Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ultimate Reed Finishing Machine

I have a new reed making machine. It's called the "Ultimate Reed Finishing Machine". It works the same way a tip profiler does, only it processes the whole blade of the reed from collar to tip.

My machine is made by the German company, Rimpl, although there are other firms that make a similar machine. I purchased it from Miller Marketing. The machine I ordered came with a template and tongue custom designed to my specifications.  I sent them three finished reeds to use in copying my scrape to the template and fitting the tongue to my reed shape and contour.

With customizing the price is about $200 more than that listed on Miller's website ($1799).  This makes this machine very expensive.  However, a Rieger tip profiler is about the same cost and it only processes the tip of the reed.

In a previous post I registered a strong opinion about expensive profilers. However, I'm very convinced that this machine is worth the extra money.  I'll explain why in a minute, but first watch this demo I made. (Warning, I have no future as a videographer!  Keep the volume control handy.  Some of the clips are recorded at a lower level than others.)

A Demo

Here is a demo I made using the machine:

Advice on using the machine:

Before making this purchase a friend lent me his machine to try.  I also asked around to find out how satisfied others were with it.

Here was the feed back I received:
  • A customized model is highly recommended over the stock model. The template and tongue need to be mated to the individual's reed for accurate reproduction of the scrape and for the machine to process the blades properly.
  • The reed tip needs to be closed down a bit from normal playing aperture to make the underside of the top blade flush with the surface of the template.  Failure to do this can result in a heart area that is too thin.
  • Always press the reed heart down against the template before cutting to take out air pockets between blade and tongue.  (See above.)
  • Always start the cut with blade positioned just to the side of the corner of the tip and work your way towards the center. By starting at the center or spine of the reed you can chop off the corner of the tip.
  • So start at one corner, work your way across the blade and stop just before you get to the other corner.  Rotate the template so the blade is off to the side of this corner and finish by working your way into the center again. (See demo.)
  • When fitting the blades on the template it may feel like you need to push pretty hard to get the tip of the reed up to the stop line on the template.  It may feel like you'll split the blade open.  Don't worry!  If the reed is well soaked this will not happen.  I've profiled dozens of reeds on my machine and never cracked one.
  • Additionally, you make be alarmed at how wide apart the blades are pushed by the girth of the tongue.  This is necessary in order to get the blades to conform exactly to the curvature of the template.
  • The instructions manual tells you to turn the knob 180° for each cut.  Ignore this advice!  Doing so will result in a "corrugated" or ridged tip cut.  Turning the wheel gradually and making more cuts than turns of the wheel will insure a smoother cut.
  • After profiling the tip opening will be way too large. You will need to manipulate the tip opening, closing it down. You may need to adjust the wires as well.
 Why I like this machine:

This machine gives me a reed that measures within .002-.003" of a finished reed at EVERY point along the blade. It accurately describes the sophisticated tip scrape necessary for a good reed and mimics the taper of a finished reed from collar to tip and from side to center to side.

I leave the cut a bit thick as mentioned above to allow for breaking in and adjusting for slight differences in hardness and response from reed to reed.

I like the fact that this machine is made to profile a blank with tip cut off and not a gouged piece of cane that's waiting to be processed for the drying rack.  I have explained my preference for starting with a simple profile that's even in thickness across the cane. I like to be able to choose how much collapse I want in the tip from sides to center, not having that programmed in before the drying stage.  I count on the forming and drying process to program in a certain shape to the inside of the blank.


  1. Hello again!

    I have a bit of experience with this machine. Here's a few thoughts from my end:

    1) You're right, the stock templates are terrible. I would highly recommend anyone who wanted to use this machine to have a template of their own made. Almost everyone I know who has used this has done just that.

    2) You said yours goes all the way back to the collar. Did you adjust the length of the scrape? The one I've used stops maybe 5mm before the collar, leaving a rather abrupt bump, which needs to be flattened out with a razor blade or something.

    3) Since this machine covers so much of the blade, does one really even need to own a profiler any more? Why not just buy pre-profiled cane (or scrape the bark yourself with an exacto blade), form, and let this machine do it for you? It covers so much that it really doesn't matter whether you start with a super-thick profile (it would just scrape off more) or a thin profiler (it would just remove less).

    4) I like the concept of this machine, but until I get a template I like, I'm not ready to abandon my Rieger/Rieger set up.

    Nice article though. My non-bassoonist wife appreciates this blog because then I don't have to discuss these things with her. haha

    1. Hi, Derek,

      Glad you like your machine. About the length of cut: Yes, I did move the right guide back a bit to get the cut to start closer to the collar.

      However, none of these machines will really make the nice right angle cut I like right at the collar, since the blades really work as planes or scrapers and not like a chisel.

      I still have to chip in the collar. I do this by scoring a line where the bark stops and then I use a woodcarving gouge that has a circumference about equal to the curvature of the reed at the collar to level the cut. Razor blades and other knives also work.

      I'm sure this is what you do, too, but include this for those who are just starting out to make reeds.

      One more thing: I did (and may still do some more) some slight adjustment to the slope of the template by unscrewing it and placing a small piece of shim stock under the tip area. Without it the tip was coming out a bit thin while the heart was just right. Shimming thickened the tip cut without thickening it elsewhere.

  2. Hi Barry.
    Your demo video is fantastic. I'd like to purchase a Rimpl tip profiler. How does one go about getting a custom template made??

  3. Karen, Contact Justin Miller about the custom template. It involves sending Rimpl three finished reeds and three blanks. Good luck!

  4. Hi Mr. Stees,
    I am a college student looking into purchasing this machine. I feel that getting a customized template may not be the best option for me, considering my reed making skills are likely not advanced enough to produce a superb result. Are the standard templates no good? Do you have any suggestions?

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  6. Dear Taylor,

    If you're not sure you can send some representative reeds to get the custom template made the way you want, why don't you ask your teacher for some examples to send?