Friday, January 6, 2012

A new profiler!

Happy New Year!  

This post marks the first anniversary of this blog.  I hope you readers have found it useful, revealing and entertaining.  I have enjoyed doing it.  I look forward to the next year of posts and have several topics ready for investigation.

I will devote this post to news about a new profiler made by Paul Deegan of MD Reed Products. My students and I have recently purchased these tools. 

The profiler is remarkable for two reasons: price and quality.


The profiler sells for $599, making it one of the least expensive on the market.  MD also made a straight shaper for me that is a copy of the Berdon #6 that I regularly use.  More about the shaper in my next post.

Many college bassoon students have access to profilers owned by their schools or teachers while enrolled.  After graduation, in addition to paying off considerable debt, they often find themselves without access to a profiler.  While not as sophisticated, this profiler is much more affordable than the VanHoesen Hunt, Rieger, Herzberg profilers, for instance.

There are other profilers available at this price point, but this one is the best I've found for the money.


A wealth of information on the manufacture and adjustment of the profiler can be found at MD Reed Products

Perhaps the most unique feature of the profiler is the way you adjust the thickness of the cut.  This is done by rotating one or both of the adjustment wheels found at both ends under the ramp that the cutting arm wheel follows.

One wheel adjusts for the reed tip area, the other for the back of the blade. The wheels are rotated manually, without the need to loosen and re-tighten set screws or without the need to remove posts to shim.  However, the wheels lock in place and cannot be moved by accident. Thus, it is quick and easy to adjust the profile on this machine.

Other profilers I've tried at this price point do not offer some of the options that this one does:

Customized ramp design

I sent Paul Deegan a list of my ideal measurements for the spine of a profiled reed blade and he designed a ramp to my specifications.  While not exact, it came in very close to what I wanted.  We are now working on some refinements. I have not encountered another dealer who is this interested in getting thing so exactly right for a machine at this price.

Spine or no spine option

The tungsten carbide rods protruding from the cane barrel have a machined flat spot that makes a very slight spine on the profiled blank, giving a start to the thin sides/thick center "horizontal" profile necessary for a finished reed.  This can be removed simply by rotating the rod or ordering without the flat spot.

Scoring on the cane barrel

The cane barrel is scored at the midpoint for scoring the fold and at both ends for proper centering.  This can be done for cane of varying lengths.  Mine is scored for 120mm cane.

In the photo above you may notice what looks like two set screws set into the metal just before the end score marks.  These make indentations to the gouged sides of the cane that mate with identically placed screws in the shaper. If you shape first, the marks are made when setting the cane in the shaper and screwing it shut.  After shaping, the cane can be easily centered on the profiler's cane barrel (photo above) because the cane locks in place when indentations are set in over the screws in the barrel.

This is especially important if you use an eccentric gouge and put a spine in the profile.  With these indentations and screws, it's very easy to line up the cane on the barrel and get a symmetrical profile in relation to the gouge.

The way these tools are mated is similar to the Herzberg profiler and shaper.

The blade 

The profiler comes with a carbide blade and a spare.  MD Reed Products offers a sharpening service with postage paid by the company.  My blade is very sharp and cuts beautifully.  It is set to cut a thickness of .005" at a time.  

Product review time out

I'd like to take a short time out from this review to talk about how to profile effectively using any machine.  No, profiling is not dummy-proof!  Here are some tips:
  • Use very little downward pressure on the cutting arm when profiling.  Excess pressure may rip the cane and can compress the cane fibers. If the blade doesn't cut well using this method, then it needs sharpening.
  • Do not be in a hurry!  Flip the barrel several times and take your time finishing.  Don't finish one side all at once.  Again, haste can result in ripped cane and an inaccurate profile
  • Watch for cane fibers in the forks, in the blade clearance or on the ramp.  Get these out of the way before starting the cut or you won't get the profile you want.
  • Profile in one direction.  Don't return the cutting arm with the blade contacting the cane. This can dull the blade and "iron" the cane.  Instead, return the cutting arm with the blade slightly raised above the cane.  Make a very flat oval shape with your wrist instead of a simple left-right motion.
  • If you notice the cane becoming so thin that it is transparent and you can clearly see the barrel through the cane, STOP!! The profiler may be out of adjustment and by stopping now, you will avoid scraping the barrel with the blade.
  • When finished profiling you can score the collars and center marks by holding a knife point to the surface of the cane and rotating the barrel with your free hand.
Back to profiler review

Here is a demonstration of the MD profiler.

In short, I am very impressed with the quality and options available with this profiler for the price.  There are other profilers more sophisticated with more options, but this is the best one out there dollar-for-dollar.

Though it offers just a very simple spine and none of the tip detail of a Herzberg or VanHoesen profiler, it is extremely well-made, durable and reliable. I have my reasons for not owning one of these fancier profilers.  I'll discuss them in a future post.

I use this profiler in conjunction with a straight shaper that MD copied from my old Berdon #6 and a Rieger tip finisher.  This gives me what I need in a good reed blank.

My next post will investigate the shaper.


  1. I have heard good things about this profiler too. Do you like it well enough that if someone already owned another profiler (a Rieger, in this case), that you would recommend buying one of the MD machines, selling the Rieger, and pocketing the change (don't tell my wife!)

    Thank you!

  2. It's certainly less expensive than the Rieger. I have experience with the Rieger, too. It's very well-made and has some extras the MD doesn't - like the knives for cutting the collar.

    The MD's adjustment wheel system makes adjustments to thickness easier to quantify than the Rieger. If I recall correctly, the Rieger is adjusted by turning an Allen wrench - 1/4, 1/2 or full turn. You don't know quite how much thicker or thinner you're making it regardless of the claim. You have to try it to see. I guess this is sort of true in the case of the MD as well, but so easy to adjust and there's no question of "was that a 1/4 turn or not", just clicking the adjustment wheel ahead or back a click or two.

    For someone in the U.S., the MD is nice because of the ease of the sharpening service he offers and the extra blade.

    Those would be the advantages of the MD profiler over the Rieger.

  3. As nicely machined the MD profiler is it is no better that a Popkin. It makes no center to side profile. It does attempt to leave a small heart but the center to side profile looks like a cowboy hat. You still have to do work on the sides. Nice attempt but not the answer. A modified rod/tube combination works much better as the barrel will give a center to side profile that is much more bassoon like. The secret is to angle a precision barrel on a precision rod. Center to side adjustment is simply made by moving the cane forward or back on the barrel. Moving back gives more center to side profile. Forward less. Lawrence Rhodes.......

  4. I'd be curious if you've ever tried B.H Bells profiler. I thought it was in the same price range, but not any more at least. Still less expensive and easier to find than a Herzberg machine.

  5. Hi, Scott,

    Sorry for the late reply! I've been distracted from this blog for most of the fall. I have never used a Bell profiler, but we've had one at CIM for a while. John Clouser's students use it. It looks similar to the MD profiler in some ways. The MD has a few more options --mated shaper, centering set screws and scored cane barrel. Plus the easy adjustment wheels make it a better machine, I think.