Van Doren started his own cane plantations in the South of France - The Domaine L'Anglade. The type of cane is "Arund Donax" - Music Cane. There are many important factors to consider when growing cane: the specific qualities of the soil, hygrometry, climate, sun, wind and the experience and knowledge of the people who grow it.
Importance of Cane
It takes four years of care to bring cane to the point where it can bear the name Vandoren. When ready, the cane is cut with shears designed to avoid bursting the fibres, by hand. The process continues: it is bundled, shipped to Vandoren's ventilated warehouse, processed, stripped, cut and left in the sun to gain the familiar golden hue. It is then re-bundled, dried for another two years, and then is ready for manufacture.
The Vandoren Saga Begins
The Vandoren "Saga" began in 1905 with Eugene Van Doren (1873-1940) who, as most players at that time did, made all his reeds by hand. He worked at the Paris Opera House, and the reeds he sculpted were thought be so good (of perfect sonority and pitch) by his colleagues that they were frequently "borrowed"... His project began in the dining room of his house with friend Girardeau and a treadle operated (much like a sewing machine) reed making machine. Lubricated by mutton feet oil, from his makeshift workshop, his first boxes of twelve reeds were sealed with wax.
The Business Grows
Eventually the operation outgrew his house and he founded the first factory, at the now famous 56, Rue Lepic. As the business grew, he opened another factory at La Couture Boussey in Normandy for "Perfecta Ebony Mouthpieces" - their slogan - "all our mouthpieces are good" says a lot about their talents. Vandoren products were certainly much in demand. Vandoren was said to be creative, meticulous and organised.
56 Rue Lepic
The Van Doren Factory at 56 Rue Lepic. Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo lived at no 54... It looks a little different now - its just had a face lift. At 56 Rue Lepic, Van Doren's reed making methods enable to produce far greater quantities - although he had a reputation for getting frustrated at the number of orders he received.
Reed Making in the Early Days
The first "rough" cut is beveled to an accuracy of 1/10-0mm. Bernard Van Doren created the original mechanical models (see left) - modern versions are able to create an endless number of lines and curves. Each cane has its own character by which strength is determined. After final inspection the reed is stamped, branded, and packed.
Modern Reed Making
The Making of a reed is now a slightly more advanced process - manufacturing methods have, of course changed hugely in the last 100 years. Each reed now requires one-hundred blade strokes in order to shape it to 1/1000th of a millimetre accuracy. That's why the picture is a little blurred.
Each mouthpiece begins with a "blank". These are moulded from an extremely hard material called ebonite (obtained from rubber). Outside shaping is done on an automatic forming lathe designed for Vandoren. Each model is individually checked for appearance and precise dimensions following each step. Each is then polished to a brilliant finish. Then, the grinding of the facing begins. From here on, the mouthpieces are sorted into families. Then they receive their cork, which is carefully selected for durability and precision. The final adjustment of the facing is done by staged diamond cutting tools.
Work by Lathe
Initial exterior forming is made via automated lathes - then the process is taken over by hand.
Work by Hand
The tolerances of 4/10, 000 of an inch are so small that, to maintain precision, the table is not polished. Each mouthpiece is hand finished at the baffle, walls, and tip rail. Master craftsmen finish and adjust each mouthpiece to pass the most critical examinations of professional musicians. The mouthpieces are polished one last time (except the facing area) to eliminate marks and imperfections. The Vandoren name is then stamped in gold on the mouthpiece along with the model number. Professional musicians test the mouthpieces for quality, sound and pitch. They are checked again before being shipped.
The results of many years' research and development at Vandoren - they continue to create new models based on their knowledge, experience and understanding. They still explore new shapes, and materials, in order to propose alternatives in terms of ergonomics, sonority and resistance to wear and tear.
The Best Reed & Mouthpiece Manufacturer in the World?
Vandoren are probably one of the most famous reed and mouthpiece manufactuers in the world, Vandoren products are used by professionals and students the world over and are considered to be of the highest standard by clarinettists and saxophonists everywhere.