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Copyright 2009 Dale Clark
Variations to the inside of a gouge were the specialty of Lou Skinner, International Double Reed Society Honorary member, as highlighted in The Bassoon Reed Manual, James McKay. To me, changes to the basic gouge to improve the reed’s performance are like the icing on a cake. If you don’t have a good cake the icing is wasted. Experience has shown that excellent bassoon reeds can be made without making special scrapings on the gouge, yet, in our constant search for the sound and the performance we desire, gouging variations has become a significant part of reed making.
The variation I use most often is similar to the Scheherazade style of reed made by Skinner. Since I don’t follow every detail of his reed making process I must call what I do a Scheherazade variation. Skinner’s tools for scraping the inside of the cane can be very expensive. I have found you can purchase Olfa brand rotary cutters that can achieve the same results. The cutter I use for this style reed is 1 3/32” in diameter. To make the inside scrape I take the shaped but not profiled cane and make a pencil mark on the inside of the gouge at the position of first wire and also a mark at the center of the cane where you will fold it over when forming. The scrapes I make go from this line towards the tip of the reed and continue to the center mark. Scrapes will be made on both sides of the inner part of the gouge and will result in four scrapes total. I scrape near the edge of the cane, parallel with the sides but avoiding the very edge so I don’t damage the edge resulting in leaks. I scrape only 6-8 times at each position, stopping when I see a little cane begin to build up at the end of the scrape. The amount of cane removed can be increased or decreased on subsequent reeds after you assemble and try your test reeds.
The result of this scrape has been an increase in resonance evident before I do my finish scrape on the blades. The addition to the size of the air chamber may be part of the reason for this. This scraping of the inside channels also seems to have some of the same effect received when trimming the outside channels but seems to be more subtle.
In the near future I hope to include photos of my reed making techniques but the high level of business won’t allow me to do that now.
I’d like to welcome comments about this gouge variation as well as any other information others may have on special gouging techniques.