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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Tuning stainless steel reeds
Tuning stainless steel reeds
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143 posts
Oct 01, 2022
10:54 AM
Are stainless steel reeds more difficult to tune? My experience is that it is more difficult, but I'd like to hear from some more experienced people.

A related question: approximately how long does the engraving tool (from Harbor Freight) last before it is too dull to shave metal from the reeds?
3685 posts
Oct 03, 2022
8:59 AM
If you're going to tune stainless steel reeds, something like an engraving tool or any rotary tool would be best but you have to remember NOT to be aggressive because you can all too quickly take off far too much metal than necessary or worse, cause gouges or even a hole in the reed and so patience and doing tiny amounts at a time is a necessity.

You could use a file but stainless steel can be a risk of permanently ruining even the best made files plus bad filing jobs, especially with a cheapo, poorly made file can have even worse problems with burning than with a brass reed.

If you avoid being overly aggressive and use a rotary tool/engraving tool that has a momentary on/off switch, it can last for many years before it dulls and so caution and avoid being overly aggressive and taking too much metal way too soon is a necessity. If you're impatient and overly aggressive, you will ruin both the reed and the tool very quickly.
Barbeque Bob Maglinte
Boston, MA
CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
7076 posts
Oct 04, 2022
8:53 PM
Ive tuned a lot of them. With a file they are hard work imho.
those little engraving tools are of limited use for tuning in my experience, at least with the stock engraving bit.
I have a tool i think is marketed for shaping acrylic fingernails. I think they call it a nail drill although that name doesnt seem very descriptive to me. That thing changed he world for me especially with steel reeds. it can be switched to spin in either direction, has speed control and option of a foot pedal which i find really handy. There are numerous options for the actual abrasive tool. I used diamond pieces relatively rarely, basically only in situations where i was trying to access the reed through a fairly narrow opening eg through the slot. Mostly i would use a sanding drum but there are other abrasives and you can get to the point of using a silicon polishing pin as Greg Jones uses and claims great results in extended longevity.
The other thing to be said for steel reeds is that once they are tuned they generally are very stable right up until they are ready to break, which may never happen if you treat them with respect.
EDIT: i forgot about the longevity question re the engraver. My experience is that those pieces really dont last long if you use them on steel reeds. Maybe ok if you are just touching up a few cents but if you are trying to move the reed a semitone you wont get much mileage. you can buy replacement parts though.

Last Edited by SuperBee on Oct 04, 2022 8:55 PM

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