Over 40 years of teaching

Merton College, London has been running instrument making courses for over 40 years. The tutors hold a wealth of knowledge and experience and are there to guide you every step of the way, whether students are complete woodworking beginners or professional luthiers looking to add a few more strings to their bow (pun intentional, sorry). 

Although there is no formal qualifications awarded at the end of this course, your portfolio of work will speak for you as you enter industry and many students have gone on to work in workshops from London to Italy, as well as starting their own businesses. Merton has found that by keeping a flexible syllabus they are able to cater to a wider variety of student needs that closely reflects their personal interests and goals. Class sizes are small which allows for plenty of tutor contact time and you will feel well supported and guided throughout the whole course.

The workshops are fully equipped with everything a new student will need, however the tutors will also guide you through the process of purchasing your own tools as you progress through the courses.

violin making and repair

Full time: Wednesdays and Thursdays 9.30–16.00

Part time: Thursdays 9.30–16.00

Fees vary depending on part time, year of entry and materials, however a guide is £2,250 for a full time student including wood materials. Please get in touch for more details.

The course is designed to be taken over three years for 'full time' students (two days per week) or on a more casual/open ended basis for 'part time' students (one day per week). We refer to each year of the course as ‘beginner’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘advanced’.

Year 1: Beginner

You will be given an overview of the violin making process, demonstrating some of the various systems used now and historically. Alongside this we will include reference to the various woods used in the trade. Then you will be introduced to the more practical part; discussing and practicing the skills of making, sharpening and using tools such as planes, chisels and gouges. Here we will demonstrate various types of sharpening stone and make some recommendations before moving on to beginning your first violin.

Toward the end of the year there will a chance to try your hand at set up skills such as soundpost setting, making small templates or other aspect of violin repair work that you might be interested in.

Year 2: Intermediate

By now your first violin should be well under way. Depending on your personal area of focus you can finish your first violin, varnish it under supervision and then move on to your second instrument, or focus on more advance instrument set up work or repair.

Year 3: Advanced

This is an opportunity to branch out into other violin family instruments – many students choose to make cellos or violas but double basses are also possible. Repair is continued to be addressed, with advanced areas such as retouching, crack repair and grafts being taught if the student chooses.

guitar making and repair

Beginner: Monday + Tuesdays 9.30–16.00

Intermediate + Advance: Thursdays and/or Fridays 9.30–16.00

Evening: Mondays 18.30-21.00

Fees vary depending on part time, year of entry and materials, however a guide is £2,250 for a full time student including wood materials. Please get in touch for more details.

This course runs in a similar way to the violin making courses above. Students enter on the beginner course where they are introduced to the basics of sharpening and other general woodworking skills. They may also begin by making a ukulele in order to learn the basic principles of plucked instrument making before moving on to a larger guitar project. Other students choose to work on electric guitars – once again the courses offer wide flexibility and trusts students to lead their learning outcomes.

taster days

Merton now offers summer taster days in order to give prospective students a chance to get a feel for the workshop and the type of work they can expect to do.

You can find out more and enrol on a taster day by visiting the college’s official course website: https://www.merton.ac.uk/courses-list/community-learning/musical-instrument-making-and-repair and selecting the ‘introduction to…’ courses.