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Inhaling metal dust - dangerous?

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Jay Sinister
Jun 02, 2009 2:20 PM GMT

Hello fellow harpists!

This one thing about tuning keeps puzzling me, and I can't find a serious topic about it anywhere, so I'd like to hear your opinions about this.

Tuning harmonica reeds creates microscopical metal dust. When you check the tuning you blow and draw to the harmonica. Isn't it inevitable that you inhale small metal particles while doing this? Not to mention all the dust that your workplace (in my case, my only worktable) gathers? Have anyone thought this might be dangerous, if you do it, say, 5-10 years or even less?

If so, how could this be avoided? I can't say I have any symptoms yet, but I hate the idea about inhaling metal dust and dispersing it to my room every time I do my necessary retuning. It must be even worse than smoking...

Any opinions?


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Comments (9)

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Jun 02, 2009 5:16 PM GMT
BluEyes Replied:

dude good question,

I go to open mic night once a week to a smoke filled bar... what is this doing to me.. I don't smoke.

How little is too much...

I wish I couldanswerthat one if not for you at least for myself...

abner (Blueyes,cough,cough)

Jun 02, 2009 5:58 PM GMT
Joe Replied:

If you are worried about it, avoid creating the dust. Order a super-sharp draw scraper and toolkit from Richard Sleigh. Personally I don't think there's anything to worry about, but I'd still recommend Richard's product.

Jun 03, 2009 8:13 AM GMT
Raśl M Replied:

Of course it's dangerous, Jay!

It's a theme that must be look closer. Working with harmonicas it's like working in the mine. You don't feel bad inmediatley for inhale microscopic particles but these particles are storing in our lungs and throats. We need a compressed air tool to blow away any particle before we touch the harmonica with our mouth when we are embossing or tunning. If you don't have this tool, you must to blow up the reedplate and reeds with strenght until you buy the tool.

Please don't be ansentminded with it. We have to auto-protect ourselves.

Jun 03, 2009 11:38 AM GMT
Jay Sinister Replied:

Thank you for your thoughts. Joe, how can there not be dust? The whole point of tuning is to remove metal from the reed. It has to go somewhere!

No tuning tutorial I've read mentions anything about health precautions, not one. I guess changing the reed would be better, but I understand that this also creates metal burr on the rivet end. Haven't tried it yet.

I'd like to retune my harps since it's more economical. But this thing scares me, so I usually just change the whole plate if possible. When I tune, I do it with an abrasive tool of good quality (a fine diamond grinder). But I can see the dust. I can hope it goes away when I blow, but what's the use if it still floats around in my apartment? Guess it would be better to have a woodshed of some kind.

I might sound a bit hysterical about this, but to me it seems completely rational to assume it can't be good. Then again, I haven't seen a single harp player complaining about throat/lung problems. Many pros finetune their out-of-the-box harps, file every single reed to fit to their playing. That must create lots of dust. Still no-one seems to care or have any symptoms. So what is the truth?

Jun 03, 2009 11:49 AM GMT
Joe Replied:

The scraper makes shavings, not dust. Shavings are easy to see and control.

Jun 03, 2009 6:08 PM GMT
Philosofy Replied:

I would think that, if you worked at the Honer factory doing this all day long, you might have a problem. But once and awhile you won't notice anything. Lungs have problems with long, needle like shapes (asbestos), but I haven't heard much about metals affecting the lungs. Welders and grinders would have more of a problem.

Jun 03, 2009 6:13 PM GMT
Philosofy Replied:

Oh, and Jay, I've been to Finland (Pori mainly), and might be going back again in a year or two. When I was there, I found out I look EXACTLY like Timo Rautianen. Its an uncanny resemblance: my mother can't tell pictures of us apart.

Jun 04, 2009 11:47 AM GMT
Jawbone K Replied:

just a thought, but why not get one of the small vacuum cleaners people sometimes use to clean their keyboards and computer towers with, and use it after retuning? or any vacuum cleaner for that matter.

Jun 06, 2009 11:45 AM GMT
Dan M Replied:

What you donot want to do is clean up with compressed air. That just makes the stuff airbourne. Vacuum is your best cleanup tool. Wood, such as rosewood, and even American oak has a lot of hazards too. OUr woodworking group has had doctors and occupational specialist speak about these things. The question is how often and prolonged the exposure. Work in a well ventilated space too.I would think for occasional work you do for yourself, the hazard is minimal. That said, there are box like air cleaners for woodshops that do a very effective job of pulling in dust like particles. You can wear a dust mask - be advised that the little cheap rubber band ones are next to uselless and get something with small canisters on either side if you are concerned about this. Theparticles you can see are not the ones that will hurt you - the ones too small to see become airbourne and get into the lungs. Again - do you do this for a living ot once a month?

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