I can offer some advice in this realm. First let me say that I am strictly a reed-maker at this point. I realized early on in school that I had more passion for making reeds and playing with the machines that are used to create them then to mess around trying to improve my playing.
I think you can inherently be better at one over the other much like one can make oboes and not be the best oboe player. On the other hand you still need a good foundation in fundamentals to understand how a reed should perform and what tolerances can be adjusted.
So a year ago I set off on an experiment to start ramping up my ebay reed business. Since then no stone is left unturned. I do believe that I am at an advantage right now when it comes to economies of scale.
I think a thorough analysis of your process and some onetime investments in equipment can greatly help.
Specifics I can go into if you wish but as an example:
I realized I was spending roughly a minute per piece to pregouge and then gouge my cane. I really wanted to invest in one of those fancy hand crank pregougers by reeds n stuff but the price was beyond my pocketbook. I did some searching and found a similar device by Rieger. Since then I have cut down the overall time to 20 seconds per piece.
I cannot tell you how satisfying it has been to find these types of solutions.
Most of the other examples involve:
• Moving my wrapping to a wrapping machine, hand built for under $75
• Purchasing a Shaping Machine, expensive but reduced my shaping time by 80%
• Purchasing a cane profiler, getting me start off at the same spot on each reed.
• Setting up a simple jig to measure cane for wrapping, keeps me from having to measure and re-measure
Sometimes the solution is easier to fix with the right investment but some of my best findings have amounted to just changing the order in which I do things. I have a very strict stop point on each reed for each day of its life. I can usually weed out the faulty reeds quickly by making them have to pass each daily test. I rotate through about 40 reeds at a time.
I do all of my cane processing and tying during the weekends and again since investing in the cane profiler I start off with profiled cane when I tie the reed onto the staple.
The next rundown covers my five day process:
1. Scrape back of reed while keeping the reed dry, I find I get a smoother feel doing this without soaking
2. Clip reed open, refine tip and clip down to a single crow, usually a solid B.
a. At this point I usually can tell what the cane is doing and if the overall length is going to be good or not.
3. Adjust to a single crow, balance and refine the overall reed.
4. Balancing and readjusting is minimal so my focus goes into play testing and working to get the secondary crow to speak.
5. Quick dip in water and play test to confirm reed is working. Very little to adjust at this point.
Current success rate is more related to splitting of cane and soft cane sneaking into the batch. My next improvements will be to eliminate these more.
Hope some of this helps.
I know I find all of this so exciting. Good thing I have a day job!