Influences V – Stefan Sobell

Jul 12, 2010

It would be pretty odd for me to write a series about influences on my work and not mention Stefan Sobell. I worked for Stefan from leaving school,1988-1990 and 1992 -2003. I had no idea who Stefan was when I went to work for him and on reflection I’d be hard pushed to think of who I’d rather have been trained by. Stefan has a reputation for being the “Guitar makers guitar maker” and justly so. He is a non conformist and his work reflects this. Self taught, he learned by making and did so at a time when there were not online forums or piles of books available telling him how to do so. As a result his work is different from that of anyone else in construction and design and sound.

It tickles me greatly that folk still have no idea of how Stefan gets the sound he does form the materials he uses (he has no interest in telling folk – why would he?), mainly because people approach understanding his work from the point of view of their own accumulated or learned knowledge rather than trying to imagine how Stefan approaches it. I have on occasion found folk spouting rubbish on the web about his design and construction methods, and when I have offered to point them in the right direction, have been told I am wrong! An opportunity missed.

As I have said in the past, some makers have a good eye and others not. Stefan has a good eye. He has a decent pair of ears too!

It has been difficult for me to develop my own sound since leaving his workshop, some of the structural changes I wanted to introduce had less audible effect than I imagined, some more so, but I’m glad to say that 7 years on, neither of us have ceased to improve and develop our work. If anything was instilled in me from my many years in his employment it was to continue to experiment, otherwise, what is the point? Add to this his way of dealing with folk – to be straight and fair, to pay folk properly and promptly and to expect the same treatment in return. It’s how he runs his business and it’s how I run mine.

NK Forster luthier, Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Maker of Guitar, Bouzouki, Cittern and Mandolin.