Topic: Stuffy reeds

Hello fellow reedmakers,

I recently made a subtle adjustment to my profiler, a Popkin single barrel model recently purchased second hand. I very slightly lowered (turning the adjustment screw by only one allen bolt flat) the back end of the profiling ramp to reduce the thickness of cane near the collar of my reeds. I did this because generally speaking I have found that my reeds tend towards a stiff response, particularly in the low register, and I hoped to at least partially remedy this tendency through the adjustment. Unfortunately, the immediate result of this action seems to have a been a run of reeds with an extremely muddy and excessively bass-heavy response in all registers. These reeds have all also produced an extremely weak one-pitch crow. I have not changed my reedmaking method and all of these reeds have been made with cane from the same batch I was using prior to the adjustment.

Has anyone experienced this sort of problem before, and can anyone recommend a solution? Thank you all for your time!

Michael Macaulay
2nd Bassoon, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony

Re: Stuffy reeds

This adjustment would also take more cane out of the middle of the blade.  I'd put it back higher and thin the back out after the reed is made.   


Mark Ortwein
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra


Re: Stuffy reeds

Michael, Adding to Mark's suggestion, I recommend allowing the spine/heart to be what you are used to, but reducing the thickness of the blade edges near the ledge. crw

Christopher Weait,
Principal bassoon, Toronto Symphony (1968 - 1985)
IDRS Honorary Member; Emeritus professor Ohio State University

Re: Stuffy reeds

I agree with Mark and Chris that you should return the profiler to its previous setting and free up the low register response in other ways. I find the following will open the sound in the low register:

1. Take just a little more off the heart of the reed just behind the tip. This shouldn't amount to much more than a healthy dusting of cane with your reed knife or file;
2. Take 10 or 12 scrapes off the base of the reed from the collar to about 1 mm. up in the area immediately adjacent to the side rails, but not thinning the side rails. This is an adjustment similar to the windows one creates in an oboe reed.
3. Make sure the collar and blade of the reed form a right angle all across the reed and that there is no heavy slope of cane at that point;
4. Finally, holding the reed at about a 45 degree angle, draw the tip of the reed across a piece of 320 grit wet/dry sand paper for about 1.5 inches.

All of these techniques separately or together will help low register response from your reeds.

Gene Carter, Owner
Linden Reeds


Re: Stuffy reeds

Hello, Michael, I understand your frustration with such a small change to your Popkin profiler's settings. Can you send me an email at and let me know what the thicknesses are of your profiled pieces: 1) at the collar (should be .80 - .90 mm.) and, 2) at a point 50 mm in front of the cane butt end (about 5-5.5 mm back from the reed's tip)? Then I can send you a reply with suggestions for improving the sound of your reeds. Best wishes, Gerald