A look into a UK-based double bass maker’s atelier
One of my earliest memories is crawling under my father Tom’s workbench as he was making his second ever double bass. He was the London Symphony Orchestra’s principal double bassist at the time, and only became a professional bass maker in his late fifties. At the time, his workshop was just a spare room in his London home. It’s always been a huge advantage that he’s a virtuoso bassist because all our work is guided by playability, and we can tell exactly how each bass needs to be set up.
Since then, the workshop has moved to Birmingham, when he was with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and Henley-on-Thames. We’ve now been based at this workshop near Banbury for the past 20 years. We converted a series of farm buildings; when we arrived, this 400-year-old stone barn had no foundations or roof. It now has a row of windows on one side, which allow in plenty of natural light and the 50 sq m building looks beautiful from the outside. Normally we have eight people working here: me and Tom, two specialist restorers, two focused on new making and two in the office. We’ve tried having graduate violin luthiers in the workshop, but double bass making is so specialised compared to violin-family instruments that we’ve always ended up training them ourselves…
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