[Harp-L] Vern Smith's Solder method

Vern jevern@xxxxx
Mon Oct 30 03:39:06 EDT 2017

Soldering has plusses and minuses:

For replacing welded reeds, it doesn’t require drilling or tapping holes in the reed or plate.
For special tunings, you can use a reed shorter than the slot. I have soldered a short hole-10 reed on a long hole-1 slot.
Reed position is unaffected by errors in hole location. Reed position is controlled solely by fit in the slot.
Works on damaged plates.
Reed can’t rotate after soldering.
The reeds almost always speak on the first try.
Failure-proof…un-soldering does no damage. 

The technique is new and unfamiliar.
A special tool made of about $200 in parts is required.  So far, I have the only one.
If not carefully cleaned up, flux can cause long-term corrosion.
I loaned the tool to a couple of technicians and they were not enthusiastic about it.  Maybe they should post their evaluation.

The process is much like welding except that the equipment costs a few hundred and not a few thousand bucks.  I tried to make a cheap capacitor-discharge welder without using electronic controls or a transformer.…just charging the capacitor and discharging it through the reed and plate.  A copper probe stuck to the reed. I guess that tungsten-copper alloy is required.  I could not find the sweet spot between not getting a secure bond and an arc that blasted a gaping hole in the reed.   There are welder designs on the internet for making rechargeable battery banks.  However, they work on steel conductors.  The high conductivity of brass doesn’t generate the heat where you need it.  Suzuki has solved the problem but it is beyond me. Resistance soldering is much more benign! 

I use it for maintaining my chromatics because I can get a reed to speak on the first try in no other way.  I often damaged soft brass Seydel plates using rivets.  Screws work for me only after a lot of fiddling around with oversize reed holes and repeated adjustments. If you can use rivets or screws more quickly and accurately than me, you will probably prefer your familiar method. 

I will provide information for anyone wanting to make a soldering tool.


> On Oct 28, 2017, at 6:20 PM, David Pearce via Harp-L <harp-l at xxxxx> wrote:
> I've been thinking a lot about this video by the brilliant Vern Smith.   Wouldn't the use of solder eliminate the need to adjust reeds with reed wrenches and save harp techs a lot of headaches!?  I would think that the use of tape to center the reed would guarantee a tight tolerance on all sides of the reed.    "You just set it, and forget it!"
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOBJCpZQ68Y
> Best Regards!
> David Pearce

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