Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Maintenance of Chromatic harps
Maintenance of Chromatic harps
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6641 posts
May 21, 2020
5:53 PM
I’ve been playing chromatic a lot over the last month or 2.

I was using my old cx12 and I noticed that after a few minutes it develops ‘issues’ with particular valves sticking and popping.
Oh yes, I haven’t used this one much for a few years and i remember this was an issue back then.

I know a lot of chromatic maintenance stuff is about the mouthpiece and slide. I’m good with all that and with the CX12 it’s basically a non-issue anyway

Windsavers though, I’m not so sure.

David Kettlewell has a Page which starts off promisingly, but never actually gets to the windsavers.
He also has a video which suggests a solid rinse in water is gonna do the job, so I gave that a try.
As the Australian sports people say, “yeah, nah”. That didn’t help.

Winslow has a video where he approaches this with dampened brown paper and sliding it under the valve then sliding it out while applying some pressure from above.
I have tried this and had ‘some’ success but it’s also a bit of a fiddly process and I am really hoping there might be something more efficient.

I might try the DK method again but add some detergent to the process and then a clear water rinse.

What’s the worst can happen?

I figure I’m not the first person to address this, and I do understand prevention is probably the number 1 strategic move in chromatic maintenance.
3213 posts
May 21, 2020
6:52 PM
You may be onto something Bee. I know my Chro's sometimes have that issue, I think it comes and goes with varying humidity and maybe ambient temps in the room. I believe it's a buildup of saliva on the valve that creates a little suction when the reed is played, which makes it hang up and then kind of snap loose. I have no answers. I occasionally do a rinse but that's about all. I hesitate to even pull the covers off.
Music and travel destroy prejudice.




2114 posts
May 21, 2020
8:17 PM
I sometimes just replace them if they have an issue.

I have heard the brown paper approach. I seem to recall hearing of using carnuba wax on the plates to stop valves sticking, but I don't know for sure. Someone mentioned soapy water wipe so the soap residue would break the surface tension of any condensation.

However, this approach from Brendan Power seems to be a really clear and interesting approach:

I started the video at windsavers, but there is interesting slide info before the place I started.

Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on May 21, 2020 8:18 PM
2805 posts
May 21, 2020
8:25 PM
Nothing but nothing does it.
Now that that is out of the way . . .
The solution to this issue is to get the chrom above body temperature and keep it there.
The problem is that, even if you get it warm enough, as soon as you play draw notes, you cool the harp down with the ambient (and cooler) atmosphere.
So, heating pad and two chroms, or something.
Like this . . .
John M G
362 posts
May 21, 2020
10:52 PM
I was getting very close to immersing my chromatic harps into my ultrasonic cleaner in IPA in an attempt to clean any sticky oral gunk I may have injected into them. I'm getting some pops and occasional blocked notes around 3,4,or 5 and buzzy notes. 1 draw is really really buzzy on my Super 64X
I've tried the cleaning with the strips of paper of various types under the valves and between the valve leave's with a limited amount of success. I've also introduced some "Slip it" between the leaves, but not between the reed plate and the underside of the wind saver. Just maybe the problem is that we are going into winter here in the southern hemisphere and it's as Gary says "Nothing but nothing does it!"
I also made one of the valve curling tools shown on another site but not been game to try it at this stage.
Now I've seen Brendan's video, I'll certainly give that some consideration. I've got plenty of sacrificial scissors to grind into shape!

Last Edited by John M G on May 21, 2020 10:54 PM
2807 posts
May 21, 2020
11:10 PM
I have been cleaning chrom plates by soaking them in hydrogen peroxide, and it seems to help.
Also replacing outside valves, especially the problem ones (those are the ones you play a lot, or play long tones on, usually C and G), will pay off when you are onstage trying to look cool.
PS Draw one on a 16 hole is probably buzzy because the long reed is striking the valve, try lowering the gap so that it doesn't swing as wide.
PPS IPA=India Pale Ale?
PPPS https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPA
Probably mean isopropyl alcohol LOL

Last Edited by Gnarly on May 21, 2020 11:35 PM
A-Static Cal
7 posts
May 22, 2020
6:44 AM
I have the best luck when I warm up my chroms before I play them and every so often while playing (between tunes). The CX12 seems to cool off quicker than some others for some reason. I think due to the large, open back. Moisture from your breath condenses on cool valves making them stick. I've also changed the valves on several older ones. If you are a little bit mechanically inclined, and don't rush, it's pretty easy. (Make sure to scrape off the old glue and do 1 valve at a time. A tiny amount of glue goes a long way.) Hohner has a good video on Youtube that shows how to do it. Curling the valve over your finger before attaching it seems to help too. Just my $.02, YMMV, No warranty implied, I don't play a Dr. on TV, nor did I stay at a Holiday In Express last night. Hope it helps.
6644 posts
May 22, 2020
7:55 PM
Thanks for all these comments. I appreciate you all.
We had a nice sunny day today, and even though it was cool in the shade, in my sunny window seat behind glass it was comfortably warm. I sat there while I practiced and the harp was nice and warm the whole time. No problems at all with the popping valves.

I used to do a lot of (diatonic) harp tuning and always kept a heat gun on the bench to curtail condensation. That’s probably not quite the right approach for the chromatic but I understand the issue now it’s been pointed out.
6645 posts
May 22, 2020
8:04 PM
Oh yeah, a-static, I have gone to the place of replacing the valves in the past also, but I was wanting to avoid it if possible.
Gnarly (and Doug, with BeePee’s helpful video) has convinced me about the temperature factor and I’m grateful for that. I know that new wind savers would likely improve the situation for a while.

Brendan was trimming up those very wide Hering valves. Mine are Hohner and maybe less need to trim the width but maybe could stand a trim of the length.

Last Edited by SuperBee on May 22, 2020 8:18 PM
John M G
363 posts
May 23, 2020
9:40 PM
I did see a tip on putting a slight curl on the top windsaver using a special tool that was made from a bit of shim steel a little wider than the valve with a slight raised section not far from the tip. This is Rick Epping's valve tool. You slide this between the leaves of the valve and using your finger nail gently pull with your finger nail just behind the raised bump to induce a curl into the upper leaf. Haven't been game to use it just yet!
The interesting thing is that the valves on my Easttop 16-64 are way less prone to popping and buzzing. The I hole draw on the Easttop is very clean. No buzzing at all. This harmonica lives in a very cold bathroom that is far from the kindest place to practice! The Super 64 X lives in my study and doesn't get anywhere near as cold but suffers much worse than the poor old Easttop.
I also invested in some of Dee's windsavers but I'm too mean at this stage to start swapping them out just yet!
Here is a link to the page that describes Rick's valve tool
Rick’s valve tool

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