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Customization Tools, anybody?

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Zack P
Jan 15, 2009 5:54 PM GMT
I've been wanting to get some tools to modify my Harmonicas. I'd buy a toolset but I don't need to replace reeds. What should I be looking for in files, screwdrivers, and other things? Thanks you guys!

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Comments (20)

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Jan 15, 2009 6:32 PM GMT
Sjoeberg D Replied:

Hi Zack,
Get in contact with Richard Sleigh He sells the tools you need for your work.

Best regards
Dick Sjoeberg

Jan 15, 2009 7:14 PM GMT
Civet Cat Replied:

Nicholson Jewlers files from home depot are fine for tuning and would make a great addition to richards tools! Hey Dick! The combs are great! Still working on some reeds to get them going right though before I make a video...Thanks for your patience!

Jan 15, 2009 7:15 PM GMT
Civet Cat Replied:

also any mini screw drivers for a 1.00 or more will do...

Jan 15, 2009 8:28 PM GMT
DukeofEarl Replied:

I'm finding as I fiddle (maybe tinker is a better metaphor) with my old harps, the tools I need are sometimes best improvised. Of course, this can take a lot of time and experimentation. Dick S is correct in that Richard would most likely have the right tools for you. He makes his living customizing harmonicas and is a skilled craftsman, so he is most qualified to make the best tool for the job. That said, I'm finding a collection of different kits can't hurt. Lee Oscar sells one and Dave P at Elk River can sell you a really nice set that Seydel offers.
All in all, you need to also know what you're doing with said tools because, as I'm also finding, you can wreck a lot of harps learning how to fix and modify them. Use OLD harps first to figure out what you're doing.

Jan 15, 2009 8:53 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

The kit mark (thanks Mark!) was talking about is here...
If you are at the pre-reed replacement stage and don't plan to tackle reed replace for a while, really all you need is the tuning file, a set of feeler gauges and the screwdrivers, which you can buy separately... I wouldn't buy the whole thing.

Another note: it is awesome to see Dick S here. I had one of his combs pass through here. It ruled! Very beautiful comb!

Jan 15, 2009 9:11 PM GMT
Zack P Replied:

Thanks guys. I do want to think about a set, I wanna invest the $80 for Sleigh's I just gotta get my mind set to it. I opened up a new Harmonica and thought I ruined it, found out I got it to play better by readjusting the gap and then tightening the screws. Not bad for ten minutes! I'll check out those sites but I will probably get some feeler guages. My dad got me some a while ago...Don't remember where they are (ugh, more feeling bad trying to find them!!!). Thanks!

Jan 15, 2009 10:51 PM GMT
Winslow Replied:

I agree about the Richard Sleigh tools. When I bought them I already had a kit of tools that I'd bought, made, adapted, improvised, or received as gifts from other customizers. I still use some of them, but I find myself gravitating more and more to Richard's tools.

That said, they're an $85 investment. My book Harmonica for Dummies describes the most basic tools (most available for not much money in hobby shops and similar places) and gives you some hints on how to use them and the easiest things you can do to make a harp play better.

Jan 15, 2009 11:18 PM GMT
Zack P Replied:

Hey you wrote that book! Really cool! Of course an investment, and my parents will be like, what? That much for that? But, hey, I'll start small!

Jan 16, 2009 6:43 PM GMT
M N Replied:

Zack, Check out Rupert Oysler on tuneing etc, @ I've had good result's with his Cd's. On a repair kit! I've found the Lee Oscar to be a good one stop shop kit.

Jan 16, 2009 7:55 PM GMT
Zack P Replied:

Thanks Mark I'll be checking out all of these options!!!

Jan 18, 2009 8:47 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

Zack, you're being impressed with Winslow and his book reminds me of my pup days, when I came across Doug Tate in a forum. I said "Hey, you're the dude that wrote that book in the library!" I was impressed. The book was playing the harmonica well...

Jan 19, 2009 4:07 AM GMT
Zack P Replied:

Hahaha! Nice :) Well it is cool he's on here!

Jan 21, 2009 4:12 PM GMT
Frank V Replied:

Agree with Jason on inexpensive jewelers files found at any hardware store. We are only removing small bits of metal here and any small file will work fine for tuneing reeds.

For do-it-your-selfers.....any guy with a simple bench grinder can make some great tools fast. I love Sleigh's "reed scraper" and would like to share that you can grind yourself a really nice one out of a small file. The steel in these files is very hard and perfect to be made into a scraper.

The paramiters are that the tool needs to be narrow enough to enter the narrowist reed slot. The real beauty of this tool is that it can be used to tune a blow reed without the need to remove the plates from the comb.

If there was a way to post a drawing in here I would be glad to submit one of the scraper design. I found that one of the files in the Lee Oscar tool kit was the perfect shape and size to re-grind into a draw scraper. Making this tool takes about 15 minutes or less.

Another usefull tool can be made from a discarded jig saw blade. Again,the steel in these is high quality and can easily ground into a custom reed wrench that fits your particular sized "reed foot". I found the Lee Oscar reed wrench to be a poor fit so I made a nice fitting wrench for my own needs.

Of course a couple of feeler gagues for reed support can be easilly obtained at any auto parts store.


Jan 24, 2009 9:57 AM GMT
Kingley Replied:

My kit contains the Lee Oskar kit with some extras I added.

They are, a small flat head screwdriver (the kind you use to test plugs),a couple of dental scraper tools that I got from a car boot sale for a few pence each (these are great), a socket for embossing (which I need to change as I'm not 100% comfortable with it), a printed chart of 7 limit JI tuning and a Korg CA20 tuner.
It's a small kit and all fits easily into my gig case. So I can do running repairs if I need to.

I'd be very interested in seeing how you convert the Lee Oskar file into a reed scraper.

Jan 28, 2009 8:40 PM GMT
deshiblue Replied:

Try Richard Sleighs tool kit has a great reed scrapper in it

Jan 29, 2009 6:08 PM GMT
AirMojo (Ken H) Replied:

Frank must've made a draw scraper from one of the two chisels that come in the Lee Oskar tool kit (that's what came with mine that I bought several years ago... don't remember it having a file).

I've been using the sanding wands that come with different grits... these work real well. Available at Micro-Mark online and hobby shops. See if this link works here:,7760.html

Micro-Mark also has lots of tools for small jobs... screwdriver, jeweler's files, etc.

Bill Romel sells a variety of harp tools, including a reed-removal tool at:

Automotive feeler gauges come in real handy to make reed-wrenches, reed supports for tuning.

Then there's tools for embossing...

Jan 29, 2009 6:14 PM GMT
AirMojo (Ken H) Replied:

By the way, I would not hesitate at all to get Richard Sleigh's tool kit... I've been thinking about getting one even with all the tools that I've accumulated over the years. I like tools !!

Jan 30, 2009 9:23 PM GMT
Dan Ridgeway Replied:


These are all nice suggestions, but I'm guessing you're poor like me (unless your parents are footing the bill). Here's some cheap alternatives that I am currently using:

1.) Small set of pliers (mine are on a swiss army knife) that give enough grip to swivel the reeds out of the way so you can emboss.
2.) 4mm socket for embossing. Use the small end; it fits pretty nicely in the slot and I've found does a decent embossing job. (Just steal this from your Dad, he won't miss it).
3.) Exacto knife set or something equivalent. This is good for embossing small areas that you can't get with the socket i.e. up by the rivet end. It's also good for plinking and removing burrs.

All that should cost under $50. The special toolkit is definitely a good investment, but this will get the job done. I'd also suggest a magnifying glass and a good light source too. Happy modding!

Feb 01, 2009 6:43 AM GMT
Elk River Replied:

The best round embosser I ever used was a German half-mark coin. It was perfect.

Feb 01, 2009 1:56 PM GMT
Oldwailer Replied:

Just an additional note on Richard Sleigh's tools--they are much more than a set of good tools--you also get the instructions on how to use them. I thought that was worth the price of admission right there. . .

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