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Author Topic: Interchangeable reeds - harmonica repair.  (Read 1386 times)


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Interchangeable reeds - harmonica repair.
« on: September 09, 2015, 11:15:25 PM »
I noticed some time ago, to my disappointment, that some harmonica reeds were not interchangeable with other reeds of the same pitch. For example, I want to replace my 4 draw reed on an E Special20. The 5 blow reed on the D Special20 is the same note and pitch (Gb/F#), but after removing a 5 blow from an old D harp I noticed it was much shorter than the 4 draw on the E harp and therefore not suitable as a replacement. I was hoping to butcher some older, broken harps to repair some of my better ones of which I had blown out a single reed. I resigned myself to the fact that butchering older harps of a different key to replace reeds on a newer harp was not possible. But I was wrong.

As with many things in life, further investigation can bring a deeper understanding. I'm sitting here three years later and I decide to revisit the issue. I identified all the harps which use a Gb/F# reed and started to compare these reeds to each other to see if there was any that were similar - and there it was. Although the 5 blow from the D harp wasn't the right reed to replace the 4 draw on the E harp, I discovered that the 6 draw from an A harp was exactly the same reed. So I removed a 6 draw from an old A harp and after augering the hole out to fit the miniature bolt that would fasten the reed into place (the factory-fitted rivet is of a smaller diameter than the bolt, and so the hole needs to be carefully enlarged to accomodate the bolt), I also gently augered the corresponding reed plate hole to almost the same diameter, then tapped a new thread into the reed plate hole. I used a drill bit (hand held, no drill) to gently remove any tiny dags of brass caused by the augering process. I fitted the new reed and attached the tiny nut which fastens the tiny bolt into place. After aligning the reed perfectly in the centre of the reed plate slot, I gave it a quick tune up. Job complete. One E harp back from the dead, $43 saved.

While the harp was in pieces I took the opportunity to give all parts a thorough clean and sterilisation. Then I modded the cover plates with a small ball pein hammer, folding the rear edges to open up the back of the harmonica for better sound projection, increased volume. Total work time: 45 minutes.

I have yet to go through all possible reed exchange possibilities, and will probably do so as the need arises on a per-harp basis. If you want to work it out for yourself you could use Hohner's PDF which links to a shopping cart on their site. Scroll down to the 10-hole Diatonic Standard Richter Tuning section, click on the reed hole of the harp you want to repair and the reed(s) (set of five) will be added to the shopping cart. Now click on your potential replacement reed from another harp and it will also be added to the shopping cart. You can tell by viewing the shopping cart whether the second item is the same product as the first (the quantity of this item will now be '2') or if it is unique (a completely different product will be added to the shopping cart, giving you two items at a quantity of '1' each).
You can keep adding similarly-pitched reeds and going back to the shopping cart to see if the reed is the same as another one or different. I have checked this method with the physical reeds themselves and it is valid. If you can't find the page on Hohner's site where you can order single reeds and other components, here it is:

*I use the Hohner Harmonica Instant Workshop Toolkit which includes all tools and parts needed to remove the reed rivets, auger and tap a new thread, align the reed correctly, securely fasten the replacement reed to the plate, and tune the reed. It also contains maintenance gear for chromatics including slide mechanism oil and replacement windsavers and glue to attach the windsavers.
Additional tools I use are a cheap set of automotive feeler guages and a magnifying headset so I can see what I am doing.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2015, 11:20:24 PM by Matt »


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Re: Interchangeable reeds - harmonica repair.
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2015, 04:12:53 PM »
That is some tiny, exacting work there Matt.

I know it gives a person a great sense of accomplishment to bring a dead harp back to life.