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Double-Reed Glossary

Almond Oil Used to oil the bore of a wooden instrument body.  
Arkansas Stone Generally a smoother, softer and more porous grit stone commonly used for Vitry brand and soft metal knives.  Comes in soft, medium and hard varieties.
Billot Block This is a small cutting block, often with a slightly rounded surface, used for clipping the tip of a reed.
Bees Wax A wax clump which is applied to reed string before the tying process.  It gives the string some grip while tying on a reed (so that the string doesn't slip around as much).
Beveled Knife The sides of the blade are flat/angled (as opposed to concave/sloped) to create the sharp edge.
Bocal A curved metal, tube-like attachment to several double reed instruments, such as Oboe D'Amore, English horn and Bassoon.  The cork end of the bocal is inserted into the top of the instrument.  The reed is attached to the open end of the bocal. 
Bore The internal shape of an instrumentís body length.  There are two types of bores: cylindrical and conical. 
Conical Bore A gentle taper from one end of the instrument to the other.  Narrowness of an instrument facilitates use of the high register.  Oboe, bassoons and saxophones are conically bored instruments.  
Crop We name the different brands of cane by their grower.  For example, Carl Alliaud produces what we call Alliaud cane.  Most oboe cane crops are grown in France.
Cylindrical Bore The bore is relatively the same width down the body of the instrument.  It allows the instrument to play an octave lower, often with a more buzzing and subdued tone.  It acts as a stopped pipe and produces an odd number of partials.  The clarinet is an instrument with a cylindrical bore.
Dampit One type of humidifier placed in the case of a wooden instrument when in dry climates.  This helps prevent cracking in the wood due to a lack of of natural moisture in the air.
Diameter The measurement of the circumference of a tube of cane.  The smaller the diameter, the more open the reed tip.
Diamond Stone Generally a very hard and very open/porous stone.  Used for grinding or for sharpening hard metal knives.  Comes in superfine, fine and harder varieties.
Double-hollow Ground Knife The sides of the blade are concave (as opposed to flat) to meet at the sharpened edge.  A razor-edge knife will have a similar appearance, but there will be no slope to the sides of the blade.
Easel A cylindrically shaped piece of wood which allows you to measure the exact center for folding a gouged piece of cane.
Embouchure How you use and hold the muscles around your mouth to play wind instruments.  The embouchure varies according to its instrument.  For double reed instruments (including oboe, oboe díamore, English horn, Bassoon, and Contrabassoon), the embouchure is likened to a drawstring bag in that it is rounded.  The jaw is lowered and is slightly back for the lower instruments.  The lips cover the teeth to create a cushion for the reed vibration.
Gouge When a piece of cane has been cut to the right length, it must be shaved down to a specific thinness that, when wet, is flexible enough it can be folded and shaped without cracking.  This shaving down is called gouging the cane, and it is done by a special piece of equipment called a gouging machine.  The machine has a cradle for the piece of cane.  Then a carriage device containing a sharp blade is run back and forth over the cane. 
Guillotine A blade carrying device used to cut newly split piece of cane to the proper length.  The cane is placed into a bed and the blade comes down on it.
India Stone A courser, medium and open/porous stone used for sharpening medium or hard metal knives.  Comes in soft, medium and hard varieties.
Mandrel A handheld tool used to securely hold a tube/staple during the reed-tying process.
Plaque A small, flat or contoured device, usually made of metal or wood, which is inserted between the blades of a double reed as a surface to scrape against with a reed knife.
Planer This device is used in the pre-tying reed production stages.  Once the cane has been cut to the proper length, it is run through this hand-machine so that the length of the piece's upturned sides are flat.  It can then be run through a pre-gouging machine or go straight to the gouging machine.
Pre-Gouger A machine used after the planing process in reed-making.  It takes off the thickest inner layer of the cane and facilitates running the cane through the gouging machine.  However, cane can be gouged without pre-gouging, but not without planing.
Shaper Tip This is a metal piece of equipment used to mold the shape of gouged cane so it may be tied on to a staple (tube) to make a reed.  Once a piece of cane has been soaked and gouged, it is folded over this device, secured, and the sides of the cane shaved away to imitate the shape of the mold.  The piece of cane can then be taken off the mold and made into a reed.  The differences between tips have mostly to do with the length and width of the reed you wish to tie.  Selection is made by personal preference or recommendation, but always with the goal of having securely sealing sides on the reed and preferred tip opening.  This decision is come to mostly by trial and error.
Splitter This is used to split tube cane into three equal width pieces in the first stages of processing cane.  It looks like a long stick with three blades at the end.  It is inserted into the hollow tube of cane and pressed down.
Staple A tube, usually consisting of nickel-silver or brass, with specific measurements according to its respective double reed instrument.  The bottom of an oboe staple is surrounded by cork for secure insertion into the instrument.  Oboe d'Amore and English horn staples do not have cork because they fit onto the instrument's bocal.
Swab A narrowly cut cloth that is run through the instrument to absorb any moisture or condensation built up during playing.  Usually made form silk or cotton.
Tenon Cap The coverings which protect the cork on the joints of the instrument when disassembled in the case.
Tube Cane This is the first stage of a double reed.  Cane is produced on plantations and grows in bamboo-like, hollow stalks.  They are then harvested, cut, and dried for several years before ready for reed production.
Short & Sweet:

How a reed is made

"American"      "European"


The tube cane is cut into three equal lengths of cane.  Each piece is carefully evaluated for 1) a healthy yellowish color (avoiding greenish hues), 2) flatness (no curves or bumps in the cane), and 3) texture (grainy versus smooth).  The piece is then cut to a specific length using a cane guillotine.  Then the length of the piece is planed with a planer so that the sides are parallel with a tabletop.  The cane has to be soaked thoroughly (usually 20 to 30 minutes) in order to gouge it to the necessary thinness for folding it in half.  After folding, it is put on a shaper tip and the sides of the piece are scraped off with a blade so it takes the form of the mold.  Still well soaked for flexibility, it is string-tied onto a staple/tube with very specific measurements.  Once everything is properly lined up, measured and even, the reed is ready for the refining process with a reed knife.  The "tip" is the thinnest part of the reed, the "back" (sometimes called "windows") and then the "heart".  Once the tip has been scraped enough, it can be clipped so that the folded part at the tip of the cane is removed to expose a marquis-shaped opening.  There are as many different ways to scrape a reed as there are oboists, but the above procedures are pretty universal leading up to the refining & scraping stage.


This information was compiled and written by Elizabeth McKeown Pevey, and is the intellectual property of Covey Oboes. Please credit the author and web-site if quoting. Please obtain permission before reproducing it. And please mention this web-site to your oboist friends!! 

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