I’ve talked about my reed break-in process but I didn’t really mention this tool that really helped make everything even better. The ReedGeek Universal Tool has been an incredibly helpful addition to my “arsenal” since I purchased it about 6 months ago. For me, it provides the perfect blend of effectiveness with low maintenance that I desire in most parts of my life but especially in music. I feel like the bang for my buck on it is very high but let’s talk about what it is and what it does.
The ReedGeek is a milled rectangular bar of steel with sharp corners for flattening the table as well as various shapes that are useful for working on more specialized parts of the reed like the rails or the vamp. It feels very solid and heavy in my hand and that’s helpful to help make sure only small amounts of material are being removed at any given time. It comes in a nice plastic case with a velvety drawstring bag for protection. It came with an instructional card to help teach how to use it but I actually learned more about using it from videos on their website and from their YouTube channel.
Probably the most important thing about the Geek is that it is not a knife even though it does many things that a knife could do. On the website they make a big deal about how you can travel and get past the TSA checks with it but for me, it’s much more important that I can feel safe using it or forgetting about it with my three-year-old around. Any parent knows that turning your back on a child for even a second with a sharp knife around is a possible recipe for disaster. Even though it’s not a knife it’s still sharp and accurate enough to make precision adjustments but it cant easily cut you.
I mentioned the heft of the Geek above and that’s one of the genius touches of the tool for me. When I used to use knives and Dutch rush and all that back in my college days it wasn’t uncommon enough that I could go just a tad too far and I think that was because it’s hard to judge minute changes in pressure when scraping or cutting with knives. With the Geek I can use its own weight as a gauge without ever having to add any pressure of my own. I think this helps keep everything under control when I’m working on reeds.
I primarily use it to flatten the table. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t believe the act of “adjusting” the vamp or the tip is a good return on investment compared to the time, effort, and frustration involved in doing it. On the other hand, I’ve become a firm believer that swelling of the table (especially in the center) from the reed absorbing and evaporating moisture unevenly is the cause of most of my reeds not playing or ceasing to play. Reeds always seem to swell in the center of the table and then they don’t seal on the mouthpiece correctly and then they don’t play as well. The Geek is absolutely perfect for flattening this out.
First I lay an edge on the table near the butt and I look to see if light is coming in from the sides or whether everything looks well connected between the reed and the edge. If there are gaps then I hold the Geek at about a 20 degree angle and – without placing any pressure/only using the weight of the tool – I start to scrape all of the parts that come in contact with the table of the mouthpiece. I keep checking for gaps as before and I stop when it’s flat…the whole process takes maybe 2-3 minutes per reed and I can do it while talking to people, listening to music, or watching television. I feel like I can tell when the table is flat without even looking because the Geek feels and sounds different while scraping. Once I’m done I will sometimes scrape closer to the tip to “blend” the changes in but I’m taking off so little material that this is rarely necessary. One of the beauties of using the Geek on the table of the reed is that it also seems to seal up the fibers…just like rubbing them on white paper.
So far I haven’t seen a reed that didn’t improve from this technique. As I said there’s lots of other uses for the tool but it’s just not something I feel the need to do. The Geek sells for about 40 bucks and I’ve been very happy with it since I got it. I think they have a 14 day return policy in case you don’t like it or find it’s not better than your knife.