Instructables

How to clean and seal a harmonica

Picture of How to clean and seal a harmonica
This is a brief description of how to clean a harmonica. Harmonicas, understandably, do get full of saliva, food, drinks, fungus, germs and corrosion. If you play regularly you should clean them regularly and if you only pick it up once a year you should clean it before you play it. You never know what may have grown in there.

DISCLAIMER

***** You will, at some point, destroy a harmonica if you do this process enough times!*************
****** Your reeds may break. They may need re-tuning. They may need adjusting after.***********
*******This process works well if you are careful but accidents happen. ***********************
********I take no responsibility for any damage your instruments may incur.*********************

I will be posting other Instructables dealing with problems that may arise but they are not on yet. You can contact me and I will try to help you with any difficulties.
 
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Step 1: Take it apart. Carefully!

Picture of Take it apart. Carefully!
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1. Use a small, bladed instrument like a pocket knife or something similar and gently push the blade between the cover and the reedplate. You should do this close to the first nail and stay away from the reeds. If yours is screwed together then I'll trust you to get on with this step in an appropriate manner but still be very careful of the the reeds.
Try not to pry them apart but just use the thickness of the blade to push the nail out slightly and then use pliers to pull it out. Only do the top plate for now. Leave the other plate to protect the reeds on the underside.

2. When you have exposed the reedplate, push the blade under the nail head and then use pliers as before. If this is difficult then you can insert the blade between the reedplate and the comb. BEWARE! This is dangerous. If you twist the blade you can damage the comb beyond repair. Use just the thickness of the blade as before (don't twist) but be immensely careful. When you do the draw reeds on the underside, you will have to be even more careful as the reeds themselves will be facing up and any slip could knock them off or damage them. I will post an Insructable on how to replace reeds but a little care now saves work later. Again if it is a screwed model then undo them. Take care that your screwdriver doesn't slip or you can take out a reed. Be careful not to sheer the top of the screws, they are often made of brass and can be quite soft.

3. When you have stripped one side, go ahead and do the other. The harmonica in the picture is about 40 years old and looks absolutely disgusting but I know that it hasn't been played much and when it's done it will sound great!
bluesharpvy6 months ago
Please check out this blog with harp stuff bluesharpshack.blogspot.ae/
tiltmonkey (author) 4 years ago
I bought it like that. I love old harmonicas, especially Marine Bands. The older the better.
 They still make Marine Bands, bought mine couple of days ago. ;)
OneHarp4 years ago
Hey man, nice instructable. I got a couple things to add. I work a lot on my own harps, and have refabbed several old ones, including a prewar marine band. Two of the most useful things I've learned: 1) Skip the beeswax and go for mineral oil. After cleaning and sanding the comb, just soak it in mineral oil (also called butchers block oil) for a couple of days or at least overnight. I do this in an old harp case. It's safer than heating the beeswax (no burns!), does a FANTASTIC job of sealing the comb (no swelling), and in the long run helps cut down on corrosion from pooled spit. Which brings me to: 2) Forget the Brasso. Make a solution of 1 to 1 parts table salt and white vinegar (can use lemon juice instead of vinegar). This will get those reedplates shiny as new, and is non-toxic as well. I just make a little batch, dip the tip of a que-tip in it, and rub away. It works like magic! Also, it'll remove old stubborn bits of beeswax from the brass as well (which actually seem to corrode the brass faster)... Cheers, Isaac
tiltmonkey (author)  OneHarp4 years ago
Thanks. Do you find that the oil leaves a taste? I tried a few oils and didn't like them. Maybe I just didn't find the right one. I will try the salt mix. I haven't found that the beeswax corrodes much faster, although I have heard that before. I like the beeswax because it works really fast, 10 second and it's sealed. If you clean pretty regular it should be ok. If you are in the U.K could you let me know where you get your oil from please. Thanks again.
I'm using mineral oil that I bought at the IKEA to take care of my wooden kitchen counters and cutting boards (I live in the states, but I'm sure you have IKEA around there, right?). the IKEA name for this product is "SKYDD" (Don;t you just love those fun Scandinavian names?), and I remember it being super cheap. Look down in the section where they sell knoves and cutting boards and other kitchen stuff. I haven't found that this oil leaves a taste at all, but a friend of mine recently suggested to add a couple of drops of mint essential oil to it, though I have not tried that yet (since I don't taste anything anyway). Whatever oil you get, make sure that it is 100% mineral oil (that's what this IKEA stuff is) in order to make sure it is taste-free. Some other brands of butchers block oil will add "driers" to the formula, and I think it is these things that impart the bad taste. Also, I only started noticing that my beeswax harps were "greening" about a year after I first sealed them. So far, the mineral oil technique has been 100% effective on the first harp I did it to about four months ago. Cheers, Isaac
tiltmonkey (author)  OneHarp4 years ago
Thanks Isaac.
Heywasup4 years ago
great ible ive been loking for a way to clean mine thnx :D!
tiltmonkey (author)  Heywasup4 years ago
Thanks, if you let me know what harmonica you have I can give you some more specific notes if you like. Do take care with those reeds and expect it to effect the tuning a little. I will post a 'How to Tune' ible. but I can direct you to some good instruction sites in the meantime if you need them.
wenpherd4 years ago
it looks like you'v had that harmonica for a long time
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