Topic: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread
Partially in reaction to several posts regarding the cost of playing a double reed, I thought I'd start this post.
In several other forums I go to there is a strong Do It Yourself theme among forum users. This goes across fields, from a guitar forum to pets to a video game forum. I'm a strong proponent of DIY equipment and the idea of "getting your hands dirty" as you not only learn some new and interesting skills by building things, but you can often save some money if not in the short term (due to other tool purchases you might need), in the long run. I've gone so far as to learn how to solder delicate electronics, drill into metal enclosures, and some basic woodworking. It's come in handy around the house. I was terrible in shop class in junior high school.
So I propose a thread that people share their "cheap alternatives" to things bassoon and oboe related. Reed making, instrument care, sheet music, whatever. I'll start.
Bassoon mandrel alternative. In a pinch, a nail punch can function as a mandrel. You can get really long skinny pointed ones that can function as a preliminary forming mandrel, or a short stubby one that works as a holding mandrel.
You can get these at a local hardware store for just a few dollars. Not the most ergonomic, and you might have to find just the right one to fit the tube of a reed, but they do the job well enough if you don't have a specifically designed mandrel.
Build your own BIG knife. I picked this idea up from the oboe teacher at my undergrad. He used this knife to cut away the bark on his oboe reeds before switching to a $150 knife for the fine scraping. This is my primary knife. What I like about it is that the blades come in 3-packs, so when one finally gets dull after 5 years or so, I just throw the blade out and replace it with a new one! No need to buy a sharpening stone! The only option is for a Single Bevel knife, but you can make one left or right handed. You need a Multi-Tool handle like this one:
I get the blades from Amazon.com
You need to file away part of the handle to fit the blade.
Plaques. Guitar picks can be used as a flat plaque in a pinch. I personally don't use a flat plaque for anything, but it's a viable alternative. They cost about a quarter each.
Easels. A 1" diameter dowel rod will function fine as an easel for most uses. They're typically a really soft wood, so they wear out quickly, but usually a 3 foot long dowel is just a few dollars and you can get a dozen or so easels out of it so when they wear out you can just throw them out with little guilt.
Thread. I use a roll of cotton thread I bought for $1 at Wal*Mart for wrapping my reeds. It's white, so I color it with nail polish after I coat it with duco cement. I've been on the same spool of thread for 6 years and it doesn't even look like I've used any of it.
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds