In order to avoid ulcers on the job, I decided early in my career that I needed a reed-making method I could absolutely count on. What follows is a series of scraping instructions that has worked for me for decades.
My scraping process involves three stages. The first two stages are a series of scrapes that complete about 80% of the reed using a thickness dial micrometer and a formula. I use a micrometer that measures each reed blade thickness so I can remove cane quickly and accurately. This process creates a reed that sits on pitch, has a focused tone and plays easily. The reed then dries out overnight and I begin the third stage, the final 20%. In this stage, the reed is tweaked using intuition, keeping in mind the repertoire I’m currently preparing.
What follows is my 80% formula (a future post will discuss the last 20% – refining the reed.) Please note – I have no expectation that these exact steps will work for you. After all, we are unique individuals with differing embouchures, wind support, etc. What I am certain of, however, is that you too can create your own steps that will ultimately reduce your reed making angst, allowing you to quickly make successful reeds.
Thin and blend the tip in a smooth scrape to the very end of the tip.
With 6-8 long strokes, scrape each “back” quadrant (including the heart).
Clip the tip open.
Scrape each quadrant again to a measurement of .40 mm as indicated.
Take out any catch marks making sure this scrape is smooth.
At this point, I usually allow the reed to dry overnight or store it for future use.
Mark a line 66 mm from the bottom of the tube.
Scrape across this mark to a measurement of .35 mm on each side, leaving the spine at .40 mm thick.
Thin but do not define the tip yet. Avoid directly scraping the center of the tip – cane removed incidentally is usually sufficient.
At this point the reed should make a sound fairly easily.
With a pencil or your knife, mark two diagonal lines at 66 mm which meet in the middle.
Scrape each tip quadrant beginning with the very corners and moving back toward each diagonal line producing thicknesses as indicated.
Make sure not to carve a ditch at the inception point between the tip and heart – it will lead to a buzzy sounding reed.
Don’t worry if the reed becomes overly vibrant and flat. The next step will take care of this issue.
Crow the reed and clip as many times as it takes to reach “C”.
Measure and thin the corners/sides of the tip once more to reflect the measurements indicated.
Peel the bark off the rails to .40 mm. Scrape the spine running through the heart to 48-50 mm.
Crow and clip again as necessary. Your reed should have a clear, focused, octave “C” crow (two tones).
Double check your heart thickness. Except for the spine, it should sit uniformly at .40 mm.
Resist taking too much cane out of the back too early. Encourage as much depth of tone from the tip first, then scrape the back .25-.35 mm thick to supplement the depth. Taking too much out of the back will lead to a hollow “false” depth in your tone.
Clip to maintain a “C” double octave crow.
Finish by scraping the “burr” off the extreme edge of the tip – it was created by the clip.
Allow the reed dry overnight.