Comb Swelled

I got a Marine Band Harmonica…have had it forever. The wood comb is starting to swell and rise a bit. I still play it, but sometimes it gets rough on the lips. I have an extensive background in woodworking (for being 17) so I could just sand it down…but I am not sure if that is what I should do. Any help/advice would be appreciated.

Welcome to the bane of the low end MB 1896 Hohners.

While there was a time, prewar days, when the old timers would recommend soaking their harps in water, gin or tequila to swell and better seal the comb against the reeds –

Well, although it’s not recommended or practiced today - the teeth/tines still do swell up and turn the harp into that of running a saw blade across the lips.

And too, there are those who will attempt their hands at fixing these combs.

From the information some have discussed in Seamus’ chat room on the matter, the steps would be as follow:

  1. With the harmonica fully assembled, and using a fine sandpaper or file - run this across the top of the comb from one end to another. Use a light touch and caution, as you do not want to gouge one tine over the other.

  2. Once you have the tines shimmed down to what is acceptable, then you’ll have to disassemble the harmonica down to the bare comb.

  3. Using either melted beeswax or a butcher block/salad bowl finisher - You’ll have to reseal the comb in its entirety.

Take care during this process, as this may cause the wood to swell again as it absorbs the sealant. Some recommend brushing at least 2-3 coats evenly across the whole plane of the comb, and up along each side of every tine/tooth. The choice though is yours.

  1. Nevertheless, once everything is dried, again using the fine sandpaper, make sure all is smooth everywhere.

  2. You may also want to take the time to emboss/regap the reeds as needed. In any event, reassemble the harmonica.

If everything comes out evenly, okay. If not, then repeat the above steps as necessary.

Yes, it’s involved; but only you will know if it’s all worth it.

Hope this helps!

Good luck!

Keep on Harpin’!

“Have Harp, Will Travel!” 8)
Sealing a harmonica comb

Thanks for the info bro!

Cool, that’s me in the video up there.

For Pete’s sake, don’t sand it down. It is swelling because the wood is wet. Imagine what happens when the wood is dry… it will sink down inside the harp. just let it dry. It might take a while, but It will be fine. Do not under any circumstances, sand it down.