Thursday, December 14, 2017

Cane microscopy

I recently received a wonderful email from researcher, Jean-Marie Heinrich. He is the one who wrote the article, "The Bassoon Reed", published in the Journal of the International Double Reed Society. Required reading for all serious reed makers!

Jean-Marie shared with me some photos of cane taken at the microscopic level. He has added a level of artistry through use of different dyes.

Most notable are his comparisons of cane of different densities. Here is scientific evidence of why reeds feel different from one to the next, although the construction may be nearly identical.

In the photos, the background material is cellulose, the triangular or teardrop shaped objects are lignified cellulose or vascular bundles.  A lignin is: "A complex organic compound that binds to cellulose fibers and hardens and strengthens the cell walls of plants."  - American Heritage Science Dictionary.

The vascular bundles surround two tubular structures called the  xylem. They function as a circulatory system for nutrients in Arundo donax.

More and/or thicker vascular bundles = dense cane.

A split piece of tube cane showing high density. Cellulose is the white background, vascular bundles,  brown/yellow "teardrops". The more important difference between this photo and the one below is the thicker bark in the photo above. (no dye or reagent used)

Another piece showing low density. Vascular bundles thinner and less numerous. Bark is thinner. (no dye or reagent used)

 High density with cellulose appearing blue, lignified cells appear green. High lignification, thick bark. These two samples were not stained, but the colors are the result of chemical reaction to the reagent Toluidine blue. Cellulose and lignified cells react differently to the reagent, thus resulting in different colors.

Low density with blue staining. Cell wall structure immature. Almost no lignification.

Oboe cane microscopy -- high density. The vascular bundles look like little aliens floating in cellulose!

Oboe cane (same magnification) - low density.

1000 sections of oboe cane tube sorted by density. Lowest density on the left, highest on right. Each reed maker must draw his/her own conclusions about what density is best for use in reed making. A sample of not less than 1000pcs is large enough for accurate and repeatable results.

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