Hand Profiling Bassoon Cane

Bassoon predates profiling jigs and modern profilers, so early players profiled cane by hand. The process isn’t complicated but it takes practice to get used to the feel of carving off material. Just like a modern profiler takes off a “chip” of cane at a time, hand profiling takes off thin layers at a time. This also works just as well for contrabassoon cane.

To start, take a piece of soaked, gouged bassoon cane and strap it to an easel. Hand gouging is even easier than hand profiling (wrap sandpaper around an easel and keep measuring until you’re there) I use a rubber band to attach cane to the easel, I am using 120mm cane. Mark the centerline and mark the two collars. My finished reeds have a blade length of 26.5mm from the collar, so I keep 28mm of blade length for the blank before I cut it open. In other words, mark your collar line at 28mm from the center on both sides.

Marked bassoon cane

Then score the center line and the two collar lines, score deeply so that you can get a chip started. Then take your knife and remove then bark. Start at a collar line and pull towards the center, this step is just the bark so do make the chip too big. Bassoon Cane Chip

Now You should be left with a uniformly “peeled” area of an equal thickness. For people beginning to hand profile, the first few pieces of cane, this will already be a disaster. I like to use a double hollow ground knife for this whole process since I can get the edge sharper and control the cutting angle better.

Hand Profiled Cane

Now thinking ahead to what you’ll like to have when finishing the reed, the spine should be left alone. It is thick right now, but once it becomes too thin then it is ruined. Mark two lines on the center line dividing the cane into thirds. Then divide both of those outside thirds in half again. Hand Profiling Bassoon Cane

The center area will become the spine so it will be left alone for now. Take off another layer from the outside thirds (everything except the center) and another layer from the two outermost sections. So now in total; the center of the cane was only peeled, the outer thirds had been peeled and a layer taken off, and the outermost section has been peeled and two layers taken off.

Bassoon Cane Hand Profiling

At this point use sand paper or a large metal file to buff out the lines and sharp edges. I prefer course sand paper and then medium sandpaper. Make sure to give it another dip in water before folding and shaping.

Hand Profiled Bassoon Cane

The finished piece should look something like this. It will never be as pretty as when a profiler is used, and it will take much more time than using a profiler. Hand profiled cane will create a thicker blank which leads to more work in the finishing stage. I have relied on my hand profiling when my profiler blade was out being sharpened, and I started in high school when I didn’t own a profiler. There are 2 or 3 different patterns to creating the final dimensions this is the simplest and quickest. The biggest obstacle is learning how to set the chip thickness and feeling how deep to cut for each layer. I consider peeling the bark as taking off a layer, so each chip should be the same thickness as the bark.

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