Worthing's world class musical instruments

PUBLISHED: 00:16 09 January 2011 | UPDATED: 18:22 20 February 2013

Worthing's world class musical instruments

Worthing's world class musical instruments

Howarth of London is internationally known for making the finest oboes, oboes d'amore, English horns and clarinets. What is less well-known is the fact that some of these world-class instruments are made in Worthing.

Jeremy Walsworth, Director
Jeremy Walsworth is one of two company directors at Howarth of London Ltd. Nigel Clark runs the retail part of the business in London and I run the manufacturing from workshops in Worthing, explains Jeremy. The company was founded in 1948 as a small company, where production was slow and hampered by the aftermath of the Second World War when materials were scarce. In 2010 we aim to make just under 900 instruments. We literally take billets of wood and sheets of metal and make them into oboes.
Like many of the staff, Jeremy has worked at Howarth for a long time, I started work at Howarth in 1981 as a key maker. At college I realised I wasnt going to make it as a player, plus I was always more interested in the mechanics of instruments and working with my hands, so that was the direction I went. Its interesting that people think we are all oboe players but actually its a different skill, making musical instruments is more an engineering skill. We all share a common interest and the love of music here but in terms of oboe players there are only two in the workshop.

Richard Dadson, wood turner and supervisor
Richard Dadson is a wood turner and supervisor for the wood department at Howarth. Ive been here 20 years, there are people who have been here much longer than me, and the turnover of staff is small, which is a good sign, explains Richard. I like working with my hands and with a natural product like wood; we make the finest quality musical instrument for beginners in schools and for professional musicians in orchestras around the world. Im proud that its made here in Worthing, England.

Graham Woollven, engineer
Graham Woollven is an engineer. My main job is to machine key parts. For all the different models of instruments there are about 350 different patterns. In the course of a year I will machine over 35,000 parts, explains Graham. Ive been here five years and for someone at retirement age with my experience; its a very good job. I work part time, just three days a week but I love it. Im very happy to sit here and do this, I dont play the oboe myself Im just an engineer.
Eva Ries, key maker
Eva Ries has been with the company since January 2006.
I am a key maker; I make and assemble the mechanics of the oboe, soldering, filing and other fine mechanical work. I also carry out development work with professional players, as we are continually improving and refining the instruments we make. I love the technical side of my job, the skill and craftsmanship. I started playing the oboe when I was 14.
I did a three year apprenticeship in woodwind making and repairing in Germany and in my final year I was able to make my own instrument. I enjoy making music and play the oboe in the Worthing Philharmonic orchestra.

Mike Dadson, finisher
Mike Dadson is a finisher and has been with the company 20 years.
After all the key work has been made and silver-plated, its my job to refit the instrument and make sure that the mechanics of the instrument work perfectly. I glue all the corks on and fit and adjust the pads and springs.
I will make small adjustments to all 30 regulation screws on the instrument and make sure everything is working together. I then prepare the instrument to playing condition.
I do blow them, but I dont play them! I love my job because its craftsmanship in its traditional form and a long way from sitting in front of a computer screen!

Howarth notes

The life of a Howarth instrument begins 200 years before any craftsman begins working on it. This is the time it takes for an African blackwood tree to mature to a harvestable size. The wood grows in East Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique and is supplied to Howarth in squared billets.

The working time is only about ten hours, but Howarth take five years, with about a year in between each machining process. This allows the wood to mature properly.

In all, six craftsmen will have spent upwards of 80 hours working with over 250 components to make what is accepted to be one of the finest oboes in the world.

The junior instrument is the simplest, cheapest and the most popular model, costing 780. The professional instruments are 6000.

Many Disney films feature Howarth oboes as well as Star Wars, some of the Harry Potter films, Lord of the Rings, The Reader, Wallace and Gromit and the soon to be released Gullivers Travels.

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