Speaking of reeds... I got fed up with the quality of commercial reeds. Commercial establishements do not spend the time and effort to really finely tune a reed. Also the characteristics of the reed must vary according to the characteristics of the player, the instrument, the sound required, the weather, etc.
Reed production starts with a piece of cane, which is then split into strips, trimmed, and gouged to a consistent thickness. Then it is profiled, meaning that the cane is cut from the bark side to be thinner in the middle and the blades start taking shape. Then it is trimmed again from the sides to make the blades triangular, called "shaping". (Depending on the method, shaping is sometimes done before profiling.)
After that, the cane is bent in half, cut, formed in steam around a mandrel, and final touches are made to the shape of the blade ("finishing"). The finishing ideally results in the cane being very thin at the tip and tip corners ("wings"), and somewhat thinner on the sides. Just back of the tip in the center, down the length of the blade, the cane should be thicker. This is the "heart", and is what gives the stiffness to the cane required for vibration and (especially) high register response.
Finally the base of the reed is usually wrapped in string, which is cemented in place. This adds a little more stiffness to the base and helps prevent leaking as well.
I don't have pictures of all the stages because I don't do them all myself (yet).
I started buying cane that was already gouged, shaped, and profiled, and just needed to be finished and assembled. But these, too, were usually disappointing, often being too thin on one side or otherwise unbalanced, or completely lacking a strong heart.
So I decided to make a reed profiler. A scraper. Many different types may be purchased, but they are very expensive. The most popular type actually creates an uneven profile due to its design: On one side, the blade carriage rides along a precision rod on one side, and on the other side a bearing rolls on an adjustable platform. The profile is formed because one side of the blade carrier goes up and down along the platform as the blade is moved back and forth. But the fulcrum is at the other end, the straight rod. This makes the profile uneven along the length of the blade.
Making reeds is a very touchy process. Small changes in the cane, and characteristics of the cane itself, produce different results. Having a consistent, symmetric profile before finishing both results in less work and better quality.
The blade on this scraper slides precisely to and fro. The vertical position of the blade is adjusted, much like in a wood planer. The profile is created because the reed is on a rotating cylinder (also called an easel) which is set at a slight angle to the plane of travel of the blade. In addition, the easel rotates eccentrically; the axis of the easel is adjusted away from the axis of rotation. This all results in a smooth, gradual thinning towards the edges and the tip, while maintaining a nice heart.
I got the precision rod from an old printer. Most of the rest, including the bushings that slide along the rod, is 13mm aluminum plate from some old unidentifiable piece of junk in our garage. The rod is press-fit into the end plates, with the help of the different coefficients of thermal expansion. (I stuck it in the oven.) The angle of the blade can be adjusted by loosening the big bolt, and the blade slides up and down on precision keyways. The entire platform can be disassembled.
The easel is nicely finished aluminum rod (tube, actually), turned on the lathe. The ends are press-fit into two gymbals. Finally the whole thing is mounted on a piece of poplar.
It is crude compared to the commercial types, but it works like a charm and is easy to adjust, modify, and repair. The platform slides with absolutely no play, making very precise and even cuts.
There are a couple of problems, though, with the first profiler. The aluminum "bearings" on which the carriage slides are indeed very tightly fit to the rod, with little play. However, as dust collects on the slides, it gums up the bearings.
Also, the whole process of scraping is rather slow. And I'm lazy. So I decided to try to take this design to another level, with a motorized cutter.
Our handy foundry only needed to be used for one part, the mount for the cutter mandrel and chuck. The mandrel was turned on the lathe, then press-fit into good bearings, which in turn were press-fit into the mount. The mandrel has a pulley, which, obviously, connects it up to the motor.