WHAT IS NOW my workshop used to be three run-down, damp sheds made of single breeze blocks that came with a 17th-century thatched cottage I bought in May 2009. I had the sheds completely rebuilt, and now I have a brilliant, warm and well-lit space to work in.
The three work benches look out on to the garden, my vegetable patch and the apple tree, where the apples in the picture come from. The bench in the foreground is where I do most of my work and the instrument on top of it is my viola no.95. I number every instrument I make and I have separate sequences for violins, violas and cellos. I’ve just fitted the neck of the viola and below the tools on the left, you can see pictures of a Gasparo scroll I referred to when making it. On the left you can also see a violin I’m working on, a late ‘del Gesù’ model. The sides and the back are complete and now I’m working on the front and scroll.
At the very end of the workshop is my wood store. The wood at the back on the left is for violins and violas, and the cello wood is underneath the instruments hanging up. There are also some big pieces of cello wood behind the cello cases which I will use to make a Guarneri cello this winter. I keep some wood out by my main desk if I’m thinking of using it – like the piece on the shelf on the left, next to my templates, which is going to be a violin. Keeping the wood out means I can see it, feel it and think about it, so when I start using it I know exactly what to do with it.
The instruments hanging up are violins and violas I’ve made, and some are the small violas I make for younger players. Hanging up next to them is a framed picture of a Maggini copy violin I made a few years back.
On the left is my tool rack where you can see my favourite tools, my Japanese gouges – they’re the ones with the silver iron rings on top. They’re built like Samurai swords and have a layer of very hard steel on the front and softer steel on the back. They keep an edge really well and are easy to sharpen. Below them are batons I’ve made for a well-known conductor and to the right of my tools and above my copy of The Strad calendar is a framed letter from the violist William Primrose. I feel really lucky to have it – I showed him one of my violas many years ago and he gave me a testimonial.
In the middle of the picture you can see my stool. I made it about 25 years ago as a joke. I wanted to make something crude and rough – a contrast to the detailed work I usually did. I made it to fi t me and it’s surprisingly comfortable. It’s lasted really well, although I’ve had to tighten the screws occasionally.
INTERVIEW BY VICKY HANCOCK STRAD MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2010