Shown above are three toy instruments that have free reeds made of plastic. At the lower right is a diatonic melodica-type instrument made in Italy, maker unknown. The toy sax was made by the Proll company of New Jersey, as was the Proll-O-Tone Organ at the upper right, although the latter is identical in design to the Keymonica made by the Magnus Harmonica Corp. The founder of the company, Finn Haakon Magnus, was the godfather of plastic free reed instruments, designing several harmonicas, small reed organs, accordions and other instruments that utilised plastic reeds and probably held more patents for free reed related designs that any other individual. He became involved in the business during WWII, when brass was in short supply due to munitions making and German imports were restricted. He devised some innovative manufacturing methods that enabled the production of all plastic instruments with a minimum of individual parts, with reedplates and full sets of reeds being injection molded in one piece. Many of his designs were later made by Proll Toys after Magnus devoted himself to the design of sea fishing vessels!
Surprising, plastic reeds do not sound radically different to brass reeds, although they do not seem to hold their pitch quite so well and the manufacturing tolerances that could be achieved with 1950s plastics technology were not as exact as those possible with metals. Here is a short audio clip of the Proll-O-Tone Organ, clicky keys and all:
A Brief History of Mouth Blown Free Reed Instruments
What Is A Free Reed?
Origins Of The Free Reed
Eastern Free Reed Instruments
A Selective Discography Of Asian Free Reed Instruments
Western Free Reed Instruments
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