Introducing Opinel Folding Utility Knives for Reedmaking

Recent trends in the world of bassoon reeds have introduced one of the great debates for a new reed-maker: knife or file? There are many advantages to both tools; while files can remove cane very quickly over a broader surface area, a sharp knife is able to make a precision scrape without compromising the structure of the blade to the same extent. Knives do, however, require more time to master the skill of scraping.

The other main issue with today's reed knives is the cost. The most recommended type of blade is the double hollow ground, which even at MMI will run you at least $40. With the cost of bassoons already so high, a young initiate to the world of reeds can't help but question the wisdom of the choices they've made. Personally, I balked at first at the cost of reed equipment and very often it still shocks me how costly some tools are.

Enter the Opinel knife

Opinel is a French knife manufacturer that produces quality blades for all types of purposes, from regular table knives to steak and chef's knives, as well as outdoor knives for camping, hunting, and much more. The blades are made of either carbon or stainless steel. The handles of most of their products are made of high quality wood and feel comfortable in the hand.

The best part is, at least for a reed-maker, the price. Now, of course, this brings to mind several questions for the more discerning reed enthusiast: is it made well? Will it keep from wearing out and rusting? Will it hold its edge? And the answer to all of those is yes, and remarkably so.

I was first introduced to the Opinel knife when I participated in an orchestra festival the summer of my junior year of undergrad. It was in a quaint seaside town in British Columbia. Every night after rehearsals we enjoyed exploring the town or heading to the beach right on the edge of the Puget sound. One day, for our "masterclass," the bassoon teacher took us aside to show us his reed-making process - pretty standard fare for a 2-week festival. The big takeaways from his lecture were to have cane ready in every step of processing, and to obtain one of these Opinel knives. He informed us that he'd been using one knife for several years without needing to sharpen it. While an oboist would cringe at the mention of such a fact, I was fascinated; because, naturally, I didn't like having to sharpen my reed knife every couple of days.

Blade grinds and their shapes

Image from Wikipedia

The most important aspect of any knife is, perhaps obviously, the blade. But what goes into a blade? How does it maintain its edge and what factors determine this? For reed-makers, one of the most advertised features of a knife is the grind of the blade. Reed knives are generally made with a hollow (#1) or chisel (also known as bevel, #4) grind. The bevel grind makes for a very effective cutting edge - it is a typical blade grind for Japanese kitchen knives. Conversely, the hollow grind, often used for shaving razors, makes a blade that is exceptionally sharp but structurally weak. This means that it will need to be sharpened more often, and consequently will need to be replaced more frequently as well. As a side note,  they should actually be sharpened using stropping, as opposed to using hard stone or glass (take note, oboists!).

Opinel knives, in contrast, have convex blades (#6). This is basically the opposite of the hollow grind, where the blades curve outward instead of inward. This means that the blade is structurally stronger and is able to hold its edge well while maintaining a good amount of sharpness. To me, this is the perfect marriage between practicality and utility. Bassoonists do not strictly speaking need blades that are as sharp the hollow ground knives - we don't dig into the cane the way an oboist does because of a bassoon reed's tapered slope. Rather than sharpness, longevity becomes the name of the game; I've been using my Opinel No.8 for five years and I've never looked back. The handle feels comfortable in to grip, much more so than any reed knife, and I've only needed to sharpen it a handful of times.

Opinel also has a fantastic variety of woods for their handles, and a plethora of other color options and even some etching patterns that look really amazing. In the future we hope to carry a greater variety of these types of handles. I think any practically-minded bassoonist will really fall in love with these knives, just like I have!

Bassoon Brands and Models

Choosing the right bassoon can be a daunting task. This guide will clarify what bassoon brands and models we offer as you seek the right instrument for you. We are always happy to speak with you over the phone, so please don't hesitate to call us at 1 (612) 331-4717. Click on the model number of each listing below for a link to our store page for that instrument.

Midwest Musical Imports is proud to offer:
Fox Bassoons
Heckel Bassoons
Puchner Bassoons
Walter Bassoons
Wolf Bassoon
Yamaha Bassoons
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Tips from our Techs--Humidity Issues

 

Tip from head repair technician, Eric Anderson

Summer is that time of year when humidity increases and the wood body of instruments begins to expand.  This happens along the width and length of the wood grain affecting both the fit of keys, levers, and tenons.   When the wood expands in the summer months, woodwind instruments often don't fit together without a struggle, if they even fit together at all! We find that this issue is most prevalent during the first year of a new instrument's life, and especially prevalent in newer clarinets.

If this happens with your instrument to the point where abnormal force is required to take it apart, it's best to have an experienced repair technician take care of it.  A technician will be able to adjust the fit of the tenon cork, the exposed wood on the tenon, or sometimes both.  Ignoring the problem and blowing warm, humid air down your instrument will only make it worse!

The humidity will also make keys fit looser, but don't worry!  We never fit keys too tightly in the summertime because they will most likely expand in the fall/winter and potentially bind once the humidity drops.  Loose key fittings won't harm your instrument, they only cause them to be slightly noisier.  If you can live with the loose key fitting in the summer, great!  It should return to normal in the fall/winter.  If it is an issue for you, we can certainly fix it, and if we do, don't forget to come back to get the fit readjusted after the humidity changes.

If you ever experience issues with your instrument and don't know what to do, remember we are only a phone call away and are happy to help!!

Introducing our newest repair technician, Brian!

We are happy to announce that we have a new team member!  Brian DeGayner has joined MMI in the repair department.  He graduated from Southeast Technical in Red Wing with a diploma in band instrument repair in 2016. Prior to joining the repair team at MMI, Brian worked for Twin Cities Instrument Repair in Edina, focusing on flute and double reeds. He is a member of the National Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians, and attends state and regional conferences. Brian spends most of his free time outdoors, or playing in local orchestras.

We asked Brian a few questions to get to know him better!

What got you started in repair? 

"After a few years of playing horn, I realized my love for working with my hands could be applicable to the industry. After talking with Greg Beckwith, I dropped everything and went to Southeast Tech in Red Wing."

What groups were you playing in prior to going to school for repair?

"I have played for several orchestras around Minnesota. Mankato Symphony, St. Andrew’s, Bloomington Symphony, Minneapolis Civic, Wayzata Symphony, and currently St. Paul Civic."

Any favorite pieces? 

"I love Mahler’s symphonies, especially 3, 4, and 5. Ein Heldenleben, Holst’s Jupiter, Sibelius....basically anything horn-heavy. Otherwise, I’m usually partial to playing in small ensembles, such as Daniel Baldwin’s Landscapes for Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon and Piano, Martinu’s Quartet for Clarinet, Horn, Cello and Snare Drum, or Barber’s Summer Music."

What is your favorite repair to do?

I love a challenge. My favorite work to do is overhauling instruments: breathing new life into an instrument is very rewarding, and hearing an instrument I fixed on stage always makes me smile.

Any hobbies at home?

I would consider myself a maker. I’ve used my machining experience to make plenty of hand tools and a few machines to help with various projects. Currently, I’m refinishing my tool chest, painting models, and working on my jewelry making skills. I wouldn’t mind getting into watch and clock mechanism repair...

You’ve mentioned your love for the outdoors...

I go hiking and camping as much as I can, year round. I am an Eagle Scout (Troop 494, White Bear Lake, 2009), so I basically grew up outdoors. My family moves a lot of timber every year, and I hunt and fish whenever I can.

 

Please join us in welcoming Brian to MMI!  We are so happy to have him part of our team!

Emily Brebach Oboe & English Horn Masterclass

 

You're invited!! FREE!!

Mini-recital
Masterclass
Reception following the class
Large selection of oboes and English horns for trial
Free small repairs

Emily Brebach joined the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra playing English horn and oboe in the fall of 2012.

Ms. Brebach, a Philadelphia native, has performed with several orchestras throughout the United States, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Kansas City Symphony, and the Houston Symphony.  In past summers, she has performed at the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Des Moines Metro Opera, Tanglewood Music Center, and the Aspen Music Festival. Prior to joining the ASO, Ms. Brebach held the position of English horn and oboe with the Sarasota Orchestra.

Ms. Brebach holds degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and Rice University's Shepherd School of Music, and studied with Louis Rosenblatt, James Caldwell, Robert Atherholt, and Robert Walters.  She is an Artist Affiliate Instructor of Oboe at Emory University, a faculty member of the Atlanta Symphony's Talent Development Program and maintains an active private studio in her home.  Ms. Brebach has also given masterclasses and reedmaking seminars at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Florida State University, the University of Minnesota, the University of South Carolina, and the North Carolina School for the Arts. She spends her summers in residence at the Brevard Music Center in Brevard, NC, as English horn and oboe as well as artist faculty.

We look forward to seeing you at this great, FREE event!!  RSVP here!

Darrel Hale Bassoon Masterclass

Mini-recital with works by Bach, Mignone & Winstead
Masterclass
Reception following the class
Large selection of bassoons and bocals for trial
Free small repairs

Darrel Hale is the Assistant Professor of Bassoon at Louisiana State University and the Principal Bassoon of Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra. An avid chamber musician, he also performs regularly as a member of the Timm Wind Quintet and the Conundrum Reed Trio. Before joining the faculty at LSU, Mr. Hale serviced as the Acting Principal of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the Principal Bassoon of the Kentucky and Springfield Orchestras. His teachers include Dr. Yoshiyuki Ishikawa, Per Hannevold, and William Winstead.

We look forward to seeing you at this great, FREE event!!

Richie Hawley Clarinet Masterclass

You're invited!  

 

We are excited to host Richie Hawley on Saturday, September 30th from 2-4pm!  The class will be held at Midwest Musical Imports in our recital hall.  Please join us for this free and incredible clarinet event!
Mini-recital and masterclass
Reception following the class
Try our custom set-up clarinets hand-selected by Richie
Mouthpieces, barrels, reeds, and more available for purchase
Free small repairs

 

Richie is the professor of clarinet at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston and serves as the teaching and performing clarinet artist at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California.  A Buffet-Crampon artist, Mr. Hawley performs on the Tosca model of clarinet. He is also a D’Addario Woodwinds Performing Artist and Clinician, and plays exclusively on the Reserve Classic reeds and mouthpieces which he helped to develop.
Learn more at:  www.richiehawley.com

 

We look forward to seeing you there!!

Virtual Tour of Our New Location

We absolutely love our new location and think you will, too!!  The store has doubled in size!!  We've added practice/lesson rooms, a recital hall, increased the size of our repair shop and sales floor.  Please stop by for a visit!  We'd love to show you around!

Our repair staff working hard in the new repair shop!

Our new recital hall with seating capacity of 60!

One of our new teaching/practice studios!

A street view of our new space.

We look forward to welcoming you in the store soon!

Mindful Wellness for Musicians

Join MMI's Ginny Dodge for a two-hour event on mindfulness, healing and intentional goal setting on Saturday, June 17th.  Stop by in person or virtually with our Facebook Live broadcast.  We’ll be offering four interactive and informative sessions on popular topics in personal development and holistic wellness, specific to musicians!  Learn about and try essential oils, practice using powerful vocabulary, learn why goal setting hasn’t worked in the past and what to do about it, and build your knowledge of breathing exercises and meditation.

10:00-10:20 Session I: Meditation and Breathing Exercises
10:30-10:50 Session II: Affirmations, Gratitude and Mindfulness
11:00-11:20 Session III: Essential Oils for Musicians
11:30-11:50 Session IV: Goal Setting in the World of Music

We’re excited to see you!

Thank you for attending our grand opening celebration!

I would like to extend a very heartfelt thank you to everyone that came to our grand opening celebration! For those of you that came, emailed, sent flowers or called with your best wishes, we are extremely grateful. Below are some photos from the event.

A big thank you again to our generous sponsors/vendors: Buffet-Crampon, Fox Products, Loree, Puchner, Heckel, D'Addario, Peak, and Clark Fobes.

We look forward to many more events and please keep an eye on our calendar for updates!

Best wishes,
Jessica Nelson, General Manager

Owner and founder, Mike Aamoth gets a thumbs up after the Friday night reception from long-time customer, David Braslau.

Katie with customers at the Friday night reception.

Friday night reception.

Friday night reception.

 

Friday night reception.

Eric thanks a customer after work in the repair shop.

Our first customer during the celebration on Friday!! Jessica with her friend and oboist, Siri Garnaas

Friday was repair technician, Matt Reich's birthday! We surprised him with a cake.

Julie Gramolini William, Chris Marshall, and Greg Williams, of the MN Orchestra during their trio performance
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