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Built to Order

Important Announcement Regarding
Built-to-Order Custom Harmonicas

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Hello to all my fellow harmonica enthusiasts.  If you are reading this message, no doubt you are on my website looking at the Built-to-Order Custom Harmonicas page.  I have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend taking new orders for Built-to-Order harps until probably September.  That may seem like a long time, so I will explain.  As I look ahead, I have a very busy summer ahead of me with a few trips planned.  I will be out of the shop for weeks at a time when I will not be able to do any work.  As of right now, I already have enough orders on my bench to keep me busy for the next 3-4 months.  My goal is to work hard to get completely caught up by about mid-June, take some time off this summer and get back at it in September.  

This will not affect other items that I offer.

  • Custom Combs will still be available. I have a huge inventory of combs that are prepped and ready to be shipped out immediately.
  • The Rob Paparozzi Custom Big Rivers will still be available. These harps are already made and Ready-to-Go. They do not require any additional setup prior to shipping.
  • Sonny Terry Heritage Edition Marine Bands will still be available. These are stock harps which are not customized, so they can be shipped immediately.
  • Sonny Terry Estate Harmonicas and other items will still be available.
  • There might be a few Ready-to-Go Harmonicas available. I don’t have many.  I have to sort through my inventory and update my website to let you know what I have on hand.  There are a few.
  • Custom Covers will still be available for immediate delivery.

The only thing this will affect is the Built-to-Order Custom Harmonicas.  Those are what takes up most of my time in the shop.  It is important for me to get caught up.  If I was to continue to take orders now, I would have to keep people waiting 6 to 7 months and I don’t think that is right. 

The Perfect Storm

If you already have a harmonica or two on order with me – thank you for your patience.  As I said, my goal is to get every order out before the summer.  I used to be able to ship orders for custom harps in 2-3 weeks.  Back then, I didn’t know a lot about customizing harmonicas.  But, like a lot of people, I am a student and over time, I learned how to unlock the magic in reed plates.  I have the good fortune of getting lots of practice because I build so many harps.  As I learned more, it took longer and longer to build harps because I put more time and energy into each reed plate.  Quality went up.  So did prices.  Turnaround times got longer.  2-3 weeks went to 4-6 weeks to 2-3 months to now 3-4 months or longer.  It has been something of a Perfect Storm.  Better harps mean more repeat business- which is great. I’m getting orders for 5 and 6 harps – sometimes a complete set of 12 or 13 (if you include Low F).  In addition, builds have become much more complex.  Double Reed Plate Harmonicas.  Overblow/Overdraw Harmonicas.  Custom SUB-30s.  All of these take much more time to build so in the past year, I have gotten busier and busier.  I am so honored when someone buys a harp from me and even more so when they like it enough to order another.  High praise indeed.  I have developed a passion for building custom harmonicas that I did not anticipate.  It is such a rewarding experience for me to build something that not only looks beautiful but plays and sounds beautiful too.  It is such an honor for me to put these instruments into the hands of musicians who love and appreciate them as much as I do.  It is a treat for me to help you make beautiful music.  Thank you for that.  If you are worried that there is some hidden meaning behind this and that my suspension of taking Built-to-Order is an indication that I am going out of business, fear not.  I expect to be building custom harps for a long, long time.  I love it too much to give it up.  Don’t be surprised if I slow down a little bit though.  I recently turned 65.  I am in very good health.  I have lots of energy and am still very active.  But I know there is a window of opportunity that will one day close, so I do want to make sure I enjoy life while I can.

The Future is Bright

In the future, I hope to offer more of the Ready-to-Go custom harmonicas.  I have a pretty good feel for what are the most popular combinations of Model, Key and Custom Comb, so hopefully, when I make up a batch of Ready-to-Go Custom Harmonicas, I will have something that appeals to you.

 One other project I would like to put together is offering kits to the Do-it-Yourself crowd.   A Kit would include a stock harmonica and your choice of a custom comb.   I would like to record a series of “How To” videos that provide simple basic instructions on how to set up a harmonica.  The idea would be for you to purchase a kit, watch the videos and build your own harp.  I think a lot of people would enjoy doing this.  The only issue is making the time to put it all together.  Recording and editing videos takes time.  Creating the module on my website takes time.  Right now, all my time is devoted to getting orders out before by June.  Perhaps I’ll be able to put this all together in my “down time” this summer.  We shall see.


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