Shaping Bassoon Cane – Two Methods

March 20th, 2013 by

Bassoon specialist Trent Jacobs demonstrates how to shape bassoon cane using either a Fox style straight shaper or a Rieger style folding shaper. Everything shown in the video is available for sale in our online store.

Choosing a shaper is partially determined by your workflow; if you shape before profiling or if you profile before shaping, and partially by what particular shape you wish to use. In general, straight shapers work best with cane before profiling, while folding shapers will only work with cane that has already been profiled.

Note: always shape wet cane. I like to soak the cane until it sinks in the water.
Notes on safety: Use a sharp knife blade to make the cutting easier – you’re less likely to slip and cut yourself if you use a sharp blade. Blades are cheap, use a fresh blade every dozen or so pieces of cane.
Always be very careful when cutting towards yourself. Hold the shaper against the table for stability if that helps. Use a rocking or slicing motion to keep the blade from getting into stuck positions which can lead to sudden slips.

Straight Shaper

When using a straight shaper with gouged cane, the first step is to align the cane on the shaper so that an even amount of cane is sticking out of the sides. Tighten the screws completely so the cane can’t move out of place!


(Click any image to see a higher resolution)

There are four sections you will cut from: the two sides, each from the center outwards. Hold a hobby blade roughly parallel to the grain of the wood as you cut slivers of cane off of the sides. Begin with larger rough cuts that come no closer than 2 or 3 mm from the shaper.

Straight Shaping 1

As you get closer to the shaper, begin cutting close to the shaper at the blade end, and start coming back the other direction from the end of the cane. Bring your knife to the narrowest section of the shaper. This is probably about 20mm from the end of the cane, but can vary greatly depending on the shape.

Straight Shaping 2

The closer you get to the shaper itself at that narrowest point, make sure you are always scraping toward the narrow point, otherwise a splinter of cane could split under the shaper template, ruining that particular piece of cane.

Once the section is done, go over the whole area, still going from the tip and end towards the narrow point of the shape, to make sure you catch any loose bits of cane.

Repeat this process for all four sections of the piece of cane.

On most straight shapers there will be a little notch at the center, where you will eventually fold the cane. Cut across the grain following this notch so you have a clear visual place for the center of the shape for when you put the cane on your profiler barrel.

Unlike in the video, I usually rest the shaper on the side of the table to provide a stable support for the shaper as I cut. For the purposes of the video I had to hold the shaper up off the table.

Folding Shaper

If using cane that is gouged and profiled, the preferred shaper style is a folding shaper. It is a wise idea to use a larger and wider knife blade for shaping with these, as you will be cutting two edges of cane at the same time. A utility knife works well. You can still use a straight shaper with already profiled cane, but you have to be more careful because the cane will move a little bit inside the shaper in the profiled area.

As with a straight shaper, make sure the piece is lined up evenly on both sides of the shaper, and the fold is as far on to the shaper tip as possible.

Fold Align 1 Fold Align 2

Start from the tip of the reed and shape towards the tube. Be careful that your fingers are not in the way, just in case your knife slips.

Fold Shaping 1

Once you have shaped off the excess, begin to cut towards the narrowest point of the shaper from the blade area and from the tube area inward. Make sure your blade is flat against the side of the shaper tip so that both blades are being shaped equally.

Fold Shaping 2

Repeat for both sides of the reed, and you’re done. The cane is now ready to be scored and formed.

Folded Shaped


Unlike in the video, I usually rest the shaper on the side of the table to provide a stable support for the shaper as I cut. For the purposes of the video I had to hold the shaper up off the table.

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