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Harmonica Workbench: EMC2 Einstein for Harpies

11 October 2010 11,239 views 2 Comments

by  Kinya Pollard

For those full time and part time Harp-Techs who have experienced the joys of harmonica tuning, you understand how even being ambidextrous is not enough to avoid some stress.

Consider the tedious process of removing (and reinstalling) the reed plates from the comb; add to this, the task of holding the reed plate in place with one hand, reed support tool in another, and Chisel, file, sanding stick an/or rotary tool in the other—wait a minute, that’s three hands!

Rick Trankle’s inspiration for designing, manufacturing and distributing his Harmonica Einstein was a page torn out of, Plato’s best seller, The Republic (Greek author, philosopher, and the bane of countless high school students), “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” book.

Taking it to the Bench

Good thing I’m the Harpsmith, and can fix almost anything ;o), because when the two (#303-MB and #303-ST) Harmonica Einstein tuning tables arrived, each reed support tools were dislodged in shipping from their bases. I would recommend using boxes, rather than shipping envelopes. Having said that, it was nothing a dab of epoxy couldn’t repair. [Editor’s note: I spoke to Rick and this has been remedied]

It was a good opportunity, however, to examine the skillful machining of the reed support tool. In this end view, notice the close tolerance groove cut to clear the rivets of the blow reeds.

With the epoxy cured, I slid slot #5 of a Hohner Marine Band Deluxe harmonica into the Harmonica Einstein, gently pushing it all the way back until it stopped at the back of the slot.

See the groove from the reed support tool clear the blow reed rivet head—awesome.

“Look Ma, No Hands!”

As a rule, tuning blow reeds that are below the surface of the reed plate can be tricky. One wrong move and you can nick the reed plate slot (not the end of the world, unless you create a burr that will click on the playing reed). With the Harmonica Einstein securely in place, I can focus on keeping my hand steady during the process of removing material from the reed.

Speaking of blow reeds, if you intend on tuning Hohner Special 20 and Golden Melody harmonicas, remember to order the #303-ST, not #303-MB. The reed support tool is purposely thinner to clear the slots of harmonicas that have sprues. Those are those pesky horizontal pieces of plastic that were left in place after the initial injection molding manufacturing process; specifically, the Hohner Special 20 and Golden Melody.

With the reed plates removed from the comb, this photo shows the sprues of a Special 20 comb.

The #303-ST that I had received was not thin enough, therefore, I sanded off some material until I was satisfied with the clearance.

With all the reeds exposed, tuning the draw side of your harmonica is almost anti-climatic. Easy peezy.

Conveniently printed onto the table are three blues tunings; for example, Just Intonation.

Final Impressions

The Harmonica Einstein tuning table is an easy to use tool, not requiring PhD in physics. Place your order through: www.tuningtable.com

Celebrity Hands

Maybe that reference I made about Muddy Waters was too obvious. Yes, this is non-other than our friend, Rick Estrin. www.rickestrin.com

“Play the notes people want to hear” © 2008

Printable Version

Kinya Pollard
The Harpsmith

Musician & Harp-Tech
Harmonica Masterclass Workshop Instructor
Mel Bay’s Harmonica Sessions Columnist
www.bluesharmonica.com Harp-Tech Expert


  • Michelle LeFree said:

    Kinya, I’m glad you left a place to leave a message in the new (to me anyway) format. I was telling David B. at SPAH how I had wished there was a way to contact you to thank you for all the information you’ve shared in your Harmonica Sessions articles.
    Your generosity, insights and guidance have helped make me an harmonica technician! I was telling David how I transformed a box of “dead” Marine Bands a former teacher had given me into a set of custom MB’s that are now easily my favorite harps. I have accumulated many harp repair tools and techniques and based on your recommendations and I took your advice about Richard Sleigh’s book and tool kit. Between the information you two tech’s have shared I am now fearlessly replacing reeds, sealing and drilling combs, drilling and tapping reedplates, tuning like crazy, opening up cover plates and so on.
    So thank you, Harpsmith! You’ve given me control over my instruments at a level I never had before. You helped me save a bunch of money in the long run and made me a better player, too.

  • Hank Stefaniak said:

    Hey Kinya – great article!! I ordered and received my tuning table and it is a joy to use for sure. A question that keeps coming up in my head is the gapping thing. Is there some sort of “rule of thumb” for gapping sizes or is it a matter of blow/draw and adjust to your style of playing? I see everyone talk about having a set of ‘spark plug gappers’ (.002 – .02) – is this to adjust the gap size with??

    Thanks for any info on this.