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#92 A Reed Geek For $3...SERIOUSLY??

setup & gear Oct 18, 2020

We all know that a Reed Geek Tool is excellent for adjusting your reeds and making the rubbish ones play better, but how about if you could get a comparable result with a product 23 TIMES cheaper? Is that too good to be true? In this video, I compare the $69 Reed Geek Universal Classic with a generic $3 High Speed Steel Lathe Tool from eBay to find out!

Be sure to pick up your free How To Use A Reed Geek PDF Cheatsheet, which you can print off and keep as a reference guide. Also, check out my lesson on how to make reeds work using a Reed Geek. Clicking on the time stamps for this blog will take you straight to the relevant bit of the video on YouTube (in a separate tab). Full Time stamps for the video and a complete transcript are available at the bottom of the blog.

 The rival reed tools tested were...(1:17)

1. Reed Geek "Universal Classic" $69

  • 8mm square, 66mm long
  • 31 grams
  • high grade medical stainless steel
  • 4 long planing edges
  • 2 sculpted rail adjustment blades
  • rounded pencil eraser tip for fine adjustments
  • neoprene storage pouch
  • neckless string hole
  • available here

2. Generic Square "High Speed Steel Lathe Tool" $3

  • 6mm square, 75mm long (available in many sizes)
  • 22 grams
  • 4 planing edges
  • 2 angled tips
  • cut steel
  • available here from RDG Tools (UK eBay)

I assessed both tools on 3 important reed preparation jobs...

Test #1: Flattening the back of the reed (5:01)

 As you would expect, the Universal Classic effortlessly took off a fine layer of burr from the back of the reed with light pressure using any of the four long side edges. You could see the residue left on the edge. Because my generic lathe tool was only 6mm square instead of 8mm square, it didn’t have quite the same weight in the hand, so I needed to use slightly firmer pressure. This might be different with the 8mm size. It wasn’t quite as easy to level the back, but it could still be done fairly easily, and the edge of tool itself was dead straight, giving a smooth finish. At the end of the day, both tools gave an equally smooth, silky back to the reed, with the Universal Classic making the job slightly easier.

Test #2: Balancing the rails and wings and decongesting fibres (5:44)

Using the Universal Classic, the task of balancing the side rails of the reed could be done with the two rail adjustors OR the pencil eraser tip. Both worked really well, and it’s easy use fine strokes to slowly make adjustments. Keeping the reed on the mouthpiece, I used both the the angled tip of the generic lathe tool and the long sides to make adjustments to the reed rails, and it required a bit more effort to take off the equivalent amount of material to the Reed Geek. Because the front isn’t rounded like the Universal Classic, care had to be taken not to create gauge marks in the wood of the reed. However, I found that I could successfully make adjustments to the reed’s sides and get both halves of the reed in balance.

The Reed Geek has two sculpted edges at the front which made it much easier to adjust the reed rails, and fine adjustments could be made with ease and precision. When it came to decongesting, one thing that the Universal Classic excels at is small, detailed adjustments to clear out specific dense patches of wood fibres. This  could be done pretty effortlessly using the pencil eraser tip. A couple of scrapes and the offending area is cleared out. The wider, flat tip of the generic lathe tool made this job harder and I couldn’t get as much pinpoint accuracy on the fibres I wanted to clear. Snagging and gauging were also a constant concern. That said, with a bit more effort and a bit more concentration I was still able to make smaller adjustments to the cane, just not as easily or concisely as with the Reed Geek.

Test #3: Freeing up the spine of the reed (7:19)

For the slightly less specific and fiddly job of adjusting the thicker spine of the reed, the generic lathe tool measured up better against the Reed Geek than it did on the previous test. This is probably because it was a job for the large straight edge, rather than the custom edges missing from the lathe tool. Both tools were able to take a good amount of material off the thick spine of the reed, although as before, the Universal Classic did the job with less effort and slightly more control.

Final Verdict (7:47)

I’ll come straight out with it - The Reed Geek Universal Classic is a superior reed adjustment tool. This is exactly as it should be, and I think we’d all have cause for concern if it wasn’t. BUT, and this is a huge BUT - my Generic Lathe Tool, which is a whopping 23 times cheaper, was not far behind in performance, especially for the less fiddly jobs like flattening the reed back and adjusting the spine.

Considering the lathe tool is probably cheaper than the shipping for the Reed Geek, this is quite astonishing, and with a bit of practice I think most people could get an acceptable result with this inexpensive device. I didn’t test these devices on synthetic reeds, although I understand that this can be done, and I’d have to guess that a comparable result would be obtained by both tools on a synthetic surface.

Conclusion...If you’re a beginner on saxophone, even up to an intermediate, and you want an effective, low cost method of making your terrible reeds playable, then a High Speed Steel Lathe Tool could be a great option for you.

Is the Reed Geek Universal Classic better? Yes.

Is it 23 times better? No.

 

So I hope this review video was useful to you, and you now know you can get a usable reed tool for next to nothing! Remember to grab your Free How To Use A Reed Geek PDF Cheatsheet, which you can print off and keep as a reference guide. Also, be sure to check out my lesson on how to make reeds work using a Reed Geek

Next week it's back to a classic sax solo breakdown, and I'm so excited to teach you one of my favourite pop sax solos of all time - Michael Brecker's classic on "Native New Yorker" by Odyssey. See you there!

Jamie :-)

 

Video Timestamps

0:00 - Intro and title music

0:35 - how I discovered the cheap geek 

1:17 - the rival tools

4:04 - bench tests introduction

4:24 - how to get my free one hour masterclass

5:01 - Test #1 Flattening The Reed’s Back

5:44 - Test #2 Rails, Wings & Decongestion 

7:19 - Test #3 Adjusting The Spine

7:47 - THE FINAL VERDICT

9:01 - sign off

9:56 - end music and bloopers

 

Video Transcript

Hi, I’m pro saxophonist Jamie Anderson and you’re watching Get Your Sax Together. I sax up your Sundays with famous solo breakdowns, technique tips and other goodies to help you improve your saxophone playing. In this week’s free online saxophone lesson I’ll be comparing the legendary 69 dollar Reed Geek Universal Classic with a 3 dollar high speed steel lathe tool. When you’re buying a reed adjustment tool, is that extra 66 dollars REALLY worth the money? Let’s find out! 

[TITLE MUSIC]

I was teaching my student Oz one day when I asked him if he had a Reed Geek tool. He said he had one similar that did the same job. I wasn’t aware of any rival brand to Reed Geek, and I was gob smacked when he said his tool only cost £2.50 on eBay, INCLUDING delivery. So many of my students want to be able to easily adjust their reeds, but find the Reed Geek prohibitively expensive, so I thought I’d check it out. Make sure you watch my previous video on reed adjustment using a Reed Geek using the card linked above now, and you can get a free PDF cheatsheet on reed adjustment by using the link in the description, or the URL below. And keep watching to the end of this video, cos you might be surprised at the result.

[STING: The Rival Tools]

So let’s take a look at the two rival tools. First we’ve got the industry standard, the famous Reed Geek Universal Classic, which retails at 69 dollars. If you want to upgrade, you can spend 83 dollars on the Reed Geek Black Diamond, or even 95 dollars on the Universal Special ZR, but for this comparison we’re just using the Universal Classic, which is the cheapest Reed Geek. Company founder Mauro Di Gioia says the Universal Classic “undergoes a proprietary Chromium medical-grade process to enhance corrosion-resistance and edge-retention longevity”. It features four planing edges, two rail adjustors and a pencil eraser precision tip for fine adjustments. Every Reed Geek comes with a plastic carry tube and a cool neoprene storage pouch. One little known feature that I noticed is the hole at the end so you can wear your Geek round your neck on a string as you make frequent adjustments. The Universal Classic is the tried and tested king of the market place and you’ll find countless endorsements from the world’s greatest players. This 69 dollar tool will be going up against a 3 dollar high speed steel lathe tool from eBay - and that 3 dollars INCLUDED shipping in the UK! That makes it twenty three times cheaper than a Reed Geek. I got mine on eBay from a firm called RDG Tools, based in Yorkshire in the UK, although there are many alternatives if you search for High Speed Steel Lathe Square Tools. These square tools are blanks, designed to be shaped into more specific tools to be used on a wood shaping lathe, and they come in various sizes. The closest size to the Reed Geek’s 8mm square was out of stock, so I got the slightly smaller 6mm square size. My tool just arrived in a plain Jiffy Bag, but although it’s 75mm long, compared to the 66mm of the Universal Classic, it still fits in the Reed Geek’s neoprene pouch, which you can buy separately for 6 dollars. I couldn’t find any fancy information on the spec of the steel used for my 3 dollar tool and there are no additional edges to the generic lathe tool, although both ends are angle cut, giving you a crude type of pencil eraser tip. Cosmetically, the Reed Geek feels much better finished, with crisp, sharp edges and an even, brushed matt finish. The lathe tool has noticeable machine marks where it’s been cut to size and the edges don’t feel quite so sharp. I weighed in the Universal Classic at 31 grams, compared to 22 grams for the lathe tool. You can find links for both tools in the description. Incidentally, you should take care when using these square reed tools, especially when clearing the sawdust off the edges, as they’re sharp enough to cut your finger. I can testify to that from personal experience!

[STING: Bench Tests]

Now that you’ve been introduced to the rivals, let’s see how they perform back to back. I’m gonna compare both tools’ performance on the three main tasks that the Reed Geek is used for - flattening the back of the reed, balancing and decongesting the reed’s rails and wings and freeing up the spine. Just before we start though, if you’re dedicated to improving your sax playing and you’re finding yourself getting confused with too many conflicting YouTube videos, why not make yourself a coffee and settle down for a whole hour of tuition with me instead? You’re gonna love this - My Saxophone Success Masterclass is totally free, and it’s a solid hour of detailed saxophone teaching, designed to transform your playing. The link is in the description, or you can visit get your sax together dot com forward slash masterclass. Right, that said, let’s get straight on with the bench tests on the David and Goliath of reed tools.

[Heading] #1 Flattening The Back Of The Reed

 As you would expect, the Universal Classic effortlessly takes off a fine layer of burr from the back of the reed with light pressure using any of the four long side edges. You can see the residue on the edge. Because my generic lathe tool was only 6mm square instead of 8mm square, it didn’t have quite the same weight in the hand, so I needed to use slightly firmer pressure. This might be different with the 8mm size. It wasn’t quite as easy to level the back, but it could still be done fairly easily, and the edge of tool itself was dead straight, giving a smooth finish. At the end of the day, both tools gave an equally smooth, silky back to the reed, with the Universal Classic making the job slightly easier.

[Heading] #2 Balancing And Decongesting The Rails And Wings

Using the Universal Classic, the task of balancing the side rails of the reed can be done with the two rail adjustors OR the pencil eraser tip. Both worked really well, and it’s easy use fine strokes to slowly make adjustments. Keeping the reed on the mouthpiece, I used both the the angled tip of the generic lathe tool and the long sides to make adjustments to the reed rails, and it required a bit more effort to take off the equivalent amount of material to the Reed Geek. Because the front isn’t rounded like the Universal Classic, care had to be taken not to create gauge marks in the wood of the reed. However, I found that I could successfully make adjustments to the reed’s sides and get both halves of the reed in balance. The Reed Geek has two sculpted edges at the front which makes it much easier to adjust the reed rails, and fine adjustments can be made with ease and precision. When it comes to decongesting the reed, one thing that the Universal Classic excels at is small, detailed adjustments to clear out specific dense patches of wood fibres. This is done pretty effortlessly using the pencil eraser tip. A couple of scrapes and the offending area is cleared out. The wider, flat tip of the generic lathe tool makes this job harder and I couldn’t get as much pinpoint accuracy on the fibres I wanted to clear. Snagging and gauging were also a constant concern. That said, with a bit more effort and a bit more concentration I was still able to make smaller adjustments to the cane, just not as easily and concisely as with the Reed Geek.

[Heading] #3 Freeing Up The Spine

For the slightly less specific and fiddly job of adjusting the thicker spine of the reed, the generic lathe tool measured up better against the Reed Geek. This is probably because it was a job for the large straight edge, rather than the custom edges missing from the lathe tool. Both tools were able to take a good amount of material off the thick spine of the reed, although as before, the Universal Classic did the job with less effort and slightly more control.

[STING: The Final Verdict]

I’ll come straight out with it - The Reed Geek Universal Classic is a superior reed adjustment tool. This is exactly as it should be, and I think we’d all have cause for concern if it wasn’t. BUT, and this is a huge BUT - my Generic Lathe Tool, which is a whopping 23 times cheaper, was not far behind in performance, especially for the less fiddly jobs like flattening the reed back and adjusting the spine. Considering the lathe tool is probably cheaper than the shipping for the Reed Geek, this is quite astonishing, and with a bit of practice I think most people could get an acceptable result with this inexpensive device. I didn’t test these devices on synthetic reeds, although I understand that this can be done, and I’d have to guess that a comparable result would be obtained by both tools on a synthetic surface. If you’re a beginner on saxophone, even up to an intermediate, and you want an effective, low cost method of making your terrible reeds playable, then a High Speed Steel Lathe Tool could be a great option for you. Is Reed Geek Universal Classic better? Yes. Is it 23 times better? No.

[STING: Before You Go]

So that’s it for this week. Hopefully this free online saxophone lesson has been useful for you, and maybe you don’t need to raid your piggy bank to get a useable reed adjustment tool after all. Don’t forget to get your free PDF reed adjustment cheat sheet using the link in the description, and if you wanna learn some more in-depth sax stuff go to double-u double-u double-u dot get your sax together dot com, forward slash masterclass, to get your free one hour lesson with me. As always, thank you so much for your support and if you haven’t already, please go ahead and give the video a thumbs up, leave me a comment, subscribe to the channel, click the bell icon to be notified when I upload new content and check out my Insta and Facebook pages. I’m gonna sax up your Sunday next week with Michael Brecker’s legendary solo on Native New Yorker by Odyssey, but until then, enjoy your music, practice smart and stay safe. See ya later!

[ROLL END TITLES]

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