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Xmas and a few repairs
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5135 posts
Dec 24, 2017
1:58 PM
I repair harps.
Mainly Hohner ‘handmade’ and Seydel, because I can buy new reeds for those.

I’ve been doing it ‘professionally’, meaning I get paid to fix harps, since mid 2014.

At one point I realised I couldn’t keep up with all the work I was getting. I work full time in public administration, have a home, I’m a sole parent of a teenager (well, I was at the time. Now she’s 20 and I’m in a relationship...but now ‘I’m in a relationship’), and now I’m in a band as well.

So I started to become very selective about my clients. I stopped soliciting work, and now I really only work for existing clients. The work has slowed to just about enough. Where I was doing around 150 harps per year in 2015 and 2016, this year I’ve only repaired around 35.

The work can be hard. I have arthritis in neck and hands, and I’ve developed cataracts. Setting up entire harps is very hard on my hands, which is one reason I like to do work for repeat customers. I’ve already set up most of the harps they send for repairs.
Tuning is the most time consuming part of the work for me. And it’s hard on my neck as I sit for a long time in a rather poor position when tuning with file and sandpaper.

Most repairs involve 4 or 5 draw. I keep a stock of Hohner reeds to cover those reeds in most keys. I do relatively fewer Seydel repairs so I don’t carry Seydel reeds. I do however have quite a few ‘leftovers’ from my orders as they sell reeds in packs of 3.

At the moment I have 2 jobs on the bench.
The first job I looked at yesterday involves 3 steel Seydel and 3 Crossover.
2 if the Seydel are low F# and I’m waiting for reeds.

It’s not the best time of year for speedy delivery.
I mended the Crossovers. 2 were the normal 4 draw but 1 was unusual in that it needed 1 draw.

I’ve mended this harp twice before. 3 years ago I replaced 5 draw. I can tell because back then I used a particular type of screw. Then last year I replaced 4 draw, using a rivet to attach the new reed. Now it’s 1 draw.
I don’t carry spares for 1 draw, but I do have a few harps in a ‘boneyard’. 1 draw in a D harp (Crossover, sp20, Rocket, Marine band, Golden Melody) is a reasonably common Hohner reed. It’s used as 1 blow in E harp, 3 blow in A harp, 3 draw in Low F. And 1 draw in D harp.
No problem. I found an old marine band which will never be restored but had clean sound reeds.

While I did these repairs I also reviewed the Andrew Zajac video on ‘advanced reed work’ and applied his approach to the replacement reeds. It’s the same principles I always apply, just his method is a little different so I thought I’d try it out. Yeah, it was ok. I’ll probably do it again.

While I made these repairs I decided to try my new rotary tool to tune up. It’s really marketed as an acrylic nail shaping tool. Has a foot pedal to activate it, but can be operated without that. Can be switched to run either clockwise or anti.
Variable speed. Finding appropriate tool took a couple tries.
Mainly got this to use on steel reeds but was good on brass. Needs care, would be easy to mess up, fast. But overall I think I’m glad to have it.

I opened the second job. 5 Seydel (brass) sessions, and a sp20.

I did ask this client to tell me which reeds were broken because I was about to send my order to Seydel when he contacted me. He was vague though and I didn’t want to hold up my other customer, so this fellow does not have reeds on the way.
I don’t carry new brass reeds for Seydel. I do have some very good secondhand reeds in plates which were replaced under warranty, but no brass reeds in these keys.
One thing about Seydel, unlike Hohner they just use the same template of slot sizes for all keys. Hohner use 2 templates, the so called ‘short’ or ‘narrow’ slot template for keys above C.
This means I can often find a good secondhand Reed for a Hohner in an off-key Reedplate. A 7 blow from a G harp will stand in for 5 draw in a D harp for instance. If I used a 5 draw from another D harp, there’s a good chance the replacement might also be compromised whereas 7 blow rarely fails so is a good candidate as a replacement.
Not so easy with Seydel. Best is to use a blow reed to replace a draw reed.
With these though, I decided to take Greg Jones’ advice, and use steel reeds to replace the brass.
I found good steel reeds to replace all but 1 of the failed brass reeds.
I really can’t notice any difference in playability. And I don’t think there’s a timbrel difference anyone will notice. I know harp repairers and customisers disagree about this, but I’ve only got my own senses to rely on and I really can’t pick the difference. Most harp repairers seem to agree with me, but some don’t.
I was sceptical at first, but now I’m quite strongly feeling I could never use a brass Seydel reed in a repair if I had a steel alternative.
The more I see of Seydel’s brass reeds, the less I like them. In my dreams, I think this is really why Seydel decided their future lay with using steel reeds; because their brass reeds were really not good and they would need to retool anyway if they were to survive. Just in my dreams. My mind wanders, I think ‘these really are rubbish aren’t they, no wonder they aren’t investing in this junk’, and so on.
There’s a LowD here. I actually have a lot of steel reeds for low D harps, but on inspection I can’t find a problem with this one. Maybe I’ll fix up some steel reedplates from my spares and send back as a gift.
Just the F has me stumped now. I need both blow and draw reeds for slot 4. I don’t have any, and not even anything close enough to retune. I can order them, but Seydel gouge for postage. 10 euro minimum (Hohner only charge 2.4 euro for small reed orders). I suppose that’s what I’ll have to do though. I’ll order steel reeds.

I reuse the original rivets when repairing Seydel. This is also on advice from Greg Jones. I notice the steel reeds don’t grip the rivet as tightly as a brass reed does, and I do see a few more reed alignment problems with Seydel harps. I suspect these facts are related. But reusing the rivets seems to work ok. Just don’t bounce your Seydel steel harps.

Today I’ll make a slight return to the bench and tune up some of these repairs. I will fix that sp20 too. I love sp20, my favourite harp to mend.

My daughter has gone away with her bf’s family for Xmas, I’m a long way from my family and my partner has to work, so my Xmas day is a day much like any other. I had an attack of the sads on the 23rd, but got busy yesterday and felt much better, so will apply that strategy again today and expect it will work again.
It’s good to feel useful.
Happy Xmas and thanks for reading.
153 posts
Dec 25, 2017
5:05 AM
Thanks Bee,
Sometimes just doing a bit of work with your hands is the best you can do.
Thanks for the write up. There was a lot in there.
Merry Christmas.
151 posts
Dec 26, 2017
12:36 PM
That was a cool post Bee.
5145 posts
Dec 26, 2017
1:48 PM
I added a few common reeds to my order to Seydel; 4&5 draw reeds for C, D and LowF. At least I own a Seydel LowF and C harp.

A couple years ago I received a generous gift from a harp dealer, who gave me a lot of Reedplates which he’d replaced under warranty. Most of them had just 1 bad reed, and I had both blow and draw plates. Most were Seydel. I regularly salvage reeds from these but they are getting a bit scarce now.
One other thing I’ve noticed about Seydel harps is that I get a little bit higher incidence of repairs involving reeds other than 4 and 5 draw.
With Hohner it’s almost always one of those 2 fails first, and then 4 blow is probably next most common. Specific players will sometimes have their own thing; I once repaired 13 G harps which all needed 7 blow. One Seydel endorsed player for whom I’ve replaced about 40 reeds breaks 4 and 5 draw in his D harps, but in A and Bb and C it’s more likely he has broken something in 8,9, or 10, and it could be blow or draw.
I do see a relatively high proportion of alignment problems with Seydel harps too, usually the low end reeds.
I’m not saying I see more problems overall, just a greater variety of problems in Seydel harps.
In hohners it’s usually just broken 4/5 draw.
In my own hohners I get that, plus 9 draw in my A harps (it’s happened 3 times; I have to mend one today in fact) and I had to replace a 3 draw in a D harp sometime in the last year or so.
I’ve seen another 3 draw go bad this year too.
But 3 draw is not ever the first reed to go bad. I’ve only ever seen it in harps which have already had several repairs.
I have know 1 draw to be the first failure, but very rare. Maybe 2 harps in about >500 I’ve repaired needed 1 draw as the first repair.
Personally, going back over a decade, I used to break 2 draw. That is because I gave it absolute heaps. This is before I started to listen.
91 posts
Dec 27, 2017
8:35 AM
Going to start my first repair. Reed replacement on Bb session Seydel, 4 draw. I still need to order the reeds. I've had Greg Jones to some repairs previous to this.

You said, he recommends replacing brass reeds with steel reeds?

Also, with shipping costs should I order additional replacement reeds now or wait until the need arises? I've only blown out one steel reed in two years.
If you don't cut it while it's hot......
92 posts
Dec 27, 2017
8:36 AM
Going to start my first repair. Reed replacement on Bb session Seydel, 4 draw. I still need to order the reeds. I've had Greg Jones to some repairs previous to this.

You said, he recommends replacing brass reeds with steel reeds?

Also, with shipping costs should I order additional replacement reeds now or wait until the need arises? I've only blown out one steel reed in two years.
If you don't cut it while it's hot......
If you don't cut it while it's hot......
5146 posts
Dec 27, 2017
12:59 PM
That is definitely what Greg said when i asked a question about brass reeds. Just in that manner he uses “why on earth would you use a brass reed?”
Since then, the only reason I’ve had to use a brass reed is that its what i had on hand. Ive done it twice: repairing a big 6 and replacing a 5 draw in a Low F Session
Greg says he never uses brass reeds if there is a steel reed available. I believe some harps in the Seydel range use brass reeds for which there is no steel equivalent.

I think its a personal decision on the shipping. Maybe not worth it in your case if you don’t break reeds much and cant predict what you’re likely to need
186 posts
Dec 28, 2017
5:11 PM
Good on ya Bb
5151 posts
Dec 28, 2017
6:20 PM
Hi sundancer,

I now have so many spare steel reeds I decided I had better list them in my workbook I use to keep track of Hohner reeds.
That’s a handy spreadsheet I made to help me cross-reference all the reeds Hohner use in marine band type harps, and easily find all the options for any given slot/note. Some reeds are used in quite a few locations. Others may just occur in one harp. Richard Sleigh published a chart in PDF format to help with this. I used this as the basis for my spreadsheet, but it’s much easier with a spreadsheet to just filter and see all the options on one page without the clutter of all the rest of the reeds.

The list for Seydel is much simpler; no long slot/short slot factor.

That led me to think about the reedplates in my boneyard, so I moved on to catalogue
my Seydel Reedplates last night.

These are all from the same dealer, and are Reedplates which were replaced under warranty.
I have 5 sets of Low D plates. 3 brass and 2 steel.
Each of them has a bad 7 blow reed.
Is that notable? I don’t know what to make of it, but I found it interesting.

I also found a set of brass D reedplates which appear to be brand new. I’d say they’re Solist Pro or Favourite plates. They’re not session plates. All reeds played in tune, no corrosion or watermarks. I don’t have any other parts to build them up, unfortunately.

Apart from the Low D harps, I found the usual things; mostly A and D plates, and most have one of either 4 or 5 draw broken.
Sadly I have rather more brass reeds than I thought. Oh well, I’ve had quite a good run with salvaging steel reeds. I did notice that despite the evidence of these reedplates with their broken 4&5 draw reeds, I have harvested a lot of 7,8 ,9 and 10 reeds, both blow and draw, so it’s true that in my experience I’ve seen a greater variety of reed failures in Seydel harps. I do think it’s about the players though. I’m sure I’ve used most of those high octave reeds in harps belonging to a particular pro player for whom I’ve mended 3 dozen (or so) reedplates.
He uses the harp a bit more expansively than most players.

Now if I just had a good source of combs and covers for Seydel harps. Quite expensive from the online store
94 posts
Dec 29, 2017
10:01 PM
Thanks Super, I think you're right. Just the reeds currently required will be the better move, despite the outrageous shipping from Seydel.
If you don't cut it while it's hot......
189 posts
Dec 30, 2017
5:22 PM
SuperBb, best part of your post was you letting us know you were a tad blue on Xmas. That soulfulness comes thru on yer posts & videos all the time. One of these days I plan to hear you play in Tassie. Adios.
5158 posts
Dec 31, 2017
4:00 PM
That would be great to meet you Sundancer!
192 posts
Dec 31, 2017
4:31 PM
I’m still miffed at myself for not visiting Tassie when I lived in Sydney 1993-95. Not sure how it happened, but I’m 60 now - and I’m am not gonna drop dead until I’ve been had a Cascade lagger in a Hobart pub.
5159 posts
Dec 31, 2017
9:56 PM
I just had a very cold Cascade Lager can at the Taste of Tasmania. We played on the forecourt stage for an hour this afternoon, went across pretty well. Nice to have a well-managed stage, someone to run front of house sound and great feedback-free monitors.
The beer was exxy though; $7.50 for 375 ml ‘standard’ brew. A decent standard, and very cold.

I have a longtime friend lives in Alabama now; from Mudgee NSW and lived here in the late 80s; now a US citizen. I really want to go visit there and I’m conscious that at this age it’s easy to leave it too late. I’m trying to pay my mortgage out, probably 4 years to go on that, by which time I’ll be about ready to pick up the superannuation. It’s a gamble; a lot can happen in 4 years!
I hope you do get across here. Make sure to get in touch.

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