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.
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