Reedmaking: Back to Basics

Full disclosure: the last time I made reeds from tube cane was c. 1998. 


Why so long? 


Neither Manhattan School of Music nor the University of Utah provided a reed-making room or machines.  With copious amounts of moves, job changes, instrument purchases, LIFE, dropping several thousand dollars on a gouger and profiler was not a reality for me.  I started using GSP cane full-time in 1999 and never seriously pursued going back to tube cane.

I occasionally peruse EBSCO for the latest bassoon doctoral dissertations, curious to see what academia is producing for our field.  I found Dr. Schillinger's doctoral dissertation about the history of reed-making pedagogy and then learned it had been published as a book.

Click pic to order your copy!

This book is a PAGE-TURNER! 

I know, I KNOW!  You're thinking, 

"It's about the history of teaching reed-making...sounds dry."  Well, it's not!  

Winter semester 2017 if I was talking, it was about this book (please forgive me students and colleagues).  If I was reading, it was this book.  If I was day-dreaming, it was about bassoonists from hundreds of years ago...and their tools...and probably their fashion, too.  

Seriously, if you are a bassoonist, you have to own and read this book.  It is truly fascinating, well written, and full of detailed historical examples, diagrams, etc. 

I was also fortunate to hear Dr. Schillinger's lecture/presentation at IDRS 2017 about her unique process of cane selection, or perhaps better described as systematic cane discarding.  As she explains much better than I, (listen to her interview on Double Reed Dish) discarding cane at each step of the process is an essential part of a successful reed-making discipline.

By the start of Fall semester 2017 I was extremely inspired to return to reed-making starting from tube cane.

It also helped that my proposal and design plans for rebuilding our reed room had been accepted and BYU-Idaho now holds one of the FINEST reed-making rooms I have yet seen at a university!  

Having not worked with "machines" for almost 20 years, it was definitely a re-learning curve for me.  Further complicated by machines that have been a bit neglected due to faculty turnover in my position at the university.  You are looking at a Fox 1 straight shaper, Rieger folding shaper, a   profiler, and an RDG gouger.  

Working from left to right, you can see the *fun* I was having getting everything sorted out. My greatest challenge was simply being so many years out of practice with gouging, profiling, and shaping cane myself.

I will freely admit that by the end of this particular day pictured above, I was ready to say: Barton Cane or BUST!  Damaging so many pieces of cane because of my own incompetence was sobering and reminded me that I was perfectly happy paying someone else to absorb all that loss.  

HOWEVER, with Dr. Schillinger's wisdom ringing in my reeds and many wonderful finished reeds from my Barton Cane (I am really loving the Kristin Wolfe Jensen and Darrel Hale cane which I have reordered and continue to have great success) protecting me against any crises, I continued my odyssey!

Proceed from right to left in seeing the effects of adjusting the gouger to better pair with the profiler.  I did NOT spend any more time on the far right piece.

I got the whole bassoon studio involved and it was an absolute JOY to see my students working hard in the reed room and having fun in weekly masterclass working the machines together!  

Getting the gouger and profiled adjusted to work well with each other was not nearly as complicated as I thought it would be which boosted my confidence and the output of quality pieces.  Shaping a TON of cane also honed my dusty skills very quickly!  

Was there BLOOD?  Yes!  

Was there sweat?  Yes!  

Were there tears?  NO!  Really, it was a lot of fun this semeseter!

I'm happy to say, once everything got dialed in, the reeds I have been making are actually pretty great!  I have one in my box right now that has made me a believer in this whole work-from-tube-cane adventure.  

Am I going to abandon GSP? least, not yet. 

When I work from GSP my success rate is easily 90% or higher.  Only when/if I can get tube cane from blank to finished at that rate will I walk away from GSP.    

However, I am now willing to's possible. 



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