune and at the right pitch
  • that plays with neither too much or too little pressure for the player’s needs
  • that plays at the right volume for the player’s needs

And that doesn’t even consider tone quality!

Reed Adjustment

Does it play loud and flat to standard pitch (a piano, for instance)? A harder (more bag pressure), louder reed usually means that it has opened up, that is, the reed slips have arched out a bit and the opening between the lips at the cane end of the reed is bigger than it should be. This opening, which at its best should look a bit like a cat's-eye slit, need change only a tiny bit to make a big difference in how the reed plays. Make the opening smaller & the reed becomes softer, sharper, & takes less bag pressure to play. There is a bit of wire wrapped around the reed just above the end of the winding. This wire is called the bridle. On reeds I make the bridle is designed to be squeezed one way or another, not moved up & down.

closing (left) and opening (right) chanter reeds

 

To close down a reed take a pair of pliers & squeeze the wire near the sides of the reed, gently. Watch the opening as you do. Squeeze each side in turn. The opening will narrow, then open up a bit when you release pressure with the pliers. The goal is to close the slit just a bit, so little you can barely see the difference. Then try it in the chanter. This can be a tricky adjustment, and there is a risk of splitting the reed.

To open a reed take a pair of pliers & squeeze the wire on the sides of the reed, gently. Watch the opening as you do. The opening will open up a bit . The goal is to open the slit just a bit, so little you can barely see the difference. Then try it in the chanter. This can be a tricky adjustment, and there is a risk of splitting the reed.

There are other ways of adjusting reeds, including sanding, scraping, cutting a bit off the tips, etc. I won't go into them here. Books on reedmaking and other places on the Web will have more information.

Reed Specifications

What follows are data sheets describing reeds and mandrels suitable for chanters I make. For specific infomation about reedmaking supplies and equipment I sell -with the exception of mandrels, see below - have a look at Reedmaking Equipment & Supplies

.

REEDS FOR WHITMER CHANTERS IN D

Staple: 3/16” outside diameter tubing, .014” wall, 2 1/8” long
Cane diameter: 15/16” or 24 mm, give or take a couple mm.

the slip The slip: 4” long, 1/2” wide
thickness

Typical slip thickness: .040” - .045”
Most common: .045”


dip

Typical dip: .028” - .032”


stature

Typical stature: .073” - .080”



Overall length of assembled reed: 3 1/8” - 3 1/4”
Most common: 3 1/4”

The bridle: I use 24 gauge galvanized wire, wrapped twice around the reed just above the winding.

July 2006

Nick's staples for D chanter

3/16 (.187)" o.d. brass tubing, .014" wall
2 1/8" long

Tim Britton's mandrel for D chanter reeds, purchased 1983

5/32 (.156)" dia drill rod
approx. 5 3/4" long
Tim described one end as being ground down to a slow taper, the other to a fast taper.
measurements in decimal inches.

distance	slow		fast
from tip	taper		taper

tip thickness	.065		.060
.1		.072		.072
.2		.085		.088
.3		.098		.102
.4		.109		.115
.5		.119		.127
.6		.129		.136
.7		.137		.145
.8		.144		.150
.9		.148		.154
1.0		.154		.156
1.1		.156

Sept 2005

REEDS FOR WHITMER CHANTERS IN C

Staple: 5/32” outside diameter tubing, .014” wall, 2” long
Cane diameter: 15/16” or 24 mm, give or take a couple mm.

the slip The slip: 4” long, 25/64” - 7/16" wide
thickness

Typical slip thickness: .030” - .038”
Most common: .032”


dip

Typical dip: .028” - .032”


stature

Typical stature: .058” - .068”



Overall length of assembled reed: 3” - 3 1/4”
Most common: 3 1/8”

The bridle: I use 24 gauge galvanized wire, wrapped twice around the reed just above the winding.

July 2006

Nick's staples for C chanter

5/32 (.156)" o.d. brass tubing, .014" wall
2" long

Mandrel for C chanter reeds

1/8 (.125)" dia drill rod
approx. 5 3/4" long
One end is ground down to a slow taper, the other to a fast taper.
measurements in decimal inches.

distance	slow		fast
from tip	taper		taper

tip thickness	.036		.048
.1		.055		.072
.2		.069		.088
.3		.084		.102
.4		.092		.114
.5		.104		.121
.6		.114		.125
.7		.120
.8		.125

July 2006

February 2007

Please contact me for further information.

Nick Whitmer
1 Renwick Place
Ithaca NY 14850

607 275 8178

nwhitmer@verizon.net

D and C chanter reeds