Northumbrian Pipes chanter reeds have been in demand a lot recently. Quite a few people have ordered them and I’m also making them for sets I’m fettling and the sets I’m making too. I usually make them up by doing each step in batches as it’s quicker than making them individually.
With the cane split the first step is to gouge the cane to the required thickness. Then I need to thin the centre part as this will be form the lips of the finished reed. Once this is done the reed slip is folders in half. At the same time I’ll shape the ends as this is where the cane will be fixed to the staple.
The staple is a piece of metal tube which plugs the reed into the chanter. The staple is inserted in between the shaped reed ends and then whipped on with thread. Once this is done I’ll leave the reed to rest for 24 hours.
The next step is the thin the lips of the blades through a combination of sanding and scraping. This takes some time and every reed is different so there is no set thickness or measurement to work to. Instead, I test the reed by sucking through it until it sounds right.
Finally, the reed is finished off by testing it in a good chanter and any final sanding is done until it plays well.
If you’d like more information about how this is done, then you can watch some videos showing these steps here.