Oboe/Tying on


Dear Geoffrey,

What is the effect of using too much or too little thread tension when tying on oboe reeds? What is the optimum tension?

I try to be careful with all aspects of my reed making but find that my reeds are too often hard and unresponsive. I then find I have to scrape them too much, sacrificing tone quality, to get the desired response.
I use an rdg-2 and glotin 46mm staples and tie to 73, cut to finish at 71.5. The gouge is .57. I'm wondering if I'm pulling too hard on the thread thus distorting the aperture. I use a hardness tester and generally use cane measuring between 11and 16 in attempt to avoid cane that is too hard.

Best wishes,


Dear Matt

I am sorry you have had to wait a little for my reply.

Hard reeds are often caused by the quality of the cane itself. Which cane are you using?

The thread tightness is usually best kept to very firm and twangy both the anchored end and the winding end.
Some reed makers have advocated slackening the very last turn before going back on yourself in the binding process. If the staple is fitting the mandrel well enough there should be no possibility of the staple tube being crushed by the pressure you are applying. Good vibration of a fixed piece of cane is probably better achieved by being firm at the staple top rather than floppy.

Make sure that the sides are not crossing unless you are attempting an American style, very long scrape. Crossing blades can help seal and reduce the aperture with this style. It is a fault still in my mind to see blades crossing over. I think it creates instability which goes against the grain for me!!

Another thing to try is turn over the cane and staple as you bind and try therefore to even the pressure. Also make sure that the start of the wind-back sits across the sides of the reed and not the upper surface of the cane. I think that might help a little too.

All said and done in the end it boils down to cane quality. So much we do to make our reeds accurately and with great symmetry is annoyingly put into insignificance when we have a lucky good bit of cane. It then seems to matter not one jot how we have constructed the reed, it will work beautifully.

I use a hardness tester myself and find that range perfect for me too. Some cane - in fact quite a lot - starts off well but toughens up significantly with playing. Just be patient with these reeds because they are still possibly going to ease up with time and very gentle scraping and blending areas. Make sure that your tips are as thin as possible around 0.10mm and less, with a good even blend between the front of the heart and the corners. If you have any bumps take them down a touch with fine wet and dry - say around 600 gauge or finer. Just a polish.

Hope you have success don't overscrape and again sorry for the lateness.

Best wishes



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Geoffrey Bridge


Professional oboist with many years experience. Former pupil of Leon Goossens. Solo artist for Arts Council of Great Britain. Freelance recitalist/broadcasting/orchestras. Former Head of woodwind teaching in Hampshire, England. Questions on repertoire, playing styles, reeds, cane selection and processing.


St Andrews University Royal College of Music, Aberdeen College of Education Licenciate of the Royal Academy of Music General Teaching Council certificate Broadcast solo recitals/performed with major symphony orchestras/Music Club recitals/writings on double reed matters

Chairman and Trustee of the British Double Reed Society International Double Reed Society Association Hautbois Francais Orchestral Manager of Southern Pro Musica Orchestra/Aberdeen Sinfonietta

Double Reed News/Australasian Double Reed Society magazine/International Double Reed Society

LRAM, Cert Ed

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