This second article on equipment describes eight products, listed alphabetically, that I have found beneficial in my woodwind work and practice. With the exception of the instrument case covers, the remainder concern reeds and reed-related products.
Altieri Cozy Case Covers
For a number of years, I have made use of Altieri’s Cozy Case Covers for all of my flutes and clarinets (not bass clarinet) on gigs or at home while practicing. These covers are made of black nylon pack cloth on the outside with a soft thermal-insulated ultra-suede material on the inside. They help stabilize the temperature of one’s instrument while at the same time reducing the amount of dirt that would naturally accumulate in the instrument when left unprotected. They slide on and off easily and are excellent for use by multi-instrumentalists and those needing to leave an instrument on a stand for any length of time. The cases are also available for oboists. They typically run between $25-$43, depending on the size of the woodwind.
Behn Brio Reeds
A number of smaller companies of been making excellent reeds for several years. One of the two styles of reed for clarinet that I have played over the past year is the Behn Brio reed. This is the second clarinet reed that mouthpiece creator Brad Behn has pioneered, following closely on the introduction of his Aria reed. I find the Brio to be particularly full-bodied sounding and more flexible than any other reed on the market today. There is good cane density from the cut to the tip. Whereas the Aria reed was an tapered, unfiled cut using Pilgerstorfer cane almost in the style of a German reed, the Brio is a filed cut using Rigotti cane and in the shape of a typical French reed. The Brio reeds are slightly stronger than their Aria counterparts, but both run ½ strength softer than a typical Vandoren blue box reed. The Brio Bb clarinet reed comes in ½ strengths from 3–4.5 and are being offered at the introductory price of $25 for 10 reeds. Behn also offers Brio reeds for bass clarinet in 1/2 strengths up to 4.0 that are excellent and cost $25 for 5 reeds. They are remarkably vibrant and play with greater clarity than any bass clarinet reed this author has ever played.
The other reeds that I have been using on clarinet as well as for concert saxophone performance are produced by Danzi. A family-owned company that originally offered cane for oboists and bassoonists, they began making reeds for clarinets and subsequentially saxophone earlier in the millennium. The cane is organically grown and comes from the Var region of France. They are now being distributed in the U.S. by Wright Music of Port Washington, NY. Both Bb clarinet and Eb alto sax reeds come in two different cuts—D1 & D2 for clarinet; Z1 and Z2 for saxophone. Both styles of clarinet reed are filed but the D1 reed has a shorter vamp length. The Z1 sax reed is filed while the Z2 is unfiled and both reed styles are of a similar length. Danzi reeds run approximately 1/2 strength harder than a Vandoren blue box reed. I have found that these reeds last longer than most other reeds, are very resonant and consistent. While they are a little more expensive than more familiar names, the benefits of these reeds more than make up for that extra expense. The clarinet reeds come in a box of 10 and are $32 while the sax reeds come in boxes of 5 ($17.50) or 10 ($35).
DMT Diamond Whetstone
A diamond whetstone has been my go-to product for sharpening reed knives for over 30 years. The diamond stone lasts for many years and requires nothing more than a little water to begin using. It’s equally adaptable for single bevel or double hollow ground knives and can quickly restore the fine cutting edge needed for work on reeds. The stone I recommend for home use is 6”x2”x3/4” and comes in a durable plastic case. The stone is available in 4 grits: coarse, x-fine, x-coarse, and fine. I typically use a fine grit to help sharpen a slightly dull-edged knife. They run $57 and I strongly recommend purchasing a non-skid mat from DMT for $7 with the stone to secure it on any surface. Videos on the website and YouTube describe how best to use the whetstone.
Lansky Ceramic Sticks
Ceramic sticks have become a favored tool for reed workers over the past 25 years. Lansky’s 4-rod ceramic stick box provides an easy means for sharpening and finishing the edges on a reed knife. The rods are 5” long and come in two grits—800 grit for medium and 1000 grit for fine work. Each set of rods can be used at two angles—20º and 25º. While some prefer to use the ceramic sticks exclusively for their knife sharpening, I have found it most beneficial as a final step in the process after using a diamond stone. The sticks come in a hardwood box and the rods are contained within. A very good tool at the affordable price of $27. YouTube videos demonstrate proper usage of the sticks.
This is a product that I have started using in the last few months and have been knocked out by. The Morakniv is manufactured with a sharp carbon steel blade as well as a blunt tip, making it ideal to work on the tip of the reed and the denser cane within the body. Extremely light and ergonomically designed, it rarely needs sharpening, and the rubber handle makes it easy to manipulate. At the extremely affordable price of $15 (Amazon), this is a wonderful addition to the collection of reed knives on the market. It is adaptable for either right-handed or left-handed people and comes in a plastic sheath with a belt clip.
Rigotti Double Hollow Ground Knife
My reed knife of choice for over 30 years has been the Chiarugi (Rigotti) double hollow ground knife. I like the look and feel of this razor-edge blade as I’m about to scrape a reed. Since the choice of knife is a very personal decision, the way the blade feels in one’s hand as well as its “look” against the reed is very important. (This is not unlike the sensations one uses to choose a golf club, baseball bat, fishing rod, etc.) The comfortable wooden handle and the durability of the knife, even with everyday use, are the big selling points. It’s available for both right or left-handed practitioners and costs $50. It comes with a plastic sheath cover.
3M Sanding Sponges
Add the 3M sanding sponges to your list of helpful newer materials for working on reeds. Originally designed for wet or dry sanding purposes on wood, paint, metal, plastic or drywall, they are a superb tool for delicate and fine work on reeds. They most closely resemble reed rush in their usability but also provide an added option since the sponge fits across the entire width of a reed when sanding. The sponge is an excellent means to blend in the work done with a reed knife. I recommend purchasing sponges sized to 4.5” x 2.5” x 1.” I buy them in both dual angled and block shape with grits from 100-180. The dual angle is good for work on the sides and tips of the reed while the block shape works well in the body of the reed. They are reasonably priced at $6-$11 per sponge and each sponge can be cut into 3 smaller sponges, which are then ideally sized for reed work.