Bassoon Reed Making 4: Forming the Tube

[Music: Opening of Flight of the Bumblebee]

Welcome to this video on forming the tube of a bassoon reed.

Here is the equipment I use for forming the tube: pliers, a knife, drying rack, 22 gauge brass wire, a mandrel with a wood handle, and then a source of heat. That could be an alcohol lamp, a gas stove, or an electric stove.

I always work with the cane wet. I take the cane out of the water. My first step is to score the cane. I make five marks, first a mark down the center, two other marks off to the right hand side, two marks to the left hand side. Then I repeat the process on the other side. Notice that I make my marks from below where the second wire starts.

Once I have scored the cane, that is to help it crack evenly, I then take a little bit of material off the edges. This is called beveling. You can do this by either scraping the knife like that or just removing a piece of it by slicing it off with the knife blade. Some people use sandpaper, others use a file. Any of those methods will work fine.

I then examine the reed for the last time. I make sure it lines up, that everything is in order before I put on the wires.

My wires are cut to about three inches (7.6 cm). I center the wire on the reed; bend the right hand side around the reed on the top; bend the left hand side around the reed on the bottom. I make sure that the wires are not crossed, that they are parallel to each other. I form an X in front of the reed. Bringing the needle-nose pliers in I hold on to them—oops it slipped—hold on to them in the middle of the “X,” twist them clockwise, and pull and take up the slack. I don't over tighten the wires, I just take up the slack. Then cut off the excess.

The second wire is then applied in the other direction on the reed. Again bending around the right side on top, left on the bottom, form an X, put the pliers in, pull, twist, take up the slack, pull again, take up the slack, cut off the loose ends, and adjust the wires so that they are in the right position. Notice that my number is appearing below the first wire.

And then the last wire is put on in the same direction as the first wire. Once again I bend the ends around, form an X, pull, twist, pull, and twist, and cut off the excess.

Adjust the wires. Keep the reed well soaked. Put that back in the water. Then the last preparation before I am ready to form the tube is to open the base of the tube slightly enough that the mandrel can be inserted. I have to straighten up that third wire there. Very good.

At the university I have an alcohol lamp. Sorry, I forgot to bring it home for this demonstration. So instead I will heat my mandrel on the electric stove. You can also heat your mandrel over a gas stove as well.

So when the mandrel has reached the temperature I like... And it is heating up a little bit more here. Notice that I am rotating it to make sure that it heats evenly. I then pull out the reed from the water. I insert the mandrel quickly into the base of the reed. I twist the mandrel as it goes in. I take my pliers, gripping the reed I am forcing the mandrel in. And I am beginning to crush the reed, I mean really I crush those fibers. I crush them so it forms evenly around the mandrel. Because I can see this with the barrel naked I can remedy the situation immediately.

The third wire is going to be completely round. The second wire is still somewhat oval. But here again I am really crushing the reed, exerting a lot of pressure. I am not crushing the wires I am just simply move the wires so that they are rounded to form to the barrel. Once I am satisfied with that I push the reed onto the drying rack.

Then I put a rubber band around the reed . This also helps the barrel to form, to conform to the right shape. Once the rubber band is on and I am satisfied with that I tie it off. The tube will be dried in about 12 hours.

God bless you and thanks so much watching this video.

[Music: Ending of Flight of the Bumblebee]