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The following list is an explanation of the tools and supplies used in the making of bassoon reeds and sources for their acquisition.
Cane: For beginning reed makers, I suggest the purchase of cane that has been gouged, profiled, and shaped. I recommend Womble/Williams profiled cane which has a current price of $40.00 per ten. If you have the machinery (and time) to gouge, profile, and shape a cane you can make reeds for as little as $0.20 per reed.
Brass Wire, 22 Gauge: This is used to hold the reed together, adjust the opening of the reed, and keep the butt of the reed round. It can be purchased by the ounce, the quarter pound, and the pound. It can be found at your local hardware store, at double reed specialty shops, and at jewelers supply stores. WW sells 1/4th pound spools for $12.50.
Shoestring/Butchers Twine: You use this to wrap around the reed blank prior to forming the reed to keep the cane from excessive cracking. I suggest fairly narrow shoestring because if it gets too wide, it is difficult to get enough wraps around the reed to properly support the cane.
Wrapping Thread: Any strong, thick string can be used for wrapping the butt end of the reed. Some people prefer nylon, others cotton string. One thing to remember is that the thicker the string, the quicker it will be to wrap the reed. You can pick the colors you want for the reed of your choice! Costs can be from one dollar for enough string to wrap 100 reeds to $25.00 for Rieger nylon thread. Thread can be purchased anywhere that sells sewing or craft supplies. Michael's crafts sell crochet thread in multiple colors for less than two dollars a roll. I have switched to using hot glitter glue to wrap my reeds in the past three years. It seems to work very well, has no odor, and is much easier on your hands!
Thread Sealer: I use DUCO Plastic Cement over and under the wrapping of my reed to cement the wrapping to the reed and seal the wrapping thread. This is available at most hardware stores in the area. Other materials for this include nail polish, both clear and colored, enamel paint, and Bee's wax for those who are more organically inclined.
Pliers: I use Rieger reed pliers for forming reeds and a pair of miniature linesman pliers for day to day reed work after the reed has been formed. The local hardware store is the most economical place for the purchase of pliers. It should be remembered that when forming a reed, a great amount of pressure is put on the bark of the reed, and the smoother the jaws of the pliers, the better. When adjusting the wires of a reed, a pair of pliers with an oval cutout will help keep the wires in proper shape. Pliers sold by double reed specialty shops come at a premium. We sell the Rieger pliers for $50 each and believe they are worth every penny!
Holding Mandrel: This tool is used to hold and support the reed when working on finishing the reed. It has a larger diameter tip than a forming mandrel so that it does not go into the reed as far as the forming mandrel. This allows the plaque to be inserted fully into the reed. Mandrels can only be found at specialty shops and sell for $15.00 and up. The WW holding mandrel is a copy of the mandrel made by the machinist Fred Pfiefer in the 1960s. We are selling it for $15.
Forming Mandrel: This tool is used in the forming of the bassoon reed. It is narrower than the holding mandrel and comes in many different designs. Some have marks for inserting the mandrel into the reed so that a uniform butt opening can be made. These are also specialty shop items and sell for $20.00 and up. If you use the hot mandrel technique for forming your reeds, you will want to be sure that the handle is "heatable" and will not melt or induct heat. The WW-forming mandrel is made from stainless steel with a phenolic handle that can be used with heat. It sells for $20 and is a copy of a similar mandrel made by Fred Pfeifer.
Alcohol Lamp: This tool is used for heating the forming mandrel when forming reeds. It leaves no carbon residue on the mandrel or in the reed and heats at a low enough temperature so as to not scorch the reed if used carefully. These can be found in shops that sell scientific supplies, specialty shops, and good hardware stores. We sell these for $10, and you must use denatured alcohol found in hardware stores in these lamps.
Plaques: Plaques are used to support the reed from the inside when scraping, filing, or sanding the outside of the blade. They come in many shapes. I prefer the arrowhead, thin belly style. Guitar picks can be used, but they offer no inside support, and I don't recommend them. We sell an excellent metal plaque for $15 and the Rieger plastic plaque for $3. Both work well.
Rulers: Rulers are necessary to ensure consistency in wire placement, blade length, etc. I prefer stainless steel rulers, 6 inches in length in 64th-inch increments. These can be found at your local hardware stores for around $2.00 to $5.00. We sell a very fine ruler with English measurements on one side and metric on the other for $5.
Reed Knives: The knife is the most important tool in your toolbox. Knives come in many different styles; beveled, hollow ground, folding, straight, etc., and you can pay from $20.00 to $100.00 for them. My favorite knives are an old straight razor I use for scraping that I bought from my barber when I was 16 and a Victernoix pruning knife that I use for everything but scraping. A good knife can be sharpened and will hold its edge. We sell straight razors mounted in a wooden handle for $75 and the Victernoix knife for $25.
Sharpening Stone: It's important to be able to sharpen your knife. A good sharpening stone is necessary for this. I use a Norton India stone that is available from good hardware stores and shops specializing in cutting tools. An eight-inch by two-inch India stone costs around $15.00.
Reed Files: I use a Revlon diamond nail file bought at CVS Drug for $5.00 and a Grobet Swiss pillar file that cost me $20.00 from a jewelry supply store as my day-to-day files. Files are used to take the cane out of the back of the reed and to even out knife cuts. WW sells diamond triangle files for $20.
Reamers: Reamers are used to round out a poorly formed reed to seal around the bocal and to allow the reed to fit on the bocal further. They are basically a drill that has the same taper as the bocal. It's hard to find a reamer that cuts with the correct taper cleanly. Reeds should only be reamed when they are completely dry. Fox sells a bassoon reamer for $24.00, while the Reiger and Popkin reamers sell for around $95.00. You usually get what you pay for in a reamer. WW has both spiral and diamond reamers that are made for us that we believe are the best available for $85 diamond and $95 spiral.
Easel: The easel is used for supporting the cane when scoring and hand profiling. it can be as simple as a 6-inch piece of a wooden broomstick to a commercial hardwood easel. I use a 1 1/8" hardwood dowel cut up into 6 1/2" lengths.
Tip Cutter/Cutting Block: There are several ways to cut the end of the reed off when finishing. I have used a flush cutting-end nipper for several years that I purchased from a jewelry supply store for around $50.00. These can be purchased for less if you do not need them to be flush cutting. The use of a cutting block and knife is the old-fashioned way of cutting the top and the least expensive. Fox sells cutting blocks for $11.95. My wife uses scissors for her oboe/English horn reeds, but I have never had good results using them on bassoon reeds. Rieger has come out with a beautiful machine for this that sells for $225.00. The advantage of this tool is that it cuts the reed off straight.
Sandpaper: Sandpaper is used to put a smooth finish on the reed and to free up a nearly finished reed when you are afraid to scrape or file it. It's an equaling tool that takes out file and knife marks and thins the tip of the reed fairly safely. I use 320 and 400 pieces of wet or dry paper in small pieces. It can be found at your local hardware store.
Tool Case: If your bassoon case has a box with a top that closes well, you can keep your tools in it. If you wish, you can purchase a tool case for this purpose. Cavallaro makes one that sells for $18.50.
Sanding Easel: WW sells a sanding easel made of plexiglass and sandpaper in 20, 40, and 60 micron grits. This is used for sanding the inside of the cane before the reed is formed and sells for $10.
With the above supplies and tools, you should be able to turn a piece of cane that has been gouged, shaped, and profiled into a finished reed. How that reed plays is up to you and your reed making skill. Have patience, work slowly, and you will succeed. I would try to not buy the most expensive items unless I was going into music as a profession. Satisfactory results can be had with any of the above-mentioned items. Remember, it takes time to learn this difficult but rewarding task. Good luck and happy reed making!