beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > What Would You Guys Do?
What Would You Guys Do?
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53 posts
Dec 10, 2016
7:41 AM
I have been thinking for a long time of buying Richard Sleigh's reed changing jig so like i said on the other thread about the SP20 V's The Manji i made some cash from selling unused guitar effects. I was thinking about adding some harps but have the money for the jig if i don't buy the harps. It has to be one or the other but i can never decide about anything.

I mean how often do reeds go bad and need changed? Is it worth it to get the jig? Or would you get the extra harps? So on a related thing if you have a reed that go's bad do you just ditch the whole plate and get a new one? That seems a real waste especially if you have set that reed plate up for better performance with gapping arcing and embossing.

I don't play in a group just solo for my own pleasure so certain keys are not really a massive issue for me. But i like the breath of fresh air of having different key harps at my disposal.
2067 posts
Dec 10, 2016
9:53 AM
I'd buy the harps, but I never blow out reeds. Some players blow them out all the time.

I think Richard's tool might be overkill unless you're replacing lots of reeds (or unless you really like nice tools). There are cheaper methods of replacing reeds. Or you could send your broken harps to a customizer and get them back better than new.

Last Edited by timeistight on Dec 10, 2016 9:53 AM
55 posts
Dec 10, 2016
10:43 AM
Hey timeistight. Thanks for the input. Yeah if i used the tool it would be once in a blue moon so i'm swaying towards some new key harps! then again if i did blow a reed out the tool would be damn useful. Is there a way of changing reeds with just ordinary tools? If i could see someone showing how to do it i'd do that. The video of Richard on YT demonstrating the tool let's you see how easy it is with a dedicated tool designed for it.
4330 posts
Dec 10, 2016
2:03 PM
I replace +100 reeds a year in my spare (huh!) time, and the sleigh tool has been a boon for me. But it's a fair bit of bread. You'd have to repair at least 3 harps before it paid its way.
Cheaper option available from Andrew Zajac and demo video on his website. Title is something like 'replace reeds like you'd replace guitar string'.
Or you can go homemade. Need a suitable anvil surface, punch and hammer, and rivets and file/s.
If you want to use screws instead of rivets, you need a tap, screws, screwdriver, drill bits and maybe a hex file/reaming tool. And pin vice probably.
You also need a bit of judgement and practice. And then there is tuning.
I find rivets easier but screws are fine and more easily adjustable. If you're doing Suzuki I think screws are the best way, but Suzuki are problematic mainly because reeds are hard to get.
If you only do a few reeds it's less of an issue which method you use. I don't regret purchase of the sleigh tool and I'd still be happy even if I wasn't using it on harps for other people. Maybe not the cheapest option but i have my D crossover) 4 times since 2011. That harp has been rocked out a lot in loud bands. At $90 each time to buy a new crossover I think it's paid for my tools already. When I buy 'new' harps now, I buy broken ones or obtain them in exchange for work and repair them. I basically never buy new harps. New reeds from hohner work out around $2 each.
76 posts
Dec 11, 2016
7:45 AM
What would you do?
Tools are a must for me. I don’t want to buy new plates or send away harps to be fixed. I figure over the years the tools and know how pay off big time. But I also move reeds around for special tuning.

I wouldn’t buy anything fancy, I would (did) collect a few tools that will get the job done. I replace riveted reeds using a small hammer and a punch.

“I mean how often do reeds go bad and need changed? “
That’s a good question to ask yourself. For me it’s not very often. But like you said ditching an entire plate is a real waste especially if you have put a bunch of nice work into it.

If you are embossing then you have the hands and patience to replace reeds. I’d use the cash to buy a few more basic tools that way you should still have plenty left over to buy at least 1 new harp. Keep in mind that if you buy the Manji (or other welded reed harp) and want to be able to replace reeds in it someday you would need a drill press.

The only “special” tool that I use for replacing riveted reeds is the anvil. Mine is a 2”x4” piece of steel with a narrow slot on top. The slot is nice because the plate can set flat with all of the rivet heads set into the slot, but the slot could be a small hole. It just needs to be a space to allow for clearance when you tap out a rivet. I don’t know where you can buy such an anvil but it’s pretty easy to make one. Any machine shop could whip out the slotted version in five minutes.

It's about time I got around to this.

Last Edited by dchurch on Dec 11, 2016 7:48 AM
56 posts
Dec 11, 2016
9:07 AM
Could you use a heavy vice as an anvil? I saw Tinus said something like that on his site somewhere. So the anvil or something to replace it with. A small hammer. Where would you get a punch with a small enough head to tap that tiny little rivet out with? We have hardware stores and stuff but i've never seen anything like those in stock. Then a rivet stick. Can you get a stick from Hohner? I never saw it in their online catalog. What about a tool to tap the rivet back in? What about flattening the area around where the rivet pad sits like Richard shows in his video? What would you use to level that flat?

I see in harmonica stores online they never mention reed replacement. All they talk about is if a reed breaks buying a new plate, which ultimately means plates as you can't buy them singly. Why is there not more emphasis on harp players learning to do this stuff? it would save a lot of unnecessary waste of perfectly good parts because one pesky reed breaks!

Last Edited by Bike&Harp on Dec 11, 2016 9:08 AM
1942 posts
Dec 11, 2016
10:15 AM
For the alternative view... I did fancy learning to replace reeds in the 'like changing a guitar string' sort of mode. Superbee laid out an excellent guide in one of our threads. Including how to buy reeds from Hohner and all that practical stuff.

But I've never actually broken a reed. I did set out to break one once, but it wouldn't go and I gave up.

I put this down to playing on the quieter side, acoustically, but I don't know. And I don't know what actually breaks reeds. The MF says it's metal fatigue but they also say that bending hard breaks them - quite different things physically.

So that's the reason I've not learnt to do it, yet anyway. Interesting definitely, but no need. That may be true for others.

Last Edited by MindTheGap on Dec 11, 2016 10:17 AM
57 posts
Dec 11, 2016
11:01 AM
MTG: Yes i agree with you there alright. I tend to go OCD on things when i get into them and so the thought of "What will i do if i break a reed?" comes into my head and not having a plan of attack leaves me feeling a bit... I don't know, vulnerable maybe, for want of a better word to describe it. But at the same time i don't want to be forking out money like that if it's something that would be used once in a blue moon, if ever. But it's the voice in the back of your mind saying "But it would come in so handy if you were unlucky enough to pop a reed" that makes you keep considering it.
4333 posts
Dec 11, 2016
12:16 PM
I know what I did. I waited until there was a need and then I bought tools.
But now that I can repair harps as I said above, I can actually purchase broken harps very cheaply and repair for my own use or for sale. So the benefit is not necessarily limited to replacing reeds you've personally broken.
About the punch for removal of rivets: I couldn't find one locally so I cut down a small 'jewellers' screwdriver and filed the end to appropriate size. It works well. These are just small rivets; they don't really have a lot of purchase.
For setting rivets, flattening the reed plate etc, just a flat punch will do. But you need to take care to maintain 'perpendicularity' when you use it.
I made an anvil with a slot as Dave Church describes, to help with getting lee Oskar reeds out. I still have use for that sometimes. It's a slab of plated brass I cut with a hacksaw and drilled a hole to accept the rivet I was punching out. But you can use a piece of steel narrow enough to fit between the reeds and support the plate where you are working something just under 15mm wide should do it.
4334 posts
Dec 11, 2016
12:44 PM
Oh, rivets. Yes I buy from hohner and they're cheap. But you can 'roll your own' too. One of the world's great customisers (Neil Graham) makes his own from copper wire. I've seen them and work very well.
1944 posts
Dec 12, 2016
12:03 AM
B&H if your question is about the know-how, then I totally defer to those who know - and SuperBee knows.

If it's about the philosophy, I think it would be good for the soul to be able to change reeds. It speaks to ideas of competence, simplicity and pushing back against the throw-away culture.

If it's about what a budding harp player should be able to do, it's not clear to me that it's in the standard bag of skills you are expected to have.

If you have limited time, you've got ask yourself if you want to spend it doing harp maintenance or practising.

Last Edited by MindTheGap on Dec 12, 2016 12:05 AM
58 posts
Dec 12, 2016
8:20 AM
Great advice Bee.

MTG: I think this will describe and maybe give you an idea where i'm coming from. When i returned to road cycling i had to learn all aspects of taking care of the bike mechanically or i could not bother and keep on having to go to a shop. I chose to buy a lot of tech books and tools to learn everything i could about it including how to build wheels and stuff.

So i kind of equate that with getting interested in the harp and wanting to know how to do all that stuff. Different things but related as in when you get a passion you want to find out all you can about it and learn how to do most things. however the price puts me off a bit being from the UK i would also have to pay customs duty on the jig i think. I looked into it on Richard's site: the jig and postage comes to $155 and on top of that there would be whatever tax or customs duty i'd need to pay.

I'm caught betwixt and between because much as i want to learn as much as possible. It is a hell of a lot of money if i don't change many reeds.

Last Edited by Bike&Harp on Dec 12, 2016 8:20 AM
1946 posts
Dec 12, 2016
9:19 AM
B&H ah, yes I see. In that case I think you better go ahead and get one, or the cheaper alternative.

It's nice with bikes to go for total body immersion, and also with your harps. When not riding/playing you can be fettling.

And it's a great idea that your harps will never wear out, because you can always repair them.

...I'm getting so left behind by you lot! Fast forward, Superbee will be doing his world tour to promote his new record, Killa will be building a 500W amp, dchurch will be working on the Lucky 26, I'll be here still ranting on about impedance matching transformers.

Last Edited by MindTheGap on Dec 12, 2016 9:25 AM
1947 posts
Dec 12, 2016
9:28 AM
BTW in case you think I'm immune, when I was into archery, which has similar aspects of DIY, I found myself justifying shelling out for a special tool to cut and create horn-based nocks (notches where the bowstring goes) in wooden arrows.
2068 posts
Dec 12, 2016
10:11 AM
"I tend to go OCD on things when i get into them and so the thought of "What will i do if i break a reed?" comes into my head and not having a plan of attack leaves me feeling a bit... I don't know, vulnerable maybe, for want of a better word to describe it. But at the same time i don't want to be forking out money like that if it's something that would be used once in a blue moon, if ever."

Redirect your OCD to the thought "What if I need to play in a key I don't have covered?" and then start filling in the gaps in your set.

Plenty of time to worry about reed replacement after you actually broken a couple.
59 posts
Dec 12, 2016
12:44 PM
MTG: Looks as though i won't be shelling out for the RS reed tool. Just checked on HMRC about charges once goods enter the UK. Charged at 20%!! So the price of the tool is £122.26 including postage and then around another £24 added on to that for one of the taxes i can't remember which one. And i'm sure there's another tax as well.

No wonder it's so tough for us UK guys to get good stuff from the US! The charges over here are simply appalling. I'm telling you the average UK person gets taken for a mug as far as prices. It makes what was already an expensive tool into an unjustifiable one.

Ah well back to the drawing board on that one! LOL!
4342 posts
Dec 12, 2016
1:53 PM
That'd be part of providing opportunities for British industry to compete with overseas competitors?
We have 10% tax on imports but it's rarely levied on low value (<$1000) because too much admin cost in trying to catch it all. Consequently we make very little and just sell stuff we dig out of the ground
You could draw inspiration from Richard's design and build your own. It's just a narrow anvil with a hole and a couple of punches held vertically in just the right spots. I'd probably extend the length of the anvil a little if I was making one.
You could have fun setting up a machine shop and turn out a few of these for the European market.
The Patron Saints
60 posts
Dec 14, 2016
1:10 PM
Bee: Nah that'd be the crooked British government looking for ways to screw more money out of every situation they can.

I bought a Manji in Ab and received it today. I like it a lot. It is a dream to play on and i could see it becoming a favourite make of harp. I had to gap it a bit and reshape the reeds a little to get it working good. I got an Ab 'cos i wanted a different key from my others. Maybe not worth twice the price of a Sp20 but it does feel a better quality harp no doubt about that.

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