My workshop is the Old School in the rural Northumbrian village of Whitley Chapel. It's made up of two handwork shops and a machine area, with space to stack and season the different woods. It's cosy and compact without being cramped, and has large windows with pleasant views over green fields.The second member of the team is David Wilson, who finishes all my instruments (as well as those of most good builders in the North of England). He has his own workshop in Haltwhistle, a small town nearby, and also builds (and plays) electric basses.My interest in acoustic instruments began in the British folk clubs of the 1960s. In those days of unamplified venues we were all searching for instruments with good power and tone; at that time there weren't many around. I experimented with the instruments I had and soon found that with a little thought and experimentation I could make a reasonable instrument sound considerably worse; a hard way to learn, especially when the modifications were non-reversible.I started to sort the problems out when I built my first cittern in 1973. It was a cross between a Portuguese guittarra I'd found many years before and my old Martin C1 round-hole arch-top. It had a guitarra sized body with a longer neck and a carved arch-top as on the Martin. I wanted an instrument I could play tunes on that wasn't a tenor banjo that could also accompany songs without sounding like a guitar, and when I took it out, a lot of other musicians realised they also wanted one.This instrument didn't have a name, and it was only when glancing through a book of medieval instruments that I found there already existed a whole family of similar instruments that had virtually died out several hundred years ago; they were called citterns. My new instrument became the first modern cittern.So, almost by accident, I became an instrument builder. Mandolins, bouzoukis, arch-top and flat-top guitars all followed on later. Along with an understanding of where sound and volume come from; finding out what makes things worse is the first step on the road to finding out what makes them better.
Martin Simpson, Andy Irvine, Ged Foley, Robin Bullock, Al Petteway
Preowned Models Only