Traditional stringed and keyboard instruments – starting or finishing with Andy Butterworth

Musical instrument making

Ref: S5D11177

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1 place available

About this course

Musical instrument making – starting or continuing projects
An exciting opportunity to start making a new instrument in preparation to join our nine day course or to continue one you have already begun. If starting a new instrument or new to these courses, please contact us before booking. Instruments should be selected with advice from the tutor.

Course Description

This course is intended as supplementary to the nine-day Musical Instrument Making course. It aims to assist:

1. Those preparing to make a new instrument on the nine day course.

2. Those continuing or at the finishing stage of an instrument made on a previous nine day course at West Dean College.

Work can include the following aspects:

(1) Starting the hurdygurdy

Discussion of drawings, wood selection, construction techniques.

Using jigs and moulds.

Initial preparation of wood, eg. soundboard/back gluing and thicknessing, rib-thicknessing.

Making the peg block, making the wheel.

(2) Finishing the hurdygurdy

Skimming and preparing the wheel surface.

Cutting bridge and nut grooves.

Fitting and aligning strings.

Setting string/wheel pressure and applying cotton.

Making and fitting the trompette 'chien'.

Tangent fitting and adjusting.

General setting up and tuning.

(3) Making the clavicytherium keyboard

General discussion of clavicytherium, methods of construction, action, etc.

Planing and thicknessing keybed and keyblank.

Marking out and drilling for balance pins and keyguide pins.

Preparing balance rail and keyguide reinforcement, fitting and drilling.

Fitting balance pins and guide pins.

Cutting out individual keys.

Cutting mortices and guide slots in keys.

(4) Continuing construction of other instruments already started.

However, please note varnishing and polishing will not be covered.

Teaching is generally on a one-to-one basis catering for the student’s individual needs and dictated by ability, previous experience and knowledge. There will be group demonstrations where appropriate. As the course takes place in the main workshop, adjacent to the other courses in this series, you will also gain knowledge by interaction with fellow students and other tutors. Those starting certain instruments have information packs provided by the tutors. Health and safety is dealt with as an integral part of the course.

Please note: HUMIDITY LEVELS in the workshop are variable to dry; whilst the College has addressed this, some factors are beyond our control, therefore instruments are brought and left in the workshop at your own risk.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials

What students need to bring

  • As soon as you receive confirmation of your place, please confirm which instrument you wish to make without delay: email . Please also give details of your past experience in instrument making and woodworking. We will pass this information to the tutor who will contact you to discuss this and materials required.
  • You will need to bring the following:
  • Any tools you need to continue with basic construction (if in any doubt, please ask the tutor)
  • Appropriate workshop clothes and stout covered footwear (not sandals)
  • Additionally, for fitting up the hurdygurdy:
  • Violin maker's knife, or scalpel plus blades
  • ¾" or 1" bladed chisel (sharp!)
  • Small flat-bladed screwdriver to fit tangent screws
  • Smallest round needle file you can get
  • Please ensure you clearly mark your name on all tools you bring with you.
  • For starting work on other instruments, or for general discussion, tools required, etc., please contact the tutor.

Available to buy

  • Available from tutor:
  • If you are making a new instrument, a basic charge for materials, timber and drawings if supplied, should be paid to the tutor at the start of the course.


Andy Butterworth

Andy has been attending the West Dean Musical Instrument Making Course for over 35 years, firstly as a student and then as a tutor. His work as a restorer and maker in the horological and musical genres gives particular insight into technical aspects, especially for keyboard instruments and hurdy-gurdies, which have some "engineering" content.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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