Hey, they aren't expensive . . . I bought a Teflon baking liner sheet just to make wind savers, wound up using it in the kitchen . . . Better place for it, works great in the microwave. Mylar and micropore tape is a popular combo, but like I say, valves are not expensive.
There are a lot of good materials for good wind savers. The problem is the cutting part. The narrow strips are a pain and if you are slightly off on the width going to narrow you don't fully cover the slot. If you cut too wide you end up rubbing the side walls of the comb. In either case, you don't have a functioning valved instrument, but you do have a nice weapon for loud lead guitar players. ---------- Greg Jones 16:23 Custom Harmonicas email@example.com 1623customharmonicas.com
What I do is to get CVS or Walgreens waterproof paper tape [it is the same]1 inch in width and put strips on mylar. I use different weights of mylar depending on where the windsavers go. Lighter for the shorter reeds and a little heavier for the longer reeds. I than cut lengths of the mylar, waterproof tape laminate on a self healing mat using a good metal straight edge and a sharp utility knife, I'm an artist so I have this equipment available in my studio. I eyeball the proper width and this seems to have worked out for me after a little trail and error. I than remove any curl out of these strips and cut them to a rough length 1-1 1/4 in. I than punch a small hole in each one which will go over the rivet tip. I glue them on with 527 Cement which I have using for years and it works very well. After they dry I mark the length on the valve with an ink pen using the adjacent reed as a guide and use a nail clipper to trim to length or you can cut the valve to length before glueing. I seem to be having very good luck with this system. I've also made a lot of valves using Isaacullah's gaffer tape system. I've had some problems with the longer valves distorting along the length because of the tension created when the tape is glued to itself. The shorter ones work fine.
Oh, and FYI, I've got about 10 harps done this way, and they all have worked brilliantly so far... Do see the addendum at the end of the above video, however, to see my corrections to the method... They are very important... ----------
I cannot find any glue that works (for me) with the Teflon. It all sticks, but the Teflon pulls off far too easily, in my opinion. For the time being, I've thrown in the towel on making my own wind savers. I ordered Hohners from Rockin Ron this morning. I will revisit homegrown ones after I develop an intimate knowledge of Hohner's.
I just made my own for the first time the other day. Bought an ultra suede soft sampler pack for five bucks on amazon. Used old special 20 plates and went a mm narrower or so on each side. Once you have a proper width, use a ruler and xacto, careful setup is the key. Cut strips, discard the ends of the strips, which will be Slidell wise or narrow if the fabric pulls. Attach with rubber cement, just drag the end of the valve through a fresh dab of it, then attach. Hold and push the very end toward the river a bit, this angles up the valve.
Cut to desired length. I do full length, but my PT harps leave a mm and change between the end of the valve and the end of the slot. Makes a difference in how they play, I have not decided which I like better.
Also seems wider gaps are better when playing valved, I think it makes single reed bends easier to control.
Good to see my 1980 invention of half-valving generating discussion on this rather tradition-oriented list, and apparently gaining adherents as the years go by. OK Little Walter didn't valve his harps - but what the heck, let's live dangerously! ;-)
Just a warning: once you get the feel of a half-valved harp it's hard to go back! The purity of tone and extra bending expression of the low-pitched notes in a harp transforms the instrument, whilst still retaining all the original bends. It's a win-win in my opinion.
Of course Overbending is ruled out with half-valving, but there are other ways to get the missing chromatic notes on a diatonic harp. PT Gazell has proven that isolated-reed valved bends can be controlled in tune, though it's not easy. Personally I prefer to use alternate tunings like PowerBender that give most missing notes via extra interactive-reed bends. Alternatively, x-reed harps give interactive-reed bends on all notes regardless of tuning, and generally use valves to control which reeds are in the airstream. Half-valved chromatics in tunings like Diminished or PowerChromatic are hugely expressive and chromatically powerful whilst retaining a diatonic-type tone.
As for valve materials, the general message from this thread is that there are many materials and approaches that work. It's fun experimenting with making ones own valves, and there are some ingenious methods suggested above.
Valving on a diatonic harp is less demanding than on a chromatic, so you can get away with using materials that wouldn't work on a chrom. That's because, due to the way the reedplates are assembled (blow plate on top, draw plate on bottom) all valves on a 10-hole harp are Sitting Valves: they sit down flat by themselves naturally, with gravity.
It allows you to use floppy materials like Ultrasuede, as the valve will always return to rest under its own weight. But on a Knittlinger harmonicas like the chromatic, half the valves are Hanging Valves: attached to the underside of the reedplates, and with a tendency to fall away from the plate with gravity.
These are much more demanding to get right, and the list of suitable materials diminishes dramatically. Ultrasuede just flops down, quite useless! You need valves that snap back up to flat after being pushed down with your breath, time after time.
It would be possible and quite logical to use two different materials for Sitting and Hanging valves: floppy for Sitting and more resilient for Hanging. But in practice most manufacturers use the same materials for both, generally in a two-part valve. The inner layer is flexible, and either soft or has a textured surface to reduce sticking by Capillary Attraction. The outer layer is the spring, made of stiffer material, that makes the valve return to flat - whether lying on top of the plate or hanging underneath it.
To me the Holy Grail is to find the perfect one-piece valve that works sitting or hanging. The criteria to be satisfied are:
1. Flexibility: the valve needs to lift away instantly from the plate so the reed slot opens fully. Valves that are too stiff won't do that, which constricts the sound.
2. Shape Memory Over Time. The valve needs to return to its flat shape over thousands of cycles and many years. Some valve materials that seem great to start with end up curling up or drying out (like leather, which has been used widely in accordions and sometimes harmonicas).
3. Non-Stick. The underside of the valve should be some material that isn't prone to sticking by Capillary Attraction. This is mainly a problem with outside valves, where moisture from your breath collects on the surface of the reedplate. Reducing the valve footprint on the plate helps, but a fibrous, grainy or dimpled under-surface is essential.
3. Soft and Quiet. The underside of the valve should ideally be soft, to reduce or eliminate valve slap. That's where many otherwise effective valves fall down, in my opinion. For example, the current valves used by Hohner, Seydel and all the Chinese manufacturers are made of plastic, which gives an audible sound when it returns to flat.
Suzuki has been using quite poor two-piece plastic valves for many years also, but has recently adopted a new black one-piece valve in diatonics like the Promaster and SUB30 that's very effective. Laminated from two materials, it has a shiny plastic upper layer and a thin gel-like material beneath. It works well.
Another popular laminated one-piece valve is the one mentioned earlier that you can make yourself, by sticking Micropore tape to a thin but resilient plastic sheet like Mylar. I'm not sure who first thought of it (would be interested to know - perhaps Wally Peterman?), but this gives that nice mix of good qualities which fulfills the criteria above.
It's what I've adopted for my new Stealth-Valves, which come in strips shaped to fit the reedplates of various harmonicas. You just attach the whole valve strip in one go with double-sided tape, giving perfect registration of every valve.
For the inside valves the intervening partitions need to be cut out, but for outside valves the whole strip can remain in place. They are easy and quick to attach: here's a video for anyone interested:
But though these valves work well, it hasn't stopped me trying other likely-looking materials from which to make valves. It's fun, and testing is always intriguing!
Last Edited by BeePee on Nov 14, 2017 10:44 PM
Though I applaud the industry of folks who make their own valves I've not been very successful. I tried plastic from a cookie box that sealed really, really well. It worked for about a week then it would sick from too much moisture. chromaticblues warned me and he was right. Rockin Ron's my man. Oh, I don't valve diatonics only my chromatics so maybe I'm talking out of turn. So....how about? PT Gazell is one hell of a hell of a player! :-)
PS. BeePee. In your opinion the new Hohner and new Suzuki valves are not very good? ---------- Reasonably priced Reed Replacement and tech support on Hand Made Series Hohner Diatonic Harmonicas.
'Making the world a better place, one harmonica at a time. Click MP for more info. Aloha Mark .
Last Edited by MP on Nov 18, 2017 5:39 PM
@MP: Hohner and Seydel have adopted a very similar two-piece valve for their chromatics (not sure who was first: Seydel I believe, but could be wrong). It's a dimpled plastic material with a thin plastic spring on the outside.
The dimpled texture is good for avoiding sticking, but the fact it's a solid plastic material means the valves are still rather noisy for my taste.
Suzuki's new black one-piece valve I've so far only seen on their diatonic. I'm a bit out of touch with recent developments at Suzuki: Gnarly, are they putting the new valves on chroms also?
Its soft gel undersurface makes it quieter than the Hohner/Seydel valves, but it's not as quiet as the PT Gazell-inspired Ultrasuede used on Seydel diatonics. However, as noted, Ultrasuede is no good for hanging valves on its own: too heavy and floppy. Maybe bonded to a springy material it could work for hanging valves on chromatics, but that would make it quite thick.
The ultimate valve that can do it all: sitting, hanging, rugged, non-stick, non-curl, thin, inaudible - is still to be developed.
Last Edited by BeePee on Nov 20, 2017 4:54 PM
Thanks BeePee. I've seen two piece Hohner valves since the 70s? or was it ealy 80s- but since we couldn't get Seydels back then who knows. Anyway, unless I get a very loud noise out of valves I really don't mind. It's buzzing and sticking that gets me. ---------- Reasonably priced Reed Replacement and tech support on Hand Made Series Hohner Diatonic Harmonicas.
'Making the world a better place, one harmonica at a time. Click MP for more info. Aloha Mark .
I have been working on making self adhesive windasvers for a few years now and my new design is now available for purchase at www.deesfti.com Compressed felt and Mylar offer quiet function without capillary attraction. They install easily (peel the tab, center on the slot,press in place & trim the length as required). They stay in place and will not absorb moisture. No glue required! Thanks! Dee