Reed Tool Prototype!

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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!


Light Box Update

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.

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Reed Removal Tool

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…


RS Rivet Punch1 RS Rivet Punch2 RS Rivet Punch3

Ultimate Files!

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:


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!

Harmonica Slot Customizing Tool

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.

emboss 2 emboss 3

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:

Emboss tool - before

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:

Emboss tool - after

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 –

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.

It was about 20 bucks. This roll will last me for years… Check it out!


New Burnishing / Embossing Tool



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….

MB30 Sampler


This video is a sample of some music played on the new MB30 harmonica designed by Brendan Power and Zombor Kovacs. The MB30-S is a version of the MB30 customized by Richard Sleigh.

Light Box Becomes School Project…


What you see here are photos of a light box built from the ideas in my sketches (below) that I posted at this website earlier. A man named Rich Eisenberg saw the drawings and started working on a version of this box. Richard runs the Bayfront Maritime Center in Erie Pennsylvania, and this facility  has a program for students, reaching out to at risk youth. They build boats. It is an amazing story.

More info here:

When Rich started working on the light box, it turned into a class project. I made one change in the box, installing a different light fixture and an LED light bulb. The photo of the interior shows a temporary set up of the light fixture. The other photo is the box at my work table. It is great to be able to adjust the angle of the light box for the embossing work.

Rich drew a line through the front  right in the middle of the slot, and another one in the back board. It is a great way to include the idea of the cube shown in the drawings. – a way to check to make sure that you are not starting to lean  and get distorted feedback on your embossing… – as long as the two lines look like one line, you are centered…


light boxlight box 2

Here are some sketches of the ultimate light box for embossing reeds. The idea here is to take a piece of plastic pipe, cut it into a half-round and then put on a flat top with a slot cut into it. You could then change the angle of the slot you look at when embossing. The slot would have a hair line above and below it that lines up with a cube that has cross hairs on it. the cross hairs line up when you have your eye centered.

Inside, you have an LED light bulb.

About the “cube”… This is plexiglas cube 1″ x 1”. I used a dial caliper to scrape cross hairs on it in the front and back, centered. Then I rubbed in black ink from a sharpie pen. It is centered above the slot that the light shines through. When you move your eye from side to side, the cross hairs tell you if you’re eye is centered. When your eye is centered The cross hairs line up and it looks like one line. When your eye is centered you see the slot more accurately.

Study the drawings to get the main idea. I am sorry – I tried to make the drawings bigger, but could not get the technical process to work with me…

Here is what I am thinking: If you want to take this idea and want to make this box, I will help you sell it. I just don’t have time to build this thing myself, but i think the idea is a winner. Plenty of people have asked me if I can make them a light box, so I know there is a market.

If you can improve on this concept, I am all for it. So – that is the contest – the winner (s) get to make some money by building light boxes for people who want to hot rod harmonicas.

Questions? –

Harmonica Work Station

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What you see here is a harmonica work station built by Denis Green. He sent me these photos shortly after I started the light box contest (see last post) Denis has this set up for the Lee Oskar tool kit, and intends to invest in the R Sleigh tools sometime soon. This is made from MDF (medium density fibre) board, which Denis describes as very easy to work with. Very Cool!