How It's Made: Bassoon Reeds October 11, 2015 20:37 1 Comment

Making homemade bassoon reeds is a labor-intensive process that takes weeks. An RFReeds bassoon reed begins its life in the Var Region of southern France as a 20-30 foot tall arundo donax plant. Our Rigotti bassoon cane is shipped directly to us from France and our Danzi bassoon cane makes a pit stop in Milan.

arundo donax bassoon cane in France
  

We order the cane by the kilo, and a few days later it's Bonjour and Buongiorno, respectively. At this point, it's time to chop wood!

When we receive the tube cane, we inspect it for anything that could affect the quality of the product. If it passes inspection, we split the tube cane into thirds or quarters. Our assistant quality assurance analysts are paid in kibble because of lax labor regulations.

bassoon reed quality assurance

 

Next, we soak the cane for around twenty-four hours before it's trimmed and gouged. Each piece of cane is cut to precisely 120mm and gouged with a Reed Machines bassoon reed gouger. The gouging step removes excess cane to a consistent thickness. Every piece is allowed to dry, and some are stored to be sold as gouged cane After soaking for a few hours, the cane is carefully shaped using a straight shaper and a razor.

 

 

GSP Cane stands for gouged, shaped, and profiled cane and not the initials for Canadian mixed-martial artist Georges St-Pierre. This is a common mistake, but continuing the martial arts reference, there is still much to be learned, grasshopper. The cane is soaked again in preparation for shaping and profiling. To shape a piece of cane, it's secured in one of our shapers, and trimmed with a razor blade. RFReeds offers GSP bassoon cane in three shapes, the Fox 2, Fox 3, and Rieger 3. Next, we profile the cane using our trusty Bell profiling machine. At last we're ready to form a reed blank! The now gouged, shaped, and profiled cane is soaked for a few hours, folded in half, then wrapped in twine, and formed on a mandrel. After it is formed, the blank is allowed to rest and dry on a rack for 12 hours. After it is dry, the twine is unwrapped and the wires are put on to help the reed maintain its shape. At this point, the reed blanks are allowed to rest and age for at least one month.

After a month or more, the blank is soaked again, the tip is cut, the reed is scraped, and then play tested. It is again left to rest and dry for a day before being play tested again, with further adjustments being made. If the reed does not pass this inspection, unfortunately, it is rejected and sent to THE LAMP!

 

lamp of doom

 

When an order is received, we wrap it in our customer's choice of thread and seal (good ole' Duco or beeswax) and send it on its way with one final play-test. Depending on volume, this takes 24-48 hours.

After we've disinfected the reed and allowed it to dry, it is boxed up using recyclable materials. We found that cane shavings are a natural, strong, and light alternative to bubble wrap or packing peanuts!

And there you have it. The multinational enterprise of handmade bassoon reeds. Who knew assembling a bassoon reed would involve French/Italian cane, Canadian, Dutch, and German precision manufactured machines, Pennsylvanian bees, Narnian Duco cement, and South Carolina elbow grease? That would make one interesting stock photo.