Workshop News: September 2002

I have taken on a part-time trainee for one or two days a week during the University vacation, so now we have, temporarily, a three-man shop. This is close to the situation that applied in instrument-making workshops in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the Ruckers workshop in Antwerp, for example, there would have been a master, an apprentice, a journeyman, and a decorator.

This collegiate atmosphere is very pleasing, and workdays on the whole are cheerful and bustling. However, that's not the real reason for my undertaking the experiment. It bothers me that there is really no mechanism in the harpsichord and clavichord making trade, as it is currently conducted, for experience and knowledge to be accumulated. Each newcomer has to learn everything from scratch; if he/she is lucky, there will be some kind of college course, following which they often find themselves obliged to set up in business, long before they are really ready, possibly with the aid of a Crafts Council grant but without the practical wisdom acquired traditionally through an apprenticeship.

The consequence of this system is that production is small and prices are higher than they really need to be. This is hindering a wider appreciation of the harpsichord and (particularly) of the clavichord, something that is dear to my heart. There must be a better way.

Nonetheless, as a result of all this activity in the workshop, I can report:

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