"Oboe-playing is a battle between artistry and technology"
Following numerous requests, I have created this page to offer information to students and colleagues regarding the equipment that I currently use for reed-making.
Note: this page is a reference resource that provides links to vendor websites. It is not intended to serve as endorsement of any particular vendor, as the equipment may be available elsewhere.
It is absolutely essential to have the right measuring tool for gouging. I advise you to invest some money in a good micrometer (also known as a “dial indicator”). Avoid the "round" or "ball" tip micrometers - they tend to give a thicker measurement. I recommend micrometers with the "pointed" or “needle” tip, like this one: RDG Dial Indicator set up with Pointed Tip:
Gilbert 1 (tied at 72-33mm on a 46mm Pisoni Deluxe Staple) – a very popular choice. I appreciate the combination of pitch stability with the depth of tone that comes with it. Note: regrettably, despite the manufacturers’ best efforts, shaper tips vary a bit in dimensions - before you commit to buying, you may want to borrow several shaper tips from your friends or colleagues (or get some on trial from a vendor) to test them out and make sure it is right for you.
Note: Make sure your mandrel fits your staples perfectly! PISONI, Deluxe silver, 47/46mm. (available from various vendors, including RDG Woodwinds). I find them well-made, consistent and I like the size of the opening. There are numerous theories about the pros and cons of brass vs. silver. I clearly prefer silver, but my advice is to try both and see what works.
I highly recommend this profiler made in Germany by Reeds 'n Stuff with the "EUGE" template - extremely fast, consistent, and easy to use, produces a roughly 75%-finished basic American Reed scrape reed. Quite amazing! More information at rdgwoodwinds.com
FERRILLO Gouger: this gouger is a superb machine specifically designed for depth of tone and pitch stability. Extremely expensive. Requires careful maintenance, frequent blade re-sharpening:
High quality and quite inexpensive, compared to other gougers. Very solid and reliable machine that produces a hefty but vibrant gouge. Comes with a built-in guillotine. Note: I work directly with Phil Ross to obtain this particular curve of the blade.
Reeds’n’Stuff Guillotine: excellent quality, durable, adjustable length to fit any gouging machine. Available from several vendors including Forrestmusic.com (H-27):
FERRILLO Pre-Gouger: very expensive, extremely well-made. There are several other companies that make this type of planing board. You will also need to purchase a plane to use with this tool. Although you can buy a plane at most hardware stores (i.e. Stanley Plane 12-247), it will need to be set-up by an expert to work properly with this pre-gouger
Planing is a crucial part of the pre-gouging process — it prepares the cane for the gouger, allowing for an accurate gouge with minimal wear on the blade while leaving enough width for the shaper-tip. Without this tool, guillotined cane cannot become gouged cane. This Planing Board has slots for both oboe and English horn cane. The design is light and strong, and delivers precise results at a very reasonable price.
I use the Nielsen, or Landwell double-hollow ground and beveled knives:
This double-sided steel sharpening rod is excellent for maintaining a knife's sharp edge without creating a new burr, thereby preserving its sharpness and longevity. Highly recommend!
I use ONLY flat rounded plaques, such as the Fox plaque. It allows the knife to have more consistent contact with the tip of the reed, especially the very edge of the tip which makes it vibrate more evenly. I recommend avoiding contoured plaques - they cause the overall surface of the cane to be uneven in both thickness and consistency which negatively affects vibration and creates "spit noise" and loose sides.
DIAMOND STONE, 3X8 inches, 600 Grit: available at RDG Woodwinds or Forrest Music. This stone is very coarse at first, but after several uses it becomes quite smooth and it will last you several years with proper care and cleaning. Begin using this stone by sharpening older knives - it is too abrasive for brand new knives
CERAMIC BENCH STONE (MEDIUM/blue), 302M from Spyderco.com or RDG Woodwinds: this stone is double-sided, so you actually get two stones in one. WARNING: DO NOT GET ANY OIL ON A CERAMIC STONE, IT WILL RUIN IT!!
RAZOR BLADES FOR CLIPPING REEDS ONLY: I use only GEM razor blades for clipping reeds. While other kinds of razor blades are acceptable for shaping cane, GEM blades produce the best and most accurate results when clipping reeds (available at RDG Wodwinds):
RAZOR BLADES FOR SHAPING CANE ONLY: I do not use GEM razor blades for shaping since they are too thin and have a little give when used for shaping cane. For this particular task, I recommend using regular single-edge razor blades (such as Stanley, available at most hardware stores). They are much cheaper than GEM blades, more durable, and effective for shaping.
Although most oboists inherit the standard screwdriver that comes with the oboe inside the case, I find them inadequate due to poor construction and inaccurate action. I find these vastly superior to the Loree, Yamaha, and Howarth screwdrivers - also, these are much more durable and inexpensive (Available at The Home Depot):
COMMERCIALLY-MADE REEDS: "Premiere Oboe Reeds": Most commercially-made reeds greatly vary in quality due to poor selection of cane, inadequate gouging and/or scraping. However, I highly recommend this particular reedmaker - the best and most reliable source for American-scrape reeds that I have encountered
“MusEcho" (www.musecho.com): provides a selection of very high-quality tools designed by my colleague Mingjia Liu, Principal Oboist of the San Francisco Opera. Highly recommend:
"Oboe Doctor": Extremely useful website that offers video instruction by John Peterson, expert repair specialist at RDG Woodwinds: