In Podcast Nr. 7, Jürgen and I talk about a special kind of gouging which can be described as profiling but on the INSIDE of the cane. As shown in this picture above. This is a back-lit photo of a piece of cane for Baroque oboe (diameter ca 15m). In this picture, the bark is completely in tact.
This is a historical method of reed making. You can find an excellent picture of the tools on the website of Instrument maker, Leslie Ross. For a very well-written guide, visit the website of Jennifer Harris. Here she references historical sources Etienne Ozzi Novelle methode de bassoon 1787 and Carl Almenräder’s Kunst des Fagottblasens 1842 and includes easy to follow instructions for DIY reed making. She includes a wonderful English translation of the Almendäder in her PDF “Reed making according to historical methods.”
Oboists please note, we are using the sources from our bassoon colleagues. The bassoonists captured more clearly this technique in their sources and our colleagues like Ms. Harris and Ms. Ross are using these techniques to great advantage in their playing, teaching and instrument making. More on the advantages of profiled gouging later or check out this PDF “Notes on internally scraped reeds” by Leslie Ross.
As Ms. Harris describes the historical way to do profiled gouging is with a scraper and some fine sand paper or horsetail.
Jürgen used what he calls his “cheat”* method by preparing a gouging machine with duct tape as shown here. Please note that he leaves the center of the gouging bed free. This serves two purposes. Firstly, he leaves the holes free so that the vacuum action is left intact and secondly, it protects the thick center of the cane, thereby preserving it’s integrity and stability when finishing.
Jürgen took already gouged cane (modern oboe cane gouged to ca 58 micrometers at the center and Baroque oboe cane gouged to ca 70 micrometers at the thickest part in the center).
Here are the measurements he used in his experiments:
Modern oboe cane
Cane diameter: 10,5 mm
Standard gouge: 0.58 mm at center, 0.42 mm at sides
Profiled gouge: 0.50 mm at center, 0.30 mm at sides
Finished reed: 0.12 mm at tip center, 0.8-0.10 mm at sides (this measurement remains constant, whether he builds a reed with the usual scraping method on the bark side of the cane or with the addition of the profiled gouging on the inside prior to tying.)
Baroque oboe cane
Cane diameter ca 15 mm
Standard gouge: ca 0.70 mm
Profiled gouge: 0.53 mm at center, under 0.30 mm at sides
Finished reed: 0.12-0.15 mm at center of tip , 0.8-0.10 mm at sides of tip
Why use this method? When comparing the characteristic of a reed made in the standard way with a reed with this sort of profiled gouging on the inside, the differences are fascinating. First of all, it can be quite shocking when the finished reeds dry out. The opening may be very misshapen. They require a lot of soaking but resume their good form.
They are freer and for this reason lend themselves very well to cross-fingerings, half-hole and forked fingerings. For a more detailed description of the differences is sound quality, be sure to listen to the podcast Episode No. 7: Internal Profiled Gouging in the podcast area of the Reed Room here at Kreedo Academy.
*Although Jürgen jokingly refers to his adapted gouging machine method for internal profiled gouging as a “cheat”, both Leslie Ross and Jennifer Harris lauded this method as legitimate.
Leslie Ross wrote:
I have to admit, that I too ‘cheat’ and rig up my gouger with pieces of tape to achieve the tapered inner profile in the center of the cane. This is something that I always let prospective tool buyers know … that if they already gouge their own cane they might want to try this first. Apart from being quicker and more reliable thicknesses (without having to measure all the time), it leaves a smoother surface than scraping does. The scraping tools and all are handy for touch ups, or when wanting to try a very slight inner profile. I also have this info sheet with some more notes available (though here too I’ve made some adjustments!)
….there is no “right” or “wrong” about historical reed-making, just different ways to get to a similar result, and even that was dependent on where you were when and with whom…. I wouldn’t necessarily use a gouging machine, but as soon as that appeared on the market in the mid 19th Century it was the iPhone of reed-making that everyone wanted to have but couldn’t afford… And some just didn’t want to own a mobile phone and were sooooo old-fashioned…
And there you have it: the most important thing is that your reeds enable your intense musical expression. You get to determine your means for reaching that end!