Selecting tube cane:
I am very fussy about my gouged cane being straight grained so, even before I split it, I roll each piece along a flat surface. If it is curved (like a banana) it won't roll freely and I throw it out at this stage. That might seem rather wasteful but, as I see it, it stops my time being wasted later. I regard time as more precious than the few pence that a piece of cane costs.

Splitting the tube:
I use a cane splitter made by Reeds'n'stuff (  ) (a company in Germany who manufacture oboe and bassoon reed making equipment). It's a wonderful design - fast, efficient and safe (there is a perspex cylinder round the whole thing to stop you from cutting yourself on the blades or having bits of cane fly all over the place)). You can of course use any old knife. My finished reeds are rather wide so I split the cane into 3 but, for many bassoonists, 4 is fine.

To save wear on the blade of my gouging machine, I use a 'pre-gouger' which rather crudely planes off some of the pith so that there is less that needs gouging.

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Stage 2: Gouging and Shaping