My Daily Tool Kit

In a pre­vi­ous post, I set out the basic tools and mate­ri­als that I like my stu­dents to have. These are all nec­es­sary for my method and style of reed mak­ing, but I don’t need all of them every day. I keep a stream­lined set of tools in my bas­soon case for the dai­ly busi­ness of fin­ish­ing and adjust­ing reeds. I’ve spent a good deal of time fig­ur­ing out what I tru­ly need to car­ry with me, and have acquired alter­nate ver­sions of some tools to keep my kit as com­pact as pos­si­ble. My kit also con­tains a cou­ple of items for quick instru­ment fix­es. I gave sources for some of these in my post on basic reed tools, so I’ll only pro­vide links for the new items.

Raily Reed Tools

  1. Util­i­ty Knife — My big Stan­ley knife is pain to haul around, so I car­ry this svelte Ger­ber EAB fold­ing knife instead.
    Source: Ama­zon
  2. Pli­ers — Form­ing pli­ers aren’t nec­es­sary for dai­ly adjust­ments, so I car­ry this small pair of Crafts­man nee­dle nose pli­ers instead.
    Source: Sears
  3. Reed Knife — I like this fold­ing Fox knife for its small size.
    Source: Mid­west Musi­cal Imports
  4. Hon­ing Steel — Reg­u­lar use of this Vic­tori­nox steel (made for pock­et knives and remount­ed in a file han­dle by me) lets me sharp­en my knife a lit­tle less fre­quent­ly.
    Source: Smoky Moun­tain Knife Works (or find one on eBay)
  5. Emery Board — Half of a wide coarse board fits here nicely.
  6. Cut­ting Block — I pre­fer trim­ming reeds with my Reeds ‘n Stuff guil­lo­tine, but this and a util­i­ty knife will do in a pinch.
  7. Screw­drivers — These two jew­el­er’s-style flat­head screw­drivers came with my Püch­n­er, but can be eas­i­ly obtained elsewhere.
  8. Files — Just round and flat for dai­ly use.
  9. Plaque — Big, plas­tic, and red. Easy to see if you drop it onstage or in a dark pit. Large enough to use for con­tra reeds, too.
  10. Short (Hold­ing) Man­drel — Fox: sim­ple and compact.
  11. Tooth­brush Head — For quick­ly clean­ing shav­ings out of the ream­er.
    Source: any drug store
  12. Ream­er — My trusty Rieger.
  13. Sand­pa­per — A stack of small rec­tan­gles (cut from a larg­er sheet) of 320 grit wet/dry lasts a while.
  14. Caliper — great for mak­ing repeat­ed mea­sure­ments on dif­fer­ent reeds.
    Source: Sears
  15. Ruler — Although I most­ly use the small caliper above, this small six-inch ruler takes up almost no space and comes in handy from time to time as well.
    Source: Office Depot
  16. Spring Hook — I made this out of a big paper clip years ago, and haven’t yet felt the need to upgrade to the real thing.
    Source: your desk drawer

All togeth­er, these tools cov­er about 99% of what I’ll ever have to do dur­ing a rehearsal or prac­tice ses­sion. I wish I could car­ry my guil­lo­tine with me, but it’s just too big. As you can see below, all the tools I’ve list­ed above fit com­fort­ably into my leather tool wal­let, which itself fits very nice­ly into the acces­so­ry pouch of my Mar­cus Bon­na Gen­tle­man’s case. No cram­ming necessary!

Daily Reed Tools in Case

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)

IDRS 2012

I just got back from a won­der­ful week in Oxford, Ohio for the 2012 Inter­na­tion­al Dou­ble Reed Soci­ety con­fer­ence. This was my third IDRS con­fer­ence, and the first one at which I actu­al­ly per­formed. The events took place at Mia­mi Uni­ver­si­ty, and our hosts were Mia­mi fac­ul­ty mem­bers Andrea Ridil­la (oboe) and Christin Schillinger (bas­soon).

Jazz Night with Michael Rabinowitz

Jazz Night with Michael Rabinowitz

The five days of the con­fer­ence were at once exhaust­ing­ly long and all too brief. I tried to pack as many con­certs, mas­ter­class­es, and pre­sen­ta­tions as pos­si­ble into each day. But as with most con­fer­ences, there were usu­al­ly mul­ti­ple things going on simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, and I could­n’t make it to every­thing I would have liked to see. But some of the high­lights of the con­fer­ence for me were (in no par­tic­u­lar order) the top-notch evening con­cert per­for­mances by Jeff Lyman, Mar­tin Kuuskmann, and Dami­an Mon­tano; recitals by Sax­ton Rose, Maya Stone, Scott Pool, Car­olyn Beck, Richard Ramey, Michael Burns, and the UGA fac­ul­ty (Reid Mes­sich and Amy Marinel­lo Pol­lard); lec­tures by Richard Lot­tridge, James Kopp, Ter­ry Ewell, and Richard Meek; and both a mas­ter­class and jazz night with Michael Rabi­nowitz. (I’m sure I’ve left some peo­ple out — my apologies!)

Reiprich piece

Per­form­ing When the Pines Sleep it is Autumn.
Pho­to Cour­tesy of IDRS 2012

On Tues­day morn­ing, I per­formed André Previn’s Sonata for Bas­soon and Piano with Gabriel Sanchez, a very capa­ble pianist who I’d only met the day before. Then on Wednes­day, Nico­lasa Kuster and I pre­sent­ed a pro­gram of bas­soon duos: Music for Two Bas­soons by Alexan­dros Kalogeras, When the Pines Sleep it is Autumn by Bruce Reiprich (a world pre­miere!), and the sec­ond move­ment of Fran­cis­co Mignone’s Sonata No. 1 para dois fagotes. Although both per­for­mances were in a kind of out-of-the-way venue, we had decent-sized and enthu­si­as­tic audi­ences each day. In addi­tion to these two offi­cial per­for­mances, I had the great plea­sure of going on stage at the end of Michael Rabi­now­itz’s jazz mas­ter­class and trad­ing cho­rus­es and fours on “Can­taloupe Island” with Michael, my friend Trent Jacobs, and sev­en or eight oth­er impro­vis­ing bassoonists.

ASU Reunion

Mini ASU Reunion — with Ingrid Hagan, Ben Yingst, and Christin Schillinger

Aside from the offi­cial con­fer­ence events, it’s always great to recon­nect with old friends, col­leagues, and teach­ers, and also to make new friends. Where­as at last year’s con­fer­ence in Tempe, I most­ly saw friends from UW-Madi­son, this year I ran into peo­ple from my oth­er two schools. Rep­re­sent­ing FSU were my con­fer­ence roomie Brett van Gans­beke (who has just launched The Orches­tral Bas­soon) and Joe Volk. The ASU con­tin­gent was a bit larg­er, includ­ing Ingrid Hagan (who played beau­ti­ful­ly in the Gillet-Fox Com­pe­ti­tion), Ben Yingst, Ash­ley Haney, and con­fer­ence host Christin Schillinger.

As always, the pletho­ra of ven­dors pro­vid­ed ample oppor­tu­ni­ty for shop­ping and try­ing out new instru­ments. I played most of the his­tor­i­cal bas­soons offered by Wolf along with mod­ern instru­ments by Gebrud­er Moen­nig. I stopped by the Légère booth to have some adjust­ments made to my new syn­thet­ic bas­soon reed. I browsed the wares of many oth­er ven­dors, wish­ing I had more mon­ey to blow on tools, acces­sories, and music. My only actu­al pur­chas­es were books: James Kopp’s new his­to­ry of the bas­soon, a cat­a­log of the bas­soon col­lec­tion of the late great British bas­soon­ist William Water­house, and a cat­a­log of instruc­tion­al mate­ri­als for bas­soon up to 1900, assem­bled by Water­house and edit­ed by Kopp.

Airport Duets

Play­ing Duets in the Day­ton Airport

My trip home was some­what of an ordeal, with an 8‑hour delay in Day­ton and an unplanned overnight stay in Den­ver. But while lan­guish­ing in the air­port I made some new dou­ble reed friends. With the help of a bor­rowed lap­top and IMSLP, a cou­ple of us even played a bit of Mozart’s Sonata for bas­soon and cel­lo, K. 292. As soon as we start­ed play­ing, the whole gate area went qui­et, and we got a hearty round of applause when we fin­ished. When we final­ly reboard­ed the plane, a few peo­ple thanked us for play­ing — had we known the recep­tion would be so warm, we would’ve got­ten our instru­ments out hours earlier.

After being home for a cou­ple of days, I’m final­ly recov­ered, and am already look­ing for­ward to next year. The 2013 con­fer­ence is just around the cor­ner, at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Red­lands in South­ern California!

Sequoia Chamber Music Workshop

I spent the last two weeks teach­ing at the Sequoia Cham­ber Music Fes­ti­val at Hum­boldt State Uni­ver­si­ty. This was the Work­shop’s for­ti­eth year, but only my first. It was an exhil­a­rat­ing, inspir­ing — and thor­ough­ly exhaust­ing — experience.

In a typ­i­cal day at Sequoia, stu­dents (ages 12–20) are assigned to new cham­ber groups in the morn­ing, read and select music, spend the day rehears­ing and prac­tic­ing, and give a pub­lic per­for­mance of the cho­sen piece in the evening. With four con­certs (plus a Fri­day Forum which the stu­dents pro­gram entire­ly them­selves) in five and a half days, the play­ers make their way through quite a bit of reper­toire in each ses­sion. The coach­es also work hard to ensure that every­one gets expe­ri­ence in a vari­ety of ensem­bles: large, small, winds/strings only, mixed instru­men­ta­tion, with piano, etc. The assign­ments are also designed to have stu­dents work­ing with as many dif­fer­ent col­leagues and coach­es as pos­si­ble through­out the week.

I coached a total of eight groups/pieces dur­ing Sequoia, rang­ing from Gwyneth Walk­er’s Con­cer­to for Bas­soon and Strings to Rim­sky-Kor­sakov’s Quin­tet in B‑flat Major for piano and winds to the Grand Nonet­to by Louis Spohr. Every day I had the great plea­sure of watch­ing my already tal­ent­ed young play­ers grow, becom­ing bet­ter at their instru­ments, more sen­si­tive as ensem­ble mem­bers, and just gen­er­al­ly more expe­ri­enced musi­cians. Some com­bi­na­tions of play­ers and pieces took longer to gel, but I was proud of each and every per­for­mance by my groups.

This fast-paced sched­ule cer­tain­ly has its pure­ly musi­cal ben­e­fits, but I saw oth­er pos­i­tive effects on the stu­dents. For one, play­ing with dif­fer­ent peo­ple every day (and rotat­ing between parts) seems to cre­ate a tru­ly col­le­gial and inclu­sive atmos­phere. This group of stu­dents was far less cliquey than at oth­er sum­mer music pro­grams I’ve expe­ri­enced. Also, between this sup­port­ive atmos­phere and the dai­ly musi­cal improve­ment, I saw stu­dents’ con­fi­dence lev­els grow through the week. At the begin­ning of a ses­sion, I could often tell who’d been to Sequoia before — return­ing stu­dents were more like­ly to want to rip into hard reper­toire. But by the end of each ses­sion, most every­one was game for a real challenge.

Besides get­ting to work with so many enthu­si­as­tic young musi­cians, Sequoia offered me the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work, hang out, and per­form with the sev­en­teen oth­er great coach­es. In the course of the two fac­ul­ty con­certs, I played wood­wind quin­tets by Jean Françaix and Elliott Carter; Carl Nielsen’s Ser­e­na­ta in Vano for clar­inet, horn, bas­soon, cel­lo, and bass; and Albert Rous­sel’s Duo for bas­soon and bass. The Nielsen was the only one I’d actu­al­ly per­formed before, so it was nice to be able to add some things to my own cham­ber repertoire.

I could go on and on about how great my Sequoia expe­ri­ence was — my won­der­ful host fam­i­ly, the silli­ness of the Fri­day Forums, the var­i­ous birth­day cel­e­bra­tions, etc., etc. — but I think I’ll just leave you with some pho­tos. There are a few pic­tures in the gallery below that don’t seem to fit with the oth­ers. Between the two ses­sions, a few of us coach­es had a real­ly fun gig: play­ing the nation­al anthem at a Hum­boldt Crabs minor league base­ball game! Charles DeR­a­mus, who loves both bass and base­ball, set that up for us.

Pho­tos tak­en by Sequoia Asso­ciate Direc­tor Ethan Fil­ner, Sequoia Counselor/Theory Teacher Dar­ryl Tol­liv­er, and Hum­boldt Crabs Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Erik Fraser.

Basic Reed Tools

Basic Reed ToolsOver the past cou­ple of weeks, I’ve been cor­re­spond­ing with one of my incom­ing fresh­men about what reed tools and mate­ri­als he’ll need when he arrives at school in the fall. This has inspired me to assem­ble a real list of the equip­ment that I want a begin­ning reed mak­er to have. I’ve combed the three dou­ble reed spe­cial­ty shops that I typ­i­cal­ly do busi­ness with (For­rests Music, Mid­west Musi­cal Imports, and Miller Mar­ket­ing) along with a few nation­al chains (Ace Hard­ware, Home Depot, and Wal­greens) for the best prices on my rec­om­mend­ed items. There are a cou­ple of things that I rec­om­mend get­ting from Bar­rick Stees and Christlieb Prod­ucts, as well. For most items I’ve also list­ed oth­er options, in case you’d like to buy a bet­ter knife, or save on ship­ping by order­ing from few­er mer­chants. I won’t go through exact­ly how I use all of these now — that’s a top­ic for anoth­er post.


Form­ing pli­ers (with a smooth hole in the jaws for shap­ing the tube of the reed) are a spe­cial­ty item, and there aren’t too many choic­es in brands. I pre­fer the orange han­dled Knipex/Rieger ver­sion. These have larg­er han­dles than some of the oth­ers, and are very well made. They also hap­pen to be the least expen­sive of the bunch.

Best Price: $45, Miller Mar­ket­ing (RBPLRS)
Oth­er Sources: For­rests Music (#E‑29), Mid­west Musi­cal Imports

Reed Knife

I own a a few dif­fer­ent knives, and each one has things I like and things I don’t. I think all that real­ly mat­ters is that you find some­thing that fits your hand com­fort­ably and that you can keep sharp rel­a­tive­ly easily.

Best Price: $24, Mid­west Musi­cal Imports (Rig­ot­ti straight knife)
Oth­er Knives: Mid­west Musi­cal Imports, For­rests Music, Miller Mar­ket­ing

Utility Knife

Any basic util­i­ty knife will do. I like the kind that take the stan­dard trape­zoidal blades, rather than the ones with sec­tioned snap-off blades. These (along with extra blades) should be easy to find at any hard­ware store. My stan­dard knife is a beefy-han­dled retractable Stan­ley that holds extra blades inside.

Best Price: $4.48, Home Depot
Oth­er Sources: Ace Hard­ware

Short (Holding) Mandrel

I have a cou­ple of these, one by Fox and one by Rig­ot­ti. There are many oth­er brands to choose from, too — all that real­ly mat­ters is that you find one that’s con­fort­able in your hand.

Best Price: $15, Miller Mar­ket­ing (2X Reed Man­drel)
Oth­er Man­drels: For­rests Music, Mid­west Musi­cal Imports


I hate the sound a knife makes when it scrapes on a met­al plaque, so I stick to plas­tic ones. Again, I have a few of these, but my favorite is a big red one that also works for con­tra reeds and is easy to spot when (not if) you drop it in a dark pit.

Best Price: $2, For­rests Music (#G‑21)
Oth­er Sources: Mid­west Musi­cal Imports


Good ream­ers are sharp, have mul­ti­ple flut­ed spi­ral blades, and are pre­cise­ly made to match the taper of a bocal. As a result, they aren’t cheap. Ream­ers get infre­quent enough use that a new stu­dent can sub­sist for awhile by bor­row­ing those of his or her stu­dio­mates. But any­one doing seri­ous reed mak­ing will need one even­tu­al­ly. I like my Rieger ream­er, but there are good ream­ers for a lit­tle less mon­ey, too.

Best Price: $79, Miller Mar­ket­ing (Miller Mar­ket­ing Pro Spi­ral Ream­er) or $80, Bar­rick Stees
Oth­er Ream­ers: Mid­west Musi­cal Imports, For­rests Music (#E‑31)

Handheld Torch

I like to heat my form­ing man­drels before using them (to make the cane more pli­able dur­ing form­ing), and have found a small hand­held butane torch to be the best heat source. These come in a vari­ety of shapes, sizes, and prices. Mine is an inex­pen­sive hard­ware store mod­el that sim­ply takes butane lighters as car­tridges. This is anoth­er item that can be bor­rowed from stu­dio­mates ini­tial­ly, if necessary.

Best Price: $20, Home Depot
Oth­er Torch­es: Home Depot, Ace Hard­ware 1, Ace Hard­ware 2

Forming Mandrels/Drying Rack

I like to form reeds on long man­drels, then allow them to dry before remov­ing them. My pins, which I love, were made by Accu­rate. Sad­ly, they’ve now gone out of busi­ness, but you can buy sim­i­lar racks/pins from others.

Best Price: $75, Christlieb Prod­ucts (6D Chucked Han­dle ‑and- 7A1 Dry­ing Board w/Brass Form­ing Man­drel Tips)
Anoth­er Option: Miller Mar­ket­ing (2XMS Reed Form­ing Man­drel Set)


My easel is just a six-inch sec­tion of tool han­dle that my under­grad­u­ate teacher, Dr. Jef­frey Lyman, cut for me. A 1.25″ dow­el will work too, but I pre­fer the high­er-den­si­ty tool han­dle wood. You can get very nice pur­pose-made easels too, but I’ve nev­er seen the need to shell out for one.

Best Price: $1.50, Home Depot ($12 tool han­dle, can be cut into at least 8 easels)
Oth­er Options: Ace Hard­ware (anoth­er tool han­dle), Mid­west Musi­cal Imports, For­rests Music

Measuring Device

The cheap­est and eas­i­est to find is a sim­ple six-inch ruler — just make sure that it has mil­lime­ter markings.

Best Price: $2, Home Depot
Oth­er Sources: Mid­west Musi­cal Imports, For­rests Music (#R‑05)


Some peo­ple make exten­sive use of files in their reed mak­ing; I don’t. I use a round file most often, and occa­sion­al­ly pick up my flat and tri­an­gu­lar files, too. You can buy very nice dia­mond files indi­vid­u­al­ly, or get a six-pack of assort­ed files from most hard­ware stores. A word of warn­ing — be sure to wash your files before use. They often have resid­ual machin­ing oils that will make your reeds taste awful.

Best Price: $9.40, For­rests Music (#E‑26)
Oth­er Sources: Mid­west Musi­cal Imports, Miller Mar­ket­ing, Ace Hard­ware, Home Depot


One pack­age of 320 grit wet/dry sand­pa­per (usu­al­ly black or dark grey) will last quite awhile.

Best Price: $6, Home Depot

Emery Boards

Coarse emery boards work like sand­ing blocks (pro­vid­ing a rigid sand­ing sur­face), but are less expen­sive, eas­i­er to man­age, and more compact.

Best Price: $2, Wal­greens

Cutting Block

A sur­face to use when trim­ming the tips of reeds. A block with a diam­e­ter greater than 1 inch is best for bas­soon reeds.

Best Price: $11, Mid­west Musi­cal Imports
Oth­er Blocks: For­rests Music, Mid­west Musi­cal Imports

Cotton String

Anoth­er hard­ware store item — I use thick cot­ton string to wrap cane dur­ing the form­ing process.

Best Price: $3, Home Depot

22 Gauge Brass Wire

Some­times you can find this in a hard­ware store — make sure it’s 22 gauge, though! Larg­er spools can be ordered from pret­ty much any dou­ble reed supplier.

Price: $8–30, depend­ing on how large a spool you buy
Sources: For­rests Music (#G‑05), Mid­west Musi­cal Imports, Miller Mar­ket­ing

Reed Tying Thread

I pre­fer nylon size FF thread. This also is avail­able from most dou­ble reed shops — in lots of colors!

Price: $6.50–10, depend­ing on brand
Sources: Miller Mar­ket­ing, For­rests Music, Mid­west Musi­cal Imports

Duco Cement

The old stand­by reed adhe­sive. Duco is avail­able in both met­al tubes and plas­tic bot­tles — which you buy is a mat­ter of per­son­al pref­er­ence and what your store stocks.

Best Price: $3, Miller Mar­ket­ing
Oth­er Sources: For­rests Music, Ace Hard­ware

Now, a few caveats about this list:

  1. These are the items that I con­sid­er essen­tial for my own style of reed mak­ing. Oth­er play­ers and teach­ers will like­ly have some­what dif­fer­ent lists.
  2. In list­ing the best prices for these items, I have tried to find tools that are suf­fi­cient for a begin­ning reed mak­er. They cer­tain­ly aren’t the only options, nor are they all the spe­cif­ic mod­els that I use on a dai­ly basis.
  3. If you buy all of the “Best Price” items on this list, it comes to about $320, not includ­ing tax or ship­ping charges. This may seem like a lot, but con­sid­er that with com­mer­cial reeds at $15–20 a pop, mak­ing your own reeds will recov­er the cost of tools in rel­a­tive­ly short order. If you real­ly want to, you can wait on the ream­er and torch, bring­ing the total down to about $220.
  4. There are tools I use fre­quent­ly that I haven’t includ­ed on this list, because there are ways of accom­plish­ing the same tasks with those I have listed.
  5. You will, of course, need some­thing to put all of these tools in. For­rests, Mid­west, and Miller all car­ry nice tool pouch­es, but you can also just use some­thing you’ve already got or even the ship­ping box your tools arrive in.
  6. There is one addi­tion­al item with­out which all of this is use­less: cane! But that’s a sub­ject for anoth­er day.

Although I’ve made this list pri­mar­i­ly for my own stu­dents, I hope that it will prove to be use­ful for oth­ers, as well. Hap­py reed making!