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Harmonica Manufacturers and Builders


Custom Builders

Joe Filisko
the Filisko Guild
James Gordon
Ilus (Renaissance)
Steve Pruitt
Bill Romel
Richard Sleigh
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What's the difference between a specialty manufacturer and a custom builder? For example, Hardwood Harmonicas builds its standard models which happen to be unusual (a specialty), but does not, to my knowledge, routinely build custom instruments to suit specific individuals. That's what a custom builder does. The custom builder may build the instrument from scratch or not. Often, he or she will work with stock instruments and parts, giving them a thorough re-working to bring out the maximum potential, then further modify the instrument to suit the individual customer.

With the considerable work involved, custom built instruments are not cheap, but they are catching on. Factory product simply cannot be delivered to the mass market at a reasonable price with the attention to detail and adjustment that an excellent instrument requires. Many stock designs have enormous potential, which can be brought out in the hands of a good customizer.

Ilus Harmonicas

The Renaissance chromatic is a complete re-design of all aspects of the chromatic harmonica, except the reedplates, which are Hohner long slot plates. Silver-plated, with a stainless steel comb, an ergonomic design, a heavy duty slide with extremely short travel, and an internal air direction system that gives the instrument volume, dynamic range and amazing tonal colors, the Renaissance is a custom made, high quality instrument prices in the $3,500 range. Co-designed, largely over the internet, by Bobbie Giordano in the U.S. and Douglas Tate in England.

Contact: Douglas Tate or Bobbie Giordano
Address: 1950 NORTH POINT BLVD #606
Telephone: +1-850-523-0496
Fax: +1-850-523-0496
email: Bobbie:

The Filisko Guild

Joe Filisko began customizing diatonic harmonicas in the early 1990's, and has had such success that there is more demand for his work than he can fill. He has formed alliances with a select group of builders, customizers and repairers, all trained in the Filisko method. Each works as an individual, but all do consistently excellent work.

This group, comprised presently of Filisko, Richard Sleigh, James Gordon, and Steve Pruitt, has a joint website (see below).

The work done by each of these builders starts with standard Hohner reedplates in the handmade series, usually from the Marine Band model. The wrok done on these reeds and reedplates is perhaps the most important work, as it extends and realizes the musical potential of the instruments. Combs used, depending on user preference, may be the standard pearwood comb treated against swelling, resin-impregnated wood laminates, or brass. Covers may be entirely custom made, or may be re-shaped standard Hohner covers. Numerous subtle improvements and finishing operations are made to assist in playing comfort and sound projection.

While Filisko himself concentrates almost exclusively on the Hohner Marine Band and works almost exclusively with top professionals, other guild members work with a wider variety of instruments. Steve Pruitt concentrates on chromatic harmonicas, while James Gordon works on both diatonics and chromatics.

Contact: Joe Filisko
Address: 1313 COLORADO AVE
JOLIET IL 60435-3704
Telephone: +1-815-725-9095
Fax: +1-815-725-9097
email: n/a

Contact: Richard Sleigh
Address: RR 1 BOX 345
Telephone: +1-814-342-9722
Fax: n/a

Contact: James Gordon
Address: PO BOX 172
VERNON VT 05354-0172
Telephone: n/a
Fax: n/a

Contact: Steve Pruitt
Address: PO BOX 280
TOPEKA IN 46571-0280
Telephone: +1-219-593-3777

Custom Craft Harmonicas

Bill Romel builds customized chromatic and diatonic harmonicas of special design. Some of his more unusual offerings include wooden coverplates for chromatics, and gold plating of reeds.

Contact: Bill Romel
Address: 8524 SUMMER VISTA AVE
Telephone: +1-702-256-7470
Fax: n/a
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