Reed-Making Process at Infiniti Reeds

How Oboe Reeds Are Made at Infiniti Reeds: 
Quick Summary

Below is a detailed list of steps of the lengthy process involved in making oboe reeds.  I hope you will find these procedures informative.

Parents and students often ask me why double reeds are so costly. 

After learning about the reed-making process many realize that the price of hand made reeds are really a bargain compared to what they should cost.  Many professional oboists who are professional reed-makers charge $25-35 per reed.  I have reduced the cost of the reeds I make so they will be affordable to the students beginning their oboe studies.  I make the same style and quality reeds I make for myself so they will have the advantage of a professional tone and control of the reed from the very start. 

I have designed handmade oboe reeds at Infiniti Reeds specifically for student oboists so they can have the advantage of a professional sound and control of the reed from the very start.  Before the birth of the Internet handmade reeds were available only through limited sources:  professional oboists and mail order companies.  Very few retail music stores offered handmade oboe reeds.  Today, there are a variety of oboe reeds available from professional oboe instructors, internet companies, and retail stores.  It is easy to compare prices and quality of the reeds by visiting these stores and websites.  Finding a reliable source for reeds is important to one’s progress.  Retail and internet stores are a good place to start.  Finding an instructor who can custom make and adjust reeds for the oboist is the next step.  The ultimate goal is to become proficient in making one’s own oboe reeds.

Thank you for reviewing this information.

Dr. Schindler


A specific type of cane is used to make oboe reeds.  It is grown primarily in the Var region of France where the climate is ideal for proper seasoning of the cane.  The cane itself is costly, ranging from $120-$180 per pound.


Radius gauge: $35.00+
3-way splitter:  $90.00+
Guillotine:         $150.00-$250.00
Pregouger:       $250.00
Gouger:             $900.00-$1500.00
Micrometer:              $90-450.00

Each tube of cane is measured with a radius gauge.  Oboe cane must be between 10-11 mm. in diameter.  Tube smaller than 10 mm are discarded.  Tubes larger than 11 mm are used to make English horn reeds.  Tubes slightly larger are used to make bassoon reeds.

Cane tubes are split into three pieces with a splitter. 

Pieces are then clipped to a specific length
in a device called a guillotine.  Many pieces of
cane are discarded in this process.  The cane
must be completely level and straight to make
a reed.  All crooked and warped cane is thrown
out.  About one half of the pieces in a pound
of cane are unusable.

Straight pieces of cane are placed in a
pregouger or planer.  The top layer of
cane is scraped off each piece.  Crooked
pieces that do not fit into the bed of the
planer are not usable. 

Pregouged cane is then soaked for 2
hours in warm water for further processing
in the gouger.  This machine features a
curved blade which carves out the
inside of the cane to a specific thinness. 

The sides of the cane measure 45 mm and
the center measures 57-58 mm.  Each piece
of cane is measure with a micrometer.

Gouged pieces retail for $2.50-3.50 each.  Many oboists forego purchasing these machines and simply buy processed cane to make their reeds.

Tools for Shaping the Cane:

Shaper handle:  $90.00
Shaper tip:    $150-250
Mandrel: $15-30
Ruler:      $4.00
Cutting block:      $7-15
Knife, double hollow ground:$30-90
Plaque:    $1.50-7.00
Reed Thread, nylon:  $4.00-7.50
Clamp:            $3-6
Staples (cork)       $2.00-7.00
Easel:              $8-12
A shaper handle and tip is used to shape
the gouged pieces of cane to be in the shape
of the actual reed (tapered design)

The cane is soaked for 30 minutes. 
First the cane is scored in the center
on an easel and then folded in half.

The cane is folded over the tip and
secured by the handle.  A razor blade is
used to scrape the sides of the cane to
match the tapered shape of the oboe reed.

Shaped cane retails slightly more than
gouged cane.  $3.00-4.00 each.
Many oboists purchase shaped
cane to make their oboe reeds.
The cork staple is placed on a tool
called a mandrel. 

The shaped cane is then tied onto the metal staple.
  FF nylon thread is used to secure the cane to
the staple.  The length of the reed is 73-74 mm. 
The finished reed length is 69-70 mm.

The unscraped cane tied to the staple is called a reed blank.  These blanks are purchased by oboists who prefer to scrape their own reeds and skip the gouging and shaping cane process.  These retail for $6-8 each.

The scraping process is the most complex part of making oboe reeds.  Musicians will need to achieve a certain skill level before learning how to make oboe reeds since most of the process involves testing the reed in the oboe at various stages of scraping the reed.

The more skilled the oboist, the more detailed, accurate, and consistent the reeds will be.  Each reed maker has his or her own style of scraping, steps, and preferences including:

Choosing cane- quality
Cork staples-size, shaped, dimensions, lengths and materials vary
Shaper tips- made by different manufacturers from narrow to wide
Knives, several, one for each job - double hollow ground, for clipping tips, scraping bark, finsihing tips

All of the equipment, tools, and supplies factor into the process and affect the finished product, as well as the quality.


Scraping the Reed:

The reed blank is soaked and the tip is
scraped thin enough to clip open
on a cutting block. 

Subtle changes are made to the reed each day, 5-10 minutes, over a period of 5 days to create a stable, functioning reed.  If too many changes are made or too much cane is removed too soon the reed will be under stress and not stabilize. 

The cane is scraped in three sections:  The tip, heart, and back.  Handmade reeds will have all three sections.  Machine made reeds will not.  These sections must be perfectly balanced to create a reed.  The reed must “crow” a C in pitch.  With proper embouchure formation and air support the reed will play an A-440 in tune with a tuner.

The tone, or quality of sound, varies with each reed maker.  This ranges from thin and nasal to dark and warm.  The reed must vibrate easily and every note from low to high will respond easily and the tone quality should remain consistent in all registers. 

The strength of the reed, also subjective to each reed maker, is related to the resistance and response.  Soft and med-soft reeds are best for young players since they require little pressure to play and vibrate easily.  Medium and med-hard reeds have more resistance for players with more mature embouchures who need a greater projection in concert halls.

Reed-making manuals and DVDs are available in retail oboe shops.  These are intended as a guide for oboists who are learning to make their own reeds.  Ultimately, oboists will need to learn reed making hands on from a professional oboist.  Much of the process involves correcting problems and evaluating the steps.  A book or video can help you get a start, but in order to become a successful reed maker the oboist will need to seek professional instruction for evaluation of his or her progress to develop good reed-making skills.  Most college music programs require oboists to learn reed making and become proficient in making oboe reeds as part of the curriculum.  It is important to begin learning how to make reeds before starting college if the oboist is interested in pursuing a degree in music to get a head start.  It often takes a few years to perfect the art.

As you can see, the process is quite time-consuming.  Many hours are invested in preparing the cane and several days are required to scrape the cane to prepare just one oboe reed.  The equipment and supplies are quite costly, and the prices increase often every few months.  Making reeds in different strengths is a challenge and is achieved through many years of experience teaching oboists of all levels.  As a result of these factors, many oboe instructors and performers do not make reeds for their students or the public.  Machine made reeds, often sold in music stores, are mass produced.  These reeds are scraped primarily by machines.  Many often find handmade reeds to have more consistency in intonation, balance, and tone.  I encourage oboists to try many brands to determine which type is most compatible to their particular needs.

The 10 point checklist at Infiniti Reeds

1.Crow a “C”


3.Response  Low to High, easy response-late response

4.Resistancelittle, easy to vibrate – much, hard to vibrate

5.        Appearance      American scrape, very thin tip, heart, back

6.Tip openingsmall-large

7.       Sides    overlap but form a air-tight seal, do not flare out at the tip

8.       Tone     subjective, nasal/bright-dark

9.Dynamic rangeflexibility, range,pp p mp mf f ff

10.     Stability     unfocused, response/control/intonation – focused, centered

I recommend purchasing at least 2 reeds each month.  This is due to the fact that reeds have a short lifespan of 4 weeks.  The blades of the reeds are so thin they can only vibrate for so long before giving out.  By alternating reeds on a daily basis the reeds may last a bit longer.  Once the reed begins to chip or crack the reed is no longer playable.  If the full range of notes is not produced easily, the reed is not in good shape.  It is important to play on a new reed every four weeks to keep the embouchure in proper formation.  Be sure to have at least 2-3 PLAYABLE reeds at all times to avoid an unfortunate situation.  The oboe is unplayable without a reed. 

Dr. Schindler
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See the Step by Step Reed-Making Process Behind the Scenes at the Infiniti Reeds Workshop!