Andrew's blog

Important details: Base Centering

Have you every tried to give a reed a little more snap but nothing seemed to work? It plays "fine" (adequately) but everything you do to improve tone and response has no effect?

"What am I doing wrong?" you ask yourself.

If your harp is airtight and the reed has a decent shape, you should see results. If that's not the case, you have fallen victim to a subtle defect.

There are a few subtle defects that can cause you grief. The best way to deal with them is to learn how to spot them and correct them before they can affect your work.

Base centering is one of these subtle defects. The worst thing about this one is that the reed shows no clue there is anything wrong until you try to work on it: It plays adequately out of the box.

Once you master this technique, you can center the base of a reed in about 90 seconds.

Difficulty level: Advanced. Practice on an entire reed plate of a proper (scrap) harp. Shift the base of every reed in different directions to learn how to control where the base ends up when you are done.

In this video I am using my Reed Replacement kit and a Grobet Tuning File

Country tuning

"Country Tuning" is one of the simplest altered tunings. You raise the 5 Draw by one semitone.

Using the Grobet 0-cut file and a good reed support tool, this can be done in a minute or two.

You get a major seventh instead of a minor seventh. If you use the 12345 draw chord, it's now a Jazzy-sounding major seventh chord.

The 456 draw chord is now a major chord, too! On a standard tuned Richter harp, that's a minor chord.

This tuning also enables a draw bend on the 5 Draw reed.

New F Tool feature!

My F Tool™ now comes with its own reference bar to measure flatness.

The F tool page.

Dark Combs™ for Easttop Blues harmonica

I now offer Dark Combs™ for Easttop Blues 008K and 008S!

Order them here: Other models including Marine Band 364, 365, pre-MS Meisterklasse, Seydel Big Six, Easttop 008

I strongly recommend you obtain and use The F Tool to straighten both the blow and draw reed plates. These are fine harps, but they suffer a little more from the difficulties associated with mass production than a higher quality harp.

I also found Easttop tuning to be quite imprecise. Tuning was plus or minus six cents! As such, it's not possible to lay out a meaningful tuning table of offsets for these harps.

I recommend you tune them yourself using a chromatic tuner and your ears.

Tune the blow plate on the comb with the Grobet file

This is a quick and effective way to lower the pitch of a blow reed without taking the reed plates off the comb. If the reed is properly supported, you will not alter the shape or the gap of the reed by tuning it.

It's easy to raise the pitch of a blow reed with the Five cent tuner. Just support the reed and file the very tip of the reed with the Grobet file.

Lowering the pitch is just as easy!

First, make sure your Five Cent Tuner has a slight curve to it:

You can adjust the curve any way you like. You can bend and unbend it over and over - the Five Cent Tuner will last for decades with normal use.

Next, insert it over top of the blow reed you want to tune down. Make sure the curve is facing away from the reed!

Turn the harp upside down and press down. The spring steel will flex and support the reed with a little bit of tension. Gently insert the tip of the Grobet file inside the harp and scrape some brass from the base of the reed. You will be working by sense of feel so you will need a little bit of practice.

New tine finish

I use regular evaluation and incremental steps to strive for constant improvement.

I have changed the type of finish I use on the tips of the tines of my Dark combs™. The old finish was excellent, but this one is slightly better. It may be a little more durable and it's a little faster to apply.

One unexpected difference is that the colors are a little deeper. In particular, Dark Brown and Dark Grey are pretty close to Deep Black in low light. In brighter light, they each have a unique sparkle.

My criteria for implementing a change like this are stringent. The finish must be:

- Food safe - non toxic
- Environmentally friendly (the company making it should not pollute the planet)
- Safe to apply (I don't want to get sick working with toxic chemicals in my shop)
- High quality
- Durable and more resistant to alcohol exposure
- Reasonably fast and easy to apply

It took me a few weeks to figure out the best strategy for long-lasting results. Each product has a sweet spot between the number of coats and the thickness of each coat. Some products are best applied as many layers of a thin coat while others are best applied as a thicker layer with fewer coats.

I must admit that the Dark Brown is not very brown anymore. It's a little like black with a brown tinge... Or maybe the color of potting soil?

Maple Cream

I have added a new color choice to my Dark Combs™. It's called Maple Cream.

It's made from the same stuff as my other Dark Combs™ using recycled paper and natural resin. It has a light color, but provides a nice dark tone like my other colors do.

It's available for Marine Band, Golden Melody, Suzuki, Seydel, Lee Oskar and vintage Huang.

Lucky seven

This is a custom comb I first made in February 2016

You can tune the 7 hole any way you like. Here, by lowering the 7 blow, we gain a draw bend. Add 7 blow into the top end blow chord and you get a minor seventh.

You can modify a standard cover plate to fit by trimming away the top end and doing a little folding and smoothing. Sorry, I don't have a photo of the finished product.

I offer Custom made combs here.

How thick are my Dark combs™?

The thickness is 5.9 mm +/- 0.3 mm (quarter inch). No, they don't all look alike! Being flat is more important that every comb being exactly the same thickness. All combs within that range have the same tone and response.

Harmonica repair mistakes #9 - bent reed

Barry bought my tool kit and overdid it on a reed. In this video I will show you the steps I take to correct this problem using pressure and counter pressure.

Would you like me to make a video about your "best" mistake? Contact me and let me know your ideas!


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