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Dr. Rebecca Mindock

Reed Making Tool Guide

Oboe and Bassoon Reed Making requires a lot of tools, varying from the cheap and simple to the complex and expensive. Below is a list of tools you will need for the different stages of reed making. (Disclaimer: this list is primarily for my own students and is based on how I teach reed making; there are other tools and other methods, and this list does not strive to be comprehensive.)

Prices and availability of various reed tools change too often for me to provide links for buying each item; instead, here is a list of some of my favorite double reed shops at the moment, all of which carry the vast majority of the items below. Compare prices and be a savvy shopper!

Forrests Music
Midwest Musical Imports
Edmund Nielsen Woodwinds
RDG Woodwinds
Charles Double Reed
Hodge Products, Inc.
Miller Marketing

Oboe Reed Making Tools

(Not an oboist? Jump to the Bassoon Reed Making Tools list.)


reed knife
Scraping Oboe Reeds


Reed Knife
You can't make or effectively adjust oboe reeds without a knife. Reed knifes primarily come in two styles: beveled (flat on one side, beveled on the other) and double-hollow ground (beveled convexly on both sides). There are pros and cons to each, and whether one is "better" than the other is entirely based on opinion. If you get a beveled knife, you will need to specify if you need one that is right- or left-handed. I particularly recommend the "wedge" (aka double-hollow ground) knife made my Nielsen Woodwinds; it is surprisingly affordable for a knife of its quality.

Dr. Mindock uses: both a Japanese Ando reed knife (available from Forrests) and a Nielsen double hollow ground knife.

India sharpening stone

Sharpening Stone
Your reed knife is useless if it isn't sharp. Sharpening can be done with a wide variety of sharpening tools, but the one I recommend most to students with basic knives is the India stone. It is important that you get a stone similar in width to the length of your knife blade so that your knife sharpens evenly. You will also need to get a bottle of honing oil to use while sharpening your knife.

Dr. Mindock uses: the India combination stone for her Nielsen knife and the Kai combination Japanese water stone and leather strop for her Ando knife.

plaque

Plaque
A small metal disc placed between the two blades of the reed. The plaque helps prevent accidental scraping of the opposite blade, aides in visibility, and supports the reed during scraping. They are cheap, which is good, because they are also small and easy to lose. You can get contoured ones, but I recommend the flat ones (which are cheaper, anyway).

Dr. Mindock uses: plain ol' flat blued steel oboe plaques, and buys several at a time because she's very good at losing them.



mandrel

Mandrel
The mandrel is used as a mount for the oboe reed during tying and can also make it easier to hold the reed during scraping. Mandrels need to fit the staples (the cork and metal bases on reeds) that you use, so, if you use standard staples, you need a standard mandrel, and if you use French staples, you need a French mandrel. I recommend sticking to the standard stuff, as the French ones, for whatever reason, are significantly more expensive and not noticeably better.

Dr. Mindock uses: a standard wood-handled mandrel.

cutting block

Cutting Block
A small wooden cutting block to use as a base for clipping the tip of your reed. The bigger the block, the safer you'll be while you try to use it.

Dr. Mindock uses: a medium rosewood cutting block.

razor blades

Razor Blades
Just the regular old single-edged razor blades you can buy at the grocery or hardware store. At this stage, you just use them to clip your reeds. When you get to the shaping stage, they are essential for shaping your cane, and you can also use them to split tube cane. For those just clipping reeds, you just need a few (and you replace them as they get dull), but for those shaping and/or splitting, you'll need a lot, so I recommend the 100 blade bulk packs from the hardware store.

ruler

Ruler
Just a simple, 6-inch ruler, with a metric side, will help you make sure you scrape your reed with the right measurements. It's also essential for tying reeds to the correct length.

micrometer

Micrometer
Optional. This machine measures how thick the cane on your reed is, in micrometers (hundredths of a millimeter). This can be very helpful while learning how thick to scrape the different sections of your reed, and it can be especially useful in trying to figure out what's wrong with reeds that aren't working right. Definitely not essential to reed making, however.

Dr. Mindock uses: an analog dial micrometer, though she very rarely uses it for scraping reeds and mostly uses it either during the gouging stage or to help students diagnose their reed problems. She also has a very old Forrests digital micrometer with a dead battery that gets very little use.

gouged, shaped, and folded cane
Tying Oboe Reeds


Gouged, Shaped, and Folded Cane
To tie reeds without doing any of the prior steps yourself, you need to purchase cane that is gouged, shaped, and folded. There are many types of cane to chose from, as well as many shapes. Cane for purchase generally comes in two diameters: 10-10.5mm (which tends to make a more open reed) and 10.5-11mm (which tends towards a more closed reed), and the preference is up to you. Otherwise, the quality of different brands of cane comes and goes -- it's a crop, after all -- so sometimes just trying things out is the best way to find out what's good these days. While it's technically their "Tube Cane Guide", Midwest Musical Imports has a helpful guide to the different types of cane, describing their typical hardness and fiber quality, which I recommend reading even if you are only planning to buy cane that is already processed. It doesn't have every type of cane out there, but it covers most of the biggies, and, of course, it covers all of the cane they sell in tube form, much of which they also sell processed.

Dr. Mindock uses: -- well, Dr. Mindock gouges and shapes her own cane. And her favorite cane which she used to happily recommend to everyone, OboeWorks, is now out of business and no longer available. So sad. But, if she had to buy gouged, shaped, and folded cane, she would probably buy cane that is 10-10.5 in diameter, with either an RDG -1 (Gilbert -1) or a Mack shape, and she tends towards what she refers to as "Goldilocks Cane" -- not too hard, not too soft, but juuust right.

reed thread

Reed Thread
We use FF gage thread for tying the cane to the staple. EE can also be used, but I prefer FF; EE is smaller, more likely to snap while tying, and slightly more difficult to work with. Reed thread comes in a wide variety of colors, so be sure to pick something you like, as one spool will last you a really long time.

Dr. Mindock uses: an awful lot of FF thread in a variety of colors!

staples

Staples
Staples are the cork and metal bases of our reeds. They come in different lengths -- the most standard is 47mm, but they also show up in 46mm and 45mm -- and they are usually made of either brass or silver. You can also reuse the staples from your old reeds, as long as they aren't damaged and they fit on your mandrel.

Dr. Mindock uses: I used to swear by Stevens #2 47mm staples. They are no longer being made, unfortunately, and I am still in search of a dependable substitute. I have no particular preference for brass or silver, but I do go for a 47mm tube, with natural cork.

beeswax

Beeswax
Optional. Applying a little beeswax to the thread during tying can help prevent loosening of the knots and keep the thread from unraveling. You can buy this anywhere, but a lot of the double reed catalogs tend to have it cheaply in stock and you can feel free to add a block of it to your order if you want.

reed making tool kit
Oboe Reed Making Tool Kits


For beginners looking to acquire the basics for scraping and tying reeds, a reed making tool kit can be a great option; usually they are a little cheaper than buying all of the component parts individually. However, buying a kit limits you to the items they include, and you may still end up having to buy better items to replace them or supplement with items not included, and it may end up costing even more money, so shop carefully.

Dr. Mindock recommends: My particular favorite kit to these days (assuming I have updated this website lately...) is the one offered by Nielsen Woodwinds, solely because of the knife. Typically, student reed making kits come with a cheap-o knife (to keep the cost of the kit down), which can hinder progress and which will require an inevitable knife upgrade. Nielsen, however, will put their awesome professional quality (and still student-knife-priced) wedge knife in the student reed making kit! That alone makes Nielsen the place to beat for me as far as reed making kits go. (If you buy the Nielsen kit, you will still need to buy a supplemental sharpening stone and honing oil. Gotta take good care of that awesome knife!)

gouged cane
Shaping Oboe Cane


Gouged Cane
To shape, you need to start with cane that is gouged only. It will be slightly cheaper than cane that is already shaped and folded, since you will do some of that work yourself. It is usually cheaper if you buy it in bundles of 10 pieces or more. It is also usually available in either 10-10.5mm or 10.5-11mm diameter.

Dr. Mindock uses: Yeah, we talked about this above; I gouge my own cane. But, the same principals apply; I tend towards 10-10.5 (though I do make some reeds out of 10.5-11, as there are some pieces and conditions where it helps me to have a reed with a smaller opening), and I like my "Goldilocks Cane"; not too hard, not too soft. Consult the Midwest Musical Imports Tube Cane Guide for more information about the hardness of some of the more common types of commercially available cane.

shaper handle

Shaper Handle
This handle holds the shaper tip and fastens the cane to it during shaping. They are fairly basic in design but woefully overpriced (which is unfortunate since you cannot shape without them).

Dr. Mindock uses: a fairly standard shaper handle.

shaper tip

Shaper Tip
The shaper tip is a small piece of metal that serves as a template for making a rectangular shaped piece of cane into the familiar beveled reed shape. There are a wide variety of shapes available, all with subtly different dimensions, to cater to the varying tastes of reed makers. These are also more expensive than you think they would be, but it is more justified here, since they require expensively precise machining to make and since there is an intellectual property element to each individual shape.

Dr. Mindock uses: the RDG -1 tip (also refferred to as the "Gilbert -1" tip), which is a fairly commonly used middle-of-the-road shape.

easel

Easel
This wooden cylinder provides a guide for scoring the fold line onto an unfolded piece of gouged cane, and also can be used to support a piece of gouged cane while scraping its ends.

Dr. Mindock uses: a fairly standard and well-used rosewood easel.

RDG gouging machine
Innoledy gouging machine
Gouging and Fully Processing Oboe Tube Cane

Gouging Machines
Now we're hitting the big time. While I often encourage serious students to invest in their own shaping equipment, buying a gouging machine is a serious investment that is only worth doing if you are planning to make hundreds of reeds in your future (aka, if you are planning to go pro with the oboe). Gouging machines are very expensive -- these days, they hover around $1500, depending on the model and where you buy it from, and the prices seem to always be going up -- and they are very delicate and fussy machines that require immaculate care and maintenance. They are great to have, in the sense that they allow you to make reeds from tube cane, which is the most ideal way to make reeds, but the added cost and trouble is not worth it for the average student or amateur reed maker. (Often, well-equipped university oboe programs will own a gouging machine that students may use. If you are planning to major in music and study the oboe in college and if this is the case at your university, you may get the experience of using a gouging machine without having to buy one yourself, which is great.)

The most dominant style of oboe gouging machine is one in which the piece of cane is cradled and held secure in a metal bed while a very sharp curved blade is run over top of it, "gouging" out the inside of the cane, leaving only the bark and the cane directly closest to it. Cane has to be thoroughly soaked prior to this process, and it improves the life of your gouging machine greatly -- and saves you some wear and tear on your hands/arms -- if you run the cane through a "pre-gouger" first (see below) to remove excess material. Machines of this style have been around for many years and, while there are many different types and brands, they are all operated in a very similar manner. Minute adjustments to the blade can be made to change gouge thickness (though for most users, it is best not to mess with those; if you are unhappy with the gouge you get, you are generally better off sending your machine to a professional for adjustment)(and for blade replacement/sharpening, when needed).

An up-and-comer has hit the market, though, and is, in my observation, slowly taking over. The Innoledy Gouging Machine has a different design than the standard gouger; it has a stationary blade, and the cane is passed through that blade in order to remove cane. This machine has several advantages: the cane can be gouged dry, which is greatly time saving and easier to clean up; the cane does not have to be pre-gouged first, which is again time-saving and also money saving as you do not have to also buy a pre-gouger; the gouging process itself is much faster, only requiring four passes of each piece of cane through the blade; and, finally, it is much more ergonomic and easier to operate, as each pass of the cane is executed by turning a hand crank (rather than pushing and applying pressure to the blade housing mechanism as on a standard gouger). This machine is also smaller and, while this may not be true for long as prices have began to inflate recently, cheaper. I have seen more and more oboists switch to the Innoledy gouging machine, and it is what I recommend to anyone who is interested in buying a gouger.

Dr. Mindock uses: why, an Innoledy gouging machine, of course!

tube

Tube Cane
This is harvested, dried arundo donax, usually sold by the pound (or fractions thereof). Since it is sold in bulk, it is much cheaper than processed cane, apart from all of the equipment you have to buy to do anything with it. When you buy tube cane, you also have the advantage of seeing the quality of cane right from the beginning; you can tell if it is warped, if the cane looks healthy, if the piece of cane in question is twisted or changes shape too much, etc. While you always have the option of rejecting cane you buy that is already processed, let's admit it: how likely are you, really, to not use every piece of expensive gouged, shaped and folded cane you buy? With tube cane, though, since you get so much of it, and since what you have is so far from the finished product, it's more reasonable to reject the worst pieces and not waste your time trying to make reeds out of them. By being able to be selective, you increase your odds of reed making success.

What kind of tube cane should you buy? This is generally a personal question, and it also has varying answers, since cane is a crop and even a fairly standard type of cane can vary from year to year due to its growing situation (maybe there was more rain that year, maybe it was an early first frost, maybe it was particularly hot and sunny, etc.). This is another advantage of being able to buy cane by the pound; if you find a batch of cane that you really, really like, you can buy a whole bunch of it, and live off of it for YEARS. :-) A lot of double reed suppliers are willing to send out small samples of tube cane -- sometimes they will even do it for free, if you ask nicely -- so you can get a few tubes, try it out, and decide if you want to buy more. Take advantage of this; it is a great way to try out all the different types of cane or to get an idea of what the currently available crop is like. (Be wary of trusting a specific type of cane; I have seen people love a particular batch of cane, decide to buy 5 more pounds of that type a year later because of how much they loved it, and then be very sad when the 5 pounds they get is from a new batch that is not any good!)

I mentioned this above, but if you didn't see it: Midwest Musical Imports has a great Tube Cane Guide, which describes the hardness and typical traits of the various types of tube cane they sell. The types they sell are relatively standard across the double reed world, and these descriptions can be very helpful in helping you hone in on the type of cane you are most likely to like. (Get samples, though!)

Dr. Mindock uses: back when OboeWorks was in business, I LOVED their cane, as it was consistently reliable and just the right hardness for the type of reeds I liked. Since they are no longer in business and I have not been able to find a way to keep acquiring their cane, I have been trying to make the few pounds of it that I had last as long as possible :-), so I still use that from time to time. Otherwise, I am experimenting these days; I have tried (and not loved) many, many samples, and at the moment I am optimistic about the batch of R/GO (from RDG Woodwinds) I am currently working with. (If anyone hears a tip about OboeWorks cane coming back into existence, let me know!!)

cane splitter

Cane Splitter
Optional. This device splits a piece of tube cane into 3 equal pieces. You can also use razor blades for this, which allows you to specifically pick out each piece of cane that you want, whereas the splitter just splits your cane into three equal somewhat arbitrary pieces. It is, however, MUCH safer and easier than using razor blades. (Using razor blades for this is kind of dangerous.)

Dr. Mindock uses:...razor blades, honestly. I have a splitter, but I prefer the benefit that comes from taking the risk. This might be the only way that one could say I live dangerously...

radius gauge

Radius Gauge
A 'ruler' of sorts that measures the diameter of a piece of cane. This helps greatly in selecting the best pieces of cane and knowing what to expect from it. You can try to use this device at later stages of reed making, but it is at its most helpful when splitting your tube cane; you can use it to pick out the most promising tubes, and, once the tube has been split, you can use it to identify the exact diameter of each piece (which can vary even within a single tube, since cane is not a perfect circle).

Dr. Mindock uses:a fairly standard metal radius gauge.

guillotine

Guillotine ($100-300)
Exactly like it sounds. Used for cutting a piece of split cane to the proper length. Very cathartic! Many gouging machines come with one of these attached, so it is not always necessary to get one separately.

Dr. Mindock uses: an adorable fold-able guillotine from Innoledy that they no longer sell, which is a shame!

basic pre-gouger
Parks pre-gouger

Pre-Gouger
There are a wide variety of pre-gougers out there; all of them remove some of the excess material from a piece of split cane to prepare it for gouging. The more expensive the machine, the more material it removes and the more precise it is. I tend to veer towards to the cheap ones, myself. (That is, when I need them. If you have an Innoledy gouging machine, the good news for you is that you don't NEED a pre-gouger! :-D)

Dr. Mindock uses: nothing, since she has an Innoledy gouging machine and doesn't need a pre-gouger. :-)

Ok, oboists, that's enough from you. Bassoons! It's your turn!

Bassoon Reed Making Tools


reed knife
Scraping and Adjusting Bassoon Reeds


Reed Knife
While it is totally possible to be a successful bassoon reed maker without using a knife, I do use a reed knife, and advocate it, if you can get used to using one. Reed knifes primarily come in two styles: beveled (flat on one side, beveled on the other) and double-hollow ground (beveled convexly on both sides). There are pros and cons to each, and whether one is "better" than the other is entirely based on opinion. If you get a beveled knife, you will need to specify if you need one that is right- or left-handed. I particularly recommend the "wedge" (aka double-hollow ground) knife made by Nielsen Woodwinds; it is surprisingly affordable for a knife of its quality.

Dr. Mindock uses: both a Japanese Ando reed knife (available from Forrests) and a Nielsen double hollow ground knife.

India sharpening stone

Sharpening Stone
Your reed knife is useless if it isn't sharp. Sharpening can be done with a wide variety of sharpening tools, but the one I recommend most to students with basic knives is the India stone. It is important that you get a stone similar in width to the length of your knife blade so that your knife sharpens evenly. You will also need to get a bottle of honing oil to use while sharpening your knife.

Dr. Mindock uses: the India combination stone for her Nielsen knife and the Kai combination Japanese water stone and leather strop for her Ando knife.

needle files

Needle Files
These are commonly useful; some reed makers use them in lieu of knives, and some reed makers use them in addtion to knives. They are relatively inexpensive and can be bought at hobby and hardware stores, as well as from double reed shops.

Dr. Mindock uses: a simple set of needle files.

plaque

Plaque
This is the item that slips between the two blades of the reed, allowing you to isolate each blade when scraping/filing and also allowing you to apply a little pressure while maintaining the rounded shape of the reed. I recommend the rounded arrow-head style of plaque.

Dr. Mindock uses: smooth plastic arrow-head style rounded plaques, of which she has many, because they are very cheap and very good at disappearing.

standard mandrel

Standard Mandrel
Optional, but recommended. This mandrel (not to be confused with the forming mandrel, see below) is primarily for support while working with the reed. They are most beneficial when adjusting the wires or when scraping on lower parts of the reed blade, where it can be difficult to maintain a hold on the reed alone. (If you like, you can get mandrel handles with interchangeable standard and forming tips.)

Dr. Mindock uses: a standard bassoon mandrel.

bassoon pliers

Pliers
A good set of pliers is indispensible for bassoon reed making and adjusting. Even if you never learn to scrape or file a reed, it is always helpful to know how to use pliers to adjust the wires, even on a store-bought reed. It is entirely possible to use generic pliers (of many different types) from any hardware store for this, it is beneficial, if you have the means to get them, to get pliers designed for bassoon reed making. The most ideal situation are pliers, like the kind made by Rieger, that have a smooth-edged circular cut out in them; this can be used to aid in reed forming and in making even wire adjustments.

Dr. Mindock uses: a pair of Reiger bassoon reed making pliers.

6-inch ruler

Ruler
Just a simple, 6-inch ruler, with a metric side. This can be helpful when adjusting reeds, but it is indespensible for forming, as you will need it to measure for proper wire placement.

a diamond reamer and a spiral reamer

Reamer
Reamers are used to smooth out or open up the opening at the butt (yes, I know) of the reed. There are several different types of reamers, varying primarily in how aggressively they remove cane. A basic spiral reamer will take out a significant amount of cane, whereas a diamond reamer will take less, but it will leave a smoother surface. These are often used together (coarser ream first, smoother ream to finish).

Dr. Mindock uses: both a Reiger spiral reamer and a Reiger diamond reamer.

bassoon tip clippers
bassoon tip clippers

Tip Clippers
It is possible to use a razor blade and a cutting block to cut a bassoon reed tip, but, since the tips are so thick and so wide, it can be difficult to do cleanly, and it is often more advisable to use a tip clipper. There are two main varieties: ones that are plier-shaped with handles, and ones that are more like flattened guillotines. The latter is typically more expensive, but they make cleaner and straighter cuts.

Dr. Mindock uses: a handled pair of tip clippers.

bassoon cane, gouged, shaped, and profiled
Forming Bassoon Reeds


Gouged, Shaped, and Profiled Cane
Cane that is gouged, shaped, and profiled is already cut and shaped so that it is all ready to fold and form into a reed. This is the most popular level of processed cane to start from for student bassoonists (and many professionals, for that matter); it spares the reed maker from needing to have any expensive reed making machinery, and it also saves the reed maker a lot of time. Typically you have the option of choosing the shape of your cane, while the gouge and profile are set by the cane processor; there are, however, cane dealers that will allow you a great deal of precision in what you request in your profile and your gouge.

Not sure what type of cane to try? While Midwest Musical Imports Tube Cane Guide was written primarily to refer to oboe cane, bassoon cane is available in these brands, as well, and the typical qualities and hardness of these types of cane should apply to both.

forming mandrel

Forming Mandrel
This is the metal template, basically, around which you will form the tube of your reed. This mandrel differs from the standard mandrel above in that it is longer and pointier, making it easier to insert into the bottom of the un-formed reed and aiding it in creating the proper reed form. (The reason you can't use one of these during the scraping process, if you are curious, is because the longer pointier end of this mandrel extends up almost to the end of the reed's blades, and while it is inserted in your reed, you cannot also put a plaque in there.) There are slight differences in mandrel shapes between brands; for example, the base of the standard Fox forming mandrel makes a slightly wider tube than the standard Reiger forming mandrel.

Dr. Mindock uses: a standard Fox forming mandrel.

brass wire

Wire
This is the wire that you will wrap around the cane, to force it into the proper shape and to keep the two blades sealed together. The standard wire to use is 22 gauge brass wire, available either from double reed suppliers or from a well-stocked hardware store (though it may take some hunting to find it at the latter).

Dr. Mindock uses: 22 gauge brass wire.

yes, rubber bands

Rubber Bands
Yes, rubber bands. :-) There are many options for something to wrap around the reed while you are forming, and some of the other options are more common, but I am a big fan of using a cut, wide rubber band for this. Buy a big bag of them, they're cheap!

razor blades

Razor Blades
Standard single-edged razor blades from the grocery or hardware store are very handy for cutting the collar, for beveling, and for scoring the tube; it is certainly possible to use other cutting implements for this (your reed knife, exacto knife, etc.), but I like to use razor blades. So long as you have one that is sharp at all times, you will be fine for forming reeds; however, if you shape reeds (see below), you will need more of them and you might as well buy a large package of them.

easel

Easel
You need this as a form to support the cane while you are preparing it for forming. You can buy an official bassoon reed easel from a double reed supplier...or you can just go to the hardware store and buy a 1" dowel rod for a fraction of the cost.

Dr. Mindock uses: a 1" dowel rod from the hardware store, cut down to six inches or so in length.

reed drying rack

Reed Drying Rack
Once your reed has been formed, you will want to leave it on a drying rack for a few days, to help the tube dry in the right shape. You can buy these in many sizes and designs, or you can buy the mandrel tips for cheap and mount them on a block yourself, if you or someone who likes you is handy with a drill.

Dr. Mindock uses: a well-loved homemade drying rack!

reed thread

Reed Thread
Tying your reeds after forming with thread can help the tube to maintain an even round shape and a seal, but it is also a largely cosmetic element that can be replaced with other materials (heat-shrink tubing, hot glue, etc.). I recommend nylon thread, so that you can apply a little pressure with it while tying, but cotton thread is also acceptable.

Dr. Mindock uses: FF nylon reed thread, in a multitude of fun expressive colors!

duco cement

Duco Cement
We use Duco Cement to seal the thread after tying. Duco Cement is the same type of compound as nail polish, only thicker; this allows us to only use one coat to fully seal the thread.

bassoon cane, gouged and profiled
Shaping Bassoon Cane


Gouged and Profiled Cane
If you want to be personally in control of the shape of your bassoon reeds, but don't want to buy all of the other equipment, this is a good place to start from. This cane is already gouged and has already been profiled, and just needs to be shaped before it can be formed into a reed. It will be a little cheaper than GSP cane, since you are doing one of those steps yourself.

straight shaper

Bassoon Reed Shaper
Of all the processing equipment for bassoon, these are the cheapest; a shaper will run somewhere between $100-200 typically. There are two types of shapers: straight shapers, which are templates that the gouged cane can be placed on flat, and folding shapers, for which the cane must first be scored and folded before it can be fitted to the shaper. Folding shapers also require a shaper handle. Shapes themselves come in a wide variety of dimensions, and it can be good to experiment with different shapes to help you determine how wide or narrow you like the various dimensions of your bassoon reed.

Dr. Mindock uses: a Fox #1 straight shaper.

bassoon cane, gouged
Profiling Bassoon Cane


Gouged Cane
This is cane that is only gouged, and that will need to be profiled AND shaped before it can be formed into a reed. It is typically cheaper than buying cane that is already profiled, but you have to have a profiler, which costs quite a bit, so it's only really worth it to make reeds from this stage if you plan to make a LOT of reeds or if you are very, very concerned about being able to control your own profiling.

profiler

Profiler
Profiling machines are pretty expensive -- typically four figures -- and they are very delicate and fussy machines that have to be handled with great care. They allow you to remove the outer bark from the part of the reed that will vibrate when you play, and they are typically set to specific dimensions in order to remove the right amount of cane from the right part of the reed. Again, I only recommend going this route if you plan to make a LOT of reeds in your future, and if you really like the control of being in charge of your own profiling. (For what it's worth, there are a lot of respectable professional bassoonists out there who do not bother with profiling their own cane and prefer to buy it pre-processed.)

Dr. Mindock uses: a Reiger profiler.

tip profiler

Tip Profiler
These are cool machines -- also pretty pricey -- that I consider to be a bit of a luxury item; they remove excess cane from the tip of the reed, saving the reed maker a lot of reed scraping time. These are actually used *after* the reed is formed, but I am including it back here at this step because it's not typically the type of machine someone considers purchasing unless they are already thinking of buying these other expensive reed making machines. They can take a lot of the human error out of tip scraping, and make your reeds more uniform overall. Definitely a great item to have if you intend to make a LOT of reeds.

Dr. Mindock uses: her own knife and does her tip work herself :-), though, admittedly, as an experienced oboe reed maker, she's perhaps a little more comfortable with all of that scraping than the average bassoon reed maker and her insistence on not needing a Tip Profiler might be a little biased in that regard. :-)

tube
Gouging and Fully Processing Bassoon Tube Cane

Tube Cane
Time to get serious. Making bassoon reeds from tube cane is a pretty serious commitment. You have to buy an awful lot of heavy duty expensive equipment -- a profiler AND a gouger, in addition to your shaper and all of your other tools -- and, while it is true that you will get a lot more cane from your money when buying tube cane (sold in bulk, usually by the pound or the kilo, or fractions thereof), for a lot of people, the added cost for machines plus the added time to process bassoon cane, which is quite significant, is just not really worth it. If you choose to go this route, though, you will be fully in control of your reed making process, which is a great advantage if you have the time and resources for it, and you will, if you make enough reeds in the long run :-), save some money on cane. Plus...it's kind of cool. So there's that. :-)

The different brands and varieties of tube cane out there should be evaluated with a grain of salt; cane is a crop, and therefore there can only be so much consistency from batch to batch. There are fairly typical traits that each variety is characterized as having; the Midwest Musical Imports Tube Cane Guide catalogs a few of these (and while it's geared towards oboe cane, these cane providers harvest bassoon cane, as well, and the quality of the cane should be similar). Keep in mind, though, that just because you really liked tube cane of a certain type that you bought last year does not mean that same tube cane is going to be identical this year; the crop from which that was harvested might have had drier conditions, or hotter conditions, or more exposure to cold, or who knows what else. If you can buy a small sample of pieces -- or better yet, get a cane company to send you a sample tube or two, which some of them might do for free if you ask nicely -- you can try them before you drop a lot of money on a whole bunch of it.

Dr. Mindock uses: I am always searching for my new favorite cane; I haven't settled on anything lately and I've got a lot of different stuff going right now; I've got a what seems to be a good batch of Medir, and a less-good batch of Gonzalez, and a few other things. I tend towards the mid-range cane in terms of hardness (the "Goldilocks" cane as I like to call it: not too hard, not too soft).

gouging machine

Gouging Machines
This is the last big expensive piece of machinery you need. :-) They remove all the excess mealy cane from the inside of the piece of cane, leaving you the stronger stuff closest to the bark. They have to be carefully cared for, and the blades often have to be adjusted and sharpened. Bassoon gougers are all of the variety for which the cane has to be soaked -- for a REALLY long time (like, days), since it is so thick -- and each pass of the blade removes a small layer of cane. Cane will need to be pre-gouged first, both to make sure it fits in the gouger bed, and to try to save some of the life of your gouger blade (and your hands). I keep hoping that, someday, a more efficient gouging machine like the oboe's Innoledy gouger will come along for the bassoon, but, alas, not yet. Sigh.

Dr. Mindock uses: a Reiger gouging machine.

pre-gouger

Pre-Gouger
This is an essential preamble to using a bassoon gouging machine. There are two basic types: the simple push-through, which makes sure the cane is the proper height and size for fitting into the standard gouger bed, and the more involved (and usually far more expensive) device that actually removes a fair bit of cane from the middle of the reed, in a much rougher fashion than the gouging machine will, to get some of that work out of the way before you gouge. If you have the funds available for a pre-gouger in the latter style, it can save you a lot of time and effort when gouging, and keep your gouger blade from wearing out as quickly.

Dr. Mindock uses: the simple push-through pre-gouger.

guillotine

Guillotine
This is exactly what it sounds like, and it is how you cut your split piece of cane to length. Most bassoon gouging machines come with these attached to them, so you do not need to buy a separate one unless yours doesn't.

Dr. Mindock uses: the guillotine attached to her bassoon gouging machine.

splitter

Splitter
This is how you take that piece of tube cane and turn it into the cane you will gouge, profile, etc. There are a few different designs; some of the simpler, cheaper ones might be a little less safe and easy to use (keep in mind that you are forcing some very thick cane through a bunch of really sharp blades here), so, depending on how good you are at hurting yourself :-), choose wisely!

Dr. Mindock uses: the Forrests bassoon splitter, with a safety guard and a long shaft to ensure that my hands are nowhere near the blades or the cane during splitting, because I am quite good at hurting myself and need all the help I can get. :-)

....aaand that's it! Props to you for making it all the way to the bottom of this mammoth page. :-) Happy reed making!