"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:
Joshua +2 (tied at 71-72mm. on a 46mm. staple) - a fine choice, narrow enough at the bottom, but opens up nicely towards the middle of the reed. Gilbert 1 shaper tip (tied at 73mm. on 46mm. staple) - a very popular choice. I appreciate the depth of tone that comes with it and it's nice to have a reed that's big enough to blow against. Before you buy a shaper tip, you may want to borrow several shaper tips from your friends (or get some on trial from a vendor) and test them out.
Note: Make sure your mandrel fits your staples perfectly! PISONI, Deluxe silver, 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
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
RDG Pre-Gouger - a basic "push-through" pre-gouger. Reliable and easy to use:
I use the Nielsen, or Landwell double-hollow ground and beveled knives:
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
DMT DIAMOND WHETSTONE, 600 Fine Grit, 6" X 2": available from numerous vendors, such as DiscountCutlery.net and Forrest Music. A thick layer of perforated steel is molded into a plastic base. The metal is covered with diamonds of precision size, embedded in nickel. The unique pattern of plastic islands in a "sea of diamonds" speeds sharpening and cleans away fines. Non-pourous surface resists loading and wipes clean. Use water only for lubrication.
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!!
Burnishing Rod by MusEcho (www.musecho.com): a fantastic and extremely high-quality tool that provides an easy, quick, and convenient way to maintain a knife’s edge:
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: