This isn’t an IDRS journal but I think it is still an appropriate place to post reed dimensions. I have only had a few months with the contraforte so far I have come to two styles of reed. One wider and one narrower, the wider shape is a real robust contraforte sound and the narrow shape is a simpler contrabassoon sound.
The wide shape is using the Reiger contraforte shape (23.25mm wide) and formed on a Reiger contraforte mandrel.
35mm blade (collar to tip)
45mm tube (collar to end)
5mm from first wire to second wire
The narrow reed is shaped on a Reiger K1 contrabassoon shape, it’s important to use a fold-over shaper for this since I still use 160mm cane. 160mm cane will not fit into a contrabassoon straight shaper which is meant to hold 150mm cane, but on a fold over shaper the tube continues further. Using this extra tube length also allows the reed to be formed on a contraforte mandrel. Besides using a different shape all of the dimensions are the same.
35mm blade (collar to tip)
45mm tube (collar to end)
5mm from first wire to second wire
The narrow reed is essential to making the CF work in every situation. This style produces a simple, dryer sound, requiring less air, and achieves an easy pianissimo response.
I get a big kick out of experimenting with my setup and trying different options. Leitzinger bocals have been around for a few years now, and I have only heard good things about them. I play a Fox 601 which has the benefit of being very flexible, the bocal that I use completely changes the instrument.
I’m very spoiled in that I live in San Francisco and pretty close to Forrests Music. I picked up a few Leitzinger bocals to play test for the week and I decided to try different platings and different alloys. When I try bocals, two bocals of the same model and size sound so different. I don’t usually try different platings because I can’t tell if the difference is between the platings or just different bocals. I ended up with a N ML 1
After a long search, I have finally found an instrument stand for the contraforte. This was a find off of eBay and it was made by Aureum. This seems to be a generic low-woodwind stand that can adjust to fit many different instruments, it certainly fits contrabassoon on top of contraforte. The top of the stand is completely adjustable in height, width, and angle that it hold the contra. My only complaint would be that the peg cup at the bottom of the stand is too small, but I might remove it and add a different one.
I am unable to find out where this stand can be bought. It’s a company in Korea and I don’t think that they have any U.S. distributors. I have seen a few of these pop up on eBay though!
Probably the least important part of reed making is reed thread. This is the most visual and artistic aspect of the process but serves little purpose. There are a few shapes that require wrapping to seal properly (Hertzberg) but outside of that, good shaping and Duco cement will suffice. Threads are available at double reed supply stores. I have been looking for other sources of reed thread (for cheaper) but have come up short. I know people who prefer cotton thread, and for those people “Aunt Lydia’s” thread is availabe at many stores. I don’t personally like how Duco cement works with cotton. Nylon size FF thread or 138 can be found at many online retailers. I have been using OMEGA thread. Its a nice nylon thread but its thicker than FF so maybe it isn’t usable for oboe/english horn. It comes in 90 different colors and its very cheap. This is great for bassoon and contra reeds and it doesn’t take as much thread to create a turban. I have a friend who buys all of her thread off of the thread exchange. They sell larger spools and in many colors. And of course all of the double reed supply stores have thread. Most of my thread is from RDGForrests and Charles
I made myself a reed case last week! I remembered seeing a post from David Wells about making a reed case a few months ago. I wasn’t looking for something cheap, because I kind of like the fancy reed cases. There are currently no reed case that fit contaforte reeds and most players have just been using jewelry boxes.
So I was happy to find this little tupperware in the container store for a few dollars. And then I picked up some foam at Michaels (like the kind for kindergarden crafts)
I used two layer glued together with Duco cement for the reed holders, glued that to the base and glued it into the acrylic container. I also poked holes in the lid so that the reeds can dry out between uses.
This is a post that I have dreaded doing for a long time. I debated whether this was necessary and useful to people, or if it would just be obnoxious. I realized that when I myself was buying reed tools there was very little information on a consumer level about how these machines stacked up against each other. If I was starting all over again in buying reed machines, I would have liked to have seen more information about them. So that’s the basis of including this aspect of my reed desk equipment.
Reiger Bassoon Gouger
This gouger was a recent acquisition, it was a graduation gift from my uncle. Outside of this gouger I have only used the Reeds ‘n Stuff gouger, and I do really prefer the Reiger. The guillotine (which is included, and a big reason for choosing this machine) is very easy to use and cuts to a perfect fit to the cane bed. Once the cane is at that 120mm length, it fits right into the cane bed and never slips out. I have had some problems with other gougers where the cane jumps off of the machine once you use a little strength.
This machine is an ANTIQUE! It is very old and I found it on eBay from an oboe player who had it in his closet for a few decades. This machine represents a very simple single barrel profiler with two basic adjustment screws, a removable blade, and no measurement systems whatsoever. There are many simple machines like this still being done by a few companies. What I like is that it is very easy to use, easy to remove the blade to sharpen myself and easy to adjust. I don’t like that when I adjust the profile I have to waste a few pieces of cane on trial and error experiments with no way of knowing what my current settings are. I found this for $300 and it works great, if you can find a cheap simple profiler you can probably get a good blade fit to it and get it working. Otherwise I would suggest finding something newer and more sophisticated.
Reeds ‘n Stuff Tip Profiler
This tip profiler I also found used. This is the only thing that I own by Reeds ‘n Stuff and I’m quite sure that he now makes a fancier version of this. However this is very similar to the Reiger tip profiler and it makes all reed finishing a dream. Every tip is the same every time. I cannot enough stress how much this machine changed my reed making and my consistency of sound. I know that they also make oboe tip profilers, that is most of what I hear oboe reed makers complain about is creating an even tip. I have also had some luck using this with contrabassoon reeds without even having to adjust it. If I just put the reed on and keep it a few millimeters shy of the guideline, I get a great tip.
These Reeds & Tools machines are my newest additions, just over a month old. They represent the fanciest machines with flexibility and technology and controlled results. The gouger I currently have set up for processing contraforte cane, this means that I am using a 160mm long 30mm diameter cane bed with a 30mm diameter blade. The cane beds on this machine are interchangeable, so I also have a contrabassoon length bed (150mm) that I can slide use. I also have a 28mm diameter blade and carriage If I want to have eccentrically gouged cane instead of concentric. This machine can also fit a bassoon cane bed, so for doublers who only want one machine to process both instruments’ cane this may be a good choice. Again the guillotine has been great and the bed hold cane firmly.
This is an example of the gouge from this machine.
Reeds & Tools Profiler
This machine is a blast to use! So easy and fast. I have two scoring blades so I can score the collar and the center line of the cane. Chris van O’s was also nice enough to include a spare blade and a dial indicator for adjustments. Unlike my bassoon profiler, this machine has it all. I can accurately change my profile by hundredths of a millimeter by using the attachable micrometer…
This pair of machines make cane processing fast and accurate, and I would recommend them. So far Reeds & Tools is the only company making equipment for contraforte. The machines that I have are for cane up to 160mm in length but he is also making machines at 170mm and 180mm for contraforte player who want to experiment with longer tubes or blades.