Posts Tagged ‘diy’

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.

The $3 Bassoon Reed Case

Case With Reeds

The $3 Reed Case

I have a num­ber of nice reed cas­es: a leather-covered three-reed case that came with my bas­soon, a nine-reed wood­en case by Wise­man, and a cou­ple of beau­ti­ful maple cas­es by Roger Gar­rett. But I always seem to need more lit­tle box­es for trans­port­ing reeds for stu­dents, stash­ing French or peri­od bas­soon reeds, or just to hold over­flow from my oth­er cas­es. My go-to for this sort of thing is the tried-and-true Altoids tin. But Altoids tins are just slight­ly the wrong dimen­sions to be a tru­ly space-efficient reed case, and as a result I’ve always got my eye out for oth­er lit­tle tins or box­es. Ver­mints tins are a marked improve­ment (they’re a bit wider and shal­low­er than Altoids tins). But I recent­ly stum­bled across some lit­tle hinged plas­tic box­es at the Con­tain­er Store that are near­ly per­fect.

Reed Case Tools and Materials

Reed Case Tools and Mate­ri­als

Best of all, they’re only $2 a pop. Add a ~$1 sheet of foam from a craft store and some tools you almost cer­tain­ly already have lying around, and you’ve got a seven-reed case for about $3. Here’s all you’ll need to make one:



  • Duco cement
  • X-acto or util­i­ty knife
  • ruler

You can buy specially-made strips of reed foam from Reeds ‘n Stuff. I’ve used them, and they work well. But the foam hold­ers in my Wise­man case hold reeds in a more com­pact fash­ion, so I decid­ed to basi­cal­ly copy that design for this case. The Wise­man foam isn’t a purpose-made strip but is actu­al­ly made up of mul­ti­ple lit­tle pieces glued togeth­er: tall pieces to go between reeds, short pieces to go under them, and long strips at the top and bot­tom to hold it all togeth­er. Using that method I can fit sev­en reeds in this 94mm-wide plas­tic case; the Reeds ‘n Stuff strip would only fit five in the same space.

Foam Pieces

Emp­ty Box and Foam Pieces

The first step is to cut lit­tle pieces out of the foam sheet. The pre­cise dimen­sions will depend on the thick­ness of your foam — mine is 5mm thick. I decid­ed to make the top and bot­tom strips 6mm wide and the entire cen­ter assem­bly 15mm wide. The cen­ter assem­bly is made up of eight 12mm x 15mm blocks (placed ver­ti­cal­ly) and sev­en 7mm x 15mm blocks (placed hor­i­zon­tal­ly). I neglect­ed to get a good pic­ture of the foam assem­bly itself, but you should be able to fig­ure out how it’s put togeth­er from the fin­ished case pic­tures.

After I cut out all the foam bits, I did a dry fit in the plas­tic box. I hadn’t account­ed for the box’s beveled edges, so I had to trim a bit of foam off the cor­ners of the end pieces. After a lit­tle tri­al and error, I had every­thing fit­ting snug­ly. I made sure the foam assem­bly was squared up to the edges of the box, and then I used my knife to light­ly score the box’s bot­tom to mark the foam’s posi­tion. I removed the foam, and then used some sand­pa­per to rough up the plas­tic where the foam would be glued in. The box’s sur­face is very smooth, so rough­ing it up a bit pro­vides the glue with a bet­ter sur­face to which to adhere.

Then, it’s just a mat­ter of apply­ing glue to the box and to the appro­pri­ate areas of each piece of foam (where they’ll con­tact the box or oth­er foam), and assem­bling it all. I put in the upper nar­row strip first, then built the cen­ter assem­bly from left to right, then applied the bot­tom nar­row strip to square it all up. I cut some more bits of foam in basi­cal­ly a reverse pat­tern so that clos­ing the case clamped it all togeth­er while the glue dried. I picked Duco because that’s some­thing we bas­soon­ists tend to have lying around, but cyano­acry­late (super glue) may actu­al­ly be a bet­ter choice for this sort of plas­tic. Time will tell if I need to re-glue any­thing.

Since I’m plan­ning to use this as an aux­il­iary reed case, I didn’t both­er punch­ing any holes in it. But if you plan to use one of these on a day-to-day basis and antic­i­pate putting your reeds away wet, you should pro­vide it with some form of ven­ti­la­tion. I bet a sol­der­ing iron could melt nice lit­tle air holes in this plas­tic — don’t breathe in the fumes, though.

Two Views of the Finished Case

Two Views of the Fin­ished Case

One note about using this case: the reeds are so close togeth­er that you have to tilt them slight­ly to fit them all in (you can see the tilt­ing and over­lap in the pho­to above). I’ve done this for years with my Wise­man case, but it might seem a lit­tle strange if you’ve nev­er done it before. There’s plen­ty of ver­ti­cal clear­ance on both sides for the reeds to sit safe­ly this way, and if you treat both reeds and case with the prop­er care, this con­fig­u­ra­tion shouldn’t cause any prob­lems.

Community Chest

Community Chest Card - Assigned Contrabassoon In Orchestra; Lose 3 Turns to Count Rests

I cre­at­ed this faux Monop­oly card when I was in grad school at Flori­da State. I actu­al­ly print­ed a few of them and hand­ed them to friends who got stuck with con­tra­bas­soon duty in orches­tra. I post­ed it on an old blog a few years ago, and it seems to have spread quite a bit since then! I see it pop­ping up on Face­book every once in a while, post­ed by a dif­fer­ent bas­soon­ist each time. See­ing it get passed around the ‘net is great, but it would be even more fun if oth­er peo­ple were hand­ing them out in the real world.

In the inter­est of mak­ing it easy for peo­ple to turn this dig­i­tal image into real-life cards, I’ve made up a print­able PDF. There are 8 cards per page, com­plete with handy crop marks to aid in cut­ting them to size. I’ve actu­al­ly made two PDFs: one with a yel­low back­ground for the cards, for print­ing on white paper, and one with no back­ground, in case you’d like to actu­al­ly print on yel­low paper. For best results, I’d rec­om­mend find­ing some yel­low card stock at your local office sup­ply store and using the uncol­ored PDF. How­ev­er you decide to print it, be sure to tell your PDF read­er to print at full size, rather than shrink­ing to fit. The mar­gins are gen­er­ous, and print­ing full size will ensure that your cards are the prop­er dimen­sions.

Creative Commons License I want to make it clear that this is a par­o­dy and that I’m not inter­est­ed in mak­ing any mon­ey from it. (Hi Has­bro!) So, I’m releas­ing this under a Cre­ative Com­mons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unport­ed License (just like my fin­ger­ing charts). Basi­cal­ly, it means that you’re free to use, dis­trib­ute, or remix this how­ev­er you’d like, as long as you cred­it me, don’t use it to make mon­ey, and use the same license for any deriv­a­tive works.

Quick Instructions:

  1. Obtain some card stock, either in white or yel­low — the thick­er, the bet­ter.
  2. Down­load whichev­er PDF match­es your paper — col­ored for plain paper or plain for col­ored paper.
  3. Open in your favorite PDF read­er and print — be sure that you print at full size.
  4. Use an X-Acto knife, a stur­dy ruler, and a suit­able cut­ting sur­face to trim the cards (using the pro­vid­ed crop marks). A ded­i­cat­ed paper cut­ter will work, too.
  5. Dis­trib­ute to your friends (or ene­mies).
Community Contra Card Sheet (yellow)

Print­able Sheet with Yel­low Back­ground

Community Contra Card Sheet

Plain Print­able Sheet (for Yel­low Paper)

Fingering Charts

Update (6/25/2014): Find the lat­est ver­sion of my fin­ger­ing charts here:

E-flat fingering

My favorite fin­ger­ing. No, real­ly…

A cou­ple of weeks ago, I start­ed teach­ing a high school vio­list who decid­ed that she’d like to play the bas­soon. Not know­ing if she’d got­ten her hands on a fin­ger­ing chart or not, I decid­ed to take one to her les­son. I have quite a few charts lying around, but as I looked through them, I real­ized that I didn’t com­plete­ly agree with any of them, at least not for use by a begin­ning stu­dent. I end­ed up tak­ing her a copy of a chart that I’d got­ten from the Conn-Selmer web site, but only after I’d marked it all up with a pen. It turned out that she did have a fin­ger­ing chart already, but I didn’t com­plete­ly agree with it, either. As I was dri­ving home from her first les­son, I thought to myself how sil­ly it is to give a stu­dent a fin­ger­ing chart that I’ve marked all over, espe­cial­ly since this cer­tain­ly isn’t the first time I’ve done so. I resolved then and there that I’d make my own fin­ger­ing chart.

Awhile ago, I’d come across the very cool and well-thought-out Fin­ger­ing Dia­gram Builder built by Bret Pimentel, multiple-woodwinds teacher at Delta State Uni­ver­si­ty. (You can read more about the FDB here). But until now, I hadn’t done any more than just play around with it. I used Bret’s FDB to crank out an image for each of my basic fin­ger­ings. I includ­ed my most com­mon alter­nate fin­ger­ings, but didn’t get into slur, mut­ed, trill, or oth­er vari­a­tions.

Once I had all of the images, I had to decide how best to lay them out with­in a score. I’ve been using Finale for years, but I’d recent­ly start­ed play­ing around with Lily­Pond. Lily­Pond is an open-source music engrav­ing pro­gram that pro­duces very nice-looking scores — far clos­er in appear­ance to good old-fashioned hand engrav­ing than Finale’s often jagged and weirdly-spaced out­put. The down­side (if you choose to see it that way) is that Lily­Pond has no graph­i­cal user inter­face; it gen­er­ates scores from spe­cial­ly for­mat­ted text files, and is in that way more like a pro­gram­ming lan­guage than a tra­di­tion­al nota­tion pro­gram. But, I’d been look­ing for a project to under­take with Lily­Pond, and this seemed like just the thing.

It took awhile to get the hang of Lily­Pond, and some for­mat­ting things I only ever got by tri­al and error. But, I final­ly end­ed up with two ver­sions of my per­son­al fin­ger­ing chart. The first is the one I’ll hand stu­dents. It cov­ers the more-or-less stan­dard range of the bas­soon (Bb1 — E5), uses only bass and tenor clefs, and includes a dia­gram with key names. The sec­ond, which I’ve dubbed my “Pro” chart, dis­cards the key dia­gram and switch­es to tre­ble clef at the top end. Oh, it also goes up to Bb5 (although I don’t yet have a reli­able fin­ger­ing for A5 — any­body?).

Since Bret has made the dia­grams gen­er­at­ed by his FDB avail­able under a Cre­ative Com­mons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unport­ed (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) license, I’ve done the same with my charts. Please, take a look and let me know what you think. Is there any­thing I could do to make them eas­i­er to read, eas­i­er to use, or just plain look nicer? Or do you spot any fin­ger­ings that I’ve ren­dered incor­rect­ly?

Hot Rod Bassoon Strap

When­ev­er pos­si­ble, I pre­fer stand­ing up to play. I do this for solo works, small cham­ber pieces, and I’ve even helped con­vinced a wood­wind quin­tet to stand to per­form. Stand­ing gives me more free­dom of move­ment, which I feel allows for more musi­cal free­dom, as well. This free­dom of move­ment also makes it eas­i­er to com­mu­ni­cate with my fel­low per­form­ers, whether through eye con­tact or phys­i­cal ges­ture. Of course, he bas­soon also tends to project bet­ter when played stand­ing up, and a stand­ing play­er is gen­er­al­ly just more inter­est­ing for the audi­ence to watch.

To facil­i­tate stand­ing it’s impor­tant to find a strap that’s com­fort­able, along with any acces­sories that make stand­ing eas­i­er (I use a bal­ance hang­er and a right-hand crutch). There are many options for straps out there, but they most­ly fall into three cat­e­gories: neck straps, har­ness­es, and slings. I’ve tried all three. I find that neck straps put too much weight on the neck and don’t put the bas­soon in a good play­ing posi­tion. Double-shoulder har­ness­es dis­trib­ute weight bet­ter, but are hard­er to get in and out of and can be visu­al­ly dis­tract­ing. I have, since some time in my under­grad­u­ate years, used a single-shoulder sling.

My usu­al sling is a black one made by BG that has a thick shoul­der pad. I wear it over my right shoul­der, which is the oppo­site of what many peo­ple do. The sling does put pres­sure and weight on my right shoul­der but I feel that it’s much more even­ly dis­trib­uted than with a neck strap. The sling also allows my bas­soon to hang in a com­fort­able play­ing posi­tion.

When I played Dead Elvis last month, I didn’t want to wear my black sling over my white Elvis jump­suit. Luck­i­ly, I had a white BG dou­ble shoul­der har­ness that I won as a door prize from Mid­west Musi­cal Imports at a dou­ble reed event a few years ago. I dis­as­sem­bled the har­ness into two pieces, one of which was basi­cal­ly a sling with­out a strap pad. It worked very well, and that got me think­ing about mak­ing anoth­er strap from scratch.

Strap Parts

Poly­ester web­bing, para­cord, mod­i­fied s-hook, reduc­ing rings, and strap adjuster.

Rather than just go for anoth­er sol­id col­or, I found some inch-and-a-half wide poly­ester web­bing embla­zoned with hot rod flames. Along with the web­bing, I ordered a whole array of slides, adjusters, rings, and oth­er strap hard­ware. I went through quite a few iter­a­tions before set­tling on a final design. My final strap uses the items at right — it’s a fair­ly sim­ple con­struc­tion.

The actu­al method of attach­ment to the bas­soon proved to be the most dif­fi­cult aspect. My BG sling uses a small rubber-coated s-hook, closed at one end, with a 90° twist in the mid­dle. I searched all over, online and off, but couldn’t find any hooks the prop­er size and shape. In fact, I couldn’t find any hooks with a 90° twist at all. I tried a num­ber of alter­na­tives, includ­ing var­i­ous clips, snaps, quick links, rings, and swivels, but none were suf­fi­cient for my pur­pos­es. I end­ed up tak­ing a stan­dard closed s-hook, bend­ing it to my required shape, then coat­ing it in Plasti-Dip.


L to R: Unmod­i­fied S-hook, hook with 90° twist, twist­ed hook with rub­ber coat­ing

The fin­ished hook is sim­ply thread­ed onto a triple strand of para­cord, which I used to tie the two ends of the strap togeth­er. The strap itself con­sists of a lit­tle less than four feet of web­bing, one strap adjuster, and two webbing-to-cord reduc­ing rings. I decid­ed to for­go a strap pad, and am hop­ing that the wider web­bing will suf­fi­cient­ly dis­trib­ute the weight. The hard­ware (oth­er than the hook) is met­al and powder-coated in black, which looks pret­ty slick. I don’t own a sewing machine, so I had my neigh­bor­hood shoe/luggage repair per­son sew the strap togeth­er. My total costs for the fin­ished strap were about $12 or $13 in parts and sewing. Of course, I spent quite a bit of time on it. But now that I’ve set­tled on a design, the next one (should there be a next one) will go sig­nif­i­cant­ly faster.

And the final prod­uct:

Strap with Bassoon