Oboe Reed Gouge


Playing the oboe requires the use of a double reed that is fabricated by hand according to specific physical characteristics. Oboe reeds have a very short life span, which can be on the order of 12-14 hours of playing time. Thus, a professional oboist must keep several on hand for use. The reed fabricating process is laborious, because oboe reeds are made from natural cane (Arundo donax), that begins as a tubular structure, and is then carved or "gouged" into a thin, flat strip that eventually vibrates as air is blown between the two reeds. Most accomplished musicians make their own reeds in order to meet their own unique demands. For example, each oboist desires reeds having a particular "middle-to-side ratio" to fit her own particular mouth size and shape, playing styles and other factors. The typical manner of obtaining the desired characteristics is to experiment by fabricating reeds that have characteristics that vary across the width of the reed--a thicker center and thinner sides. However, this is conventionally very imprecise and not readily repeated.

Originally, reedmaking was carried out by hand-gouging the cane. More recently, hand-operated machines have become available to gouge oboe cane, such as those sold by Innoledy, LLC of Weymouth, Mass. (www.innoledy.com), and the machine disclosed in German patent 19947278. These machines eliminate some, but not all, of the difficulty in fabricating reeds, but create other problems involving machine setup and the ability to repeat the actions that result in excellent reeds. The gouging blade of such machines is curved to form reeds having a thick center and thin sides, but the resulting reed may not have the exact curvature and middle-to-side ratio desired. Although machines can be extremely helpful due to the fact that they permit repetition of particular actions, machines can be relatively inflexible in the actions that are possible.

One conventional oboe gouge apparatus has a blade that is mounted to a moveable carriage. The blade is positioned, in the manner of a wood-plane, at a significant angle relative to the cane, and its depth and position can be adjusted using many screws that seat against different sides of the blade. The carriage slides relative to a sturdy base to which the cane is securely mounted, and the blade removes material from the cane in each of multiple passes to form the finished piece of cane. Turning each screw adjusts the blade relative to the carriage, but there are significant gaps between the carriage and the blade to permit the user to mount the blade in various positions. This adjustability makes it very difficult to position the blade where it is desired. For example, it is considered disadvantageous to remove more than 0.06 millimeters of cane during each gouging pass due to the deleterious effects that greater gouging has on the remaining cane material (e.g., deformation due to compression). In order to adjust the blade to remove 0.06 mm of cane, one must not only adjust the blade depth, but also the blade's angle and lateral alignment (side-to-side position). This is extremely difficult in conventional machines, and such machines require a "trial and error" method to position the blade.

Additionally, with conventional machines one slides the carriage along the cane's length, starting at one end. The sliding moves in one direction, and when the end is reached the carriage is lifted by pivoting it around the rod and sliding it to the first end. Then gouging is repeated until the desired cane thickness and shape is obtained. This is determined, in large part however, by the shape of the blade, because the blade gouges thin sheets of material from the cane that correspond to the shape of the sharp tip of the blade. However, a particular blade may leave behind a reed having a different radius of curvature, which would affect the middle-to-side ratio that is so important to oboists.

Therefore, the need exists for a cane gouging apparatus for making oboe reeds. Dr. Andrea Ridilla at Miami University has collaborated with a specialty manufacturer to develop and patent a new device that is useful for an oboe reed of the highest quality.

PATENT STATUS: 7,534,947

INVENTOR: Andrea Ridilla and Udo Heng

Contact Us: Licensing

Jim Oris
Vice President for Research & Innovation
102 Roudebush Hall