Topic: Do you FEEL your way around a reed when you scrape?

Agree or disagree?:

When you're scraping an oboe reed, and you put the edge of your knife down on the cane, it gives you information about how thick the cane is in that spot, information beyond that which you get from looking at the cane. In other words, you can to a large extent, learn a lot about how thick a certain part of the reed it by how it feels under the knife.

Bassoonists? What say you?

Please tell me whether you are referring to oboe reeds or bassoon reeds when you reply.

Thanks very much,

David Crispin
Crispin's Creations and Accessories
freelance oboist. Mississippi Symphony Orchestra

Re: Do you FEEL your way around a reed when you scrape?


On oboe reeds, I get most of my thickness information by shining a 40 watt lamp through the reed. Angle the lamp downward, so that it doesn't shine in your eyes. Sometimes, I dig out the windows with no plaque inserted, so that I can let the light shine through the reed as I thin out the windows. I also shine the lamp onto the reed and look at the reed the normal way to see the texture of the surface.

The things that I learn by feel are: the existence of the little lumps that develop on the tip of the tip, the smoothness of the tip and back, the direction that the burr on the knife blade is curling (feeling with my thumb nail), and when the blade is digging into the cane in a dangerous sort of way.


Re: Do you FEEL your way around a reed when you scrape?

Hi David...When making my bassoon reeds I use a combination of visual examination and ongoing testing by playing. I use a well-shaded 40 watt bulb to look at the reed by back-lighting it as I work with it. This helps me to identify areas that need more thinning as well as those that require adjustment to maintain the bilateral symmetry of the reed. After my initial scrapping of a reed I then allow it to dry and rest and then reexamine it under the same light when dry to spot surface imperfections that need to be attended to before resoaking it and finishing. Using these techniques, in combination with regular test playing as I go enables me to produce good quality reeds without having to rely on too much else. More to the point of your question, though, I find that I don't get much useable information from the feel of the cane as I work on a reed, other than the fact that a particular piece of cane is hard, soft, or just right.

Gene Carter, Owner
Linden Reeds

Re: Do you FEEL your way around a reed when you scrape?

I go more by sight than feel for determining the thickness of the cane at any given point.  If I'm applying enough pressure with the knife to get much of a feel for how thick the cane is, I start to worry about cracking the reed (or tearing the tip off) and I take my knife back to the sharpening stone.