Enclosed Reed Calls: Mounting/Tuning Reeds

Posted by Lonehowl on July 18, 2015 at 4:55 PM

So this is a little tutorial on mounting and tuning JC Products reeds for enclosed reed calls. There are a lot of ways to do this, and everyone has there own style of doing it. Some guys are particular about it, and some (most imo) are not. So here goes...my way...but by no means the only way...maybe not even the right way...you decide.

First up, I prefer wood calls...and for these I use the metal reed sleeve originally made for this. (JC Products makes 1/2" rubber bushings that hold the reeds as well, but they do not perform or sound as good in a wood call as the metal sleeve/reed setup does if done right...just my opinion) You can just drill a hole into the wood call and simply shove a reed into it and it will work fine. Some older calls were made like that, but when the wood swells or moves, the reed can fall out real easy. The purpose of the metal sleeve is to have something permanent and solid to mount the reed into. Also, it makes the reeds easy to replace when the time comes.

The actual reed gets inserted into this sleeve. They are designed to work with each other and there are certain things you need to do to make them work correctly as a unit. Not a big deal obviously, but if you dont slow down and do these things, you may have problems in the long run.

Metal sleeve and reed

See how the reed and sleeve have a seam in them? Gotta be arefull with those, they have to be adjusted correctly to work together. its an important detail most call makers miss when using the metal sleeves.

First up...the sleeve.

The sleeve gets inserted into whatever hole you drill in your call. I use  a 9/32 hole but the top of the sleeve is a bit larger than that so I ream the top 1/3 or so of the hole slightly so the sleeve just fits, but NOT snug and definetly NOT tight. Just so it slides in and sits there. If its tight, the top of the sleeve will crimp together and cause the smaller (exhaust) end to splay out, and your reed will get blown out of the call at some point. Make sure you look at the sleeve when you pull it out of the package. Make sure the seam/split is close and uniform, as in the pic below. If it is not, work it untill it is right. After you have all that right, epoxy the sleeve into the hole. I use Devcon 2 ton epoxy. Almost anything will work but thats what I like..it's clear, water proof, and slow setting (strong). Overkill is good. Dont get crazy slathering it all over just a little bit towards the top of the sleeve where the 2 ridges are, and a bit on the sides. The bottom of the sleeve does not need any, as it will not be touching the wood really, but if you want to build up this area with epoxy go for it. Keep in mind though, how it will look when you look up inside the barrel. It might look nasty, if you care. I like everything nice and clean looking, so Im frugal with it.

Sleeve seam  needs to be like this

NOT like this!

 I mount my sleeves/reeds about midway down the call. This is because I want an air inlet that has a bit of length, so when you blow into the call, it pressurizes the reed, and gives you great control and killer backpressure rasp. You simply have better control  with all that air stacking up, and you will not have to blow hard at all to get any sound out of the call.  Most guys mount the reed right at the top of the hole, or maybe 3/8" deep, this is ok, but nowhere near as good as what I described, again, just my opinion. Obviously, your call size will need to be designed around this. Shorter calls will not be able to utilize this as well as longer ones.

 Also, my inlet hole is bored to about 3/8 inch diameter...all the way down to the top of the reed sleeve(9/32 hole). This is the same principle applied by duck and goose call makers. You have to match the hole size to the reed imo, 1/2" is to big and takes to much air...it just doesnt keep that reed pressurized correctly imo. Try it....you may be suprised.

The reed....Ok, sleeve is epoxied into the hole and allowed to set up and dry. Now its time to insert the reed. You have went to great pains to get the sleeve adjusted correctly, and you need to do the same for the reed. The reed has a seam in it just like the sleeve did ( see pic below) The sleeve is tapered (inside and out) and is designed to capture the reed with a friction fit. The reed also has a taper to it to match the sleeve. Adjust the reed seam so that it will push snugly into the sleeve. Do this with your thumbnail or whatever. I spread it apart a bit, then sort of push the smaller bottom part back together just a tad. If its spread apart to wide it might not go into the sleeve. A little trial and error will let you know. So drop the reed into the hole and you will feel it go into the sleeve. Use a reed tool or something with a flat face and CAREFULLY push it into the sleeve until its just snug. The rod pictured is pushing against the reed frame, not touching the reed itself.  Its very easy to bend the reed if you hit it with your tool, so again, be careful.

Note: I like my reeds just a little ways into the sleeve. I like a good portion of the reeds to stick up and out of the sleeve  (as in the bottom pic below) so they have plenty of room to work. If you shove the reed all the way down flush inside of the sleeve, it really changes the sound and how the air flows over the reeds, and there is a greater chance of the reed being blown out of the call if the owner gets crazy on it. This is why its important to get the sleeve adjusted correctly as well as the reed. The snug friction fit will usually be more than enough to prevent the reed from falling out of the call in any way. An old trick is to put a tiny dab of fingernail polish or something similar on the reed body, let it dry a bit and then insert it into the sleeve. This helps the reed stay snug inside the sleeve.

Reed Tuning

 Ok, so Ive tried, in my convoluted way, to explain how I install reed sleeves inside the call. All that is left is to tune a reed and put it in.

Nowdays, I typically use a double reeded reed for all of my distress calls. I like them better than a single reed for various reasons, but that is topic for later.  The simple technique I will show here will work for single reeds too.

 The first thing I do is grab a reed and put it in the call. I blow the call a bit to see what the reed sounds like. Every reed sounds different out of the box, so you have to try them to see where they are at in terms of performance. They could be to high pitched, low pitched, a little hard to blow or they may not make any sound at all.  All of this is why you have to tune them. Sometimes you just have to throw it in the trash and grab another one.

 Next...and this is all I do...I take a simple guage of some kind (I use an old spark plug gap shim) and run it up under the top reed, just about all the way to the base. Be gentle and use some finesse here, you dont want to damage anything.  After shimming the top reed, re-install the reed into the call and try it. If it sounds the way I want, I stop. If not, I may do the bottom reed a little as well. Typically I leave the bottom reed alone, unless it is preventing the reed from making any sound or making it hard to blow etc. Sometimes the bottom reed is sort of clamped down to tight and blocks air. All of this will take some practice. Trial and error. You will  typically ruin a lot of reeds untill you get the feel for things. Just the way it is.

^^^ Shimming top reed

A word on the shim size...I normally use .005-.008 thickness, Some guys just use a business card or whatever. The thicker the shim the more the reed will be bent upwards, causing  the sound to deepen.  Again, trial and error will get you where you want to go.

 There are other ways to tune these reeds.  Some guys simply use they're finger and flick the reed upwards . This works good on single reeds especially. Fast and simple. Another way is to shim the reeds as described above, but press down on the reed with your finger, while the shim is under it, and sort of  give the reed a light crease. This technique works good as well, and is handy for fixing a reed that is to low pitched...bending the reed slightly downwards, giveing it a higher pitch.  Experimentation is the key to finding what you like.


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