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:
- The 'Silbermann' clavichord is close to completion. Photos will appear on this web-site in due course.
- The restoration of the large Swedish clavichord is complete. Now I need to write the Report! If the owner consents, I shall put the complete Report on this web-site in the 'Research documents' section.
- The string-winding equipment has been upgraded, so that it is now quicker and more reliable. As a service, I offer over-wound strings to other makers: click here for details.
- The 'Early Spanish' clavichord is well advanced: more about this one in a future bulletin.
- I have delivered a paper entitled 'Some Aspects of Clavichord Design and Set-up' to the British Clavichord Society at their recent Edinburgh weekend. Once this has appeared in print, it will appear on the web-site.
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