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Embossing and Chamfering

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Jan 27, 2009 8:28 AM GMT
I have been experimenting with embossing recently and have got some pretty good results, using either a small socket or a five cents coin. The harps are definitely louder and with arcing and gapping and sealed combs (I'm playing Marine Bands), they seem pretty responsive.

How close do you guys and gals emboss the slots to the reeds?

What about chamfering (tip scooping) do you guys do that as well?

Does it make a big difference?

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Comments (25)

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Jan 27, 2009 9:02 AM GMT
Elk River Replied:

I used to do some big scoops whee the reed lay almost entirely in the slot. I picked up one I had done long ago... I have not done it in a long time... And it was actually pretty good... But for the amount of work... It is a lot of work... Emboss as close as you can you polly can't get too close... Cat says closer the better, I say the air has to go somewhere, but just emboss 4 the best plink

Jan 27, 2009 9:09 AM GMT
Kingley Replied:

Thanks for the advice Mr Payne

Jan 27, 2009 3:11 PM GMT
Tuck M Replied:

Well, I tried to emboss,but I don't think I'm moving metal. How hard do you push? Should the embossing tool be just wide enough to span the reed slot?

Jan 28, 2009 2:19 AM GMT
Joe Replied:

Personally I make the decision about "how tight" differently for different harps. Myself, I don't like a harp that's obnoxiously bright sounding, preferring a more stock-like organic tone (except much louder). Some people are more impressed by extreme brightness, and judge a harp by that quality. Embossing often affects tone significantly, so in the end it won't be the same for every customer. The most important thing for good playability (and overblows) is the shape of the reed, and where it's located in relationship with the reed slot. So I wouldn't get too hung up on how tight if what you're doing now is working for your tastes, and try to advance your techniques in the area of shaping and gapping.

As far as tip scooping, it can help in some cases (if everything seems pretty good, but slightly sticky, for instance) or adversely affect response/feel in others. I would say don't do it just for the sake of doing it, it's certainly no magic bullet. If the reed feels and plays great, I would not chamfer the end of the slot (AKA tip scooping).

Think how a reed works and try to understand how the changes you make are actually affecting things. When trying something, do it to one reed or pair, before doing every reed in the harp.

Jan 28, 2009 5:58 AM GMT
Kingley Replied:

Thanks Joe.
That helps immensely.

Jan 28, 2009 8:38 AM GMT
Oldwailer Replied:

So, Dave P, I had a question for you at the chat that you couldn't make because you were probably busy putting nails in your new SP20 harps ;)

On this topic of scooping--you said you just don't do it much and that it is a lot of work. Is it just not worth it for the amount of work--or is it worth it if you wanted to make a harp really good?

Jan 28, 2009 8:52 AM GMT
Kingley Replied:

Mr Spiers!!!!! You the man!!!
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I followed your advice. I looked at my gapping and lowered it just a tad. Man what a difference! good sounding harp to a great sounding harp!

Jan 28, 2009 2:22 PM GMT
Oldwailer Replied:

OOPS! I just realized that my earlier post was already answered by Mr. Spiers. Thank you, Mr. Spiers, and Never mind, Dave.

There should be a way to delete messages after you notice stupid things about them--but I guess there ain't!

Jan 28, 2009 5:12 PM GMT
Will Vogtman Replied:

I posted some Embossing Pics to my profile. They are presently out of order, but the captions are numbered.

Jan 28, 2009 5:12 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

Joe brings up a good point about it, it certainly isn't the same for everyone. Embossing is often looked at as THE thing to do, but it is one of many things. Consider this, you can take four wood harps, same harps, same playing qualities, etc., the kind of identical only possible in theory...
Take No 1 and sand the comb perfectly flat.
Take No. 2 and emboss the reeds.
Take No. 3 and lower the reeds into the slot and make some big tip scoops.
Take No. 4 and change the shape of the reed (i.e. thickness in places)
With nothing else done, my experience is No. 1 will be the tighest. No. 4 will be the most responsive.
The amount of air that leaks around the reed can be miniscule compared to the amount of air that leaks in that tiny, tiny space around the reed itself.
My point is, embossing is one of many things you can do to reach a specific goal for what you want to do to harps. You bring your own combination of these specific things together in hopes of reaching a specific goal = what you want this harp to do. You can go back and add others later.

Also, on the tip scooping. If you've seen Rupert Oysler's video, he shows some tip scooping, but, to me, what he is doing is more of an emboss... and we could debate what he's doing and why it does what it does all day - the fact is, harmonica building is like quantam physics... you can't see ANYTHING that is going on. You can't see the air molecules cross chambers, you can't see the air flow. You can only come to conclusions by a combination of calculation, experimentation and deductive reasoning.

Jan 28, 2009 5:39 PM GMT
Kingley Replied:

Thank you for the information Mr Payne.
It's all helping me to make my harps the best that they can be for my playing.

Gotta love this site!

Jan 29, 2009 12:29 AM GMT
Brady Mills Replied:

Hey guys, I've corrected the ordering of Will's photos... Wow, what a wealth of information he has placed in his albums. Check them out here

Jan 29, 2009 1:46 AM GMT
Oldwailer Replied:

Dave, That was a very cool answer--thank you.

Jan 29, 2009 2:03 AM GMT
Will Vogtman Replied:

Many Thanx Brady!

Jan 29, 2009 2:19 AM GMT
Joe Replied:

Dave you need a set of these x-ray glasses I got a long time ago from the back of a comic book- I can see everything!!!!

Jan 31, 2009 12:11 AM GMT
Oisin Replied:

What exactly is tip scooping??


Jan 31, 2009 7:47 AM GMT
Kingley Replied:

it' a little groove in the end of the reedslot (where the free end of the reed is).
Mr Payne or Mr Spiers will be able to explain it in a far better way than that though I'm sure!

Jan 31, 2009 3:08 PM GMT
Joe Replied:

Different builders have different ideas about what it is and theories about what it does. When and if I do it, it's technically not actually scooping or chamfering (because there's no removal of metal). It's merely embossing the tip end of the reed slot to match the parallel lengths.

Jan 31, 2009 4:46 PM GMT
Oldwailer Replied:

Hey Will--I just checked out the pics you put up on the subject of embossing--very instructive--thank you!

Of course, my scrolling finger is sore. . .

Feb 01, 2009 7:39 AM GMT
Elk River Replied:

Joe, you are awesome. I didn't know you could see air molecules. You rule!

Feb 11, 2009 8:36 PM GMT
Sjoeberg D Replied:

I want to complete what Joe Spiers and Dave have added by encourage all interested to listen to the double world champion Filip Jers at MySpace. Filip, whom I know very well, plays uncustomised Hering Vintage 1923. He sets the reed gapping to his taste, sand the combs (not always, I use to do it for him when he visits me) and sets up the arc by the overblow teqnique and tune. He claims that embossing has a negative effect on the volume and sound and refuse to use embossed harmonicas.. Check Filip out on

Dick Sjoeberg

Feb 11, 2009 10:48 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

I just did what I call extreme tip scooping, that is where the tip scoop is deep and the reed sits almost all the way in it. It was on a Koch chromatic. Only way I could make it playable, at least in my mind, without thinning all the reeds down.

Mar 22, 2009 6:38 AM GMT
Builderofstuff Replied:

It's true, Joe can see air molecules. He sees things my eyes don't even pick up on. But then again I guess that's why he's a world class customizer and I'm not. hahaha


May 27, 2009 11:03 PM GMT
Raśl M Replied:

Thanks Dick to talk me about this post.

All the things you said here can be resumed into a few words: try it. It's a process of "try, fail, think, try, fail, think, try... success!

Jul 17, 2009 5:33 AM GMT
Lester S Replied:

Hi Harpers,

Even after watching a video on it , I still don't understand what embossing is. As far as I understand it ,it's a multi step process of pushing the reed tightly into the reed slot (and bending the slot inward, filing the burrs out of the inner edges of the slot. Am I close. can someone explain this or direct me to a really good clear video, so I can start doing this myself. I just bought a $35 special 20 and it plays like crap. I need to fix these things. Help.



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