Adjusting the Final Gouge Thickness on an RDG "USA" Gouging Machine

So you have some time on your hands, and want to finally get around to gouging that bag of cane you bought four years ago. I hear you. I did exactly that yesterday. 

Hello! My name is Sarah Beck and I am the “Gouging Machine Specialist” at RDG Woodwinds, Inc. Today I’ll be discussing the RDG “USA” gouging machine and how to adjust the thickness of a gouged piece of cane. 

There are some things that will be helpful to have around and ready for the adjustment. They are:

  1. Allen wrench (7/64” for oboe and 5/32” for bassoon)

  2. Some pre-gouged cane that is not your best stuff

  3. Micrometer

  4. Small brush to brush cane off the machine

  5. Small amount of oil - needle oiler with watch oil

If you’ve read my instructions for the RDG machine adjustments, you’ll know that I recommend soaking cane that has been pre-gouged with an RDG pre-gouger for about 2-4 hours. The reason I recommend this is because if the cane is not soaked long enough, the blade can dig into the cane and cause little half circle shaped marks. This may affect the sound of your reeds. Also, it’s important not to over-soak it either, because the cane can get waterlogged, and then shrink up after it dries. The cane you thought you gouged at .60 will now be .57. Yikes! You simply want to make sure that it's soaked all the way through. Our RDG pre-gougers are very easy to use, and you can find them here on our website. We offer them for oboe, oboe d'amore, English horn and bassoon.

I use a Reeds 'n Stuff crank-style pre-gouging machine to pre-gouge.
I love these machines. They are beautifully made, with a simple function and smart design. Not only will they save you on soaking time, but they will also save wear and tear on your gouging machine blade. The longer you can use a blade set up that you like without making changes, the more consistent and better your reed making will get. When using this Reeds 'n Stuff pre-gouging machine, I find that I only have to soak the cane about an hour.

Before you start, it’s important to understand the names of the screws. There are two types of screws that you will work with when you make adjustments to the gouge. The screw that holds the carriage bar in place is called an “anchor screw”. The other one is an “adjustment” screw. These are the only screws you will need to use to do this adjustment.

There are four steps involved in adjusting the gouge. 

  1. Move adjustment screw to the edge of the slot

  2. Loosen the anchor screw

  3. Move adjustment screw slightly

  4. Tighten anchor screw

Let me explain the “slot”. On the side of the carriage bar there is a slot the adjustment screw head fits in. The adjustment screw should move a little in this slot. NEVER FORCE THE SCREW TO MOVE. YOU CAN STRIP THE BRASS PORTION OF THE CARRIAGE BAR!!!

 

So let’s say you want to make the gouge thicker. You will need to first move the adjustment screw in the direction you want to go in the slot. Gently screw the adjustment screw in clockwise to the edge of the slot until it stops turning easily. DO NOT FORCE IT AT ALL!

The next step is to loosen the anchor screw. To do that, turn it counter-clockwise. It is important to note that you should not loosen the screw too much or too little. If it's loosened too much, the carriage bar will move too freely and could possibly go too far in the adjustment. If you don't loosen it enough, then you could end up forcing the adjustment screw and possibly stripping the carriage bar. There should be a little tension between the screw and the bar to hold it in place but still allow it to move.  (You may notice a little lock washer under the anchor screw that helps keep the tension).  An oboist could think of keeping the right tension like trying to make sure your cane is straight on the staple when you are tying a reed. If you try to move the cane in that first part of tying and the thread is really loose, your cane will move too much or the thread and the cane will come undone. By keeping a little tension on it, it's much easier to do slight movements.

Now turn the adjustment screw very slightly in a clockwise direction. (Think minutes on a clock.)

Lastly, re-tighten the anchor screw. 

Gouge about 5 pieces, checking each one as you go. If you get a majority of pieces with the final thickness that you want, then you can stop. If the gouge isn't as thick as you'd like, then repeat the above steps. 

To make the gouge thinner, you would use the same steps listed above, but move the adjustment screw counter clockwise.

Summarized steps:

To make the piece of gouged cane thicker: 

1. Move adjustment screw clockwise in the slot. DO NOT FORCE IT! You can strip the brass part.

2. Gently loosen the anchor screw under the carriage by moving the screw to the left. 

3. Turn the adjustment screw in clockwise very gently. This should make the results thicker.

4. Tighten the anchor screw to hold it in place.

To make the piece of cane thinner:

1. Move the adjustment screw counterclockwise to the outer edge of the slot. 

2. Gently loosen the anchor screw by turning it to the left.

3. Move the adjustment screw out by turning counterclockwise. This should make the gouge thinner.

4. Tighten the anchor screw up to hold it in place. 

When you’ve reached your desired thickness, clean the cane off the machine with a small nylon bristle brush. Take a q-tip or a small piece of cotton and oil the blade, bearing, runner bar and bed to remove build-up. 

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