An Inexpensive Cane Scoring Tool

Scor­ing is the process of cut­ting a num­ber of par­al­lel ver­ti­cal lines in the bark a piece of gouged, shaped, and pro­filed cane. These cuts make it eas­i­er to form the cane into a cylin­dri­cal tube and help pre­vent crack­ing dur­ing the form­ing process. Dif­fer­ent reed mak­ers have var­i­ous the­o­ries of scor­ing, involv­ing dif­fer­ent num­bers, spac­ing, length, and depth of score marks. There is also quite a vari­ety of tools one can choose from to actu­al­ly per­form the scor­ing, rang­ing from a $4 util­i­ty knife to Rieger’s €946 scor­ing machine. The tool I have used for years is close to the inex­pen­sive end of this spec­trum. It is sim­ply a tap (a tool for cut­ting screw threads) mount­ed in a file han­dle.

Parts and Assembly

Left: file han­dle and tap. Right: assem­bled scor­ing tool.

I cer­tain­ly can’t claim to have invent­ed this — I saw Pro­fes­sor James Lotz at Ten­nessee Tech Uni­ver­si­ty demon­strate such a tool when I was a bud­ding reed mak­er in high school. Miller Mar­ket­ing also sells a scor­ing tool that looks to be basi­cal­ly the same thing, made by 2XReed. I don’t remem­ber what the orig­i­nal tap and han­dle cost (I’ve been using the same scor­ing tool for about 15 years). But I recent­ly made a sec­ond one to keep in my office, and the parts came to a whop­ping $8. Here are a tap and han­dle sim­i­lar to the ones that I recent­ly pur­chased. If you’re lucky, the tap will just fit snug­ly in the han­dle — my first tool went togeth­er that way with a sim­ple fric­tion fit. If you’re unlucky (as I was with my recent parts), you’ll have to glue the tap into the han­dle to keep it in place. No big deal. There are prob­a­bly high­er qual­i­ty file han­dles out there with more con­sis­tent con­struc­tion, but this is what my local hard­ware store had.

Tap Close-up

Detail of the tap

The spe­cif­ic size of the tap isn’t crit­i­cal — you just need some­thing with cut­ting teeth (close up at right) with the spac­ing you want to achieve in your scor­ing lines. I use a tap for cut­ting 10–24 threads; the 2XReed tap looks big­ger. If you actu­al­ly buy your tap at a hard­ware store rather than online, you can just looks at all the dif­fer­ent choic­es and pick one that looks right to you.

To use the tool, first put your piece of cane on an easel. Then, hold the tool per­pen­dic­u­lar to the cane at the point you want to start your score lines — I like to start just above the sec­ond wire. Make sure that you have the edge of one set of cut­ting teeth lined up to dig into the cane, apply a bit of pres­sure, and draw the tool straight down your cane. I like to plant my thumb on the back end of the easel and use a sort of clos­ing-the-hand motion to help keep my lines straight. One pass with the tool with score about half the width of the cane. To score the oth­er side, just repeat the action on the oth­er side. You can put one tooth of the scor­ing tool the last exist­ing line to keep the prop­er spac­ing and direc­tion of your score marks. I’ve thrown togeth­er a quick ani­ma­tion of the scor­ing process:

Scoring Animation

Click to see an ani­ma­tion of the scor­ing process

Finished Cane

Cane after a cou­ple of pass­es with the tool

And there you have it: eight or nine per­fect­ly par­al­lel score marks in a mat­ter of a few sec­onds. Above right you can see a piece of cane after a cou­ple of pass­es with the scor­ing tool. I went a lit­tle too high on the left side of this piece of cane, but it’s not a big deal. It does take a lit­tle prac­tice to align the cut­ting teeth prop­er­ly, and also to make the first cut per­fect­ly straight. But get­ting the hang of it doesn’t take very long, and pret­ty quick­ly you’ll be get­ting very con­sis­tent results. The one draw­back of this method is that it doesn’t quite cut as deeply as I’d like; I like my scor­ing to go all the way through the cane at the back end. So, I typ­i­cal­ly deep­en the marks with a util­i­ty knife — anoth­er pret­ty quick oper­a­tion.

  • Janis McKay

    December 31st, 2013

    Reply

    Thank you so much for post­ing this! I’m going to try it today.

    • David A. Wells

      January 4th, 2014

      Reply

      Great! I’d be inter­est­ed to know what you think after you’ve giv­en it a try.

  • Tina B.

    March 22nd, 2014

    Reply

    Great idea, saves time and effort with even scores.

  • Josua

    May 15th, 2016

    Reply

    Thank you for this great post!
    Do you know which diame­tre the tap approx­i­mate­ly is, or for which screw?

    • David A. Wells

      May 15th, 2016

      Reply

      I men­tion this is the post – I’m using a #10–24 tap. But you can exper­i­ment with dif­fer­ent sizes to find one that cuts the num­ber of lines you want.

      • Josua

        May 15th, 2016

        Reply

        Thanks, I didn ‘t know this is the size ;D

        • David A. Wells

          May 15th, 2016

          Reply

          Ah, no wor­ries! It’s one of the non­sen­si­cal sizes that we Amer­i­cans seem to cling to for no good rea­son. The tap appears to be about 4.5mm in diam­e­ter, if that helps.

  • Josua

    May 15th, 2016

    Reply

    Yes this helps
    Thank you very much!

  • JOE MCDANIEL

    September 29th, 2017

    Reply

    To pre­vent rust, get a tap that is made of chrome-moly or plat­ed.

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