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Training bursary for musical instrument making

Golsoncott FoundationDeadline: 5pm on Friday 23 February 2024

This training bursary is targeted at trainees and prospective musical instrument making trainees who are experiencing financial hardship. It is sponsored by the Golsoncott Foundation and Jennifer Chen and is one of a suite of awards and bursaries offered by Heritage Crafts to support and celebrate heritage craftspeople.

Apply for up to £4,000 to start training in a musical instrument making craft or to further develop your skills.


Musical instrument makingMany people are dissuaded from training in musical instrument making because of the cost, and therefore the make-up of the sector is not truly representative of the mix of backgrounds that make up the UK as a whole. This bursary has been set up to help cover or subsidise the cost of training for someone who would otherwise be prevented from pursuing this career path as a result of the cost.

You could be just starting out on your journey in musical instrument making or at the point where you want to turn a hobby into a career, or you could already be a maker who is looking to further refine your skills.

Musical instrument crafts can include, but are not limited to, the making of complete instruments (such as bagpipes, guitars, steel pans and so on ), or to the specific skills that go into making an instrument (such as strings, valves, keys and so on).

If you are new to a craft and are struggling to find the right training for you, after your own research, please get in touch and we may be able to support. Successful applicants will be supported by the Heritage Crafts team to develop an action plan. We will work with you to monitor progress and support you to achieve your aims.


What can this grant be used for?

There are a number of routes to learning a craft skill. Applicants can apply for a grant for any amount up to £4,000 which can cover or contribute towards:

  • the costs of training with a craftsperson;
  • the costs of attending a specialist training course;
  • the costs of attending an accredited training course;
  • undertaking a self-directed programme of training with one or more craftspeople;
  • the cost of specialist tools or materials, books or study materials or low cost travel (no more than 25% of total budget).

The bursary cannot be used for general living expenses, research, promotional activities or anything else. Successful applicants will be supported by the Heritage Crafts team. We will work with to you monitor progress and support you to achieve your aims.


How to apply

Please apply by filling out the form below. We will also accept a video application of no more than 15 minutes in length in which you address all of the questions in the form below. You can access a list of questions here.

The deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 23 February 2024. If you have any questions or need assistance with the application process, please email Tess Osman at

Assessment, shortlisting and final selection will be carried out by the Heritage Crafts judging team, and interviews will be carried out by Zoom. If you are new to a craft and you would like assistance with finding a trainer, please get in touch and we will do what we can to help.

Making woodwind instruments

Making woodwind instruments

Cambridge Woodwind Makers is a not-for-profit organisation providing a platform from which to preserve and teach the skills associated with woodwind instrument making and repair… skills that, according to the Red List of Endangered Crafts, are endangered.

“After many conversations with my colleagues around the world, we have come to an unfortunate conclusion. We are none of us (recorder makers certainly) getting any younger. We also look around and see the same faces at exhibitions and shows that we saw twenty years ago. Great for professional solidarity, but worrying in other respects.”

Tim Cranmore, recorder making tutor at Cambridge Woodwind Makers

Daniel Bangham, classical clarinet maker and founder of Wood, Wind & Reed music shop in Cambridge was one such colleague and was feeling his own ‘old age’ approaching. This led to the founding of Cambridge Woodwind Makers, formally established in October 2011. With his own experience of making, lecturing in instrument repair, business experience and an extensive network of interesting people he was well placed to do something about the pending situation.

Cambridge Woodwind Makers intends to share skills and preserve them through encouraging active participation by anyone with an interest. Its courses range from one day to two weeks. You can make a classical clarinet, a baroque oboe, a long trumpet, a recorder, a cornetto and now, a flute. Day courses are on offer in repairing instruments, the miniute of clarinet barrels, and making oboe reeds. it has also started professional development courses for repairers in the niche skills of key making and will add specific tool making courses too.

There are people interested in these skills, locally and internationally… some just as a once-off treat, some musicians who recognise the extra joy that can come from making their own instrument to play to their own tune, and, importantly, individuals genuinely interested in taking up the baton and going professional. All are valid contributions to the organisation’s vision.

Cambridge Woodwind Makers also now has an associated organisation: Cambridge Art Makers. Although not as focused on endangered crafts, if anyone is interested in teaching workshops at their studio or workshop in Linton, south east of Cambridge, please email

Woodwind instrument making

The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts


Woodwind instrument making


The making of woodwind instruments including the clarinet, saxophone, oboe, bassoon, cor anglais, wooden flutes and recorders (see separate entry for flute making(concert)).


Status Endangered
Historic area of significance Edgware, London
Area currently practised Small workshops around the country and Worthing.
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) 21-50 (reed instruments)

11-20 wooden flute and recorder makers

Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
1-5 (across the range of instruments)
Current no. of trainees 1-5 (across the range of instruments)
Current total no. serious amateur makers
1-5 (across the range of instruments)
Current total no. of leisure makers



Until 2003 Boosey & Hawkes was a major manufacturer of brass, string and woodwind musical instruments.



There are several techniques required to make woodwind instruments. Some are common to all the instruments and others are instrument specific.

Keymaking is common to all. It requires using a number of different techniques to create a key. It also requires a lot of experience and skill to design and fit the keys to be functional and aesthetical pleasing.

Traditional techniques require forging, filing and silver soldering skills. In recent years casting has become good enough to create acceptable keys, but they still require traditional key making skills and understanding to design and make the master patterns and to finish and fit the cast keys.

The website of Howarth of London gives a good description of how an oboe is made: the wood is selected, cut into billets and seasoned; the billets are turned; the body is made on a CNC mill; the keys are made, fitted and plated; the instrument is assembled and padded and then tested.


Local forms

The same musical instruments made in different countries can sound very different from each other.




Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Training issues: The School of Musical Instrument Crafts at Newark is a good course run by skilled people but doesn’t provide the necessary skillset to become a maker and existing makers feel that students could do with more work experience as part of the course to make them more appealing. It is a useful course to begin with but it is impossible to learn everything in three years and gain the depth of understanding required to earn a living from the craft – the best anyone can hope for when leaving college is to set up a repair shop. Existing makers would prefer apprenticeships/benchside training to college training. Dan Parker of Canadian Institute of Musical Instrument Technology (CIOMIT) has been suggested as a positive model – originally ran a very busy repair shop, had a great interest in training staff so became a training centre with a repair shop on the side and train people to make and repair as part of his business. Suggested that college training should be linked to industry so that students are employable and the existing business could expand. A few makers do take people on as apprentices. Daniel Bangham established the Cambridge Woodwind makers to encourage people to enter the trade by having a go and then going on to Newark if they like it.
  • Recruitment issues: Recruiting staff is the biggest issue – although there is plenty of interest, it is nearly impossible to find people with the necessary skills. Ideal trainees are in their late twenties, and have seen a bit of the world and have some work experience – the danger if they start too young and are not completely dedicated is that they are always looking for other things. Howarth of London take on staff from all over the world but they tend to leave after a few years making it hard to sustain a workforce in the UK.
  • Ageing workforce: The number of makers is getting smaller and smaller and the workforce is getting older and older.
  • Business issues: In order to take over an existing business (such as one belonging to someone looking to retire) or to start up on your own, you need capital, business skills, and vision and be prepared to endure some financially tough years. Never going to earn millions – need to be dedicated.
  • Market issues: There is a huge trade in importing instruments and rebadging them. All companies, from the biggest to the smallest, do this – especially on the student ranges. Most people choose ‘built in England’ rather than ‘made in England’, although it can be hard to tell the difference.
  • Market issues: People like to buy cheap things – affects every industry and is difficult for any high-end retailer, and the quality of products from the Far East is rapidly improving. But usually there is an area of business that doesn’t succumb – a case of getting the balance of pricing right. Many makers have a student line imported from abroad and sold at a cheap price, and then a professional/high-end line made in the UK and sold for a high price.
  • Mechanisation: Reed instrument making is no longer a ‘craft’ – instead it is more like engineering with a lot of technical equipment.
  • Loss of skills: A lot of the specialist skills are disappearing, and there soon won’t be anywhere to get advice from until it reaches a point when the specialists will come back.
  • Lack of support: European trade shows can cost as much as €20,000 – French and German companies might get government support to cover their attendance, but it is very difficult to get any support in the UK.


Support organisations

Craftspeople currently known

Reed instrument makers:

  • Peter Worrell – embarking on very niche clarinet market, making mechanisms for one-handed clarinets/recorders.
  • Guy Cowley – historical clarinets
  • Daniel Bangham – historic instruments
  • Jonathan Swain – historic instruments
  • Mathew Dart – Baroque and classical bassoon maker.
  • Tony Millyard


Wooden flute and recorder makers

  • Chris Raven
  • George Ormiston – Ormiston Flutes have been in existence for 45 years, having started in 1978, making wooden headjoints for Boehm flutes and also simple system 8 keyed wooden flutes based mainly on a flute made by John Mitchel Rose from Edinburgh, 1793 – 1866.
  • Sean Gray – trained with George Ormiston
  • Damian Thompson
  • Paul Windridge
  • Chris Wilkes
  • Phil Bleazy
  • Dominic Allan
  • Carl Bell
  • Derek Curtis
  • Tony Millyard and Sophie Matthews
  • Fred Rose

Businesses, employing two or more makers (in the UK, woodwind instrument makers tend to specialise in particular instruments):

  • Howarth of London (11-20 skilled craftspeople, 1-5 trainees) – makers of double reed instruments (oboes, bassoons and cor anglais). Howarths used to make clarinets but gave up about 12 years ago, although they still have all the jigs and would like to set it up again as a course. They have 35 people in the workshop, which includes an engineering department, wood department, key department and finishing department, and 25 people working in the shop. Whereas other companies buy in screws, keys etc, Howarth make all the parts and supply screws to other individual makers etc. They have taken people on from colleges but the college training is very broad and not very useful – but at least it gives an indication of interest. They have recently taken on two apprentices.
  • Peter Eaton – Production of Eaton clarinets has now ended. They will be making four Eaton bassett clarinets over the next year or so and will continue with production of clarinet mouthpieces and servicing their own instruments.
  • Hanson Music – makers of clarinets, saxophones and guitar components. Hansons used to also make metal flutes, but haven’t made one for eight years. They buy in key sets and also do repairing. Hanson has three full time makers, including one apprentice – all can repair saxophones, clarinets and trumpets; one specialises in saxophones, one in brass instruments and one in clarinets. They take on an intern from France/Germany every year for six months.
  • Pillinger London – makers of clarinet and saxophone mouthpieces.



Other information

Cambridge Woodwind Makers in Linton, Cambridge, are hoping to expand their training opportunities. Attendees have to self fund to go on courses.



Flute making (concert)

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts


Flute making (concert)


The making of as transverse flutes, blown across an embouchure hole and held sideways to the player, as distinct from the recorder or organ flute pipe. This listing includes:

  • Concert flutes based on the Boehm system – these are usually made with a metal body, but can include wooden bodies and/or headjoints


Status Critically endangered
Historic area of significance Europe
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK C19th
Current no. of professionals (main income) 3-4 makers of concert flute bodies;

Around 5-6 makers of concert flute head joints

Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees 1-5 part time students being taught by Robert Bigio. It is estimated that 1 of these will go on to sell an occasional flute
Current total no. serious amateur makers
None known
Current total no. of leisure makers



Since World War II, flute and other wind instrument making has largely ceased in the UK. Until 2003 Boosey & Hawkes was a major manufacturer of brass, string and woodwind musical instruments. The most famous names in flute making today are American or Japanese. There are many businesses offering the repair of instruments, although none concentrate on flutes alone.

A flute is divided into three parts: the head joint – an important part of the instrument which carries the lip plate and embouchure hole where the sound is initiated; the middle section; and the foot joint. The latter two comprise the ‘body’ of the flute and have the most effect on timbre, tuning, resonance and playablility. Most flute makers around the world, both factories and hand makers, offer a complete instrument. However, there are also many independent head joint makers working under their own business names and supplying to shops – the head joint requires far less equipment to make than the rest of the flute. A lot of musicians will discard the original head joint and replace it with a handmade one. In the UK, there are several head joint makers and one body maker, plus perhaps three makers who make the whole instrument, although none of them work full time at it. In total, there are probably fewer than ten people making complete flutes or parts of flutes.

Modern makers build either modern Boehm concert flutes usually made of metal (Wessel, Allen) but sometimes wood (Bigio, Roberts), or Baroque or Simple System flutes requiring less or very little keywork (Raven).



  • Metal flutes: silversmithing (including other precious metals such as gold and platinum).
  • Key making: depending on the materials, forging, casting, waterjet cutting, machine shop work of various kinds, precision hand work using specialist, often homemade tools, silver soldering.
  • Case making: fine cabinetmaking skills


Local forms

In order to remain competitive on the world stage many ‘craft’ makers such as Allen, Wessel and others have chosen unconventional materials and processes.



  • Flute padding – the art of making each key 100 per cent airtight for the flute to produce its maximum power and resonance. This is a skill that can greatly improve the performance of factory made instruments and is vital to the success and stability of any flute.
  • Case making – every flute needs proper protection. Some modern makers buy in cases from elsewhere, others such as Wessel make their own mainly from wood.
  • Tool making – the ability to make or adapt hand tools, jigs and fixtures as required.


Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Training issues: There are no flute making schools in the UK. The School of Musical Instrument Crafts at Newark offers a useful course to begin with but it is impossible to learn everything in three years and gain the depth of understanding required to earn a living from the craft. Daniel Bangham established the Cambridge Woodwind makers to encourage people to enter the trade by having a go and then going on to Newark if they like it – so far there have been three hopefuls in the past 3-4 years.
  • Ageing workforce: Makers are retiring or dying and not being replaced. While the craft is currently classified as ‘endangered’ because there are still people who can do the work, in the next ten years or so it will become ‘critically endangered’ as there will be nobody to pass the knowledge on.
  • Recruitment issues: Young people are not hearing about musical instrument making as a career option. It tends to be mid-life people rather than younger people who are interested in taking up the craft. Also difficult to find people with the necessary skills to take on and train.
  • Market issues: To compete on the world market a handmade instrument has to be extremely good in every respect. If it is, then a high price can be put on it – but it usually takes many years to get to that point, during which the maker may suffer a very low income.
  • Market issues: It is very difficult to make a living from flute making – there is no money to be made unless you can offer something almost revolutionary that the flute world promptly falls in love with. While developing their skills, a maker will suffer a very low income.
  • Market issues: Cannot keep such things alive artificially by giving them grants – ultimately it is the market that will determine whether such manual skills have a place in the modern world. Start-up grants are probably very attractive if you can get one but what then…?
  • Market issues: Professional players want an instrument that works for them – they don’t mind whether it is mass produced or handmade, as long as it works well.
  • Market issues: The digital revolution within the manufacturing world has brought costs sharply down on every front. Coupled with low labour costs in the Far East, more or less anything can be made quickly and efficiently and delivered to the customer within days. However, small makers are able to offer a certain amount of bespoke design – it really costs no more to put in some minor changes whereas a factory would avoid deviation from its standard designs.
  • Manufacturing issues: Flute making has traditionally not been a ‘craft’ activity carried out by a single artisan. Until quite recently instruments were made in workshops large enough to allow a division of labour, often accompanied by a degree of sub-contracting. It is a relatively modern idea that a lone craftsperson would make an instrument from start to finish and market it himself or herself. It does happen, but difficult to make it efficient, and any better-organised workshop can probably do a better job, faster and cheaper.
  • Skills dilution: Making flutes is not very profitable, but repairing is doing well with good money. This means that there will be people with the skills to repair instruments but the skills to make instruments will disappear.
  • Loss of skills: Too much machinery dispels some of the handskill. However it is often forgotten that nothing can be made without deep understanding of both materials and methods. The computer takes you so far but the designer must know what he is doing.
  • Loss of skills: People no longer have the skills to make keys.


Support organisations


Craftspeople currently known

Concert flute body and head joint makers:

  • Stephen Wessel– Stephen has now retired but the Wessel brand will continue under the new ownership of Just Flutes with makers trained by Stephen Wessel. Stephen continues to do repair and servicing work.
  • Robert Bigio
  • William Simmons
  • Michael Allen –  mainly makes head joints, but also makes a treble flute body in the key of G. (this may have been a one-off)
  • Peter Worrell  makes very specialist woodwind instruments with one-handed mechanisms. Maker of Marching Flutes for bands in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Teaches courses for One Keyed Flutemaking and Metal Headjoint making at Cambridge Woodwind Makers. Maker of Simple system modern flutes and Eb clarinets.

Concert flute head joint only makers:


Other information




In summary, there is no definitive, published information on how to make a flute. The British Flute Society’s journal ‘PAN’ has published short articles in the past written by makers.