[Harp-L] Cleaning reed plates

Tom Halchak info@xxxxx
Sat Nov 24 11:27:02 EST 2018

I have cleaned about a bazillion harps – some of my own, some repair work I
have done for customers and lots and lots of vintage harps that I have
restored.  Here’s my two cents.

If it is one of my own harps, then generally I will just use Dawn
Dishwashing Detergent and a soft tooth brush.  Disassemble the harp
completely and gently scrub the comb, reed plates and covers.  The way I
see it is if Dawn is good enough to wash your flatware, dishes and glasses
(other stuff you put in your mouth) it is good enough to wash my harps.
The key here is to get rid of any dried-up spit or other debris that may
have made its way into your harp.  That’s it.  After you have cleaned the
plates, it would be a good idea to check the gaps and tuning before you
reassemble the harp.

What about the staining and the tarnish?  Will Dawn remove that too?  No –
and I would argue that it is not necessarily a good idea to remove the
patina.  Why?  Well, what is the tarnish or patina?  It is a thin layer of
oxidation that actually protects the metal.  Some folks believe that a harp
plays better when it is dirty – that all the dried-up spit clogs the leaks
and makes the harp more airtight.  OK – I get that logic.  Might be a
little gross and nasty in there, but I get the logic.  I have poured
aluminum powder into a leaky radiator to solve the same problem with the
cooling system in my car.  Same concept.  But what about the patina?
Doesn’t it make sense that that thin layer of oxidation also helps tighten
up the tolerances and make the harp more airtight?  Perhaps that is also a
reason why your “broken in” harps seem to play a little better.  If you
remove that oxidation, it might make your reed plates all shiny and pretty,
but will it make them play better?  I think not.  Besides, even if you do
scrub the reed plates down to the bare metal, they are only going to
oxidize again anyway.  Something to think about.

There are times when I will clean a set of reed plates down to bare metal.
The best product I have found for that is Barkeeper’s Friend Spray.
Barkeeper’s Friend is also available as a powder and a semi-liquid paste.
Both of those have an abrasive ingredient that leaves a residue on the
reeds and reed plates, so I don’t use.  If you do, then it is a good idea
to use an ultrasonic cleaner to remove the residue from the plates.

*Tom Halchak*
*Blue Moon Harmonicas LLC*
*P.O. Box 14401 Clearwater, FL 33766*
*www.BlueMoonHarmonicas.com <http://www.BlueMoonHarmonicas.com>*
*(727) 366-2608*

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