Monday, February 8, 2010

Sonicating reeds

So I bought an ultrasonic cleaner off the web, one marketed for jewelry cleaning. There are lots available on ebay, but some are just vibrating toys. The one I bought is 35 W, 42 kHz, came with a plastic basket to put your items in, and has a blue LED shining onto the cleaning solution, to make the whole process seem more high tech. The Wikipedia article on ultrasonic cleaning emphasizes the importance of the cleaning solution. Not only does some detergent help bring oily bits into solution, but it also lowers the water's surface tension, allowing cavitation bubbles to form more easily. Since it's the cavitation bubbles which do the cleaning, I'm not surprised it's important. So my protocol is: very hot tap water (40-50C), a squirt of diluted dish soap, immerse reed completely, sonicate for 3 minutes, then rinse with tap water. I do this after essentially every use. How long the reeds will last with this I don't know, but at the moment, I'm playing on R3, which I think I finished in November. I also tried it on some really ancient reeds, ones which I played on for months or years, then stored for twenty years. Yeah, they changed a bit, but they still felt worn-out, so it's no miracle.

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