Re: Embossing and other questions
- Subject: Re: Embossing and other questions
- From: "Howard Chandler" <chandler@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sat, 13 Sep 2003 19:34:15 -0500
Thanks for all of the advice. After years of playing harps straight out of
the box, I have accumulated quite a sizable boneyard of squeeky, leaky and
pitch impared harps. Mostly Marine Bands. Many have been soaked, which may
be a bad thing to do in the long run, but often, soaking is required to get
them going. Most of my "players" are now plastic combed because they are
more reliable. I'd love to be able to breath new life into the old MB's
though. Like many others, I feel that the best sound can be achieved on the
humble old MB. I've alway's assumed that it was because of the wood comb,
but if my reading of the accumulated wisdom here on the web is correct, wood
does not neccisarily make the best comb. Could it be that the reason I
loved my old MB's so much compared to the SP20's and LO's is the just
tuning? I know the LO's and others are more optimized for single note
soloing and they've really "fit in" better in my non-blues endevours,
however, for blues I think the just tuning of the old MB's is the thing.
Can the combs of my old swelled up MB's be resusitated? Is it necessary to
use tape to seal the readplate on?
I'm also trying figure out whether I ought to persue the OB path. I'm
thinking that to do so I'll have to change my style radically. I guess you
might say that I'm an "acoustic" harper, and so I've developed a robust
style ie. I really move a lot of air when I play. I especially like to play
the big red combed MB's. Am I correct in assuming that the OB style
requires a harp that will choke when played in this style, and that it
almost always requires some form of amplification?
I'm immesuarably grateful for the advice concerning waxing. It's good to
know that there are safer alternatives. Is there a particular brand of
polyurathane that you find best suited for sealing wood combs? I'm curious
to know if anyone has any opinions on using dewaxed shellac for a sealer.
It is my understanding that this is a safe, natural, non-toxic finish (and I
just happen to have a couple of pounds of the flakes). I've even heard that
some pills are coated with the stuff.
One last question. Is there some sort of way to test a reed while tuning
that doesn't require putting the harp back together?
Who think he's standing on a very slipery slope!
- ----- Original Message -----
From: "G." <gigs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: "harp-l" <harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Saturday, September 13, 2003 10:46 AM
Subject: Re: Embossing and other questions
> Date: Sat, 13 Sep 2003 07:49:49 -0500
> From: "Howard Chandler" <chandler@xxxxxxxxx>
> Subject: Embossing and other questions
> Tinkering harpers,
> What is embossing? I've heard this term a few times on the web. I get
> impression that it's a way of narrowing the gap betwen slot edge and reed.
> Does this technique involve burnishing, or deforming the slot edge?
> someone can please explain how this is done and what tools are needed?
> Also, can someone suggest a source for small machine screws?
> Oh, one last thing. The method of sealing Marine Band combs involves
> them in hot melted beeswax?
> I'm new here and so I apologize in advance if these are well worn topics.
> I'm having trouble searching the Harp-l archives.
> Howard Chandler
> Hello Howard.
> To your first question:
> Bringing the reedslot edges in has had a number of terms assigned to it
> including "embossing" and like you say "burnishing" is another.
> Basically you take a round metal object and gently scrape it from the tip
> reed slot to the near the base of the reed a couple of times to force the
> edges in towards the reed. The idea is to reduce the tolerance between
> and the reedslot edge. You may end up with the reed getting caught on
> it pays to have a 0.002 and/or 0.0015 feeler gauge on hand to run up the
> of the reed to clear out the burrs.
> I use the round top end of an E tuning fork, but you can use anything that
> cylinderical or round in shape and is as hard as brass or harder.
> For Machine Screws I personally found 2M stainless steel with slotted head
> for me. For imperial anything between 0-80 and 2-56 may be appropriate
> depending on the instrument you are working on, 1-56 seems to be a good
> compromise, and around 3-46 at 3/4" long should work as cover bolts. I
> recommend using Stainless steel screws as Pat pointed out to me they are
> likely to bind, and get some brass nuts just in case you end up stripping
> thread on the reedplate and for your cover screws. I also like to make
> have two taps for every size screw I use and get a pin vise to hold it in
> you are tapping the reedplates or bits of brass to use as nuts.
> You can source a great deal of materials and tools that are useful from
> McMaster-Carr, they are a superb business. http://www.mcmaster.com/
> Yes, the method of sealing marine band wood combs in beeswax involves
> them in hot melted beeswax. I have an ugly large skin graft on my right
> because of this very technique. It is 18 months since I did it and it is
> healing and a daily cause of discomfort and annoyance, and it looks bloody
> Wax has a flash point of around 85 degrees centigrade, or well under
> the boiling point of water. Once its alight if you try to move the
> will provide the fire with more fuel, as in oxygen which will cause it to
> up and spew out of the container. It sticks to anything it touches and
> fiercely, just like a wick.
> Throwing water on it makes a great fireball which throws flaming wax to
> everything within the radius of the fireball. Do not throw water into a
> container or puddle of burning liquid wax. I know all this from first
> experience. Thankfully my flat wasn't too badly damaged and it was winter
> was mostly covered in thick clothing which I managed to put out before it
> right through to my skin. If it had been Summer I would've been burnt
> chest to foot and all of my right arm as well. I was lucky that I got
> hand under cold water within a fraction of a second upon being covered in
> burning wax or I would've lost both my index finger and thumb to it. I am
> handed so I'm grateful for small mercies. I have a very tolerant land
> most of the damage has been repaired or painted over now.
> I strongly recommend avoiding this technique as it's potentially dangerous
> you are incautious as I was, and from my experience it does not work
> successfully anyway, the comb swells regardless of the beeswax.
> If your goal is to seal the wood from moisture to avoid swelling and
> then you are better off to find a water based non-toxic polyurethane and
> coats with appropriate drying time in between. Make sure your first two
> are applied very thinly otherwise the comb just soaks it in and swells and
> If you absolutely insist on using beeswax then use a double boiler, or at
> very least two pots, a bigger pot with water and a smaller pot floating in
> with the wax in that. You can buy beeswax at wood supplies cheap, and at
> healthfood supplies, its about US$1.50 a pound. Use a controlled heat
> and keep it low.
> Keep the lid to the boiler and a fire extinguisher on hand well within
> Stay watching it while heat is applied. Do it sober and alert. And be
> If the melted wax fizzles or smokes in any way remove it from heat and put
> on it immediately, and keep a watch until you are sure its cool enough.
> The technique I learnt was to warm the comb(s) in a preheated oven for 10
> minutes or so to open up the pours. Then immerse the combs in liquid wax
> minute or so, lift out and give the holding utensil (be it plyers,
> tongs) a rap or two against the side of the pot to shake off excess. Then
> thread a wire through one of the cover bolt holes and hang to dry. Turn
> The customer I was doing this for insists that the beeswax gives the
> a wonderful tone, but then he believes wood gives the harmonica a warm
tone so I
> just gave him some blocks of wax with careful instructions and refuse to
> anymore. I was a bloody idiot by not keeping watch over it, I've paid the
> learnt my lesson the hard way.
> If you really want to learn the secrets to a great sounding harmonica that
> well I suggest you concentrate on TUNING and REED ADJUSTMENT before
> about all the other tips and tricks that are passed around like gold
> Concentrate on the reeds.
> Pat Missin has gone to lengths to provide a good practical source on
> called Altered States available for free on his site
> Key points are to learn to use your ears, get a hotcold pack for the most
> efficient way of keeping the reedplates warm, use sanding wands, wet and
> & 400 grit or nail emery boards for retuning. 0.008 steel feeler gauge is
> for supporting the reed while retuning.
> Both Pat and Mike Easton both helped me produce a practical guide for
> on setting up harmonica reeds which you can read free here:
> Also Tinus is good at doing this for harmonicas intended for overblowing
> one of his MS MeisterKlasse harmonicas here) and he has an a well written
> section on setting up your harmonica reeds (and reed slots) for this at
> his sites:
> You can find articles on things like bringing the reedslot edges in,
> tuning, and other practical articles of information all for the taking
> It is also useful to get a rotary tool with speed control, NOT for tuning.
> very useful for many other things, rubber bits or Shofu brownies are very
> for quickly polishing down sharp edges on reedplates and covers, and
> away rust spots. Conical burrs for cleaning up around drilled holes and so
> Dremel is a popular choice but I find it cumbersome for most harmonica
> if you can find a cheaper hobbiest rotary tool that has a way of accepting
> shank up to 1/8" shank, then you'll be able to use most of the Dremel tool
> Dentists have access to a huge range of appropriate bits for working on
> harmonicas, it makes me jealous what they have at their fingertips.
> Anyway, after that the rest is up to you, trial and error are your best
> teachers, and there are plenty of good folk here who are happy to help.
> There are a couple of books by Blackie Schackner such as 'Complete book of
> chromtaic & diatonic "state of the art" repairs' available only at F&R
> http://www.frfarrell.com who have recently given their site a facelift
> now contactable by email again after a year hiatus. And Doug Tates "Make
> harmonica work better" which is focused on chromatic harmonica, but useful
> nonetheless. Neither are exaustive. I have yet to see any commercial
> that is any better than either those books and what is available for free
> internet put together. And nothing beats personal experience.
> The Yahoo archives are the pits and were a last resort, but it looks like
> better alternative is in the works. http://www.harpamps.com/
> Welcome to Harp-L.
> Best regards
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