Are you looking for a customized harmonica? Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to hold and play a personalized harp; made entirely out of wood? If you get fascinated by people who make handmade customized musical instruments, you have come to the right place. In this article, I'll present to you the production procedure for wooden harmonicas named as Jibaten, and to make things even more interesting, the story has been narrated by a Spanish carpenter himself named Iban Ruiz de larrinaga.

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"… And it happened such that I successfully structured the first wooden harmonica. Do you want to know how? Here's the whole story: There is an association in Spain, named as 'Baztango Blues Elkartea' which organized its first festival in 2015 with the hope that many people would participate in it. I took part in the event as an organizer. Three days before the event date, Larry Mendoza - my friend from Madrid and a harmonica player - came to see me. We were chatting and sipping beers amid laughter when Larry asked me, "Why don't you make a wooden harmonica?" He knew that I have been a carpenter my whole life let alone the fact that my father was also a carpenter, and wood has not only been my livelihood always but my passion actually and a sparkle of my life indeed. As a good Navarre's inhabitant, I answered him; "I think you could get your wooden harmonica…."

Custom wood harmonica
Jibaten custom harp

Thereafter, I manufactured the first wooden harmonica in a short period of time that I could spare for it and handed it over to Larry on the eve of festival. Of course, Larry was astonished but glad at the same time and I can dare say that it didn't come out bad at all, although it was my first attempt. However, the whole story ended there and was never discussed again.

The festival didn't turn out to be a success and we lost quite a lot of money, but within a few months, about forty musicians joined the Blues society. They arranged another reunion in Madrid to compensate us for the expenses we had suffered in the first event organized earlier. It was a noble gesture and we were grateful to them for that. We started thinking about doing something exciting and yet innovative for the Madrid Festival. So, I thought about the wooden harmonica and decided to prepare five instruments that can be utilized in a lucky draw ceremony during the event. As a gesture of gratitude, the draw was decided to be held among the musicians only, who showed up in the festival. I made harmonicas and stuffed them in my luggage on my way to Madrid, located approx. 500 km from where I lived.

Wooden personalised harmonica comb
Personalised harmonica made with wood

At the festival, almost ten harmonica players tried my products. They were delighted to hold handmade harmonicas in their hands and were amazed by the way they sounded. I could see them rejoice at the magnificent qualities of the instruments that I had designed. At that moment, I made up my mind to design blues harps continually. All of the musicians gathered there at that time encouraged me to manufacture more like them, as the end result was quite good.

From time to time, I kept trying to refine my technique and and improve quality of my products. In the years to come, we encountered concerts - at least twice in a month - in our association. Amid that time period, harp players would usually stay at my house to save some of their expenses. On those occasions, they would play my harmonicas and would give me suggestions on how to improve them. It proved to be a beneficial experience for me as it was like having many experienced consultants around, who would help me strive to achieve the quality level for my handmade instruments which I have acquired now.

Jibaten - Custom harmonicas collection

l'm currently working with many different kinds of fine wood which I have adapted to shape like the harmonica models such as Hohner Marine Band Deluxe, Seydel 1847 or Hohner Cromatica 64.

Nowadays I receive invitations to many of the festivals which are organized in different cities within the country; where I find more endorsements for my wooden harps and also where I get the chance to listen to the opinions from best harmonica enthusiasts. I have continued to make these little instruments with passion and curiosity since that particular night, when Larry had asked me if I could design a hand crafted blues harp…." 

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