How to Make Clarinet Reeds

By Victoria Clayton ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Reed blanks (tube cane)
  • Reed model
  • Utility knife
  • Water for soaking
  • Sandpaper
  • ReeDual machine
  • Reed gauge
Parts of the Clarinet

If you are a clarinet player, then you must know how important the reed is to the sound quality of your instrument. While many things come into play to make your clarinet sound full and rich, there are few that can be as important as that little sliver of cane shaped into a reed. Depending on your style of music, you may need to have several different styles of clarinet reed--but what if you just can't find the correct thickness and hardness level for your mouth? If you learn to make your own clarinet reeds, you can easily customize your reeds--and spend less money than on commercial brands.

Soak your reed blanks (blanks that are cut from tube cane) in warm water for an hour. This will make them soft enough to peel the bark off of the reed. Using a utility knife, cut the bark off of the reed about 35 mm down from the top end. Whittle away slowly--you do not want to make your reed too thin. Leave the blank reed to dry with the flat side up overnight.

Set up your ReeDual machine (see Resources below). Put one of your dry de-barked reeds into the machine, and sand the reed using the Blue setting, making sure to change your sandpaper frequently as not to burn or scorch the reeds. This will take away about 85 percent of the material of the reed. Soak your newly cut reeds in water for 15 minutes, then allow to dry overnight.

Use some 600-grit sandpaper to work on a dry reed. Sand it so that there are no warps or imperfections, as this is your last chance to make sure the shape of the reed is correct. Sand the back of the reed flat.

Use the ReeDual machine again: set it up with fresh sandpaper and turn the machine to the Yellow setting. Place the reed into the machine and sand it until you have a rough reed.

Set the ReeDual machine to Red and complete the sanding of your reed. It should now be finished, but needs breaking in. Do not try to play the reed for long periods or "hard" until it has been broken in.

Tip

To purchase a ReeDual machine, you will need to contact ReeDual Rabco/G. Crossman, 238 Corsair Ave, Lauderdale-by-the-sea, FL 33308 USA. These machines cost around $600. You can make reeds from tube cane instead of blanks, but more steps are needed to reach the final product. When you have made over 557 reeds (seems like a lot!) you will end up with a per reed cost of just $.20 a reed.

Warning

Make sure that you are fully prepared for the costs and time associated with making your own reeds. This may seem like a fun pasttime, but it can be costly and time consuming. The initial setup for making your own reeds runs around $1,200.

About the Author

Victoria Clayton has been writing professionally since 2003, serving as a featured writer for various online publications. She is pursuing a B.A. in human development from Empire State College.