BEHIND THE REEDS


This exclusive series will take you behind the scenes at Steuer, giving you a unique opportunity to delve into the world of reed manufacturing.

1. Hi Alexandre! Can you share with us your role and responsibilities in the production of cane tubes?

As a Specialist in the early stages of cane tube production, my main responsibility lies in transforming cane stems into high-quality tubes.

I meticulously inspect the canes for straightness, remove any irregularity, and carefully examine their color.

The stems are first cut into tubes using a large-diameter circular saw.

The tubes are then measured in diameter and thickness, and classified into categories: clarinet, thick clarinet (for German reeds), alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, and baritone saxophone. 

Concerning soprano sax, at this stage, we actually use the same diameter tubes as those used for the alto saxophone. 

For the bass clarinet, we also use the same diameter as for the tenor saxophone. We are working with a semi-finished product at this stage.

2. Can you tell us more about your process for selecting the color and appearance of the cane?

The color of the cane should be golden yellow, much like a well-baked loaf of bread. Sometimes, a wrinkled tube comes from cane that lacks structure, indicating low density. During the drying process, canes can potentially contract when losing some of their moisture. This results in an inadequate reed. Therefore, we discard any cane with wrinkles during the sorting process. On the other hand, small "chestnut-colored" spots that may appear on the cane are entirely normal and natural, and they do not affect the quality of a reed in any way.

3. Would you like to add anything for our community of musicians?

I hope I have provided you with some insights into the tube selection process. Each step is crucial, and we never compromise on quality. I would like to express my sincere thanks to all the devoted musicians in the Steuer community for your continued loyalty.

1. Hi Noemie! Can you tell us about your work at Steuer?

At Steuer, I'm in charge of splitting tubes and sawing cane segments. These are the initial stages of reed production. I use cane tubes already selected by diameter according to the instrument. 

For example, for clarinets, the tube diameter is between 23 and 26.5 mm, for saxophones, the diameter is greater than 27 mm. 

2. Are there any differences for the German and Boehm clarinets, as well as for the different saxophones at this stage?

Yes, we already proceed by instrument sub-categories for clarinets and saxophones. For example, German clarinet models and Exclusive reeds require a thicker wall than the Classic model for the Boehm system. We also distinguish between soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones in terms of tube diameter. So Mother Nature has to provide us with the raw material to produce such reeds.

The cane tubes are then passed through a metal splitter with an arrow-shaped blade to split the tube into four long quarters. At this stage, I check that the tube quarters are perfectly straight. I then saw them into segments to the right length, and if I’m lucky a quarter can give me two or three segments (two or three reeds at the very end of the process). 

For example, for the Bb clarinet, a segment length is 69 mm. Next comes the tabling operation.

3. Would you like to add anything for our community?

We couldn't be more grateful for the incredible support from our amazing community of musicians. Thank you for being the heart and soul of our journey. Keep making beautiful music! 

1. Hi Manon! Can you tell us about your role and responsibilities at Steuer?

As a Tabling Specialist at Steuer, my main responsibility is to handle the crucial process of tabling the cane segments. Tabling involves using specialized equipment to flatten the inner part of the reed, which will be in contact with the mouthpiece. After the cane segments have been prepared by our skilled team, it's my role to ensure that each segment undergoes precise tabling. This process requires using a machine with three different-sized sanding discs to achieve the desired levels of flatness and smoothness. The tabling operation is critical, as it directly influences the sound quality of the reed.

2. What do you most enjoy about your work as a Tabling Specialist?

What I find most fulfilling is the opportunity to contribute to the final shaping on the back of the reeds. I’m also responsible for measuring the thickness of the segments once they have been tabled.

For example, for clarinets, the Classic model has a thickness of 2.80 mm (0.110 inch), while the Exclusive model averages 3.15 mm (0.124 inch) in thickness. Bass clarinet reeds reach a thickness of 3.30 mm (0,130 inch). The models for baritone saxophones can reach a thickness of 3.90 mm (0.153 inch) !

These are technical considerations, and I don't want to overwhelm you with numbers, but it's an integral part of my job. Being able to fine-tune the tabling process and witness the transformation of the cane segments into harmonious reeds is truly rewarding. 

3. Lastly, is there a message you'd like to share with our musician community?

To our incredible community of musicians, thank you for inspiring us with your passion and dedication. We strive to deliver reeds that enable you to reach new heights, and I’m happy when you’re happy too!

1. Hi Marc! What are the stages in the innovation process for a new model of reed?

First of all, we have to listen to the demands and expectations of musicians. Feedback and experience then enable me to design an initial steel prototype, the “pattern”, a mold designed to a precision of one hundredth of a millimeter, which will be used to create the first reeds.

These are sent to musicians and tested under extreme playing conditions.

The musicians’ feedback will enable me to adjust the initial pattern. Several other tests will then be repeated until the new model is finalized. Once the model meets the desired criteria, the steel pattern is placed in an oven at over 800°C. This is the "steel hardening" stage. The steel mold is the central component of the beveling machine. It serves as the replicating element, ensuring consistent shaping. A measuring roller will read the dimensions of this steel template, and by means of a cutting mechanism, precisely shape the reed with utmost accuracy. This process gives it great stability over time. 

For example, in total, more than 18 months were necessary to develop the mold for the Exclusive model. Similarly, the different saxophone models also underwent an extensive journey of refinement and innovation.

2. Can you describe the qualities of the Exclusive reeds for clarinet?

The Exclusive is cut from the core of a thick reed cane. With greater material density, it produces a warm sound, rich in harmonics. The Exclusive is intended for professional musicians. The qualities of the Exclusive are a great purity of sound and very good projection, precise staccato attack, flexibility in articulations, and an excellent response in all registers.

3. Would you like to add anything for our community of musicians?

To all the incredible musicians who inspire us, thank you for being a part of our community. At Steuer, we strive to do our very best for our artists, combining the best in innovation and craftsmanship. We are honored to play a small part in helping you resonate with the world!

1. Hi Thierry! Can you share with us your role and responsibilities at Steuer?

As a Professional Musician and Musician Adviser at Steuer, my main responsibility is to test some samples before launching the beveling process. I ensure that the reeds exhibit the desired tonal properties and have the correct strength. Additionally, I also have the opportunity to represent Steuer and interact with musicians at various events and exhibitions.

2. Can you tell us more about the reed testing process and its importance in overall quality control?

Certainly! After the reeds are prepared and shaped, it's crucial to assess their characteristics before finalizing production. As a tester, I carefully evaluate my reed samples for their tonal qualities, responsiveness, and consistency. This step allows us to ensure that only the highest quality reeds reach our customers, providing them with a reliable and enjoyable playing experience.

3. As a professional musician yourself, how does your musical expertise contribute to the testing process?

Being a professional musician enables me to bring a deep understanding of musical nuances and performance expectations to the testing process. I'm able to evaluate the reeds not only from a technical standpoint but also from an artistic perspective. This allows me to provide valuable feedback to our production team, helping us maintain the high standards that musicians expect from Steuer reeds.

4. Apart from testing reeds, you also represent Steuer at events and interact with musicians. Can you tell us more about that aspect of your role?

Absolutely! Representing Steuer at various events and engaging with fellow musicians is an exciting part of my job. It allows me to connect with the music community, understand their needs, and gather valuable insights. Whether it's at trade shows, festivals, or other musical gatherings, I have the pleasure of answering questions, and fostering relationships with musicians around the world.

5. Is there a particular message you'd like to share with our musician community?
To all the passionate musicians out there, thank you for inspiring us with your artistry and dedication. Your feedback and support are invaluable to us. I would be delighted to meet some of you at future events!
1. Hi Sandrine! Can you tell us about your role and responsibilities at Steuer?

As a Specialist in the final stages of reed production at Steuer, my primary focus is on the crucial final steps in the manufacturing process. This includes measuring the strength of the reeds, engraving them, ensuring they are properly protected, and placing them in their boxes.

2. What does the engraving operation involve?
The engraving operation comes after the strength measurement stage. Once the reeds have been categorized by strength, I use a laser machine to engrave various details on the bark of the reed: the model, its strength, and our Steuer and Made in France logo. 
 
The reeds are then rechecked one by one and individually protected. At Steuer, for ecological reasons, we have for years used only cardboard protectors specially designed for Steuer, as we banish the use of plastic.
 
The process of engraving a reed is like a stamp of approval, a seal that declares it 'ready to play.' The reed has successfully passed through our rigorous selection stages in the workshop and will soon join a Steuer musician, wherever they may be on the planet! Perhaps even you! With its full potential unleashed, the reed can now deliver its musical prowess!
3. Would you like to add anything for our community of musicians?

Every step, from strength measurement to engraving, is carried out with utmost care and precision. To all our talented musicians out there, thank you for being the driving force behind our passion for crafting reeds!