I can't find tubes that fit my mandrel. Any suggestions?
Mandrels do wear out (an oboist came to me recently with a "pet" mandrel he had for about 20 years…the tube end was about as big as a toothpick!) A much overlooked fact is that you don't play the oboe with a mandrel! Find tubes which acoustically fit your particular set-up, then find a mandrel which closely fits the tubes. An ideal fit means that the tube will not move when twisted, and very closely comes to the end of the mandrel. If there is a variance of 1mm + or -, it should not matter (if it is a visual matter for binding, obtain better lighting.)
What do you do with cane which splits in the binding process?
If the split is a hairline under 5mm or so from the binding, I let it go on to scraping. The rest winds up for my personal use reeds. Pieces with "monster" size cracks from the binding are discarded, as are, of course, pieces split in the tip, or body of the blade(s).
Do you have any hard/soft/medium cane?
I hate to recommend particular sources of cane, because one reed maker's idea of what is too soft, for example, might be just right for someone else. Cane, like wood and bones, gets harder with age, but fundamental aspects such as fiber size and distribution are not going to change over time.
e.g. Mealy/crumbly cane is not going to have the best vibrating characteristics, regardless of age.
When did you get started making oboe reeds?
Fortunately, my first oboe/reed teacher was Charles Lehrer in about 1961. He is a wonderful player and teacher who laid down an excellent foundation for me (by the way, my very first reed came apart when I tried to scrape it…I didn't tie it tightly enough…DUH!!!). Louis Rosenblatt, Chris Philpotts, and others have helped, too. SOME ADVICE: Don't be reticent about obtaining help and ideas from friends or colleagues.
Where did you get your first tools and cane?
Tools came from Linx & Long in NYC. I am still using the original block. In fact, virtually every reed that I have made, has been cut on this block. It has had literally millions of cuts made on it. Its condition…superb. I occasionally polish it up…lovely little chunk of grenadilla! I procured cane from Hans Moennig, Fernand Roche and John Hayden.
I can't seem to be able to get a really good edge on my knife, especially after I've sharpened it a few times. How do I get a good edge?
"Sharpening" used to mean grinding on a stone only, but there are some better final steps available today. Basically, you must have a highly refined, polished edge, which is then turned (aligned for scraping) with a burnishing rod. When your knife seems dull again, go back to the rod and re-align it and/or use the leather hone, then the rod. Eventually, you will have to remove metal, refine (through progressively finer stones [e.g. ceramic, Arkansas, or similar] ) then finish off with leather, then the burnishing rod. When you have a really good edge, you should be able to do: rod-leather-rod-leather as you see fit. Acquisition of the burnishing rod will greatly extend the life of your knives and help to provide the great edge necessary for good knife work. Having made reeds since 1961, this is the best item I've found for upgrading the efficiency and quality of my knife work. It does the "final edge procedure" better than anything else that I have used.
What tools do you use?
…almost any, and all of the materials in my catalog. My favorite knives include: Landwell, Vitry, Rigotti (and assorted flea market straight razors…some not very useful). I mostly use the ROM knife.
What are the most important factors in reed making?
…a really sharp knife, with good knife technique.