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The jew's harp making

         The idea of making a jew's harp appears at the beginning of my interest to play this unusual instrument. And the more I perceived endless variety of types and forms of instruments from the four corners of the earth, the stronger this idea became, starting from just sketches. The described technique is just the first experience of the author. It is adopted for home work-room equipped basicly.

I take out all jew's harps what I have got. Then measure them and determine the sizes of my future creation.

The reed will be made of a saw blade for wood in thickness 0,86mm. The choice of the material for these purposes is explained in a certain article on our site.

First of all we should separate a stripe of material with the use of a grinding machine. It is very important to chill the billet not to disturb heat treatment of steel. Then we straighten one of the edges of the stripe.

We treat the second side of the reed by grinding machine. Both parts should be filed sharply like a knife. Grinding takes place from the upper part and both parts (you can see the intermediate result on the photo).

After choosing the form and sizes of your future jew's harp you need to do its model of soft aluminum wire. Having straightened it we can measure the necessary length of the billet for the frame. So also we know now the placing of its bending. The frame is made of steel 6mm bar 12Х18Н10Т (it is stainless steel). We need to saw off a billet of a necessary size, leaving a small reserve. We grind the necks at the border of arms passage (the straight segment) to the loop, decreasing the diameter of the material.

Now we need to make conical narrowing of the arms. It is better to use metal turning lathe for it. But at home I usually do this way: I clutch the billet in drill and having turned it on I start to grind the arms by grinding machine.


A gentle bend can be done on cold material, gripping the billet in a vice. A rod is bent through any metal item which has an appropriate radius.

I make a bend of a small radius by hammering, having made the metal red-hot previously on a gas cooking stove.

There is a preliminary form.

I make the bottom surface of cones by a grindstone. Because it is to be a working surface which is to produce sounds.

Then I grind the planes of the arms by a grinding machine.

I heat the billet for further hammer processing and shaping.

I blacksmith he shape so that the conicity between arms correspond the conicity of the reed.

I bend the knee and the loop of the reed. It should be made by small round-nose pliers right in the fire, having made the steel red-hot before only at the bending segment!

Flat form on both sides of the ring is making with the help of a grinding machine.

The reed have to take place exactly between the arms.

I am making a slot for the reed by the saw blade for metal.

The slot filed with help of a needle file. It is necessary to try on the reed regularly. It must be directly between the arms.

I use a felt wheel and polishing paste for polishing the frame and the reed.

The most difficult thing left to do. It is to fix the reed providing a small and equal gap between it and the arms. Well I start to beat it into the body frame like on a photo. The control has to be at the moment. If the reed diverges it can be corrected by beating the same side of the reed. If the gap is too big, I continue beating it into in the center of the shank. We need to obtain a small gap but absence of knocking about the arms. Then we should flange the edges of the slot by a hammer and cut off the odd edge. As the need arose we regulate the gaps additionally, bending the arms.

Ready Jew's Harp


© Vladimir Markov 2009, this article translated by Natalia Ivanitsa