30 October 2011

Maldon Folk Festival - The Instrument Maker's Exhibition.

Ah the un-sung heroes of the Folk Festival. The first link in the chain. Instrument makers.
And like good crafts-people everywhere, they have plenty of interesting stuff to share, and are usually up for a chat.

There were some beautiful instruments, and some really quirky stuff as well. My favourite stand was that of Bill Crocker's. Sitting amongst a table full of fiddles, bows, dulcimers etc, he muttered modestly, "oh I'm not really an instrument maker, I just make things for fun." 

This one is a fiddle. What type? Apparently it is an experimental fiddle. (My favourite type). It has the standard four strings, as well as four sympathetic strings on either side.

And what instrument collection is complete without a hurdy-gurdy?
 Bill had some tools you don't find in every bloke's shed.

A Dulcimer Clamp.

A Plate Thickness Tester. Yep, he invented this one. 
Another favourite stand was this one. Cigar Box Guitars!
A demo from the maker.
These are guitars made from cigar boxes. The work of Julian Whittaker. They were invented in the cotton fields of the Delta Region. Apparently the kids would hear the blues being played and make their own instruments. There were plenty of old cigar boxes lying about, so that's what they used. As the players of these fine gadgets moved on to Chicago, and perfected their craft, they became known as DeVille. (Meaning of the city).
As there are not so many empty cigar cases lying about these days, Julian makes his own. On display were some faithful replicas of the originals. And some with deviations and developments, where he has played around with the shape to produce different sounds. The final touches are some fabulous retro stickers from the cigar boxes of the time. Loads of fun.
Julian also makes some mighty fine guitars.
While I was researching the finer points of hurdy-gurdy construction, and tales from the cotton fields, Bruce was having some adventures too. He found a fret-less banjo. Made by Ray Black, you've gotta love his work. I couldn't find a website, but he makes superb banjos and mandolins.
Fret-less banjo.
He didn't want to put this one down. It is an Octave Mandolin, apparently very similar to a Mandola. Kind of a bass mando, as I understand it. Definitely the missing link in Bruce's instrument collection.
Octave Mandolin.
Ray Black with some of his work.
Some other instrument stands. I can't remember this maker's name, but his work was also quite superb. (Must do some further research). He made the Octave Mando, you can see it on the far right.
We found Ted testing the wares at the same table.
Watching a craftsman at work always makes me smile. Apparently he had an order that he had to have finished.
Its a bit like taking your knitting to work.

Stumbling out of the hall, with heads full of musical possibilities, who should we run in to? Tom Walsh, one of the gurus of our own Bush Orchestra.

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