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I messed up a reed while trying to emboss

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Jeremy R
Aug 16, 2009 9:40 PM GMT

So i just made my first attempt at embossing. I think i did ok with the first three draw reeds but the fourth one ended up tuned down a half step. Is this a common problem? Im not sure if i should try to retune it with a file or if there is somthing else i can do to fix it. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

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Comments (24)

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Aug 17, 2009 2:45 AM GMT
walterharp Replied:

The reed is probably broken or fractured. This can happen if you push down too hard too close to where the reed is riveted in. Short of replacing the reed, not much that can be done, other than using the reed plate to practice embossing the rest of the reeds

Aug 17, 2009 6:00 AM GMT
Jeremy R Replied:

hmmm well i obviously need the practice. thanks for the help

Aug 17, 2009 6:26 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

I hope you didn't do this on any of the harps you use regularly because you should be using one of your junk harps to practice this on. Every customizer will tell you tthat along the way, they've ruined a lot of harps until they learned their trade, and that's why you should use the junk harps for practice FIRST before getting ready to do this on the ones you use regularly.

This sounds like during the embossing process, you scraped the reed hard, something you don't want to be doing.

Aug 17, 2009 10:13 PM GMT
blogward Replied:

Does it play clearly? The only way it might be recoverable is if it is snagged in the slot - you can tell because it'll rattle, squeak or sound generally atrocious. If you have actually gouged a bit out of the base end of the reed I fear you're stuck.

Aug 17, 2009 11:37 PM GMT
walterharp Replied:

usually if it is snagged you can't plink it clearly either

Aug 22, 2009 11:53 PM GMT
Jeremy R Replied:

yeah it plinks clearly and somehow ended up playing well but just exactly a half step down. its deffinitely possible that i used too much pressure or started to close to the rivet as this is my first attempt. luckily its a pretty old harp that im ok with messing up. id deffinitely like to figure out what i did, though, so i dont do it in the future.

Aug 23, 2009 4:26 AM GMT
walterharp Replied:

in my first attempt i fractured a reed close to the rivet and it played flat. now you can work on the rest of the harp without fear and figure out what you do. remember to always work toward the free end of the reed, and use a little bit of pressure repeatedly rather than lots of pressure all at once.

Aug 26, 2009 4:16 PM GMT
Sioux S.Seydal Replied:

I ruined quite a couple ofreeds already (one at a time though - different harps!:))while trying to make them play a bit better. Actually only once or twice that i really BLEW one out!

After the initial frustration I realized that this alsojust adds to my experience...

Aug 26, 2009 5:04 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

What was the tool you used to emboss.... as in, is it possible you used a tool that removed a half-step's worth of metal and there is no fracture at all. Possibility.

Aug 26, 2009 9:59 PM GMT
walterharp Replied:

good point, try to tune it up and see if it holds.

Sep 05, 2009 3:50 AM GMT
Elk River Replied:

Did it?

Sep 09, 2009 8:09 AM GMT
Jeremy R Replied:

it ended up being a small crack down right at the base of the reed just like you guys said. i must have put too much pressure down low on the reed. thank you guys for the help

Sep 09, 2009 12:01 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

Was this a new harmonica, or one you'd played?

Sep 18, 2009 6:54 AM GMT
Jeremy R Replied:

it was fairly old one that i didnt play much any more. luckily it turns out

Sep 25, 2009 10:35 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

Yeah, I don't think you did it. I think it was already there. At most, you slightly sped up an already impending doom.

Sep 26, 2009 4:34 AM GMT
walterharp Replied:

happy ending, that is why you practice on an old harp

Oct 11, 2009 7:01 AM GMT
Mondo Replied:

Can I ask an obvious question here? What exactly is "embossing"? I've been finding instructions and videoson how to do it (anyone have a spare socket set?), but can't turn up anything that tells me what it is or why I'd want to do it.

Oct 11, 2009 3:38 PM GMT
Joe Replied:


Embossing is a method for narrowing the width of the reed slot to achieve tighter side clearance between the reed and the slot. 15 years ago this was often necessary in order to make a harmonica play really well. Recent years have seen advancements in manufacturing that diminish the importance of embossing. I wouldn't recommend that you mess with it until learning much more important things like keeping them in tune and adjusting the offets (gaps).

Oct 11, 2009 9:11 PM GMT
Mondo Replied:

Cool. Thanks, Joe. Is the brass of a reed plate really that pliable? I guess that's also probably why there are problems with air-tightness on some harps.

Is there a standard for offset? I know that too much gap allows more wind past the reed, but I've never seen anywere that says how many mm is the minimum (if there is one). I assume that it's possible to have too little gap, short of hitting the reed, and that could have a detrimental affect on playability.

Thanks, again,

Oct 12, 2009 3:22 AM GMT
Joe Replied:

The brass is soft enough to bemalleable. Forget about embossing for now though.A poorly gapped reed is much more detrimental to the performance of the reed than just about anything else. Start here and watch my 3 videos on gapping if you want to get to the heart of things.

Oct 12, 2009 5:35 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

DP, judt i9n case you don't know, Joe is Joe Spiers, one of the very best harp customizers in thr business and trust me, the man knows his stuff!!! I've never ordered anything from him, but I got a chance to play some of his work from another harp playing friend of mine, and it was impressive, and that's being ultra polite about it. and I don't impress easily.

Oct 13, 2009 7:34 AM GMT
Mondo Replied:

Wow, this is just too amazing! I'm truly honored!

Joe,yourvideosare usuallythe first I go to whentrying to figure stuff out and BBQ Bob M is right, you really know your stuff.

Harpaholic, I'd love to get a look at those harps. Although I only play my own, I'd like to see what the difference is between one that's"stock" and one that's beenset up by the best.

Thank you, all.

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