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Harmonica Workbench: My Next Favorite Tool

25 August 2010 23,179 views 2 Comments

by Kinya Pollard

It was love at first site (don’t tell Mrs. Harpsmith). I think I found my next new favorite tool.

Many of you have read or heard that my least favorite Harp-Tech thing to do is tuning. So when I unwrapped the new 2oz high speed rotary “engraver” from Micro Mark with 3/32″ chuck (M-M #84446), I was moved to thank the Harmonica Gods.

With an assortment of available carbide bits (#60476) I am expecting tuning chores to be quick and precise.

It did not take long for me to discover the numerous possible holding positions to handle all tuning tasks. The most popular position was to have my index finger pushing down on the on/off button.

This photo shows the index finger pulling up on the button.

For you “thumbers” try depressing the button with your thumb.

Removing metal on a flatted draw reed is a snap, especially when supported by Richard Sleigh’s reed tool.

Here I am tuning down a reed too sharp by removing metal from the rivet end of the reed.

In a variation on Richard Sleigh’s edge tuning technique; these photos demonstrate how a straight cutter bit can easily trim metal from the edge of the reed.

Creating a paddy tune harmonica or Lee Oskar type Melody Maker requires raising the blow reed #3, one whole step (e.g. on a C harmonica, raise G pitch up to A). This process is easily sped up by laying the straight cut bit flat to the reed and “planing” the metal off.

For you old timers, remember that electric board game “Operation,” by Milton Bradley first marketed in 1965. If your tweezers touched the side walls of Cavity Sam, his red clown sized nose would illuminate. Keep this game in mind when you are tuning a blow reed (flat or sharp). Although the 3/32″ bits are small enough, if you don’t have a steady hand, you will nick the reed plate slot. Be careful or your nose will turn red in anger.

“Play the notes people want to hear” © 2008

Kinya Pollard

The Harpsmith

Musician & Harp-Tech

Harmonica Masterclass Workshop Instructor

Mel Bay’s Harmonica Sessions Columnist

www.bluesharmonica.com Harp-Tech Expert

Celebrity Hands

Guess whose hand this is? Hint: This maestro was next in line to fill the first chair harmonica position in Muddy Water’s Band

“Play the notes people want to hear” © 2008

Kinya Pollard

The Harpsmith

Printable Version


  • ebenezer said:

    Is the “straight cutter bit” included with the engraver, or is it separate?

  • Rajeev Ranjan said:

    I would like to purchase the Micro Mark. I am an amateur harmonica player. I tune my chromatics reasonably well. Micro Mark will be an asset to me

    Kindly advice how do go about getting one by mail order

    Truly yours
    Rajeev Ranjan
    ( India )