[Harp-L] Poor man's embossing station, with appropriate thanks
A quick thanks to harp customizer, Joe Spiers, for his post on harp-L about
a year ago, re how to make an embossing work station. I've created my own
simplified version which has enabled me to make vast improvements in the
playability of my harps, simply through improved embossing.
For my embossing tool, i use a small 1/4 inch drive extension with a small
socket (i use a 5/16 inch socket), but Joe suggested the ball tip if a car
antenna as an alternative. My embossing station is simply a small cardboard box
(Shure microphone box, actually), in which i have cut with a razor knife a
small rectangle about 3/4 wide x 2 inches long in the flat bottom of the box.
For a light source, I use a small night light on an extension cord. I lay
the night lite on a hard surfaced kitchen table, then overturn the box on top
of it. Once I place a reedplate, rivet side up, on top of the light under
the rectangular opening in the box, I get a great view of the tolerances
between reed and reed slot (strong reading glasses and magnifying glasses help a
My procedure has been to finish gapping first, then emboss. After viewing a
reed slot, I lay the plate on the sturdy hard surfaced table next to the
box. If it looks like there's a big tolerance at the free end of the particular
reed, I first attend to the free end of the slot, being careful not to
over-emboss the sides at this time.
After embossing the end of the slot, I attend to the length of the slot.
I take ONE run at a time with the socket tool, on the upper half of the reed
slot only, then plink with my thinnest feeler gauge (.002"), then view thru
the results with the embossing station light. The plinking will audibly reveal
and metal to metal contact. I also play the reed by putting the slot up to
my mouth and inhaling (thanks, Rupert). The first thing to hang up is a reed
catches on a side of slot. At this point, i take my Bill Rommel reed wrench
($5, thanks, Bill) and I center the reed in it's slot. Then i observe the
tolerances again and take ONE more swipe with my socket tool, before plinking
and observing again. Doing one swipe at a time saves a huge amount of hassle
trying to free an over-embossed slot. The reason I only emboss half the
length of the slot with the socket tool because embossing the slot with this tool
near the root will mash the rivet down and ruin your gap.
For reducing the rest of the tolerances toward the root end of the slots,
i use a trick from Rupert Oysler's Harp Repair and Maintenance CD/DVD ($65.
thanks, Rupert) -- I take a glass cutter and VERY CAREFULLY score along the
sides of the slot towards the reed's root. A slip at this point may result in
the ruination of the reed. When i finish a careful embossing like this, my
harps immediately play more responsively.
I'm not a professional customizer, so any comments and suggestions are
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