THE NEXT STEP
You probably think you get to do some more scraping now, right?
SHARPEN YOUR KNIFE
First thing you must do is sharpen that knife! A sharp knife is extremely important. Don’t neglect your knife or your reeds (and your sanity) will pay!
After you have sharpened that knife you are ready to move on.
THE NEXT, NEXT STEP
Soak your reed so that you aren’t carving on a dry reed. A few minutes will do.
Begin scraping on the back, through the heart, and tip.
Start between the middle and side, about 4mm from the thread, and scrape up. Do 6 strokes on all four quadrants. Be careful to leave the spine alone! (No matter what you do you will, most likely, hit a bit of the spine and scrape off enough of the bark without even trying!)
This is the first quadrant after the back has had the initial scrapes made.
After you’ve made these initial scrapes on the back you should focus on the back and leave the heart alone. Remember — you can always take cane off, but putting it back on is pretty darn difficult! (There’s one trick to “putting cane back” and no, I don’t mean gluing cane on! … but that will be included on the fixes page.)
Draw a line at 64mm and scrape from the bottom of the back to that 64mm mark. As you carve each quadrant, move your knife up a wee bit from the bottom of the back so that you are taking a more cane off the center of the back rather than the very bottom.
You are beginning to define the parts of the reed as you do this; you should see back, heart and tip.
CARVING THE HEART (with care)
When you’ve carved enough of the back that you can see that it’s thinner than the heart and looks fairly defined, “dust” the heart a bit. Make absolutely certain there is no bark left on the heart. Stay away from the middle and sides of the heart as much as possible. If you see no bark left of the heart, look to see that the back is clearly defined from the heart. If you can’t see where the back ends and heart begins you need to do more work on the back.
You can see that the back is slightly lighter than the tip. Still more work can be done, but I’m on the way!
Finally, you are ready to work on the tip. Work carefully, and never deliberately scrape the center of the tip. You want to get the tip thin enough that you can clip the tip.
CLIPPING THE TIP
Make certain your reed is still wet. Place your reed on the cutting block and firmly rock your knife from one side to the other, cutting off 1mm of the tip. Some people use a razor blade rather than a knife, me included; others are quite opposed to the use of a razor blade. For this tutorial I’ll show you the knife clipping the tip.
CROWING THE REED
Now it’s time to see just what you have. Ideally, your reed will crow a nice C. If you get more than one C you are in good shape! If you can’t get it to crow at all, you know you have a long way to go with scraping. If you have done things correctly your tip will still need a good amount of scraping, and the back will need more work, but the heart will be fairly close to done.
SHARPEN YOUR KNIFE
USING THE PLAQUE
Now that you have opened the tip you must use a plaque when you scrape the tip. Some don’t use a plaque when carving the back or heart, but I prefer to play it safe. Do be sure to take the plaque out when you aren’t carving — the less time the reed holds the plaque the better. Some reed makers have said they insert a pipe cleaner into the reed when carving the back. I’ve not tried this, but I suppose it’s worth a try!
THIN THE BACK MORE
By the time you have completed your reed the top of the back should be as thin as the back of the tip, or very close to it.
After inserting the plaque, and working with the tip of the knife as you do when you are carving the tip, take five full scrapes and then 5 scrapes halfway up from the bottom of the back. Do this with each quadrant.
CHECK THE HEART
Look carefully at the heart; it should be totally smooth. If you see bumps lightly dust the heart to remove the bumps. You want the reed to vibrate from the tip, through the heart, and down the back. If you have bumps, this prevents the vibrations. At times you may find you have to scrape perpendicular to the reed in order to rid yourself of nasty bumps, but be cautious! The heart is very important — you can’t live without your heart, and a reed can’t live without one either!
Remember to avoid the spine and rails of the reed.
SHARPEN YOUR KNIFE
… or at least check to see if it’s still sharp!
Thin the tip and occasionally crow the reed. Remember, too, to keep the reed wet. The corners of the reed need to be the thinnest parts of the reed. Be sure to follow through with your scrape so that you don’t wind up with a thicker spot right at the very tip.
While you are scraping the tip don’t press down. Think more of brushing the tip rather than scraping, really.
Angle your knife so that you don’t carve in the middle of the tip. Work all four quadrants, taking a few scrapes on each quadrant rather than working one quadrant for any length of time.
Keeping the 45 degree angle when you are working on the far side of the tip can be a bit of a challenge.
You may, now, need to clip the tip, but crow the reed and see where you stand first. Play it too!
If you hear one note, you are hearing the tip. If you hear more than one note (and we all hope you are hearing C’s!) you know that the reed is vibrating down further, which is great news. If you can’t hear the second note, you need to work on the blend so that the vibrations move through the heart to the back.
If the crow is “loose” you can clip the tip. If the crow is low, you also clip the reed. You are always working for a C crow.
Play on the reed. Be TRUE to the reed; don’t try to make the reed sound good, and don’t try to make it play in tune. Find out what the reed wants to do and be so that you can honestly know what you are getting.
Things to remember:
If the reed is sharp and hard you need to take more cane off. If the reed is flat and easy you can clip the tip. If the reed is flat and hard you may be in trouble, because as you carve to make the reed easier the pitch will also lower. If the reed is sharp and easy you’ve taken off to much cane already. Needless to say, we like to fall into the “sharp and hard” crowing (and playing) category.
If the reed crows and plays, you can choose to put it away for a while. After all, it’s on its way and that’s a great thing!
If it doesn’t crow and doesn’t play and you are exhausted and frustrated put the reed away! I have found that frustration gets me nowhere with reeds — I tend to press harder on the reed, and I only make things worse.
When you’ve worked on the reed, balanced the crow, yet still find yourself befuddled, move on to the Adjustments and Fixes for Problems page.