[Harp-L] lowering the pitch of a reed with solder
"Can anyone advise me on the technique of lowering the pitch of a reed with solder?"
Get a very low wattage soldering iron (25 watts or less). Get silver solder. (It's not actually silver, but that doesn't matter.) Get a No. 2 pencil. Rub the pencil lead along the edges and end of the reed at the TIP (where you do NOT want solder). Rub some more pencil lead across the reed about one-third of the distance from the TIP (NOT from the base). The pencil lead will stop the solder from going places it is not supposed to go. Clean the area of the reed to be soldered. Clean the soldering iron tip. Heat the soldering iron. Touch a very small drop of solder on the tip. When it melts as soon as contact occurs, the iron is hot enough. I don't try to heat-sink the reed. Quickly slide the "wet" tip along the center of the reed toward the TIP. It takes very little solder to drop a large pitch amount. Use a buffing wheel to "polish" the shape of the solder blob, both to improve aerodynamics and to bring the reed to the proper pitch. Get rid of any irregular shape or "lumps." I prefer a narrow "splinter" of solder in the center of the reed, spread over about the TIP end 1/3, rather than a big "blob" of solder concentrated at the very TIP. YMMV. This works well for ME on longer reeds. On shorter reeds, you're pretty much stuck with a tiny blob on the TIP of the reed.
I use a very low wattage Radio Shack iron. My buffing wheel is a handheld fingernail polisher that I got at Wal*Mart (for less than $10). A friend who works in a jewelry store gave me a bunch of rubberized polishing wheels which fit into the fingernail polisher which takes a 3/32" mandrel (if I haven't completely lost my mind). Before those arrived, I just used one of the polishing wheels that came with it. WORK SLOWLY!
Credits to others for the fingernail polisher idea and to Vern Smith for the pencil lead idea.
Crazy (ain't it obvious?!?) Bob
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