Re: Reamer decisions…. HELP!

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Home Forums Reeds The Bassoon Reed Room Reamer decisions…. HELP! Re: Reamer decisions…. HELP!

Matthew Harvell

Hello, all,

I have about 10 reamers in my cabinet. Old Christlieb that Mr. Herzberg gave me all the way through a tapered file that someone once recommended including in that a Popkin, a Fox, and both of the Rieger models. For whatever it is worth, here are my thoughts:

If one used Barry’s tips (I’ve got them, they work if you use the right shaper/tube length or one similar) or simply chooses a forming technique (including but not limited to the type of bevel used, the timing of said bevel’s application, the shape of the forming mandrel, etc.) that allows the tube to ob-and retain a particular taper then reaming can be minimal. Remember, simply placing a reed on a bocal to a certain depth (which, incidentally to this conversation, is a HUGE variable that many people overlook) will ream it over time. This being said,

The drill bit that everyone mentions is great to a purpose, namely, getting an approximate taper. I have found that it cuts really quickly however. Once one is used to this it can be fine. My experience is that many students or others who make few reeds can use this quickness of wood removal to detriment in that he/she will often ream off-center and can cut through the wall of the tube (depending on gouge thickness, bevel, shape and forming mandrel).

Also remember that every one of these reamers will change the shape of your reed – internally, that is. Each will produce in front of the bocal a different taper and this taper will introduce a huge number of variables regarding air speed and reed volume to the bocal. I have found that as little as twist or two of a reamer that opens the throat between wires one and two will change the pitch of my reed, with all other things being equal, in the so-called “money” or “cash” register (“Mozart” Bb to the G above) by 5–10 cents or a bit more, certainly enough to notice in most of our audition excerpts. So, consistency in use and careful notes about the changes between these tools is at least as important as the shaper one uses.

All of this being said, _in my use_, I have found a very good forming mandrel produced by Hans Wisse (a fantastic player and a very good reed maker of both bassoon and contra reeds, BTW) of the Rotterdam Phil. with a taper that seems to represent the correct taper and the correct throat volume for my instrument of choice. I may not form my reed with this tool, depending upon my shape and gouge and even forming technique (wet vs. dry wrap, for an example) but given this ideal mandrel/taper for me and my axe, I ream my reeds at the appropriate time with a Rieger spiral and clean up with a Rieger diamond reamer. IF the reed, given the shape, bevel, etc. doesn’t match the taper of this mandrel to a predetermined distance on its taper then I will try to determine _where_ the restriction is presented. If it is in the throat then I can use my Popkin reamer to open the reed up a bit and try again. If at the butt then I will use the Rieger diamond reamer to help me out (I use the diamond reamer a bunch when the reed is wet, it works quite well for this). When this mandrel fits the reed perfectly then I know that my scraping will work as well as it can given my humanness and the variables inherent in the cane proper.

Make sense? Basically, find a taper on a mandrel that works well for your primary equipment and _then_ choose the tools to get you there. It may be cheap and easy or it may be expensive and hard to obtain depending on forming technique, gouge thickness, and all that…what we’re after here is consistency to an ideal taper in terms of _both_ bocal fit and air speed/internal shape volume, not a particular tool or method of use.

Hope this helps and makes sense,

Matthew Harvell
Richmond Symphony Orchestra

Gene Carter wrote:
Hi Kevin,

I have not experienced any problems getting the Rieger spiral reamer and diamond coated finisher to make reeds that fit Moosmann bocals. Keep in mind that the Moosmann bocals vary in tip diameter. The narrower tips (I’m holding an A1 GD right now) will not require your blanks to be reamed as deeply in order to fit properly. Also, I’ve found that reaming a blank wet does nothing but produce a mess of fibers and fuzz inside the tube that must be cleaned up later and leaves you guessing as to whether it is going to fit on the bocal once it all dries out. Also, the diamond coated finisher should not be expected to go into the bore of the reed as far as the spiral reamer. I find that for a “standard” tip bocal the finisher goes into the tube until about 3 to 5 mm. remains unembedded, while for a “narrow” tip bocal it should leave 4 to 8 mm. outside the tube. Using this approach might give you a better fit.