Getting the Gouge back in place.

June 25, 2011

Well, it’s been 3 days since I pulled my graf blade to sharpen, and we’re making progress.

Anyone who does their own gouging knows that the biggest pain in the world is to pull your blade, sharpen it, and get it back in the right place. In fact, there’s no good way to do this other than to continuously do it and get practice. I’ve probably done it 30 times and I’m still horrible at it.

Murphy’s law states:

  • Your blade will stay sharp for approximately 800-1200 pieces of cane.
  • The moment you get the blade in the right position and the gouging machine adjusted perfectly, the blade dulls.
  • The blade seems to stay sharp for shorter periods of time as I get better at adjusting my machine.

This is the reason why Martin simply laughs at me for working with gouging machines in the first place. It’s such a big friggin’ pain. Meanwhile, other gouging machine makers have attempted to make machines that put the blade in more consistently such as the Westwind Gouging machine and while I’m still not sure how it helps you put the blade back exactly in the same place, I still don’t see any way around it. If you pull your blade and sharpen it, it will change slightly. It might gouge a little thicker, or a little thinner, but it will change, and any way you look at it, it will need to be readjusted. I think this is one of the major advantages of buying a machine from someone who offers customer service, such as RDG, or Ross Woodwinds. You don’t have to trouble yourself with it.

Once you pull your blade out, you usually sharpen the blade on 4/0 jeweler’s emery sandpaper put it back in so you get the chip thickness to about .04-.06, and get the blade so that it’s centered, then start making reeds. A usual process is like this, except I do everything twice to make sure one instance isn’t an anomaly.

  • Gouge a piece of cane. Bend it over my finger and fold it. Wow, that was way too easy and not enough spring. The sides are too thin. Thicken the sides on the gouge.
  • Gouge another piece of cane, still a little too flimsy, but let’s tie it up and see what we got. Shaped, tied, tip scraped and clipped. Wow that opening looks microscopic. Thicken the sides again.
  • Gouge another piece of cane. The fold feels about right. Shape and tie. Scrape tip open, looks good. Scrape the rest of the reed and try. Round sound, but unstable in upper register. Getting impatient. Thicken sides a good amount.
  • Gouge another piece of cane. Fold over finger and it’s a bit stiff now. Shape and tie and scrape tip. Clip open. Wow, I can drive a Mack truck through that. Sides too thick. Adjust the gouge for slightly thinner sides.
  • Gouge another piece of cane. Fold over finger and it’s still a bit stiff. Shape and tie and scrape another. Clip open looks good. Scrape the reed, and it just feels a little heavy everywhere. Try, and it feels a bit flat, but consistent from top to bottom. Adjust the thickness of the gouge from .60mm to .58mm.
  • Gouge another piece of cane. Fold, shape, tie, and let dry and see what we have tomorrow. Repeat as necessary.

By the time you’re done, you have all sorts of irregular reeds that I give away or just recycle the tubes. It usually takes me between 20 and 30 reeds to get an acceptable gouge. Currently I think I’m around 25ish. So hopefully I’m getting close.


4 Responses to “Getting the Gouge back in place.”

  1. These tales of frustration are a wealth of information! Thanks for sharing! Do you mind if I link this on my blog?

  2. Bryan Walker said

    That is why I love my Reeds ‘n Stuff machine. No fuss!

    • cooperwrightreeds said

      No fuss but nothing great. It’s just an “okay” gouge, and you will never get any flexibility. Its a brilliant sounding gouge with thinner sides.

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