[Harp-L] deadly dunking for degunking and comb tightening

Back in the day (1970-72, or until I came upon SP20s) many a time I'd dunk my rather  abused MBs into a glass of beer or whiskey, and the effect would be a temporary rejuvenation of the reeds which would have become seemingly tight, and tightening of the comb which had become leaky.  

I think this was actually due to a sort of cleaning effect upon the reeds, combined with re-expansion of the wood comb which had - after being exposed to moisture, expanded, then with drying, contracted.  The prior moisture might have been just my own with normal use, or perhaps a prior dunking.  

Because I was then using nailed harps, taking them apart was problematic (I occasionally strolled into High School Shop classes from CN to FL to CA as though a student, and availed myself of their tools including jewelry anvils to hammer out crushed covers, and various solutions for loose cover nails).   

Anyhow, I think dunking them in whiskey (less swelling than beer, more of a solvent, and I preferred whiskey anyway) was a way to slightly degunk the harp without disassembly.  

Ultimately, it was a drag, as the comb got essentially ruined by all the soaking, but for a while, the soaking would revive it until it's inevitable demise.  But it did extend the death spiral of a beaten and battered harp, which was good 'cause the cost a whopping $3.50 each when the minimum wage was like 65 cents an hour! 

-Dave Fertig

As has been suggested..., just promise us you won't get that harp drunk...,
declare it a failure... And then shoot it!!  
Have a heart for that hapless harp,
Brad Trainham

-----Original Message-----
From: harp-l-bounces@xxxxxxxxxx [mailto:harp-l-bounces@xxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf
Of Dave Payne, Elk River Harmonicas
Sent: Saturday, November 15, 2008 9:31 PM
To: Harp L Harp L
Subject: [Harp-L] Do not soak harmonicas in whiskey?

In just about every "learn to play harmonica" book you see it says
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
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
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

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
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
doing here and stuff."

Dave Payne Sr. 
Elk River Harmonicas

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