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Sunday, June 6th 2010

8:21 AM

Reed Finishing: the Last 10%

Today I'm going to begin a series of blogs addressing bassoon reed finishing. At one of my bassoon lessons Dr. Matthew Ruggiero, ret. Boston Symphony and honorary member of the IDRS, told me the hardest part of reed making is the last 10%.  He also said that anybody can make a reed blank.  I believe that this is substantially true, even though there are some excellent, individual ways of construction blanks, that work is futile if you can’t finish the reed to play as you want.

Finishing reeds is a combination of art and technique.  Most of us learn the technique first.  There are several ways that individual tools might be used in reed finishing but I am going to list the most common ways I have learned.  First, reed knives are used primarily on wet cane though there are instances that I do a little cleaning up on a dry reed, especially with an x-acto knife when I finish up the shoulder.  Knives may be used either with or against the grain. With my single-beveled knife I scrape the cane, keeping the blade perpendicular to the cane.  My Panzier knife from Reeds’n Stuff has a radius tip that works well to finish the tip and also in the channels. My steel grooved files are used wet and dipped in water often to clean them out.  I work them with the grain except occasionally to file on the corners of the tip toward the heart.  I always work diamond files on dry cane otherwise the abrasive surface clogs easily.  Though the sand paper I use is made to work wet or dry I find that the most effective sanding is done dry.  I use grades 220 up to 800-finish.  I always work the sandpaper with the grain of the cane.  Reamers should usually be worked dry though my very sharp spiral cut Christlieb reamers can be used wet and are especially useful when a student brings a reed to a lesson already wet that won’t fit the bocal.  Diamond files are especially good at cleaning up the tube after reaming. I always use a long mandrel when tightening the wires as it gives more support especially to the first wire. 

I’m sure there are many other ideas about the proper use of tools and I welcome your comments.  I’m off to play a trio at the local convent today as our group prepares our performance at the IDRS conference.  We will be performing with the OU dancers at 11:30 am on Friday, June 25 in Holmberg Hall at the University of Oklahoma.  I hope to see many of you at the conference.




54 Comment(s).

Posted by Nancy Duncan:

A lovely synopsis, explaining some things many people feel others should already know. This is not always true, so thanks for this detailed writeup (altho I think you meant to say reamers should be used dry) ;)
Sunday, June 6th 2010 @ 4:22 PM

Posted by Dale Clark:

You are absolutely right, Nancy. Thanks for the catch, I'll change that.

Sunday, June 6th 2010 @ 5:10 PM

Posted by Kent Moore:

Hi Dale:

Thanks for the blog. I am considering that Pantzier knife. How do you sharpen the curve? Is it easy to do.
Sunday, June 6th 2010 @ 7:38 PM

Posted by Dale Clark:

I flatten the back of the knife as you would any single-bevel knife and then sharpen the beveled side also normally working the into the curved part of the knife gradully across diamond plates. My diamond plates are course, fine, extra fine and micro cut at 8000 grit. I can tell by the sound of the blade going across the plate when the edge of the knife is making contact with the plate. I also find that buffing the edge with sandpaper up to 2000 grit is very effective. I have a diamond plate that is 8000 grit that I can place the sandpaper on so that I have an extremely flat surface to work on. I use that sharpening process on my tip pofiler blade in a sharpening jig starting with 220 sandpaper working up to 2000 grit.

I have found that demonstrating in person is more effective than trying to write about this so if you want to stop by my exhibit booth at the conference I will be glad to show you these processes.

Monday, June 7th 2010 @ 8:46 AM

Posted by Kent Moore:

Thanks for the invite, Dale. It would be so good to see you and talk to you but I can't make it to the conference. Thanks for the explanation in writing though.
Monday, June 7th 2010 @ 10:28 AM

Posted by Dale Clark:

Sorry you won't be coming. One more item I forgot about the Panzier is that though you are sharpening a radius it is not necessary that you replicate the original as in the case with a gouger blade. You don't have to do that in order to make a sharp, effective curved blade.

Monday, June 7th 2010 @ 1:50 PM

Posted by Dale Clark:

Hi Thom. If your knife is not too dull you can put a quick edge by buffing the sharp edge with very fine sandpaper, 400 up to 2000 grit is fine. It would be difficult for me to make a video any time soon about sharpening the Panzier, one reason being that sound is as important as looks. You can hear when the blade's edge starts to make contact with the stone easier than see it. So, as you sharpen the bevel raise the angle ever so slightly so you hear this contact and keep the angle there. I don't pretend to be an expert in sharpening knives, I'm just able to keep my own bassoon reed making knives sharp enough to be effective.

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