***** 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.
Step 1: Take It Apart. Carefully!
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!
Step 2: ALCOHOL!
Step 3: The Comb.
1. Using a piece of double sided tape, attach the comb to a block. Use a second block or a perfectly flat surface with sandpaper and sand the comb flat. You must make sure that the faces of the comb are as flat and even as possible. Check often that it is sanding correctly. You will see lots of saw marks from when it was made, you should try to get rid of most of these. A flatter comb gives a better union between the comb and the plate. When you have finished both sides and you are happy that they are flat and the comb is even, then you move on to the edge. If you want to keep the original finish then just give the comb a wipe over to remove dirt and sawdust. If like me, you want a different look then sand off the original varnish back to bare wood. Be careful of the tines as they can snap pretty easily (especially with old harmonicas). Don't go too mad, we don't want the comb to be too small for the plates.
2. Use a file or sandpaper to remove any dirt from the inside of each slot and make sure they too are nicely flat. Again, be careful of the tines as they can snap. You can glue them back on sometimes but not always.
There are a few websites where you can buy replacement combs or you could make one yourself. Just copy the dimensions. You will have to ditch the nails in this case and convert it to screws. This is something I will show you in another Instructable but it isn't hard.
File the corners of the tines very lightly so that the tine is more rounded at the end, this makes it more comfortable to play.
3. Now we will seal the comb and prevent it from swelling ever again! I use a mixture of 50/50 vaseline and beeswax. Melt them together, be careful they can be volatile. Use a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once made, put it in a suitable container. You need enough depth to immerse the comb(see pic). Put it in and give it 5 seconds or so, any longer and it will soak up to much wax and swell. The wax will cool and dry quickly on the comb. Use your pocket knife to gently scrape the excess wax off the surfaces. Again, not to hard or you'll damage the comb. Polish the comb with a suitable cloth and you should be left with a really nice looking piece of wood.
Step 4: The Metalwork.
2. Polish the coverplates. If the are rusty, you may be able to remove this with a high grade sandpaper and then polish out any marks. Do this on a machine if you have one. If they are pitted the just do your best. I haven't found a really good way of fixing a highly corroded and pitted plate yet (any suggestions?).
3. Wash everything with soap and water. Use an old toothbrush and work across the plate from one end to the other. Careful over the reeds. You need to get all the excess polish off. I use an antibacterial soap and plenty of running water usually. The tub of water was just for the picture.
Jason Ricci, who is a fantastic harmonica player uses Purple Kaboom( for those in the U.S.) for this. Check out Jason on Youtube or his own site www.jasonricci.com( I tried to put links in here but it wouldn't let me).
Step 5: Re-fitting.
Try to push the nails as far as they will go and just tap them home. Star with the blow (upper) plate. This way when you turn it over to do the other side you won't have reeds rubbing on the table. Put on the reedplates in the same way.
You now have a playable harmonica. You may find that it needs some adjustment or re-tuning. I will post these in other Instructables but you can find lots of info on Youtube and other harmonica websites.