Bassoon Reed Making 1: Gouging

[Music: “Flight of the Bumblebee”]

>>Welcome, this is a series of videos I put together that I hope help you with making reeds. I'm Terry Ewell and I am glad you are watching these five videos I have made for you. There are many people far more expert in reed making than I am. But the methods I show here I have used for 30 years and I hopeful that they will help you as well. You are going to notice in the videos that I do not advocate certain equipment. This is to avoid commercialism. I have placed blue masking tape over names so that I am not advertising certain equipment. Thank you for watching and let's get started.

I begin by soaking the tubes of cane in warm water for about 20 minutes. Then I inspect the tube of cane. This tube has got some insect damage.

So I am going to discard it.

This tube looks OK, but the ends curve a bit. So I will need to cut those off.

I examine the tube with a curved metal gauge. Let's look at this end.

I am looking for the portion with the closest symmetry. Symmetry is very important for the finished reed.

I then split the tubes into four pieces using the cane splitter.

You can use a knife for this, but I am fortunate to have the splitter.

Each section of cane is then examined for straightness. I look at the grain. And again you can see the curved portions here. So the straightest part of the cane is going to be in this area.

I then cut the cane with a reed guillotine.

This piece of cane is pretty straight. It curves just a little bit.

Next I place the cane in the bed of the gouger.

I pay attention to how the knife moves through the cane. This cane is gouging very nicely: nice and even consistency. This particular piece of cane is not that hard. So I will make a note of that.

The gouger I use creates an eccentric shape. The gouge is thinner at the sides than it is in the center. Concentric gouges such as this one have the same thickness of cane over the whole gouge.

Some reed makers then further adjust the reed by scraping the inside of the blade. If you are interested, I recommend you read The Bassoon Reed Manual: Lou Skinner's Theories and Technique by James R. McKay. Gerald Corey gave an outstanding lecture on scraping the interior of the reed blade years ago. The lecture was at the 1997 IDRS Conference was titled, “Many Varieties of Tone and Playing Characteristics in Your Bassoon Reed Box.” Corey demonstrated wide variations of tone and response due to these different gouges made by hand. I haven't worked with these, but I am intrigued by the results.

The center thickness of gouged cane should be between .047 of an inch (.012 centimeters) and .055 of an inch (0.14 centimeeters). This one is right around .055. The thinner the gouge the more dense and hard the cane. The cane nearest the bark is the hardest.

I mark each piece of cane with a pencil so that “siblings,” that is pieces of cane from the same tube are identified. I also note the density of the cane, whether the cane was hard or easy to gouge. I write this information in a notebook when I number each piece of cane.

If you are drying your cane at this point make certain that the cane dries completely, not in full contact with other pieces of cane. Not like that. Be sure to separate them.

God bless you and thank you for watching this video.

[Music: end to “Flight of the Bumblebee”]