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Is Your Oboe Cane Gouger Out of Whack?

Is Your Oboe Cane Gouger Out of Whack

If you gouge your own oboe cane, it is likely you will need to adjust its settings. Chances are you bought a gouging machine to save money and have more control over cane dimensions and gouging conditions. Those are great reasons if you make many, many reeds and if your gouger is properly adjusted. It is also likely you spent hundreds of dollars to have your gouger professionally set-up, thinking this was a one-time expense and you would never have to deal with this issue ever again. Wrong! Normal wear and tear, as well as severe jarring during any kind of transport (if not packed properly) will require you to adjust your gouging machine.


If you are in a terrible reedmaking slump – the sides of your reeds are standing apart, openings are too big/too small, reeds not responding to certain scraping the way you expect – you should check to see if your gouger settings are off. Many reedmaking headaches are attributable to incorrect gouger settings.


While oboe cane gougers have substantial differences between manufacturers, the nature of the gouged cane predestines certain settings in common. The factors you must consider with regard to the proper set-up and function of your cane gouger are:


  1. Straightness of the Bed – the semi-cylindrical groove in the platform onto which you place a piece of oboe cane must be perfectly parallel to the guide of the blade carriage. If it isn’t, you will be gouging a slant (Example A) or an “X” (Example B) in your oboe cane. If you notice the side of a piece of gouged cane has a significantly increasing or decreasing thickness along one edge, your bed is out of parallel. This is difficult to adjust without a dial indicator/micrometer and without wasting a lot of cane.


0.51mm                 0.46mm                 0.43mm

Example A   

                        0.43mm                 0.47mm                 0.52mm



                                                0.42mm                 0.47mm                 0.42mm

                        Example B                             


                                                                0.41mm                 0.48mm                 0.40mm



  1. Blade Sharpness – as obvious as it sounds, a dull blade won’t gouge. Since blade types vary, so does the method of sharpening.
    1. If your blade is the type which is flat on one side, sharpen it by rubbing the flat side on a flat sharpening stone. A coarse diamond stone, followed by a medium and/or fine India stone work well for this. Avoid attempting to sharpen the rounded side of the blade as this will result in changing the shape of the blade and not add at all to its cutting properties.
    2. If your blade is a round cylinder, you can rotate it to the unused section, but eventually you will have to send it out for sharpening (or purchase a new one).


  1. Blade Settings – the blade should be adjusted laterally as well as for depth of cut.
    1. The lateral setting adjusts the blade to the right or left of the centerline of the bed and hence, the centerline of the piece of gouged cane. This is one factor in determining the thickness of the sides of the gouged cane. It also can affect the shape of the gouge.
    2. The depth of cut determines the thickness of the cane shavings. 0.05 mm to 0.10 mm tends to work well. Thicker shavings tears out the cane and gives a rough surface to the cane gouge. Thinner settings may not be enough to gouge continuous shavings from the inside of the cane, instead producing bits and pieces of a shaving resulting in an unsatisfactory gouge.
    3. The finished gouge should be smooth without any ridges visible.


  1. Carriage Position – The whole assembly that holds the blade and connects to the guide post is called the carriage. Typically the carriage contains an “eccentric” bearing which is a slightly out of round or oval cylinder. Adjusting this bearing a few degrees to either side of the centerline of the carriage assembly will affect the thickness of the sides of a piece of gouged cane as well as the shape of the gouge. Basically, the eccentric bearing moves the entire carriage to the left or right of the centerline of the gouger bed.


  1. Gouge Thickness – after all the previous settings are made, the overall thickness of your gouge is determined by a “stop” which a bearing on the carriage usually rides upon when the gouge is complete. Either the stop or the carriage bearing is adjustable up or down in order to set the gouge thickness. This setting affects the thickness of every part of the gouge.
    1. Typically you set this to give a gouge of 0.60 mm down the entire centerline of the cane.
    2. The thickness of the sides of the gouge should be between 0.45 mm and 0.50 mm with 0.47 being the optimal setting. Since you have to imagine the side of the widest part of the shaped cane for this measurement, getting a reliable side thickness of gouged oboe cane is notoriously difficult. Some trial and error may be needed to get the thickness you want. Try not to be overly zealous with this measurement.
    3. If, after setting the centerline to 0.60 the sides are too thick or too thin, you will have to go back and adjust the carriage position by rotating the eccentric joint. Avoid adjusting the lateral setting of the blade if possible as this will likely require you to reset the depth of cut.


Unless you have cane to waste and feel up to the task, it is best to let a professional set or reset the measurements of your oboe cane gouger. However, now you know what to expect in your gouger settings and can tell when service is required.

David Schast Reed Service & Supply, LLC
213 Church Road, Elkins Park, PA 19027 * (215) 782-CANE

Copyright © 2007 David Schast Reed Service & Supply, LLC