[Harp-L] Do not soak harmonicas in whiskey?
In just about every "learn to play harmonica" book you see it says "Old timers used to soak harps in beer, vodka and whiskey. DON"T do it, it's a bad idea." Obviously, those substances aren't going to help the reeds and it's something I've joined the chorus of others saying "don't do it" over the years.
Yet, I've been thinking and I'm going to look into this and get some answers. Two of my prized Seydel NOS pre-2006 NAILED and UNSEALED beech-comb Solists (they are screws and sealed now) will be used in this experiment, one a soaker and one control.
I'm leery of soaking a harp in beer because of the sugars drying on the reeds. Vodka, I have no idea how that could affect anything. But whiskey, I think might have worked and I wanna know if it does. I'm sure the sealants we have today work way better than any of this stuff and a fifth of Butcher's Block oil is a lot cheaper than a fifth of Ol' Granddad. So I have no expectations this would be a valid treatment for us. What I want to know is whether it worked for our harmonica forebears. My hypothesis is, regardless of how they thought it might have worked, it was a wood treatment, not a reed treatment.
They poured some whiskey in it, or dunked it in a glass. Whiskey gets soaked into the wood. I'm gonna find out what happens next. Alcohol will evaporate quickly, I know, I've used both isopropyl and moonshine to clean out an unsealed harp or two in my day.
I'm looking a bourbon in particular. I have purchased a 375 ml bottle of Early Times (I'll call it Bourbon since it's made in Kentucky) for this purpose and perhaps other "research" when the kids are asleep that shall be undocumented.
When you soak an unsealed comb in bourbon, the alcohol will evaporate out. What's left behind? Basically, liquid oak. Bourbon starts out life as moonshine and its put in these white oak barrels with the insides charred out. The whiskey barrel is then put through temperature changes over several years so the whiskey soaks in and oat of the wood, where it picks up wood compounds, such as tannin (same stuff that makes the Blackwater RIver in WV black), cellulose, holds the wood together and liginin, the binding agent that holds the cellulose together while its in the tree.
The best case scenario is that these substances and other compounds will get into the pores of the wood and slow (not eliminate, but slow) moisture exchange. Worst case scenario - I wasted seven bucks on a bottle of whiskey, minus the amount used in the undocumented research.
There is one compound in whiskey that also interests me ---- lyonresinol. There's supposedly a bunch of it in bourbon. It's an antibiotic agent that has been synthesized it has a" potential to be a lead compound in the development of antibotic agents"(http://lib.bioinfo.pl/pmid:16212233)
First part of the research, I poured a tablespoon of whiskey on a plate and am letting it dry. I wanna see what it's like when it dries. Whatever that is like, that's what's gonna be in the comb pores.
Any Vern Smith or Vern-Smith-like suggestions on how best to conduct this research would be appreciated. At the Elk RIver Harmonica Research Institute, we shall remain true to our motto: "This is important junk we're doing here and stuff."
Dave Payne Sr.
Elk River Harmonicas
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