Handmade oboe reeds, especially Magic Reed's are always better. Great oboe reeds are all about nuance, which must be installed a little at a time, and followed by testing to determine next steps. We are working in millimeters so small mistakes matter. Machines have fixed structures, testing at the end, and often take too much out of the heart and tip too soon. Most high volume reed makers are often not even set up for a hybrid approach. Learn more below.
We procure the best cane we can find through extensive sampling, and buy as much as we cane when we are sure it is extraordinary. We process to cut-to-length pre-gouged forms well in advance of when we need them so they can adjust to their new state and reveal their new, somewhat expanded, diameters to to us for selection purposes. This aging also improves reliability, stability and performance. We sort the cane, and hand select only the "choice cuts" for our reeds or for sale in raw form. Cane that is not production grade is either discarded or used for equipment maintenance and adjustment purposes.
We like to combine gouging, shaping and mounting the blank together whenever possible. This helps us avoid certain unwelcome outcomes that can occur when gouging and shaping are not paired, and when there are too many wet/dry cycles in the early stages of cane processing. We save those dry cycles for a time that they will provide us with more predictive information on how the reed is likely to behave after shipping so that we can address any issues in our shop. We typically like to keep the total number of cycles to three or four. More than that reduces the lifespan of the reed.
We have a link to a tutorial on mount a blank. We are sharing our process because there are certain steps, like installing torque which are not universally known. Once mounted, we thin the tip, clip, establish the overlap, and take foundation steps to expose those bark and to establish the basic structure of the tip. We give it a long drying cycle and return to see how it settled. We assess aperture size and seal, and discard any unruly reeds that would require world class wrestling skills to tame.
Having mades so many reeds over the years we know how important it is to stay disciplined in terms of pacing the finish; keeping the quadrants symmetrical; and, testing at the right times so we can minimize mistakes. We finish our reeds around its heart-which we consider the core of the reed. We like a heart with a thickness around .4 mm and are ready to begin the more nuanced work when it is within 2 mm of the this target. We thin the tip in a particular way, clip, test for the response we want; repeat; then we thin the back, keeping rails and spine in structure (but not too much); define the back of the heart; work the shoulders; and fine-tune to taste. We usually finish student reeds once and double finish professional reeds, maximizing quality control. We let them fully dry before shipment.