As a child I spent a lot of time in my fathers garage where he loved to restore and repair cars as a hobby. I learned to hate cars and I made lots of things I loved, such as a guitar from cardboard, cable cars through the garden, a plotter for my computer, big kites on my mums sewing machine, equipment to take photographs from a flying kite and so on.
When I was little I started learning the recorder, but sadly had to give it up soon, because the teacher told my parents that I didn't take it seriously. At school I completely disengaged with music education, because I just couldn't keep any rhythm, couldn't remember scales, couldn't sing and couldn't understand the hieroglyphs of written music. It was hopeless and I even started to hate the smell of the music room when we had to enter it.
Besides metal I also discovered wood as a very useful material to make things: It is easy to work with, cheap and available almost everywhere. And I always appreciated furniture made from natural wood with a natural finish. In Germany, after school, men used to have the choice between army service or alternative civilian service in a charity. I chose to work for 1.5 years in a wood workshop for people with mental disabilities, where I helped them with making wooden toys and furniture.
Woodworking just kept being a hobby of mine. My talent in planning and making things led me to study Mechanical Engineering and Product Development at the Hamburg University of Technology TUHH, where I graduated in 2004 with a Dipl.-Ing. (equiv. M.Sc.). I went on to design machines for paper production, tidal turbines and metal 3D-printers.
While working for a big German company I met my Scottish wife. She and my work as a design and structural systems engineer in marine renewables brought me eventually to Scotland.
My wife is very engaged in the Scottish music scene and a high level player of classical orchestral and Scottish folk music. As you might imagine it wasn't easy for somebody considering himself as non-musical to be surrounded by all her very musical friends.
But on Hogmanay 2016 while I was again surrounded by them playing Scottish folk music, a lovely friend of my wife handed me her fiddle and bow and introduced me how to play simple harmonies along. I just felt great! Especially when other people came in and I felt being watched by them as one of those people who magically manage to play such a beautiful and difficult to play instrument.
I decided I had to learn this instrument, at least a bit. And I did to an extent that it is fun to play and soon found myself practising obsessively. And as most folk musicians seem to be really lovely people, they often give me a chance to play with them by slowing down a bit.
One day in 2018, cycling back from work, having had a very frustrating work day, I just thought stringed instruments are beautiful and besides that, very functional pieces of delicate woodwork. Why not learn to make them and maybe later set up a business as a maker?
So I decided to "hone" my woodworking skills to become a professional luthier by studying Stringed Instrument Making and Repair at Glasgow Clyde College. Actually we were very lucky to be only three violin making students on that course, so we received a lot of one-to-one tuition, and could also profit from the neighbourhood of guitar making. Among my teachers were master luthiers Sheena Laurie, Bill Kelday, Pete Beer, Paul Hyland and Russell Aitken.
Although this seems like a big career change, in some aspects it isn't really. The application and understanding of physical principles and material properties were a very important part of my work as an engineer. When I started making violins, I soon realised that understanding these principles and properties is very helpful, because they are extremely important for the acoustics of stringed instruments and also their structural integrity and therefore reliability and longevity. Also my time at university and my later employment required me to research and read a lot, which enabled me to do the same while learning to make instruments. And, of course, learning never ends...
I'm very grateful to those luthiers and scientists, who have generously shared their knowledge through books and publications such as Chris Johnson, Roy Courtnall, Juliet Barker, Henry A. Strobel, Margaret Shipman, Hans Weisshaar, Carleen Hutchins, James Beament, Martin Schleske, Joseph Curtin just to name a few of my favourite ones. If you are interested in details, please have a look on my bibliography page.
Initially I set up my luthier's workshop in Glasgow and I am now based in Connel on the West Coast of Scotland (near Oban) where I focus on making four to five instruments of the violin-family per year.
I am a member of The British Violin Making Association (BVMA).