While you scrape on your reed be sure to keep the reed wet! Occasionally dip it in some water. (Don’t use saliva.)
Eventually you may decide you like to “scrape dry” when you haven’t yet opened the tip, but that requires good scraping abilities so hold off on that for a while. I do like to scrape on a dry reed … somehow that works better for me when the tip is still closed.
INITIAL SCRAPING OF THE REED
(*For an alternate scraping plan, scroll to the bottom of this page.)
Mark the reed at 66mm. Do this on both sides.
Then, with your knife at a 45 degree angle, scrape from the 66mm mark to the end of the reed. Do this on all four quadrants of the reed. (You divide a reed in half, lengthwise, on both sides, so there are two quadrants per side.) As a beginner you should count the scrapes so that you scrape each quadrant the same.
Holding the knife isn’t difficult, but it takes some getting used to. Use your thumb as a stabilizer, but don’t use it to put pressure on the knife.
Gently scrape the reed. You want to take of what looks like sawdust, not huge chunks of cane. You can think more about scratching or dusting the reed rather than carving since that sounds more like you are gouging into reed. Be sure to follow through with your scrape — don’t stop before you go off the tip. Your forefinger should be holding the reed, as you don’t want to scrape a reed without support behind it. (When you open the tip you will then carve with a plaque inserted in the reed.) While you begin at 66mm, place your knife slightly closer to the tip for each scrape so that you are certain to have end of the tip be its thinnest.
Hold the reed up to the light to see if you’ve carved the four quadrants evenly. (Please note that this tip is actually a bit over-carved so you can see it clearly: you don’t need to get it this thin!)
When you have scraped enough (all four quadrants of course!), you may put the reed away for a while. It is best to take time with your reed; don’t attempt to finish a reed in one sitting! Reeds that are completed in one sitting don’t last as long as ones that are given time to sit and age.
How do I know I’ve scraped enough?
You want to remove all the bark, and a few layers of the fibers of the reed. If you can see the definition when you hold the reed to a light (backlit) you have probably taken off enough.
*Alternate to my scrape:
Some people don’t actually begin with such a defined inverted V (tip) scrape for this initial scrape. Instead they scrape up on all four quadrants without moving toward each corner. You still want to keep a spine in the center of each side, so angle your knife slightly toward the sides of the reed. As with my process, move your knife up toward the tip with each scrape of each quadrant, so that the end of the tip is the thinnest.
Also, some reed makers clip the tip at the end of this initial process. I don’t. You might want to try it both ways and see what you like best!
After a day (or more) you can move on to Reed Making – Part Three!