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.  big_smile

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.
http://www.sears.com/shc/s/search_10153_12605?keyword=nail+punch&x=0&y=0
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:
http://www.acehardwaresuperstore.com/general-file--tool-handle-adjustable-handle-holds-p-14789.html?ref=42
I get the blades from Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/Freud-C310-4-Inch-8-Inch-Jointer/dp/B00004RK6L/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&s=hi&qid=1250356310&sr=1-16
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.

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

Love the new topic, Trent!

I am always on the look-out for old German straight-razors -- the kind once used for shaving.  Flea markets and antique shops are usually a good bet.  They are double hollow ground, and if you find one with enough "meat" left on it, they re-grind into wonderful reed knives.  Some are even ideal for oboe reed finishing work.  I have about a half dozen of them, and they share the same type of multipurpose handle that your link points to.  On your hunt, you will find that the price is often based on the type & condition of the fold-up handle, not the blade.  So, you can find a great piece of steel (some are MUCH better than most of the purpose-made reed knives available) attached to a broken handle (you'll probably be discarding the handle, anyway) for a song!  If you're especially handy, you can make a custom wood handle for your favorite "new" knife.

I also collect antique cigarette cases, which I turn into stunningly beautiful (if I do say so myself!) reed cases.  I made a simple jig for bending velvet-covered tin strips into the perfect oboe reed ribbon-type holders -- any size (1-25 reeds) or color.

Also, as a reed-thread alternative, visit your local car upholsterer.  They use the same type of machine-twist nylon rope that most of us use for our reeds.  Most of it is too thin, but sometimes they'll have something similar to our "EE" or "F" strength available.  I spent $20 on a spool a little smaller than a roll of paper towels -- a lifetime supply! 

I look forward to reading more posts on this topic!

Happy tinkering!

Jonathan Marzluf
Owner, Marzluf Reeds
SoCal Freelancer/Educator
www.marzlufreeds.com

Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

And don't forget the great reamer discussed in the Bassoon Reed section, topic "Reamer Decisions...Help".
The DIY reamer detailed by ortreed would fit this category perfectly.

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Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

Hi All:



       For many years I used a Stanley brand scratch awl from the hardware store for a bassoon forming mandrel. I looked at some of the off brand ones but none of them had the righ diamater except the Stanley brand name.

      I later wound up measuring the tapered half, and copying it in brass, aluminum, or stainless steel for non corrosive reasons, and so that i could put it in a more comfortable handle. I used this setup for the first 3 years of my reedmaking life, and I later switched to using the Rieger mandrels for my work.

       I also built my own dial gauge, I would bought an import dial indicator gauge, and built the frame out of scrap aluminum, and stainless steel rod for the feeler arm. Using nothing more than a drill press, a measuring tape, a few threading taps, and a few nuts and bolts, It took me 3 days to do it with such basic tools but it worked very well. I think the total cost to build it was 30 bucks for the gauge, about 5 bucks for the scrap metal stock from a welding shop, and another 5 bucks for the nuts and bolts.

      I hope this helps any questions or concerns, let me know.

                                                                      Best Regards,

                                                                         Chad

Taylor Bassoon Services
723 Steamboat Ct
Ottawa, IL 61350
PH-815-343-2492

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Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

My first beveled knife was made from a file. I often still use it with my old Pfeiffer beveled knife. The old straight razor idea is great for hollow ground knives.

For quite a few years I used an x-acto #11 for shaping cane, initial collar work, etc. I now use a better, albeit more dangerous (thank you, Jim Poe!), solution: stainless steel surgical blades! One can purchase a comfortable handle for $7.00 and 100 blades for $26.95 (when I purchased them online from www.havels.com, it was buy 1, get 1 free, so I purchased 200 blades for $26.95, almost a lifetime supply). The blades are HS25's.

For reed-soaking cups, the Tupperware "Classic Midgets" cannot be beat-- they only start leaking after a decade or so. Rather than pay $5-6.00, one can obtain them direct www.tupperware.com in a set of 6 for $10.50... combine with friends!

David Bell
Alexandria, VA

David Bell
Alexandria, VA
amateur bassoon and contra bassoon

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Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

I made a case myself

http://physics.gu.se/~frtbm/kasten1.jpg

It is a slightly modified version of a case I saw in
and old  IDRS journal. The most expensive parts
were the handles which I had made.

I have also made about ten different bassoon
handrests myself (trying to find the ideal form).
I cut a block of hardwood to the desired thickness,
cut out the approximate shape with a stick saw, and
drill the hole for the pin (while the piece is can still
be easily fixed with a clamp for precise drilling).
Then I work with a file and sandpaper (grit 80 to 1200).
It takes about 4 hours of filing...
Finally I epoxy the pin and oil the piece.

I also make my bassoon straps myself, out of discarded
leather bits, string, and a piece pearl of hardwood to adjust
the length.

The list could be made  longer. The trouble is that the time
had perhaps been better spent practising.

I have met a bassoonist in Seattle who
made his own pro U-tube out of hardwood by grinding
out a circular half-tube, cutting the piece in the middle
and glueing the halves together.

Sincerely

Bernhard

Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

Bernhard Mehlig wrote:

I have met a bassoonist in Seattle who
made his own pro U-tube out of hardwood by grinding
out a circular half-tube, cutting the piece in the middle
and glueing the halves together.

OK, that's hardcore.

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

Here's how you make a forming/holding mandrel, reamer, and multi-blade knife in one.

Get an x-acto knife and buy a single forming and holding mandrel tips from Christlieb products. The mandrel tips are fairly inexpensive and the x-acto knife is around $3-4. There you go, you have 2 types of mandrels.

For a reamer, there's a lot of posts and search them because you can take a fluted drill bit (64' something (search the forum the site with the bit is there)) and you put it in the x-acto knife, there you go, you have a reamer that's even replaceable if damaged!

Knife, x-acto knife sets have all sorts of knives, allowing you to choose what you want.

Also, the best reed knife ever (learned from Cal State Fullerton bassoon teacher) is the Victorinox Swiss Army Grafter Knife. It has the exact curve as a bassoon knife which allows you to shape perfectly even. The professor sells her reeds starting from tube cane and makes some of the best reeds I've ever seen, ever. My teacher bought one of her reeds and they are so fantastic she won't play them for anything less than a serious concert and buys the reeds to use as templates for her own work, so you know the idea comes from someone with some experience.

If you need to use any of the tools (mandrel, reamer, knife) at the same time, you can just get another x-acto.

Total cost of basic tools: $20 (?)
Cost of grafter knife (better than the expensive knives, trust me here): $15-$18


Just my $0.02

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Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

What a great thread!

Trent -- thanks for the link to the file handle from ace.  my former teacher had told me "just go to the ACE hardware and ask them for it" and all it bought me was blank stares.

Jonathan -- would you be able to provide any more details re: how to make the velvet ribbon for the purposes of converting cigarette cases.  I tried to do this once but my results were, well, unappealing.

Thanks.

Ross

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Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

I simply steal my friends' tools. smile

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Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

Well, Ross, you asked for it!

I'm no "master craftsman," so please forgive my layman's version of technical instructions, and for my mixture of English vs. Metric measurements:

First, I made a "folding jig" out of a 1X2X7" scrap piece of hardwood from my brother's wood shop (I think it's red heart).  Using a drill press with a built-in parallel guide/sled thingy, I drilled a row of evenly spaced 4mm diameter holes, 9mm apart, and a parallel row (offset by 4mm, and placed BETWEEN the 4mm holes) of 2mm diameter holes, like this:  o*o*o*o*o*o*o

I then cut some solid brass rod stock (from the hardware store) of the same diameters into 2" lengths, which I now call "pins."

To fold the ribbon, you just insert the pins one at a time into the holes, and wrap the ribbon around the pins as you go -- back and forth. 

The ribbon itself is a 1.5cm wide strip of .013" thick tin (sold as "punch metal," in 12X18" sheets, at Michael's craft store).  I cover the tin in cotton velveteen fabric, using spray adhesive.  The fabric edges will be hidden on the bottom of the ribbon.

Once the ribbon is folded into a reed holder, I cut it to exact length using my tin snips, and glue it into place using two-part epoxy.  I also glue down a straight (not folded) strip of ribbon parallel to the holder ribbon, where the reed corks will rest (I call this the "cushion") -- positioning it so the reeds will hang over the bottom just a bit, allowing you to press on the bottom of the reed to "pop" it out of the holder.  I recommend mounting the holder ribbon on a strip of leather (or something similar) in order to elevate it from the "deck" of your reed case a bit higher than the cushion.

That about does it.  Sorry if any of this is unclear.  Please feel free to contact me, or post another question, if you like.

Take care!

Last edited by Jonathan Marzluf (2009-09-11 23:45:44)

Jonathan Marzluf
Owner, Marzluf Reeds
SoCal Freelancer/Educator
www.marzlufreeds.com

Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

Mr. Marzluf, would you happen to have any photos of the outside and inside of the reed case?

Also, funny enough my bassoon teacher says he sees you at Fullerton a lot (he's a student there: Mr. Ruvalcaba-bassoonist). He told me he passed by your office yesterday.

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Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

So, Thom, that's where my tip-profiler went! (just kidding, I don't even own a profiler).

What happened to the old Sucrets box as a reed case, aside from the fact that Sucrets no longer uses the tin box (I think Justin Miller has found the manufacturer of same)... I still use my old Sucrets box to measure and hold wire-- the perfect length!

David Bell
Alexandria, VA

David Bell
Alexandria, VA
amateur bassoon and contra bassoon

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Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

Inre knife sharpening, I got tireder faster trying to keep my water stones flat. So I went to the scary sharp sand paper method of using progressively  finer wet/dry grits, starting with 320 going up to 2000…glued onto 7/32" (nominal 1/4") plate glass with 3M 77. In between weekly five minute sanding sessions I use crock sticks & burnisher. Works great. I saw a TV program recently on Discovery (How It's Made) where they explained the manufacturing process of Cutco kitchen knives. They were using a belt sander to hone the edges.

QED

Best,

john

Best,

john

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Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

A very good cheap reed knife: Opinel #8 stainless steel knife. It's a design that's been around for over 100 years and is cheap enough (under $20) to justify keeping one for shaping cane, one for working on reeds, and one for food when you're camping... or on tour. The handle is comfortable, the steel is easy to sharpen, and the curved blade is perfect for precision work.

Last edited by levesque_montreal (2009-09-13 05:21:39)

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Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

The Grafter is the best knife. Got the idea from the lead bassoonist in the LA Philharmonic. It is in an IDENTICAL shape to the reed so shave even each time.

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Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

OK, let's not make this a "best knife" thread.  It doesn't matter if you use a paring knife as long as you get results and are comfortable using it.

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

bssn2 wrote:

What happened to the old Sucrets box as a reed case, aside from the fact that Sucrets no longer uses the tin box (I think Justin Miller has found the manufacturer of same)... I still use my old Sucrets box to measure and hold wire-- the perfect length!

Altoids still uses little tin boxes. tongue

Matt Nickel
Bassoon and Contrabasoon, Red Deer Symphony Orchestra
MM, University of Michigan

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Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

True, Nick, but the Sucrets tins are the perfect length for (pre-cut) wire! :0)
Michael. listen to Trent!

David Bell
Alexandria, VA

David Bell
Alexandria, VA
amateur bassoon and contra bassoon

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Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

Alright, alright, just a suggestion but I find it to be great. Take a look at the curve, tell me what it looks like big_smile

http://www.sellall101.com/Images/K100-53561.Jpg

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Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

Per Mr. Partlow's request, here are some photos of a few recently completed reed cases.  These beautiful wood boxes were made by an oboist's father in Illinois, and sent to me for finishing into reed cases.  (This type of case may become available at Marzlufreeds.com in the near future, if you are interested, or you may contact me if you have a box/case that you would like to have converted.)  My point, however, is that this type of thing can be made rather cheaply at home, if you are motivated to do so!

http://picasaweb.google.com/JMarzluf/MarzlufReedCases200902#

Jonathan Marzluf
Owner, Marzluf Reeds
SoCal Freelancer/Educator
www.marzlufreeds.com

Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

Thanks and yes.  Zebrawood, Paduck and Wenge are the three types of wood used for the large multi-colored case shown, which has spaces for both oboe and English horn reeds.

Last edited by Jonathan Marzluf (2009-09-22 17:06:32)

Jonathan Marzluf
Owner, Marzluf Reeds
SoCal Freelancer/Educator
www.marzlufreeds.com

Re: The "Cheap Alternatives" thread

Wow those are beautiful! If you sell them at a good price I'd be the first to get one! (that is if you made a bassoon one)

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