Reedmaking Tutorial Playlist
Reccomended Reed Tools
Pliers- The first tool that every bassoonist should have is a small pair of pliers to adjust the tip opening and throat aperture. My preferred pliers are the Nexus bassoon pliers, although just about any 4.5" linesman pliers will do.
Toothbrush- Did you know that there is a very affordable reed tool that not only extends the life of your reed, but also prevents your pads from sticking?! Plus, it keeps your bocal from building up a nasty sludge which can wreak havoc on your intonation and projection. It does this all the while freshening your breath and preventing gum disease. Brush your teeth before playing whenever possible! Your old toothbrush can also be great for cleaning reeds, reamers and diamond files. You’re welcome!
Opaque Plastic Plaque- Although a plastic plaque will eventually wear out, it will cause far less wear on your knife and files than metal. It can also be easier to see the translucency of the reed tip through a black or red plaque. Though any plaque will do, I have a slight preference for Rieger plaques because I think their shape makes it just a little bit easier to see the contours of the reed and scrape (at least for Herzberg shaped reeds).
Holding Mandrel: Unlike a forming mandrel, the pin of a holding mandrel does not go so far into the reed as to prevent a plaque from fitting. Personally, I like Berdon mandrels as they are sturdy and have a non-round handle which can be especially useful if you don’t have a tip-cutter. Unfortunately they are no longer being made, although I have a handful available for my students and Keith Bowen also sells the remaining inventory. But really, any holding mandrel will do.
400 Grit wet/dry sandpaper- Sandpaper does a few things for your reed: It cleans the surface to make it easier to see the scrape. It can remove dead skin cells, bacteria, and other guck, extending the reed’s life and vibrance. It also has an effect on the pores on the surface of the reed. These pores hold water, so sanding can make it more consistent. I find 400 the optimal grit for this as anything higher is so smooth that it can actually repel water. Anything more coarse takes too much cane off. I like 3M Pro series because it seems to last a little longer, but it really doesn't matter what brand you get.
Grobet Swiss pattern 00 6" extra narrow pillar file, and also a Grobet 6.25" Square Cut 2 Swiss needle file. For years I found files to be a useless to work with on bassoon reeds. Finally I discovered that I simply never had really good files, now I use them far more than a knife KEEP YOUR FILES CLEAN AND DRY!
Wire Brush- You MUST have a wire brush to keep your files clean! Wire brushes come in brass or stainless steel of all sizes. Because brass is softer, stains files, and is often smelted with lead, I prefer a toothbrush sized stainless steel brush like this one. NEVER USE A WIRE BRUSH TO CLEAN A REAMER OR DIAMOND FILE! Don't use it on your teeth either!
Reamer- Having a reed that fits well on your bocal not only prevents your reed from falling off, but it also improves sound projection and prevents the blades of your reed from slipping apart. A bad or dull reamer can actually cause blade-slippage as it creates more torque on the reed. I really like this Nexus Spiral Reamer with ergonomic handle.
Diamond Reamer- I went without one of these for almost 20 years and still use mine rarely. This is basically a file for the tube of the reed. It can be useful if the tube is not perfectly round and causes air to leak from the side of the bocal. It is also good at removing guck from the tube. Once again, I find the Nexus Diamond Reamers to be great. DO NOT CLEAN A DIAMOND FILE OR REAMER WITH A WIRE BRUSH. Use a soft brush and water instead. Although it’s fine to use a reamer on a wet reed, ALWAYS KEEP YOUR REAMER CLEAN AND DRY.
Reed Knife- There are so many knives and styles out there. I can’t say I have tried more than a handful. As I have become more fond of my files, I use my knife rarely, but still find it important, especially when finishing a blank. If you’re just starting out, you could probably get away with not having one for a while. If you do get one, I find double-hollow ground knives more versatile, although they are slightly more difficult to sharpen than a beveled edge. I currently use the one made by LC Double Reeds, which is really well-made for the price. Keep your knife clean and dry when not using it. If you’re going to buy a knife, it’s worthless without a sharpening stone.
Sharpening Stone- There are so many different types of sharpening stones out there. Some require oil, while others are to be used dry or with water. I’m sure people have really strong opinions about their favorite stone, but I have always used an Eze-Lap superfine diamond stone. It’s simple, cost effective, and works great with water or dry.
Magnifier- Have you ever looked at your reed and been totally unsure of what you see or just nodded cluelessly while your teacher criticizes your rails? Yeah, me too! I use a cheap 3x magnifying glass with its own light and built-in stand that folds up small and find it quite helpful.
Reeds N stuff Tip Cutter. I don't think a tip cutter is absolutely necessary, especially for what they cost, but if you're going to splurge, you may as well get the best. This one cuts the blades to the exact same length, unlike a rotary blade such as a the Rieger tip cutter. Unlike a plier-style cutter, it cuts perfectly straight. You can certainly use a reed knife or straight edge razor blade and cutting bock instead, however.
LC Cornelison Forming mandrel pins- (The handle and drying racks are great and worth the extra money if you don't already have these things)
R.J. Leahy 22 gauge yellow brass wire- Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. But often, particularly in “soft brass,” LEAD is added as well! While I have never heard of bassoonists getting lead poisoning from their reeds, it isn’t really scientific proof that lead in brass wire doesn’t leech into reed water and cause some form of brain damage (just think of how long it took for humanity to discover the ill-effects of lead paint and gasoline). I have been assured by R.J. Leahy that no lead is used in making their brass wire. The red brass is more brittle and stretchy so I generally don't prefer it but think and can be beneficial as the first wire.