Topic: Gougers versus hardness testers

After reading the latest messages on hardness testing equipment I wonder if bassoonists trying to determine hardness of gouged canes would be better off spending their money on gougers rather than on expensive hardness testing equipment.  I know that my rate of reed success grew considerably when I started gouging my own cane. Naturally, it took some time to learn the details of the gouging process but the results have been well worth the trouble.  I'd be interested to hear what other bassoonists who use gougers have to share on this topic.

Dale Clark

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Re: Gougers versus hardness testers

Hi Dale:
I don't gouge my cane but I have always wondered why there aren't more bassoonists who gouge their own cane.  Most professional oboists do, I think.  I remember when the Philadelphia Orchestra purchased a gouger for their bassoon section, Mr. Garfield told me the section tried it and then gave up on it but I don't remember the reasons.  I am interested in hearing success stories too.  Is the time worth the results?  Thanks, Kent

Dr. Kent Moore
Principal Lecturer In Bassoon and Theory
Northern Arizona University

Re: Gougers versus hardness testers

Hi Dale,
I own a gouger, electric motor driven, and capable of gouging 3 pieces a minute of split cane- no pregouge. I prefer to gouge my own cane because I can control the thickness - but equally important, select the right tube diameters and straight pieces I want to make reeds from.
Prior to owning a gouger, I had no trouble finding cane the right thichness. However, it often required careful inspection and selection of cane for the other parameters that are important.
Now, to the point: I have completed numerous hardness tests on cane, properly gouged. I use a Mahr tester from "Reeds n Stuff". No matter the supplier, I found a fairly normal distribution of hardness - from too soft, mid range, and too hard. This data was published in the IDRS journal a couple of years ago.
I believe that a hardness tester is a valuable tool in reed making - but you have to be careful  when you use it. Checking hardness on a piece of steel is straight forward - on a piece of wood is another matter. You can get fooled by checking one point.
I would be happy to tell you the method I use to properly sort cane hardness. I think it is a very valuable tool in reed making.
                                                                                          Jim Poe

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Re: Gougers versus hardness testers

Hi Jim:
I know what you mean about being careful checking the hardness on just one point of the cane.  I usually check in the middle and if it easily falls in my range of 17-22 then I leave it.  If it is close or just outside the range, then I retest it on another spot in the middle and perhaps also on one or both ends of the reed and take an average.  Sometimes it is a difficult decision to keep the cane or not.  Kent

Dr. Kent Moore
Principal Lecturer In Bassoon and Theory
Northern Arizona University

Re: Gougers versus hardness testers

As far as gouging oboe cane, it makes all the  difference in the  world. You have total  control over the  process, at least post-harvest. As Jonathan Dlouhy has so ably pointed out, it is eminently possible to manipulate split cane to straighten it, provided it is done immediately after splitting. Thus the wastage is minimized greatly. I normally get two to three decent pieces of gouged cane per tube. The cost of the gouger is recouped within the  third or fourth year. At the going rate of $3 apiece or so for each tailormade gouged piece, the economics of owning a gouger makes good sense.

Best,

john

Best,

john

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Re: Gougers versus hardness testers

Hi Kent,
You might try this method: use a set test time, i.e., 4 seconds: test in the area of each collar (1st wire location). If the readings agree, record the reading. If for example,one is 18 and one is 20, I average the two - record a 19 in this case. If the reading is wildly different from end to end, say for example 16/20,  throw the piece out. However, here is another place to be careful. Sometimes the impression ball starts on a peak of a rough gouge area and then falls off during the test. A repeat test nearby the first test may indicate it is really a 16.
One can see at this point how important the gouged surface is. My machine generates a very smooth surface, yet  occasionally I run into this with my cane - but, most gouged cane that I see on the market is not smooth and should be sanded first. If you lightly run your fingernail cross grain you will see what I mean. And, a very smooth cane surface will increase any read maker's success ratio.
As I said before, we should not expect results similar to hardness testing steel. Readings within within + or - a point are the best we can expect, in my opinion. I think you are on the right track - and I hope my comments will be of some benefit to you.
                                                                           Regards,
                                                                                   Jim

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Re: Gougers versus hardness testers

Very interesting Jim.  I hadn't thought about the roughness of the cane affecting the readings maybe because mine seems quite smooth even though I don't sand it.  I use an eccentric gouge so I am also careful to take the readings in the middle of the sides.  Thanks, as always.  Kent

Dr. Kent Moore
Principal Lecturer In Bassoon and Theory
Northern Arizona University

Re: Gougers versus hardness testers

Hi Jim,

Don't you find it true that the natural anomalies in the bark and slight waves in the cane also have an effect in hardness measurements.  For instance, it's not always easy to see, but in the length of a piece of cane there can easily be .1 mm difference in the thickess of a piece gouged cane at one of these anomalies, waves, or whatever you want to call it.  At that point you might get a different hardness reading than elsewhere on the cane but, because of the slight effect this has on the whole product, the piece of cane might still make a great reed.  I'd be interested in your ideas on this.

Thanks,
Dale

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Re: Gougers versus hardness testers

Hi Dale,
This is a good question, and reflects again the fact that we are dealing with as Mark Popkin calls it a "vegetable" - far from perfect in many respects. I have studied what happens to cane hardness as gouge thickness varies. The article that Dr. Kent Moore mentions above includes a section on the subject. As you know, the cane gets harder as you get closer to the rind. My studies indicate that it requires approx. .15mm change to impact the hardness by one point( if my memory serves me correctly). I concluded that minor variations in thickness less than that did not significantly effect hardness. On the other hand, it follows that users of eccentric vs concentric gouge will see a difference in there reeds. Also eccentric gouge cane users need to pay attention to staying on centerline to accurately check hardness, as Dr. Kent Moore indicates.
How we sellect cane is very important: I have learned to hold a pice of cane against a straight edge, before gouging, to make sure it is as straight as possible. also, I don't want to work on a piece of cane that is concentric on one end and eccentric on the other.
As to your point on cane that is at the boundaries of readings you like, here is where adding the flexibility reading can help. If I had a piece of cane a point softer than I like, but it's flexibility was lower, I would choose to work on that piece - and visa versa.
Sorry for the long answer - a lot of points to cover. Hope this has answered your question.
                               Regards,
                                       Jim

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