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Discombobulated SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 201
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I learned how to do this 30 years ago from Ralph Loomis, principal clarinetist in the U.S. Coast Band for many years. I'm not sure if he came up with this himself, but I think he did. A few bucks worth of supplies will create a lifetime's worth of ligatures (I think I'm still using the wax paper and string that I bought in the 70s), and you will never need to worry about fitting an odd-size mouthpiece again because the lig is built to fit the mouthpiece. Best of all, for GAS-aholics on a budget, you can experiment with all kinds of variables to see if you can build a better lig - the thickness of the string, the amount of epoxy, cutting off some of the string loops over the reed after the ligature is completed, and so on.

I just resurrected this technique for myself because I found a bari mouthpiece that I like that didn't have a well-fitting ligature. I've included general instructions and a few pics to get you started. I'm happy to answer any questions.

Here's what I use (experiment at will):

1) Nylon string

2) Wax paper - Do they even make this any more? I suppose clear plastic wrap should work just as well.

3) Epoxy glue - I use the 5-minute setting variety. I have some of these homemade ligs from the 70s that have black epoxy for a little better look. I can't remember if we actually found black epoxy somewhere or mixed in some kind of coloring.

4) Scissors to cut the string

5) A utility knife to cut open the epoxy tube if it hasn't already been opened.

6) Scotch tape

7) Toothpicks

Here are the steps:

a) Place a reed on the mouthpiece, cover the reed and mouthpiece with a loop of wax paper, and tape the paper tightly in place to help hold the reed while you tie your ligature. The wax paper keeps the epoxy from getting on your mouthpiece.

b) Tie a string ligature. Links to instructions to do this are on this thread.

c) Mix the epoxy with a toothpick and smear it onto the string lig. Not much is required. It's really easy to work with, and you can put it on in whatever thickness seems to make sense to you. Don't put epoxy over the string that covers the reed (I never have, any way, but this is something else one could experiment with).

d) Let the epoxy set with the lig in place. Pull the lig off the mouthpiece, cut the excess string ends off neatly, and peel off the wax paper. Voila! Your own custom fitted string ligature.

Here are a few pics of my bari lig:





 

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Mouthpiece Refacer Extraordinaire and Forum Contri
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FANTASTIC!

Thanks for sharing that.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2008
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Thanks, that will help me out with finding a lig for my bari mouthpiece, also!

MLSCNR- That shot from Bullit in your avatar was taken near where I live!
 

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Forum Contributor 2010, Distinguished SOTW Member
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How long does it take to do this?

What if something happens to your reed in the middle of a gig?:?

Kinda like tying flies. . . . but typically you tie a bunch of flies before a fishing trip.
 

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Discombobulated SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 201
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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Sigmund451 said:
After the epoxy dries its rigid and slides on and off allowing quick changes of reeds if I am understanding properly.
You are correct. You are left with a very lightweight "ring" that slides on and off with no problem. You do have to push it on fairly tightly to get the reed to stay in place, but I doubt that it's any more pressure than a typical screw ligature would apply to the reed.

I just noticed, however, that my mouthpiece cap doesn't really fit on it, so now I've got to see if I can dream up a way to make a string cap. ;) [Edit] Or track down Ralph Loomis and ask him to figure it out.
 

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Can you use cheese cloth instead of string? Mayho
 

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Discombobulated SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 201
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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
Reedsplinter said:
How long does it take to do this?
...
It's really easy and quick to do. The hardest part, if you haven't already done it, is tying the ligature. I tend to be all thumbs and hadn't done this in years, but it just took 10 or 15 minutes once I'd found my wax paper.

One thing that would be interesting to me would be to come up with a version that had some flex to it. Maybe that's what Mayho had in mind with the cheesecloth idea. Perhaps cotton string would work. With nylon string and epoxy, there's really no give at all. However, they are extremely durable. When I saw Ralph 3 years ago I asked him about these ligs and he said he'd been using the same ones that he made in the 70s all these years since.
 

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Grafton + TH & C alto || Naked Lady 10M || TT soprano || Martin Comm III
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It looks great, but does it not rely on the thickness of the reed being consistent. I get so many reeds which have a different thickness at the shank (if that's the right word), even though they are all from the same box.

Still I might give this a try as it's hard to find the right lig for my antique baritone Link.
 

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Discombobulated SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 201
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Pete Thomas said:
It looks great, but does it not rely on the thickness of the reed being consistent. I get so many reeds which have a different thickness at the shank (if that's the right word), even though they are all from the same box.

Still I might give this a try as it's hard to find the right lig for my antique baritone Link.
If your reeds vary in thickness, the lig placement would have to vary a bit to accommodate this. Or you could make a few in slightly different sizes, since they are so easy to make and cheap. Or maybe we can collectively figure out how to adapt this so it's got some flex. I honestly don't remember it ever being an issue, though if you use different brands of reeds I can see that it might be.
 

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Attaching a "lip saver" (one of the little stickies you put on top of the mouthpiece so it doesn't slide around while you play) to the lig where it covers the reed would give you some flex, while maintaining the rigid structure, Winslow-style. Since this lig has to slide onto the reed, though, that rubber might have too much grip to be useful... maybe you could epoxy some of that wax paper to cover the lip saver. Just an idea.
 

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Very interesting. I've created three string ligatures using this technique - one with tightly woven cord from a Tinkertoy set, one with cheap nylon twine from a hardware store, and one from a shoelace.

I'm still experimenting with them, but overall each one seems to help produce a deeper, richer sound than a stock metal ligature given the same reed. I use them on an HR Berg with medium Fibracells.

I was concerned about using epoxy on these ("Warning! Contains chemicals found to cause cancer in California!" - or words to that effect), so instead I used Crafter's Pick Ultimate, a water-based superglue I've used on other household projects. So far it's holding up well, and if a ligature starts to come apart, you can just smear some more glue on it. The glue also keeps the cut ends of the string from fraying.
 

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Chitownjazz: have you figured out a way to make some sort of cap for this? I can't imagine storing my mouthpiece without a cap.
 

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Discombobulated SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 201
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
...I was concerned about using epoxy on these ("Warning! Contains chemicals found to cause cancer in California!" - or words to that effect), ...
No problem for me, I'm not in California. :D

Those look cool MPL, thanks for posting the pics. I made one out of a hemp-like string. Looks a little primitive. Still doesn't have much give to it. I need to track down some decent cotton string to try.
 
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