The $3 Bassoon Reed Case

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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.

  • Trent

    April 17th, 2013


    I would say don’t ruin your sol­der­ing iron by melt­ing holes. A dremel drill with a bit will do the job of pro­vid­ing ven­ti­la­tion with­out the mess, with­out the smell, and the final look will be bet­ter.

    • David A. Wells

      April 17th, 2013


      Would it real­ly do dam­age to the iron? Mine is so cheap­ly con­struct­ed and beat­en up that I’m not too wor­ried about it. I had­n’t thought about drilling with a Dremel. I’ve had bad results drilling thin plas­tic with a stan­dard pow­er drill in the past, but I sup­pose the addi­tion­al RPMs of a Dremel would do a bet­ter job.

      • Erica

        April 30th, 2013


        You won’t ruin the iron itself but the tip won’t be the same after that. Nice case, by the way. I’ve been think­ing of mak­ing a sim­i­lar one and might check out the Con­tain­er Store now.

  • Daniel Beilman

    September 2nd, 2013


    To drill holes I always use one of my real­ly old ream­ers. I use a 2XReed ream­er that has a pret­ty sharp point. I use it to make holes in wood, plas­tic and met­al for stu­dents and myself. With the met­al, use a dia­mond sand­ing block to smooth the edges.

    Great site, by the way!

    • David A. Wells

      September 2nd, 2013


      Thanks! I’ve just got­ten some more of these plas­tic cas­es, and I think I’ll sac­ri­fice one to test dif­fer­ent hole punching/drilling meth­ods. Unfor­tu­nate­ly the only old ream­er I’ve got is one of the Fox­es with a sin­gle straight cut­ting edge. It does­n’t cut cane very well, and I doubt it would do any bet­ter on plas­tic.

  • Barbara Warren

    February 3rd, 2014


    Hi David
    I enjoyed read­ing your web­site.

    Do you actu­al­ly sell one of those reed cas­es? I just don’t have the time to make one, but I real­ly need at least one; per­haps more.
    Thank you so much.

    • David A. Wells

      February 3rd, 2014


      Hi Bar­bara,

      No, I don’t have the time to make these on any sort of scale, unfor­tu­nate­ly. A faster method would be to buy some pre-made reed hold­er foam from For­rests: For $29 you get one meter’s worth. You can then cut that into what­ev­er width you want and quick­ly glue it into box­es of all sorts. I used some of this for a big reed blank stor­age box that holds 33 reeds. It’s good stuff, just slight­ly more expen­sive and not quite as com­pact as the method I describe here.

  • Taylor

    September 21st, 2014


    To make this project go faster, you can buy pre­cut foam from For­rests.

    Rib­bon Type Hold­ing Strip:

    I also used dou­ble sided foam tape instead of glue so it’s usable instant­ly!

    I think I made about 8 of these rather quick­ly. The slow­est part was drilling holes with my off-brand Dremel tool.

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