Before you can attach a harmonica reed with a screw you need to enlarge the hole in the rivet pad with a reamer or round file or similar tool. The tricky part is holding it firmly while you do this. It gets even trickier when you are dealing with stainless steel reeds. Jon Harl, a harp tech in San Jose, specializes in the stainless steel screws and described a jig he was experimenting with and let me run with the idea. So I’m going to have these tools machined by Tom Halchak at Blue Moon Harmonicas. They let you hold the reed firmly in place with your finger or thumb and support the rivet pad solidly while you work. They will be machined from aluminum and the channels are roughly as deep as the average reed and in 3 different widths to adapt to most any reed you may want to work on. Stay tuned for details on when they will be available…
Harmonica Tool Freaks!
The R. Sleigh Reed Tool is now in final stages of tweaking and will be in production very soon. At this point (June 20th, 2015) I’m waiting to get reed tools delivered to me so I can ship them out to the people who ordered them through an offer I ran for a week. Once I ship these out, I will make the tool available on this website and at RockinRon’sMusicSD
This tool has been a long time coming. My goal is to make available the best possible combination of rivet punch and rivet hole flattener with a base that gives you enough mass to focus the force of a light mallet strike directly where it will do the most good.
One of the things I learned in the process of developing this tool is the difference between a hammer and a mallet. The important distinction is that a mallet is made of material that will give before it deforms what it is striking. the original definition of a mallet was a hammer with a wooden head used to strike a chisel.
I recommend using a brass 2 oz mallet with this reed tool. It gives you more control once you get used to the feel of the brass head striking the top of the punches. You won’t deform the top of the punch. This guarantees that the way the punch reacts will not change. I have an old Farrell tool with a punch that I clobbered with steel hammers and the top looks like a mushroom. I should have restricted myself to using the 2 oz mallet that came with it. Live and learn.
I’ll update this post when the Reed Tool is available again. In the mean time, I’ll finish developing a series of updated tools and supplies for reed replacement to complement this new tool… Stay tuned!
The way you breathe, keep time, and hold your body will make you or break you as a harmonica player. The harmonica is the box of reeds. The resonator, the bellows and the metronome are all built into one amazing instrument: your body.
You can customize harmonicas to be louder and more responsive. You can also customize your body into a world-class musical amplifier and rhythm section, funky as a monkey and natural as a tree.
Use the word TRY to remember how to set up your power stance for playing harmonica.
Look at the illustration and start from the T at the bottom and then work your way up. The three-step process starts with the T…
- T stands for (lower) Trapezius – the name of the muscle that you engage to straighten up your upper back. The lower trapezius muscle is v shaped and pulls your upper back and shoulders into an upright, balanced position.
When you engage the lower trapezius muscle you will feel the sensation in your mid back, and your upper body will move into alignment, with your head balanced on your shoulders. The lower trapezius starts the process and then as you roll your head up you will feel the back of your neck relax because it is no longer struggling to hold the weight of your head.
It can help to visualize a string attached to the top of your head pulling your head up gently as you do this.
- R stands for Rhomboids. The rhomboid muscles are deep muscles, located under the trapezius muscles. They are shaped like a fat upside down V or chevron. When you engage the rhomboid muscles your shoulder blades move toward the spine and you open up your chest cavity. You will feel your shoulders moving back a little as you do this.
- Y stands for Yawn. Now that you have your stance in place it is time to melt upper body tension and open up your throat by yawning. When you do a nice luxurious yawn you will feel your shoulders and neck relax, and this feeling will sink down into the rest of your body like a wave.
Now breathe into this new posture and feel the difference that it makes in your entire body. When you engage the lower trapezius and the rhomboid muscles you start a chain reaction that aligns your entire body. Your pelvis will shift. You will find all sorts of changes happening as you hold this new stance and get used to it.
TRY this three-step process – it will change the way you feel and the way you play the harmonica. It works on many levels. It is the stance of a champion: relaxed, alert, confident, open, ready for anything.
For more information on this process and how to breathe through the harmonica, contact Richard Sleigh: email@example.com with TRY in the subject line… Thanks!
What you see here is a harmonica reed tool prototype made for me by Tom Halchak at Blue Moon Harmonicas. It is based on the legendary Farrell reed tool that is no longer available. One side has a hole that allows you to push rivets into. There is a ramp under the hole that lets the rivet that has been punched out slide down in front of the tool.
There is a pointed punch for removing rivets and a flat punch for installing rivets and flattening rivet pads and the area around the rivet hole in a reed plate.
The tool is made of aluminum and air hardened tool steel. The base is tool steel. The overall size is 3″ x 2″ and the base is 1 3/4″ wide.
There is enough mass in the base that you can use this tool on a tabletop, but if you put it on top of an anvil it increases the mass and stability and improves performance. I plan on using mine on an anvil at the shop and as is when I am on the road.
This tool will be available after the testing and tweaking process is done. Stay tuned!
Here are photos of the latest version of the adjustable light box for reed / slot work.
It now uses an LED light bulb with a dimmer switch. I also built in a compartment for the wax / oil lubrication for the embossing tool, and a magnet to hold the reed wrench / lifter handy. The translucent panel for sighting reeds with a back light swaps out with the wood panel that has the slot. The work surface is mounted on a 3 inch pipe section that allows you to rotate it for your line of sight. It also has the clear cube with hairlines on it that allow you to check to make sure your eye is centered while you work.
Stay tuned for more info on this new reed removal tool I am developing. The idea is to take the best parts of the Farrell Rivet punch / Farrell Rivet anvil & flat punch and combine them in one tool ( The Romel Reed Removal tool was a similar concept that has been around for a while…) Other refinements include:
-A built in ramp for rivets that have been punched out, so they don’t build up in the base.
– Air hardened tool steel for the anvil part of the tool
– A base that has enough mass to make the process easier (the ultimate would be to put the tool on top of another anvil to increase mass even more.
– It is small enough that it could go on the road without taking up a lot of space.
– No inserts to fall out and lose…
For years I have been using cheap Chinese Three square files to tune reeds with solder on them. They get the job done but they get clogged up quickly. After a couple reed plates, you can’t wire brush the solder out of the grooves. So you either keep aiming for areas of the tile that are not yet clogged, or throw the file away and grab a new one.
Iv’e gone through dozens of cheapo files over the years. It’s really annoying. So when Jon Harl (San Jose based Graphic designer / Harp Tech) told me about some super hard files made in Switzerland by Grobet I got very interested…
These files are the hardest files known to man.
Here is the description from the Otto Frei website ( a jewelry tools website ):
Grobet Swiss Made Valtitan Files
Valtitan files are specially treated to increase their hardness to 72HRc on the Rockwell scale, the hardest steel file known. The special Valtitan file delivers better performance on hard to file surfaces and makes these files corrosion resistant as well as longer lasting. Valtitan files also resist metal accumulation in the teeth of the file, as a simple knock is usually enough to remove the chips. Valtitan files are recommended for platinum work and for other hard metals like stainless steel, but they work great with all metals. Available in 6 Inch (150mm) hand files, and 7 Inch (180mm) needle files.
Jon sent me a couple of these files – three square, in 0-cut (coarse) and 2-cut (medium)
Jon says they work well with stainless steel reeds. He prefers the flat file called “warding” – it looks like the standard Hohner file. Flat & tapered toward the tip.
I like the three square, cause I like the feel of the rib on my finger….
I had some reeds with solder on the tips that I needed to tune & I tried the two files that Jon sent me. The 0-cut file was amazing. after I finished filing each reed a quick tap on the bench knocked all the solder out of the grooves. When I finished tuning, the file still looked brand new.
If I had been using the usual cheapo files, they would have had shiny streaks of embedded solder on them. Well on their way to the trash can…
It looks like I will never need to buy another file for tuning reeds with solder….
Here is the URL for Otto Frei, the page with the files: http://www.ottofrei.com/Grobet-Valtitan-Files/
Here is the file I used for solder:
- 131.4485 0 Coarse
- Check it out…
- PS – my plan from now on is to send out a post on Thursdays with tech tips…. Enjoy!
The videos above show you how the burnishing tip of the Harmonica Slot Customizing Tool makes it easy to close slot gaps on your harmonica reed plates. I call the process burnishing when you work on one side of the slot only.
The burnishing tip is machined from 1/8th inch thick stainless steel for the Harmonica Slot Customizing Tool.
Below are photos of the other end of the Harmonica Slot Customizing Tool. This is the embossing end of the tool. My definition of embossing is that the tool works to close both sides of the slot at the same time.
What you are looking at in the photo above is the end of pin vise handle that has been changed to make it a better embossing tool.
The reason I did this is because I can’t see where the tool contacts the reed plate when I have it on my light box. The light box is at an angle:
When I ground of the end of the pin vise handle at an angle, suddenly I can see what I am doing, where the tool touches the slot:
This gives me a lot more control over the process of embossing a slot because I can see what I am doing AS I DO IT. No more “give it a stab and then take a look” groping around…
I’ve been refining this tool for twenty years now, and my research has consisted of customizing hundreds of harmonicas (I lost track years ago) Using the new version of the light box and this tool has made a huge difference in the time and effort it takes me to close up slots accurately.
I look at everything that annoys me about customizing harmonicas as a research project. Closing up slots was for a long time a nerve wracking process filled with disasters. I destroyed a lot of reed plates over the years learning how to re-shape slots.
These tools make what used to be a miserable, risky process into a predictable and efficient system. I can now close the gaps in a set of reed plates in less than half the time it used to take, and the results are better than ever.
I am now including this tool in my Deluxe Tool Kit and it is also available as a separate item…. For more information, contact me directly – firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on light boxes, check out the other posts on this website…
And by the way, if you decide to use this idea and make your own tool, that’s OK, but please give me credit for the idea – is that a deal?
If you are looking for the ultimate answer to the question “How do I keep my cables from turning into a hopeless pile of spaghetti?”, here ya go…
I like velcro…. I just don’t like paying someone to make me cable wraps that may or may not be the right size. I started asking professional sound men what the best answer was to this problem and hit pay dirt a few weeks ago.
My friend Jim told me: Go to Lowe’s and look for a roll of Velcro. I did not know that you could get this stuff in a big roll and cut your own strips. I had to ask more than one “sales associate” at Lowe’s before I finally found the stuff.
It comes in a 1 1/2 inch wide roll. The box says 30 inches by 1 1/2 inches, but this is a mis-print. It is actually a lot more than 30 inches long. It is probably 30 feet long. Whatever it is, it is a LOT of velcro…
It is one piece, fuzzy on one side and the hook stuff on the other side. No more sewing two pieces of velcro together!
You can cut it into any width you want and any length you want. I have already made a couple dozen cable wraps and still have lots more left in the roll…
The box says VELCRO brand. www.velcro.com
It was about 20 bucks. This roll will last me for years… Check it out!
These photos show a new burnishing / embossing tool that I have developed and will be making available soon. The idea is to have a tool that you can hold like a pen that allows you to close the slot the whole way. The other end closes both sides like a tube type embossing tool.
I also have another version of this tool that I am including in my tool kits – same basic idea but made with a pin vise….