DEREK CLIFF CRANE
The craftsman's corner highlights artisans, craftspeople and inventors who make the world of the saxophone better.
There is an adage, "If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life." Such is the life of 26-year old woodwind artist Derek Cliff Crane. Besides his considerable skills as a woodwind doubler, he has quickly been making a name for himself as the owner of SAX SPY woodwind products. This company is rapidly gaining notoriety for making custom saxophone end plugs and double reed blocks.
Crane is a native of Salt Lake City, Utah where he grew up in a family of artists. He began his musical studies on clarinet at age seven and by eight had added the saxophone. Soon he would become proficient on other woodwinds, including oboe, bassoon, and flute.
After high school, he attended Brigham Young University where he studied Commercial Woodwinds and Performance. At BYU he was ubiquitous playing in everything from the jazz ensembles (on tenor and baritone saxophone), to the orchestra (bassoon, contrabassoon and bass clarinet) to the opera (serving as principal flute). Professionally, he performed around the area including the Boise Symphony and Zelda Symphony.
He first became exposed to woodworking through a childhood friend, "My best friend's father was a carpenter. We were always asking him to help us make toy guns, spears, treehouses, etc." But it was a guitar making class in high school where the seeds of his creations developed. "I would get bored in class and make wooden rings. It was a fun thing to do." But it was when he desired to make some unique wooden end plugs for his instruments that lead to the birth of Sax Spy and his growing business.
"About two years ago I wanted to make some cool end plugs for my sax. After showing some of my practice pieces to people, they asked if they could buy them. That's how it started. I haven't had a time without orders since."
THE SAX SPY END PLUG
Sax Spy offers a variety of unique wood plugs from a variety of woods as well as an Artist Series. The most popular woods are Tigerwood, Grenadilla, Bloodwood, Macassar, Ebony, and Caribbean Rosewood. But, Crane is also adventurous with his wood choices. "I research and find cool things. I have some woods from old baseball stadiums and even wood taken from the same tree used in the Shawshank Redemption. The tree received damaged in a storm, and I was able to purchase some of the wood."
A typical plug takes anywhere from 45-90 minutes to create. Prices range from $65-95/plug with some of the artist series selling for $150. It typically takes 2-4 weeks with it being a bit longer at the holidays. The plugs come in a variety of shapes and designs and can be designed to the desire of the consumer.
In my case I wanted Derek to craft some end plugs that would remind me of special people in my life. Hawaii was an exceptional place in my life and the location of my honeymoon. So, I asked him to craft plugs out of the rare KOA wood found in Hawaii. I also wanted something that would remind me of our aunt who recently passed away from Pancreatic cancer. The color of pancreatic cancer awareness is purple. So Crane set out and found blocks of KOA and included a purple inlay of Strontium Aluminate Europium Dysprosium. This compound reacts with light making it luminous.
It is this type of research and attention to detail, that combined with the craftsmanship, brings the saxophonist a truly unique product. "I put a tremendous amount of study and research into what I do. I want to create pieces that fit perfectly and have deep meaning to the player."