bassoon reed making
I have been experimenting with different versions of the Herzberg shape and I recently found an original for comparison. So I took some photos of how the Herzberg lines up with the Bell shaper and the Rieger #14.
I shaped onto some paper and held them together in the light to get and idea of the two shapes. The Herzberg is in green and the Bell is in red.
As far as I can tell the Bell H shape is an exact copy of a Herzberg shape without any differences.
The Rieger 14 shape is supposed to be the Rieger copy of the Herzberg shape. Here the Bell shape is in green and the Rieger in black. The blade of the Rieger is nearly exactly the same as the original Herzberg but the tube of the reed is narrower, the tube is straight with no flare. Part of the Herberg reed style is in the bevel, and the flare at the butt of the tube has a relationship with the tip opening. So the #14 is a very similar shape but will create reed with a different tip opening.
I know Fox make a few shapes that are similar to the Herzberg, their Michael Dicker shape is close to the Rieger #14 as well. If you want the Herzberg shape I would really suggest the Bell H shape which is an exact copy. The only advantage of an original Herzberg shaper would be the pin indents which precisely position the cane. And that would only be an advantage for people with a Herzberg profiler.
Bassoon Reed Finishing (David McGill style)
Bassoonist John Campbell made and posted an excellent video series last fall of his reed making process. The videos show his equipment, many of them are no longer made; and custom made tools, like his tip filing jig. John’s tip finishing is along the lines of what David McGill does, I have never seen or known the tip measurements for this style of reed, so I suggest giving it a watch!
Timing in reed making is essential in creating bassoon tone. Allowing rest between stages prevents the fibers of the cane from becoming stressed. It also seems in my experience that the longer the cane can rest, or the slower it is processed into a reed; the longer the reed lasts.This is especially true of reed blanks. Blanks are fully formed reeds that are still closed at the tip and have not been finished (above right).
So my process is something like this… Self harvested cane needs at least 6-8 months to fully dry out and stabilize. I put it in a big plastic storage bin without the lid and put it in the sun on sunny days.
Store bought tube cane that you split yourself should soak for at least 2 hours. Most people I know soak it over night, but it really just depends on how thick the cane is from that harvest. Just think that the water has to soak in to the very center of the cane so that the gouger doesn’t need to work so hard.
After gouging and profiling cane, I give it a few days to rest. This is the first big step for the cane and it has basically gone from a shoot of plant to a finely measured material. Depending on when I want to have new reeds I plan on letting this cane sit for 7 days, but if I am in a rush more like 4.
Gouged cane or gouged and profiled cane needs an hour to soak before working with it. Then I shape it, score it, fold it over, add a wire, and put it on a pressure peg. These pegs (pictured left) are removable and paired with a handle. Reeds are put on here and wrapped with rubber bands creating continuous pressure to form the tube. This rests for a full day (if you listen close you can hear the snap crackle pop)
Turning this into a blank is just adding two more wires, wrapping, reaming, and sealing. Blanks get better with time and for me I notice a big difference after 5 days of resting. This stabilizes the cane fibers and gives the blank time to acclimate. Also important in making reeds last longer is having multiple reeds to play in turns. Working with a batch of reeds in this way allows reeds to last for weeks instead of a few days.
There are some different techniques that I have read about in curing cane. I read an article in IDRS a few years ago from a bassoonist in texas. He soaks all of his cane in very strong tea. When cane is soaked the water becomes cloudy. These are little particle being stripped off of the fibers and released into the water. His theory was that by already having water fully saturated that it wouldn’t take so much out of the cane.
This is a great article from IDRS that touches a bit more on the preparation of cane in the early stages