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Having read Ray Reed's book on The Advanced Art of Single Reed Adjustment and tried to make the devices shown, and having been frustrated by my own mechanical skills in the matter, I gave in and bought the smaller and more elegant Perfecta-Reed.

It is a device with a solid metal baseplate (compared to my bendable metal first, then scribable but still bendable plastic that made accurate measurement impossible) scribed accurately with lines, numbered 1, 2, 3, and so on for lengthwise measurements in increments of 3/16 of an inch (1 measures 3/32 of an inch lengthwise from the center-tip of the reed, and so on), and letters A, B, ... , F for widthwise measurements, in increments of 1/16 of an inch. One places the reed on with heel to the left to measure from the left edge, or heel to the right to measure from the right edge.

Centered on the baseplate is a carriage that can slide to point to A, B, ..., F marks. One loosens a levered bolt, adjusts the carriage, and then tightens the lever. One can reposition it with consistency in a few seconds: I tested by checking that a reed measurement didn't change when I moved the carriage and returned it. A is right on the rail. F (for an alto sax reed) is actually a little past the center (so I only use A through E).

The carriage holds a micrometer (dial indicator) calibrated to 1/1000ths of an inch. It can measure from 0 to .098 inches, enough for all but the heel-most portion of a reed. A thumb knob loosens the dial plate so one can "zero" it easily. This must be done often, as temperature changes, moving the carriage, etc. will unzero it. Note that the dial is not mirrored, so parallax is an issue. It's necessary to hold your head and place the device in the same location and angle for every measurement. Moving your head side to side changes the measurement slightly (up to about 1/2 of 1/1000 of an inch).

The first thing I noticed, a new, dry reed slides too easily on the baseplate. You can hold it in place, but the pressure compresses the reed and changes the measurement. A solution I found was: wet the flat back side of the reed. That will make it stick to the baseplate. Note: one of my test reeds was badly warped, so even with wetting, it rocked enough to make a difference of 5/1000 of an inch. So, you need a reasonably unwarped reed. Of course, if your read is warped that much, accurate measurements are probably the least of your problems. Also, something not normally an issue with a saxophone reed: to measure it, you place it against a "wall" on the baseplate. If the edges are curved, it might be hard to get a good measurement. Mitigations: lightly sand the edges of the reed to make them flat (not too much, or you will lose left-right consistency, since it measures widthwise from the edge of the reed) and/or decide in advance to do something consistent like push the heel-most portion against the wall, and then the tip-most as close as possible.

Yesterday, I took out a new Vandoren #3 (traditional) reed from its wrapper and measured it. Most of the way through I noticed a small problem. The carriage has left-to-right play. Not much, but enough to change the measurements. Today, I remeasured, this time being careful to do the following: when measuring the left side, after setting the carriage, push the carriage to the right as I tighten the bolt, then zero the dial, wet the back of the reed, and start measuring. When measuring the right side, do the opposite: re-loosen the carriage bolt, push the carriage to the left, tighten the bold, then zero the dial, wet the back of the reed, and start measuring.

Another issue that came up: the scribed lines (1, 2, 3, ...) were about 1/2mm thick. Thus, I had to be consistent how I placed the reed. I placed the tip on a scribed line, and pushed it so the tip edge was at the far edge (from the central dial indicator sensor) of the line. (this wasn't a problem with the A..F lines: the carriage line and the base plate lines were the same thickness, so one just matched them).

I wrote the measurements on graph paper, a column for 1 through 7, and leaving 2 columns for each measurement A left, A right, B left, B right, up to E left, E right. I wrote measurements down to at most 3 significant figures (e.g. 16.1 thousandths of an inch, reading the 16 directly from the dial, and estimating the .1 by how far the needle was past the 16 mark--thus, one can take the measurements as accurate to about plus or minus 0.5 thousandths of an inch or better.).

So, here are my measurements from yesterday (before I noticed the left-right carriage play): Shown in pairs, left first, right second (note my estimation of the least significant figure improved with practice):

A: 1: 6.0, 5.5 2: 11.0, 11.0 3: 15.0, 16.0 4:22.5, 21.0 5: 32.5, 30.5 6: 46.5 42.5

B: 1: 7.1, 7.3 2: 11.9, 13.4 3: 26.2, 21.2 4: 34.4, 32.5 5: 47.1, 44.2 6: 63.1, 57.4 7: 82.7, 80.0
(by now, I decided, measure 1 through 7 on A, but 1 through 6 on B through E--this time I'd done the opposite with A and B.)

C: 1: 9.1, 8.4 2: 18.2, 18.2 3: 28.1, 28.4 4: 40.8, 40.2 5: 54.0, 53.1 6: 70.1, 67.2

D: 1: 8.1, 9.1 2: 20.0, 19.9 3: 30.8, 30.2 4: 44.1, 43.9 5: 60.7, 58.4 6: 76.2, 75.2

E: 1: 10.2, 9.2 2: 21.0, 19.4 3: 33.1, 31.6 4: 47.7, 46.1 5: 63.8, 62.8 6: 82.1, 79.1


And today's measurements (after it sat outside its wrapper overnight, so no doubt dried some) with more care in setting the carriage to mitigate effects of left-right play:

A: 1: 5.9, 5.8 2: 11.3, 11.9 3: 12.8, 22.8(!) 4: 23.9, 25.9 5: 33.0, 33.9 6: 45.1, 46.8 7: 61.3, 52.8
(note A3, right: the rail is hard to measure accurately--the micrometer senors is literally balanced on an edge;
note the difference in A7: getting close to stock, hard to get consistency in a reed there, though it might not matter much.)

B: 1: 6.9, 7.9 2: 16.1, 15.9 3: 25.4, 26.8 4: 34.8, 36.2 5: 44.9, 46.3 6: 58.6, 59.4

C: 1: 8.4, 7.7 2: 18.4, 17.9 3: 28.6, 29.9 4: 40.8, 41.0 5: 52.9, 52.3 6: 69.8, 71.0

D: 1: 9.3, 7.9 2: 20.0, 18.9 3: 31.9, 31.3 4: 44.8, 44.7 5: 60.7, 60.0 6: 78.9, 79.1

E: 1: 9.9, 10.0 2: 21.0, 21.0 3: 32.9, 32.7 4: 46.2, 47.2 5: 62.8, 62.9 6: 81.8, 82.9

I have yet to play or cut this reed, but presumably, one would shave some spots that are more than maybe 1.0/1000 of an inch higher than the corresponding spot on the other side. Quick experiments on junk reeds showed with a knife, a stroke took off about 1/10000 inch on a dry reed in the C2 area, and 1/20000 inch in c3 area. (recommend scraping less, say 1/2? than the predicted number of strokes and remeasure). A rush I found took about 3x the strokes for the same cutting (and was easier to position the cutting accurately). This suggests, use the knife for big cuts, rush for small. (except close to the stock---it's curved enough there the knife can be used more accurately than it can closer to the tip).

Bottom line: Perfecta-reed is good but care is needed in its use to get accuracy.
 
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