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 how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: tdufka 
Date:   2020-03-08 22:45

How flat should the table of a mouthpiece be, and how does one flatten it?

I just checked my two mouthpieces by gently moving them across a flat piece of glass. One of them (from a respected maker) is quite concave, which was confirmed by holding it up to a bright light with a Starrett machinists rule.

Also it appears that the rails contact at different points relative to the tip.; i.e. not parallel.

I would appreciate any help with this.

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: jdbassplayer 
Date:   2020-03-08 23:05

If it plays good don't touch it. Not all tables are flat and not all rails are symmetric. Some mouthpieces are designed that way.

-Jdbassplayer.

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: tdufka 
Date:   2020-03-09 00:04

Interesting. So is it important for the back of a reed to be flat, but not the mouthpiece table?

From a design standpoint, what would be the advantages of a concave table?

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2020-03-09 00:21

A concave table is supposed to allow the reed to vibrate more freely (less contact) and it can help if reeds warp slightly convexly. Although I don't think I've EVER had a reed warp convexly.


As for the asymmetric facing, I've come to be much more open minded about such irregularities whether purposeful or not. No cane reed will EVER be perfectly symmetrical because the natural fibers will do what they do with regard to stiffness. Also if you watch slow motion videos of the strings of string instruments vibrating (or cymbals too) you'll see that standing waves don't vibrate symmetrically either. Therefore having measurements off just slightly side to side may even aid the actual vibrational characteristics (which we'll never see save for perhaps slow motion x-ray video!).





...............Paul Aviles



Post Edited (2020-03-09 00:49)

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Mark Charette 2017
Date:   2020-03-09 00:21

Hi. My mouthpiece is fine and plays great, but I measured it and it's not perfect.

Could you tell me how to f^H mess it up?

If it works well - don't mess with it.

If it doesn't work - what have you got to lose? Personally, I'd start by varying the easiest parameter to correct first.

I haven't mucked with mouthpieces, but I have mucked with nuclear mechanical/pneumatic/hydraulic stuff. Sometimes it took a lot of study to figure out why something was constructed in a particular way.

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: tdufka 
Date:   2020-03-09 01:03

Experience as a player of both sax and clarinet, but little expertise on mouthpiece design was the impetus to seek expert counsel here, which I am grateful for.

I recently encountered an article by a sax mouthpiece maker who posited that some of the struggles players have with intonation and tone production result from a lack of table flatness and rail symmetry.

Now, it is clear that a great player can work around most equipment issues. Given that a small adjustment to the reed can result in great improvements in tone, I seek greater understanding on how this aspect of mouthpiece design can affect performance, hence this post.

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: John Peacock 
Date:   2020-03-09 02:39

If you go to youtube and search for refacing mouthpieces, you will find a lot of helpful videos.

Basically to flatten a table you get a sheet of the finest possible emery paper and draw the mouthpiece along it. The sheet needs to be flat: I used photo-mount spray to stick it to a piece of wooden board. But it's hard to get this right: too often, when I've tried this, the table gets flat - but the lay gets longer. The slightest wobble in your hand and the flat portion gets more curvature at either end, which you don't want. You need a firm but fairly rapid motion in a single direction. I can do it now, but it takes practice.

Still, if you get some used mouthpieces from ebay to practice on, there's little to lose.

Makers like Peter Eaton swear that the table should be flat to get more reliable behaviour. But it was also truly said above that every reed is not-uniform in a diferent way.

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Bennett 2017
Date:   2020-03-09 02:43

Just a thought. If the table has dips, (rather than bumps), perhaps add little paper shims where needed, (if needed at all), and see what happens.

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2020-03-09 03:03

Dear Mr. Peacock,


I had tried VERY crude versions of your method in my youth and what I got was a shortening of the facing because the table comes down and consequently there was less distance from the tip to where the table was reduced. I also think that if I sanded the facing (tip and side rails) the result was both opening up the tip and lengthening the lay. Of course I am CERTAIN that I was not doing this right and gave up ruining mouthpieces a long time ago.


But I do know that even with patience and far more specific training, you have to be ready to ruin a LOT of mouthpieces before you start to get things right.



Maybe use Yamaha mouthpieces :-)





.............Paul Aviles



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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Ed 
Date:   2020-03-09 03:45

There are some makers who aim for a perfectly flat table, perfectly even rails, etc. There are others who prefer asymmetrical facings, others who like a dip in the table. Over the years I have played some of each, perhaps some by design and others by accident, and perhaps some where I had no idea. Overall I do like symmetrical rails better, I am not completely sure about the table. In any event, I think if it plays well I would not mess with it, unless you have something else you like equally that you could revert to.

Regarding Paul's comments above, perhaps I don't understand his terminology, but any reed that I have had that warped was convex, meaning the center bulged out. Regarding facing asymmetry, I have found that some slight variance can work ok for me, but there are some makers who make great variations between the two rails and I struggled with that. I find it much easier to match and balance a reed if the mouthpiece rails are the same curve, but various players can likely have very different taste or results.

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2020-03-09 03:56

Hey Ed,

It may have to do with only using Vandorens my entire career. If you stick your hand out straight in front of you and slightly cup your hand, that's pretty much how all my reeds settled in with use.



.............Paul Aviles

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Ed 
Date:   2020-03-09 05:13

While I have tried many different brands of reeds, Vandoren among them, I have never had that experience. Interesting....

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2020-03-09 07:08

Flattening the table without knowing how to do it correctly will probably wreck the mouthpiece. Better give it to a mouthpiece refacer.
The table is part of the facing. Flattening the table evenly will at least shorten the facing. A bit more pressure toward the tip will also close the tip measurement and visa-versa. I can go on and on about what else can happen.

The proper way to flatten would make the table flat, then put the same facing on, but then narrow the rails and maybe open the baffle a bit etc. Not a job for an amateur.

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: tdufka 
Date:   2020-03-09 07:26

Totally agree on this. I always had Fred Lamberson adjust my sax mouthpieces years ago.

Are there any artisans who specialize in this type of work for clarinet (bass preferably)?

I can imagine that most mp fabricators would rather spend time on their own creations...

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Mojo 
Date:   2020-03-09 17:09

I came from a sax background but I am primarily a bass clarinet player these days. I have refaced a bunch of BC and Contra mouthpieces for my own trial/use and I sell a few.

As with sax mouthpieces, I’m in the camp that a flat table with a flat Reed is the best strategy. The main objective is to create an air tight seal at the bottom of the window. If you use a cane Reed, check it regularly for swelling and flatten it with a scraper. I mostly use flat synthetic reeds.

A longitudinally concave table often works just as well. It slightly bows the reed as you tighten you ligature. But it still can also have a sealing problem if your reed swells. A concavity across the table can compensate for this but it also gives a place for your reeds to swell into and they can go past the dip and you have the same sealing issues.

A convex table is never a good thing. A few of them can seal if you position your ligature towards the tip and you tighten the tip screw more than the heel screw.

Flattening a table can be maddening when you are learning how to do it. The way the mouthpiece naturally rocks on the sandpaper makes the table convex until you learn how to grip the mouthpiece to counteract the forces at play while you sand it. I have a few videos on YouTube showing how to do this. But it still takes practice.

MojoMP.com
Mojo Mouthpiece Work LLC
MojoMouthpieceWork@yahoo.com

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2020-03-09 17:47

More thoughts;

Any convexity or concavity, means every different place the ligature is placed will make the reed play differently. There isn't consistency with the same reed.

>>A longitudinally concave table often works just as well.
This doesn't solve the problem with a reed bottom swollen longitudinally. Flap a piece of paper up and down. Then curve the paper and flap again. It is much stiffer. Same with a reed. A reed swollen longitudinally can be fixed by more soaking. If my old, well broken in reeds in my weather around here, rock back and forth on a flat surface, they sometimes need up to four hours of soaking to get them back to playing well.

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Bob Barnhart 2017
Date:   2020-03-09 22:20

Paul,

WRT your Vandoren reeds settling in with a concave shape, I have been working reeds for the last year or so with the Reed Geek, whose designers specifically address this kind of warping. As I scrape the butt of a new reed during the break-in process, I see material being removed from the rails only in about 50% of the reeds. This would indicate that the reed has warped into a concave shape (from side-to-side). Less frequently, perhaps 20% of the time, I might see material being removed from the center-line of the reed, indicating warping into a convex shape.

I typically see reeds that warp from tip-to-butt in a concave shape. I will attempt to reduce this by scraping or sanding on a flat surface until I can detect no light between the reed an a flat reference surface (e.g., the Reed Geek).

I would suspect that the magnitude of reed warping in either direction is typically greater than any deviation of a mouthpiece table from being perfectly flat.

Regardless, I've found that ensuring that the bottom of the reed is flat has resulted in reeds that perform better (wrt both tone and response) with both mouthpieces having a concave table (e.g., Zinners) or a flat table (e.g., Vandorens).

Bob Barnhart

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Grabnerwg 
Date:   2020-03-10 18:08

Note:

If you want to learn how to alter the table of a mouthpiece, prepare to ruin about 50 mouthpieces. It takes years to learn how to "do it right".

Also, remember, when you change the table you change EVERYTHING that effects tone production.

One thing that people never think about is that if you lower the table you cannot help but bring the reed tip closer to the upper baffle of the mouthpiece. Any alteration of that ratio changes the response and tone of the mouthpiece.

Walter Grabner
www.clarinetxpress.com
847-266-8644

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2020-03-10 20:16

Walter is correct. A very good post. It doesn't take much to mess up a mouthpiece. Using very fine 2000 grit sandpaper, just 1 or 2 swipes of a mouthpiece along the sandpaper can wreck the mouthpiece. However, in the hands of master refacers 1 or 2 swipes can turn the same mouthpiece into something amazing. I sometimes will use 6000 grit just to get that one measurement to read and for that mouthpiece to play just that tad bit better. Let's face it mouthpieces change. It's rubber. Rubber changes through the years so your facings will change as well. If you are happy with the mouthpiece leave it alone. Even if it doesn't measure correctly. It's often simply the feel as you play on them. A French curve, flat table, uneven or even rails, doesn't really matter if the Feel of the mouthpiece fits you.

I feel the table must be flat. If there are gaps, that French curve is a common name, well the rails become harder to to set. Yes it's very difficult to find flat tables. Most manufacturers use this French curve. A hole in the center of the table. So I feel if the table is pretty flat the rails won't change and finding more playable reeds, also called Reed Friendly mouthpieces will render more reeds per box to play and sound better. No I am not saying you will get 7 to 10 reeds per box to play. This surely depends on cane quality.


Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist 2015




Post Edited (2020-03-12 23:18)

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Chris Sereque 
Date:   2020-03-12 01:53

After years of use, the ligature pressure on the sides of the mouthpiece can cause the table to collapse a bit, and go slightly concave. Do your reeds tend to squeak more! Way back, I had a m-piece like that, and even Robert Marcellus squeaked on it! Do you feel a breeze against your face? Is the mouthpiece more resistant than before and uncomfortable? If no is the answer to these questions, just leave it alone. It is not advisable to fix it yourself, probably you would make it worse. A technician could fix it.

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2020-03-16 00:15

Yes Chris Sereque - some players really crank down the screws sometimes. Not too often anymore as the years go on and players become more educated from the internet. I ran into a few mouthpieces actually indented from a ligature. Think of German players who once used string as ligatures. There surely aren't as many players still using strings, but this is all that's required to hold a reed.


Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist 2015




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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2020-04-02 00:21

My E. J. Albert that was bought secondhand in 1958 has a metal ligature that is splitting right down through the metal from being screwed on too tight at the top. It works very very well with the mouthpiece, but after a few weeks of playing I had to buy a new one as the tear was getting bigger.

I keep wondering how people manage if they can't go to a shop and try oodles of mouthpieces. I'm lucky that I live really close to a woodwind instrument shop, and I was able to try a dozen mouthpieces there on my own instrument. It was really obvious to me which was the right one for me.

I wonder if there is a shop that would ship out a dozen mouthpieces to a buyer to let them try them? I can imagine that that would really help if they are trying to get a feel for what works best for them.

I'm not sure if it is feasible for the BBoard, but could we even make a collection of them and be able to ship them out to board members to try? I know that's probably far too expensive and complicated, but just a thought.

Maybe if we could set up this kind of thing then people could then see how different tables affect their playing and we could get really good community learning about how to set up a good table and what to look for.

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2020-04-02 02:55

Many of the online outlets I've used will ship out several at a time. You have to pay for them with a charge card, then return what you don't keep for a refund. They usually refund 100% if you buy one of the items or charge a service or re-stocking fee if you don't buy anything. I wouldn't quote any specific outlet's policy because any of them may have changed since the last time I bought mouthpieces this way.

Some of the familiar mouthpiece craftsmen will do the same thing, again, so long as you buy something at the end of the process.

Your card needs to be able to handle the charges until you've made your decision, you've returned the mouthpieces you don't want and the refund is processed, so it isn't exactly the same as going to a store and taking a bunch of mouthpieces into a room, but it's a useful service.

Karl

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Grabnerwg 
Date:   2020-04-02 18:17

SunnyDaze asks:

"I wonder if there is a shop that would ship out a dozen mouthpieces to a buyer to let them try them? I can imagine that that would really help if they are trying to get a feel for what works best for them."

Here's the problem with that idea.

There are people who will keep all the mouthpieces and never send any payment.

Some through dishonesty, others through indifference, or procrastination.

I once had a very well known artists keep 14 mouthpieces in a drawer for over 6 months. I had another professor at at well known university leave my mouthpieces on his desk for 4 months. I finally called the music office and the music secretary went to his office, gathered them up, and mailed them back saying, "he does this all the time."

So, sadly, your idea won't work.

Walter Grabner
www.clarinetxpress.com

Walter Grabner
www.clarinetxpress.com
847-266-8644

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2020-04-02 19:21

I don't send out a dozen but I do send out 3 or 4. Assorted tip openings and facings. Once you find that right mouthpiece it sound or might be the last mouthpiece you will ever need.


Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist 2015




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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2020-04-02 19:37

I have 50 mouthpieces in a box. Some are fine as test blanks. Contact me offline to see if we can work something out.

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 Re: how to flatten a mouthpiece table?
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2020-04-03 12:05

Thanks Ken, I have sent an email.

Walter, I'm sorry to hear about those idiots keeping your mouthpieces. It doesn't surprise me at all unfortunately. Some people get to the top by not considering the needs of those around them very much.

The system that Karl mentions where people have to pay upfront seems more sensible.

Jen

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