Buying Used Chromatics

Even after 65+ years of the wood comb Hohner 280 and similar models being discontinued there is still interest in them from harmonica players. Sales are still brisk on eBay and other sites.  Problem is not all wood model (and to a lesser extent plastic model) Hohner’s are equal in playability.  

There is a reason the original owner put the harmonica away in a drawer and forgot about it all those years ago.  What may seem like a $45-75 bargain buy can quickly turn into a $175-200 restoration job with no guarantee of performance quality afterwards. I’ve been saying for decades the reed is everything. If the performance of the reeds sound lifeless or dull or slow to respond there is no way to make it perform better.  Determining the quality of the reeds is not always that easy for a harp tech. The reeds need to be tested. By tested that means sometimes they need to be put into a situation where everything else being checked is in perfect condition. This is the only way to determine if the reed plates are the real problem with the harmonica performing poorly.

 So starting in  2022 I decided to set up some Hohner combs to which I can mount your reed plates. If your plates are sluggish on my airtight set up then there is no need to go further in the restoration process if you plan on playing it.  This should help weed out bad apples early on.

One thing that can mess up a good reed plate is cracking, shrinking and swelling of the wood comb over time. The warpage of the comb creates bows in the reed plates that can’t be corrected. Install  a warped reed plate on a flat wood, or other type of comb material, and you may end up with problems with the reeds being pinched in the slots or air leaking between the partitions. This can cause 1 or several of the reeds to respond poorly along the line of the warpage of the slots. A warp as small as .001 of an inch is enough to affect performance and pitch of the reed if it touches the side of the slot while entering. 

I don’t profess to being a harp tech wunderkind and I don’t think anyone else can make that claim either.  Good reedplates make for good restorations. Bad reed plates can make for bad relationships between both the tech and player due to misunderstandings. My advice is to buy new or buy reconditioned through a qualified harp tech.