Day 1 – These directions will be starting with a piece of cane already gouged, shaped and profiled. I do these procedures myself using the standard machines but many students won’t have access to the machines and will therefore need to buy cane already in this state.

Position a gouged, shaped, and profiled piece of cane, that has been soaking at least 2 hours, on a dowel. Mark where the center of your profile is with a fine point marker, this is where the two sides of the flattened piece of cane will fold over each other.

The first wire: measure from the center mark you just made to where your profile ends on both sides of the cane. Use the bigger of the two measurements (the further back profile ending) and add 2/16 inch. At this point, using a fine point maker, draw a line where the first wire will go. Then with a file make an indentation in the cane on this mark. When using the file actually cut into the cane so there is a mark left in which your wire will stay. With the marker draw a line 5/16 inch down from the first wire placement, this is the location of a future second wire. Repeat this process (and all other single sided instructions) on the other side of the cane. Mark with a fine point marker where the center of the profile is, so you fold the cane in the center every time. It is also a good idea in the learning stages to mark a line down the middle, length wise, of the profile so you know where the thickest cane should be and where your middle scoring line will be.

When the cane becomes curved during the forming of the tube, the fibers in the middle become condensed. This thickening of cane is the most critical in the throat of the reed – the area located between where the first and second wires are placed. To make a good tube you must clear out this throat area.

To clear the throat: Using 240 grade sandpaper folded to a narrow point make 10 passes between 1/4 inch forward from the second wire to the first wire.

Once you have cleared the throat go over the entire inside of the reed with 320 sandpaper so it is smooth and even. It is also good to check that your profile is the same in both blades by using a micrometer. The amount of cane between the first and second wires must be equal if the blades are to have the same arch.

Cutting in a collar:

  • Place the cane on a dowel
  • Use an X-Acto knife (No. 11 Blade)
  • With a gentle rolling action cut across the cane where you want the collar to go
  • Cut towards you, being careful to not cut yourself! To stop the knife from cutting you if you slip, I place my thumb nail on the cut across the cane where the collar is so if I slip my thumb nail will be nicked, not my finger or hand. This is also handy to stop the knife from cutting into the tube and ruining the reed.
  • The collar must match on both sides! (Hopefully you followed the steps earlier correctly for marking this first wire. If you did, then the collar will be 2/16 inch above your first wire mark on both sides and line up.) If your profile doesn’t match up, use the one that is further back to match to.

Score the cane. We score cane so that when the flat cane is made into a round tube it cracks in even places.

  • Using X-Acto knife and dowel
  • Score from just above the second wire back to off the cane
  • From the third wire back actually cut THROUGH the cane (as in photo)
  • Start with one score in the center, then divide the space on both of the sides and the middle in half, then those in half again so you have a total of 7 scoring lines evenly spaced: one in the middle and three on both sides
  • Repeat on the other side

Pre-Bevel the cane. The main bevel in my “Chicago style” of reed making comes after the tube has been formed and is dry, allowing for a precise bevel. At this point all we want to do is start a bevel so there aren’t corners in the way when we try to form the tube.

To pre-bevel: take a piece of 320 sandpaper and hold it on the edge of a counter. From where the third wire will be to the end of the cane make 10 downward passes.

Re-soak the cane a few seconds.

  • Fold the cane in half on the center line already marked.
  • Put the first wire on. (See picture) This will NOT be the final first wire but is being placed to stop all cracking into the blade during the forming process. It is EXTREMELY important that the sides of the reed line up perfectly when the first wire is on. Adjust them as necessary until they are flush. (I often put the reed in my mouth and use my teeth and bite them into place…)
  • Soak a piece of packing twine and wrap the reed. Start at the back and work your way up to the blade. Do two loops past the first wire, reverse and go back. Increase the pressure on the twine as you go back down the reed, especially after the second wire.
  • Tie off the twine.
  • Re-soak the wrapped reed for a few minutes as you heat a mandrel

I use a Rieger mandrel heated in a tea light as my hot mandrel. In the past I also had good success with the Chirstlieb hot mandrel. The important thing is to have the metal of the mandrel conduct heat from the flame to steam the tube instead of just cracking it. I usually heat my mandrel between 1-3 minutes before using it to form the tube.

Insert the hot mandrel into the back of the reed, on the Rieger mandrel there is a line that shows how far to insert the mandrel. Gently squeeze the sides of the reed at the back to help it enter. Make sure it is inserted in the center of the profile. When inserting the hot mandrel into the reed it is important to NEVER TWIST the mandrel! With the cane still on the mandrel take a pliers that has a circular shape and squeeze the cane round the mandrel up to the second wire. The purpose of this is to really conform the last part of the tube to the circular shape of the mandrel.

Take out the mandrel. Unwrap the reed. Take off the first wire. Make sure that the blades have not slipped at all and are still perfectly aligned. Reinsert the mandrel. Rewrap the reed with the packing twine. Again, start at the back of the reed and work your way forward, then back again, applying more pressure as you pass the second wire on the way back. Leave the reed in this state, on the mandrel, for a least a week. During the week, soak the entire reed, mandrel and all, for five minutes then let it re-dry. I have found that this re-wetting makes the tube stay the same size and not shrink when you put on the wires and ream it later.  Record what you did today in your reed journal!

Continue to Day 2