Custom Harmonicas

Thanks for your interest in my work! I have been building custom harmonicas as a business since 1994. The world has changed, and so have I…

I have shifted my work from building harmonicas based on the Marine Band 1896 to mostly upgrading the Hohner Crossover or Thunderbird. My main focus is now on reed plate work – embossing, reed shaping, tuning, repairs. You supply the harp, I supply the skill and attention.

I now have three types of upgrades:

The “Juke Joint” 

A free-breathing, easy bending harmonica set up for traditional blues. This harp will cut the room with a lot less effort than an out of the box harmonica. Extra attention to reeds and slots in holes 2 & 3, 9 & 10 in particular give you bent notes that are natural sounding and easier to get and sustain. The tuning is close to 19 limit just intonation for smooth chords with melody notes that sound in tune for fiddle tunes, etc. $59 per harp.

The “Jump Blues” 

This harp is built for precise controlled bending all over plus over-blows in holes 4, 5, & 6. This combination of embossing and reed shaping is the most popular harmonica conversion I make. The tuning is close to 19 limit just intonation for smooth chords with melody notes that sound in tune for fiddle tunes, etc. $99 per harp.

The “Top Gun”

This harmonica is the highest level of reed and slot work I do. It enables over-blows in 4, 5 & 6, over-draws in holes 7, 8, 9, & 10. The 1 over-blow is available by request, but you won’t be able to hit blow 1 as hard as you can with a standard blues set-up. The tuning is close to 19 limit just intonation for smooth chords with melody notes that sound in tune for fiddle tunes, etc. You can also request equal temperament. $159 per harp.

Here is how to order these upgrades:

Step 1. -Please go to the store at hotrodharmonicas.com to order your upgrades

Step 2 – You send me a Hohner Crossover / Deluxe / Thunderbird harmonica, or have it shipped to me with your name referenced in the shipping information.

Please ship harps to this address: PO Box 23, Boalsburg PA 16827.  You can also have Rockin Ron ship harps to me for this deal. Just tell him what you are up to and he will know what to do. 

My estimate for shipping is 6 – 8 weeks from the time I get the harmonica to work on.

Please Note: I can also do this upgrade for Marine Band 1896, Special 20, Rocket, and Golden Melody harmonicas for $10 extra. The extra charge is for dealing with all the extra screws that increase the final adjustment times. In the case of the Marine Band 1896, it goes for installing covers with screws – the reed plates will still be attached with nails. I will bill you for the extra charge for these harmonicas after I check them to make sure they are the right vintage for me to work on.

This offer includes free shipping in the USA. For international orders I will contact you to arrange shipping at extra cost to be determined by your situation.

Here is one of my secret weapons for my upgrades:

I use a big ass heavy duty tool that a friend of mine made for me for moving reeds while still attached to the reed plates with rivets. He swore me to secrecy on the design of this tool and it’s one of those things I’ve kept under my hat for years cause I don’t want people getting mad at me for having an unfair advantage (or bugging me to “just show it to me I won’t tell anyone)

Anyhow I use this thing to center reeds at the root to make embossing more consistent. Some reeds are really off center from the factory – like diagonal. Most customizers just work around the reed as best they can, and over-emboss to close up the wide areas.

I also use this tool to close the space between reed tips and the end of the slot when they are too far away.

Here is a video of the before and after on one reed plate:

The rest of the process involves a combination of burnishing slots, shaping reeds, waxing reeds as necessary, tuning, re-tuning, and final adjustments. I have basic formulas that I follow, but no two reed plates are the same, so I end up doing whatever is necessary to bring reed plates up to my standards.

Harpe Diem!

Thanks!