Reed Making Guide
The cane is tied on to the staple so the entire length is approximately 73 mm. The cane must be centered on the oval part of the staple, and when tying, both sides of cane should close at the same time. Be sure to wrap only to the end of the staple and not beyond! Keep the string very taut when wrapping to ensure a nice, strong hold on the cane.
- Always use a sharp knife! Dull knives ruin reeds!
- Make sure the reed stays wet when you’re working on it!
- Always lightly support the bottom cane blade with your finger when scraping. This will prevent cracks! The blank is held with the bottom of the tube in the palm of the hand with the index finger extended to support the reed. Curl the other fingers around the staple.
- All four fingers grip the knife with the thumb on the back of the blade for control.
- If a ridge occurs in the cane, lightly scrape sideways across the bump until it disappears.
- Make a line across the reed at 66 mm. from the bottom of the staple.
- Make an X from that line up to the end of the reed.
- Scrape the cane parallel with the fibers of the reed, but with the knife at the angle of the X, to avoid scraping much out of the middle of the tip. Use a pushing motion with your knife rather than a rocking motion and scrape All THE WAY over the edge of the reed to ensure the tip is the thinnest part of the reed.
- Gently scrape the V (the lower section of the X above the 66 mm. line). This area should be thicker than the corners of the tip, but thinner than the heart behind it.
- Make a line across the reed at 61 mm.
- Scrape two windows in the back up to the 61 mm. line, leaving a spine and rails.
- Gently scrape the shiny cane off of the heart area. Again, push the knife forward rather than rocking it. (Rocking the wrist will create a scooped out portion of cane, and we want to make sure the cane always gets thinner from back to tip.)
- Clip the reed (about 1 mm), insert the plaque, and continue thinning the tip. Always scrape toward the corners, being careful not to scrape much in the center of the tip.
- Crow the reed. If it is too hard to get a sound, thin everything more (the tip, the heart, and the back).
- Continue thinning and clipping until the reed crows easily at about a C. The finished reed is about 70 mm long. Each time you clip, just take a tiny amount off, then re-thin the tip toward the corners and re-test the reed
Testing/Finishing the Reed
- If the reed chirps, the tip is too thin of long for the rest of the reed. Take more out of the heart and back, and possibly clip. Check that the thinnest areas are the top corners of the tip.
- If the reed is flat, the reed is too long or there is too much taken out of the heart. Clip.
- If the reed is very sharp (and not too short), it is not vibrating correctly. Scrape more from the heart and back, and possibly corners.
- If the reed is too stuffy or resistant, scrape the reed gently all over.
- If the reed responds easily, plays in tune, and has a nice tone quality, you’ve made a great reed! Congratulations!