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Considerations for Selecting Cane from the Tube

Cane Preparation

The results achieved with the Opus1 gouging machine can be greatly affected by the preparation of your cane.  The old computer expression, "Garbage In...Garbage Out", can be applied to reed making as well.  Select and prepare your cane carefully using the following procedures and you should be happy with your results.

Always choose your cane carefully.  Attention paid that this stage will save much frustration later.  Your cane should be straight and flat.  Watch the VIDEO above for a clear explanation.  The diameter of the tube should be 10mm - 10.5mm.   I prefer 10.25mm diameter.  If you look at the planed surface of the cane, the grain should be straight and symmetrical.  If you place the piece of cane on a flat surface with the bark side down, it should not bow at the ends or in the middle.  When you consider that the gouge curve is cut "straight" into a piece of cane and if you cut this straight gouge into a crooked piece of cane, the thickness of the different gouge dimensions will be all over the map.  In other words, when selecting your cane, STRAIGHT is GREAT!  Pay special attention to cane that bows up in the middle.  In this situation, the sides of the tip will want to be loose.  You can visualize this by imagining this piece of cane folded, shaped and tied onto a staple.  The tip will want to be open at the sides.  Since the sides need to press tightly all the way to the end of the tip for pitch stability in a reed, this is a very bad situation.

The cane should be planed or cut in a pre-gouger to be 8.0 millimeters across the flat side.  This allows for the proper placement of the cane with respect to the guide during the gouging process.  If the cane is wider than 8.0 mm, it with touch higher up the guide surface during the finishing passes of the blade.  This will result in a slightly thicker gouge.  

Conversely, if the cane is narrower than 8.0 mm, the cane will have less contact with the guide surface and allow the blade to cut more during the final passes.  This is true for ALL Gougers, no matter what make.  

Please note that NARROWING a piece of cane from the sides to be 8.0mm wide is different than PLANING a piece of cane down to the point that it is 8.0mm wide.  See an illustration of my point. 


The important lesson here is to check that each piece of cane is "consistent".  If you want consistent results with any gouger, the material it is cutting needs to be consistent as well.








I prefer to narrow the ends of the piece of cane before gouging to help the blade "feed into" the sides.  This also facilitates shaping later.  Cut off the OUTER third of the cane up around one-half inch.

I split and plane my cane dry.  Since the tolerances during this step are not as critical, any changes to the cane caused by slight swelling from water will not effect your ultimate results.  So, to save time, go ahead and split and plane your tube cane dry. 

Before you gouge the cane, however, it should be soaked for about 15 minutes in "Soup Hot" water.  You don't want to "cook" the cane, however. When the cane is being gouged and when you are taking measurements of your gouging results, the cane should be soaked to the same degree as it would be if it were a finished reed being played.  If the cane is over soaked, the cells will be bloated with water and expand to a larger size. When the cane dries to its "playing wetness", the cells will shrink back leaving the gouge thinner than you planned.

Scraping a blank that is over soaked is also not productive because the cane is carrying much more water than normal in its cells as it vibrates . This extra weight causes the cane to vibrate in a fashion that is not representative of the way the reed will function under normal playing conditions.  So....please do not OVER SOAK your cane.  The cane should always be soaked to "playing moistness" when you are gouging or scraping a reed.

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