English (United Kingdom)

The right profession!


I felt at home - at the right profession. Making recorders became a passion of mine.

Of course, I was eager to gather more experience than what was possible in the " recorder factory".

Quickly I recognized that the essential thing of a good recorder is the sound - and that is basically determined by the most complex part of the instrument, the headjoint (of course - the rest of the instrument matters just as much - I came to understand that later). I mainly dealt with quite simple instruments, soprano recorders for beginners. And even there was quite a lot of work to be done. A windway was planed on the inside, a labium was carved on the outside - all by machine. Finally, the (also rough-milled) block was fitted - the first sounds were possible and then had to be improved by manual work. This was my day-to-day task.

And of course I was curious: How to do all this by hand?

So off I went shopping in tool stores, bought chisels, files and carving knives (I still have some of these tools on my desk today). After work I sat down at the kitchen table and attempted to carve my first labium. I was able to experiment to see what would happen if I made it a little thicker or thinner, opened it wider or tightened it.

If something missed, if the knife slipped - as long as it didn't hit a finger, it didn't matter - it was all stuff from the bin bag.

Until I dared to cut a windway or carve a block by myself - that took several more years. It also required a number of additional tools that weren't available in a store. A friend who was a professional tool maker helped me to produce such tools. I still have one or two pieces from that period in my tool drawers.

Turning experiments

One essential aspect of all the recorders I knew about was that they were round.

Making wood round - that is the wood turner's profession.

Of course, in "my" company woodturning was also done - but with automated machines, guided by templates and equipped with blades to cut ornaments precisely - the common technique in the seventies of the last century.

In the corner of the turnery was also a manual lathe. The apprentices (today, of course, "trainees") were also taught to turn by hand. How delighted I was to be allowed to work at the lathe once a week (I wasn't an apprentice yet)!

First of all, I had to round a squared piece of wood - wow, the shavings were flying! And when I took off my sweater in the evening, I knew why I was itching there and there. And how exciting it was to have a finer tool in my hand to try my hand at the first "real" shapes.

Over and over again: a lovely curve in a shape, and then a strong "ratch" - for the moment, that was it. New try, more luck.

After a while, many a piece of wood looked like a recorder part to me. Soon I had worked out how to carve a beautiful headpiece or footjoint from the wood according to a drawing. Interestingly, it proved more difficult to turn something that looked much easier: a straight bpdy joint. It had to be really even without any waves.

Yes - I produced plenty of firewood during my attempts at the lathe. I was also using it for heating at that time.

Of course I was keen to do the same at home - my aim was to have a workshop with a stove, tea and blackbird singing!

I already had a power drill, so I had to get a wood-turning accessory from the tool store. A small basement room in my very first house share became my workshop. A workbench with the turning equipment and power drill mounted on it. It spun and made a lot of noise. Anyhow I got the wood round with it. Then, when I managed to buy a small old woodturning lathe at a village in the Rhoen mountains (a traditional woodturning region), I was happier. I spent a lot of time in this basement room, more in summer than in winter - there was no heating.