Robin Page - guitars
Turning into the yard in front of Robin Page's workshop, I'm confronted by two large shepherd's huts. They are half-built, up on blocks and without wheels, waiting their turn in the long line of projects that Robin is working on.
Inside the workshop is a crazy handmade stove made from old gas cylinders and bits of pipework, constructed to demonstrate some complicated theory on heat transfer and efficient burning. 'Is this your idea?' I ask. "I got it from the Net,' says Robin, 'and adapted it.' Robin is a bit of an inventor, described in Acoustic Guitar magazine as a 'cabinetmaker-engineer', but in reality a skilled musical instrument maker. On the walls and ceiling of the workshop are old guitars, sliced up on the bandsaw and reassembled as decorative sculptures. There is clutter piled up everywhere. 'I'm just trying to get rid of stuff,' says Robin clearing one of the many workbenches and in the process, cluttering somewhere else. Currently he's making a fitted kitchen for a local customer.
'So is it not viable to make a full-time living as a guitar maker?' I ask. 'I think It is,' he replies, 'it's just that I'm not - well - if you started from scratch and set up as one - fine, but what happened to me is that I make a guitar now and then, and then someone comes in and wants some furniture so I'll do that.' Robin's original training (at Newark upon Trent School of Music) was as a musical instrument maker. 'At the end of the course,' he says, 'I was offered various jobs in the backs of small music shops, repairing violins for school-kids. I just didn't fancy it!'
Instead, Robin set up a large and well-equipped workshop in the Warwickshire countryside, where he makes furniture, guitars, and anything else that takes his fancy. His inventiveness sometimes spills over into Heath Robinson-style solutions. Dissatisfied with conventional pick-ups for his electric guitars, Robin winds his own. 'Mass-produced pick-ups have no top end,' he tells me, and goes on to explain something called 'scatter winding'. His modified sewing machine for winding pick-ups is included in this exhibition.
Robin's latest project is a collaboration with his friend Johnny Slide. Johnny was given a set of moulds by the widow of National Steel guitar enthusiast, the late Alan Timmings. Robin had already been experimenting with carbon fibre, and so was asked by Johnny to cast the bodies for a new range of guitars. With the addition of traditional resonators (a sort of mechanical loudspeaker used in National guitars) bought in from a metal-spinner, the result is a stunningly beautiful lightweight guitar with a unique sound.
Click below to hear Johnny playing one of these guitars :