Buying Reeds and Reed Making Supplies

1. Buying reeds
2. Machine-made reeds
3. Hand-made and hand-finished reeds
4. Reed-making tools and cane to get first
5. Tools to get next
6. Even more expensive tools that can help with consistency
7. Where to get supplies
8. Resources


1. Buying reeds

There are basically three types of oboe and oboe family reeds to purchase: machine-made reeds, hand-finished reeds, and fully hand-made reeds.

Reeds can also be made with an oboe reed profiler and then hand finished, though this is less common in North America.

While the first two kinds can be purchased at a general music store, usually fully hand-made reeds must be specifically purchased from a local oboist, double reed store, or from an online professional maker.

Sometimes, good machine-made reeds can be found, but usually, these reeds have one of the problems listed below. While hand-made reeds are often the best, they are also the most expensive, so hand-finished reeds can be a cheaper alternative and still work well.

back to the top


2. Machine-made reeds

  1. The reeds rated soft to medium are most commonly very responsive and will play every low note easily, but they are very often not focused or pitched well and are too vibrant to allow the high register to come out easily. Consequently, players try to control high register pitch and response by biting and end up having a pinched, sharp, soft sound.
  2. If the reed is too hard, which generally applies to reeds rated medium-hard to hard, players will often bite to close the reed enough to make a sound. Just as when air escapes from a balloon, the opening has to be squeezed together to vibrate. Exerting this kind of control is tiring, however, and most cannot keep it up consistently. These reeds cause players to play out of tune and have explosive articulations. When oboists begin to play on reeds that do not need this kind of control, they are unable to stop biting and have very small, sharp tones. Biting in this way can be a very difficult habit to break.
  3. Some machine-made reeds sound great, but because the machine is unable to scrape in a way that keeps the rails of bark that come up the sides of the reed from being removed, the reed is weak and the opening closes down quickly.

There are plastic machine-made reeds available. At the moment, most are of poor quality, but Legere Reeds is currently working on high quality oboe and English horn reeds intended to be good enough for professionals.

back to the top


3. Hand-made and hand-finished reeds

Hand-made reeds are generally the best quality and the most expensive. Each balanced somewhat differently depending on the maker, so players will need to experiment to find a maker they like. Hand-made (and hand-finished) reeds may feel harder to blow than machine-made reeds. A well-balanced reed needs more air support than a machine-made reed that has been made overly vibrant.

Hand-finished reeds can be a good less-expensive option. These reeds are made partially by machine to keep the price down, and finished by a professional reed maker for better quality.

Generally reed makers and double reed stores are clear about which type of reed they are selling, but it may be necessary to ask.

back to the top


4. Reed-making tools and cane to get first

Tools

  • 1 Reed case (or cases) that hold(s) at least 10 reeds, French or mandrel style (see Reed Care and Cleaning)
  • 1–2 Sharp oboe reed knives: double hollow ground recommended. Need to specify right- or left-handed.

Cheaper: Rigotti is one brand that works well. There are many.

More expensive: The Landwell knife in soft, medium or hard strength depending on your sharpening style. If you are unsure, start with a medium.

  • Sharpening stone: medium abrasive for basic sharpening.

1 Fine India Oilstone (oil stone), at least 5/8″x 2″x 5″.

and/or

  • Sharpening stone: smoother and harder for a finer, sharper edge.

1 “True Hard” or “Translucent” Arkansas stone (water stone), at least 4” x 2” x ½”.

For more info, read this explanation of grades of Arkansas stones

  • 1 bottle Honing Oil to clean/lubricate the oil stone as necessary (mineral oil also works).
  • 1 Cutting block (billot): wood, not too small, flat, with non-slip backing (or add a non-slip backing).
  • 3 Plaques: flat, medium thickness, blued steel, rounded or pointed, non-contoured.
  • 1 Oboe Mandrel that is lined up correctly with the flat of the handle parallel to the long axis of the oval. Also, check the oboe tubes being used on the mandrel, as it shouldn’t extend beyond the end of the tube.
  • 2 + spools Oboe Thread: FF Nylon in two different colours.
  • 1 cake Beeswax.
  • 1 Ruler in millimeters.
  • 50–100 Single edge razor blades for shaping and clipping tips.
  • 1 Emery board for smoothing the sides of the reed.

optional:

1 C-clamp as an anchor to tie reeds to (available at a hardware store).

Cane and tubes

  • Tube cane each from at least 2 growers, diameter of 10-10.5 mm (or 10.5-11m for more closed reeds). Generally, tube cane is purchased a ¼ pound at a time.

or

  • Gouged only cane from at least two sources.
  • Gouged and Shaped oboe cane from at least two sources. Start with a fairly standard shape such as a Pfeiffer Mack, Gilbert, or Brannen X if it is possible to pick the shape.
  • 25 brass or silver oboe tubes 47 millimeters in length. It’s best to use all of the same brand of tubes to eliminate that variable in reed making.

Make sure they fit the mandrel properly, i.e., the mandrel does not extend beyond the end of the tube. If it does, it can be much too easy to overtie.

back to the top


5. Tools to get next

  • Oboe shaper tip and handle: There are many brands of oboe shapers. Ask colleagues and teachers for recommendations. It is also possible to order cane from oboe stores that has been shaped on specific shapes so to try them out. Different shapes have different widths, which effects pitch in the high register, and overall tone and focus.

The shaper tip is removable, so only one handle is necessary for multiple tips.

  • Diamond stone: A diamond stone (water stone) is useful for quickly regrinding the oboe reed knife. Usually a “fine” is abrasive enough.
  • Gouger: Gougers are very expensive and range in price. A used, refurbished one may be good to start with. Depending on the amount of use, gouger blades need to be sharpened occasionally. How the blade is sharpened largely determines the shape of the gouge.

Different gougers have different accuracy, adjustability, and comfort of use. Some gougers require a hand position and pressure that can lead to some hand stress, though newer designs address this concern. The Innoledy gouger uses a hand crank, eliminating this problem completely.

  • Pre-gouger (board and planer) or a fillotine, or another type of pre-gouger:
pregouger
Howarth Oboe Tube Cane Pre-gouger with Pusher
  • Radius Gauge:
radius guage
Radius Gauge Note that the tube shown above is slightly too large for the slot it’s in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6) Micrometer: A dial micrometer is important when gouging to check on the consistency of the thickness of the gouged cane.

back to the top


6. Even more expensive tools that can help with consistency

Density or hardness gauge: Harder cane works best for oboe reeds. This gauge can help eliminate cane that likely is too soft to be workable. The range of 8–15 generally works best, beyond 15 is too soft. Cane needs to be gouged and dried before testing. $500.

Micrometer to fit inside the reed and measure blade thickness: This tool can help duplicate exact thickness and symmetry in each area of the oboe reed on both sides. $400.

Oboe Reed Profiler: This tool prescrapes an oboe reed to very specific measurements based on the reeds of famous oboists. Some hand scraping may still be needed to finish. The cost is around $2000.

back to the top


7. Where to get supplies

A comprehensive list can be found at Oboe Reed Information.

back to the top


8. Resources

Reed Adjusting (Martin Schuring)

Reed Adjusting with Shelley Heron

Reed Adjusting with Khara Wolf

Reed adjusting for beginners

Oboe reed profiler

Legere Plastic reeds

Flavoured oboe reeds

back to the top