Thursday, 5 April 2012

The wood so wild - an Eastertide trip to David Dyke

I have mentioned David Dyke on this blog before, and I am sure that no UK instrument maker will be unfamiliar with his name. David has been one of the most prominent and respected instrument making suppliers for many years. David started by teaching guitar making in the 1970's before moving into timber supply, and since then his luthier supply business, based in Horam, East Sussex, has become established in many guitar makers address book. I remember visiting David for the first time in 1984 when I was in my first year at the London College of Furniture. I bought a set of Indian rosewood, some Brazilian mahogany and a set of flamed maple, and was enthralled by the sight of all the timbers, strips of inlay, racks of machine heads and coils of fretwire.

This week was the first week of the Easter holidays and so I combined a trip to David's with a family picnic as the children were not at school. I had a few bits and pieces to pick up, most notably some 1.6 fretwire for my Ries copy, but David was also cutting some rosewood blocks for me and I wanted to see it done. David uses a large circular saw for this job and, although it turns more of the wood to dust compared to a bandsaw, it leaves the timber with a very fine finish.

Business at David Dyke's isn't a slick, high-tech affair, but enjoyably laid-back. As I walked in Mike Reid was busy cajoling everyone into signing up to a children's charity competition (hopefully I will win a cuddly toy panda) and David himself was out the back having a brew in one of his sheds. Discussing instrument making with Mike is always fun; Mike has his own business, Small Wonder Music, specialising in inlay products.

Eventually David powered up his saw and sliced into the blocks of rosewood I had. These were the last remnants of a huge piece that I acquired many years ago. These last blocks were only good for 4 piece backs- jet black with a few pink streaks - and a few fingerboards which I swapped for a couple of sets of English yew. The size of the saw can be seen in the picture above, and the large stack of timber in the foreground is some African ebony that David had just sawn for backs and ribs.

The yard is not the most ordered in the world, but is all the more interesting for that, and David seems to know were everything is. Some new racks were being built when I visited this time, just visible at the end of the shed. I was taken with this violin template below, hanging on the peeled-paint door of the shed.

This area of East Sussex is one of narrow lanes, hedgerows and quiet woods. The beautiful river Cuckmere winds its way gently to meet the sea at the majestic Cuckmere Haven, and the dark line of the South Downs can often be seen.

We stopped for our picnic at Arlington and watched the first swallows of spring dipping over the water. The wild oak took my eye, its bare branches in contrast to the green exuberance of the hazel and hawthorn behind.

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