By CARL E. REINECKE, 1919
How to make your own reeds
The making of satisfactory clarinet reeds is delicate work which can only be perfected through experience.
First, cut off a piece of cane about the thickness of a half-dollar coin (see illustration No1). This piece of cane should be about the size of the lay(see No3). The Lay is the part of the mouthpiece on which the reed is placed and fastened with the ligature or reed-holder. The cane which is cut off is laid on a broad fine file and rubbed upon it until the surface or inside is perfectly flat (see No 2). After this, it is placed on the lay and screwed in to ascertain whether the opening is correct or not (see No 5). To ascertain this, the mouthpiece should be held upside ways to the light(see No4). The opening should extend one inch down (see No5).
After this, the shaping of the reed is begun. Remove the reed from the mouth-piece, and with a sharp knife reduce it from the center (see No 6) cutting gradually to the top (see No7). Care should be taken not to cut off too much at a time, but always allowing enough to remain in case it is necessary to take off more. The edges should be rounded from where the cutting begins (see No8) and show an elongated angle from the middle (see No 8). The cane remains thicker in the middle (see No 9) than at the edges (No10). The thin end can be shaped with a sharp pair of scissors.
clarinet reed making
After this, the reed is given a trial. If it proves too hard, some of the thickness must be filed off the top, sloping toward the edges (No11). If the top is already thin enough, then file off between the center (No 6) and the top, being careful not to take off too much. From the top downwards (No 12) about l/8th inch should be filed perfectly flat across with a very smooth file. This will leave the thin end almost transparent when finished. The reed is now again placed on the lay (No 3) and the opening (No 5) examined. Should it be too close, unscrew the top screw of the ligature and tighten the bottom screw. If the space is too wide, simply reverse the screwing.
The flat surface of the reed (No 2) after having been manipulated may warp and become uneven. It must then again be rubbed on the large file, or on the very finest sandpaper. This should be done on a flat surface, a piece of plate glass being very good for the purpose.
Sometimes when the reed is left on the mouthpiece for a day or two all the little defects will disappear. Often, however, the faults can be traced to the mouthpiece, in which case it should be taken to some reliable repairer to be refaced. The reed will frequently turn out to be bad even though the greatest care has been bestowed upon it. If the reed continues to be hard, place it on the lay (No 3) so as to show just a little below the top of the mouthpiece (No13). If too soft, place it a little above the top end of the mouthpiece (No14). This experiment will at once show the defect. If the reed is too hard, reduce it on the end of the curve (No15). If it is too soft, cut the top off (No16). After long usage, the reed will warp, but it might again be brought into use if carefully rubbed on a large file. Care must be taken, however, not to make it too thin at the heel (No17).
Foundation to Clarinet Playing: AN ELEMENTARY METHOD By CARL E. REINECKE 1919