J T Howarth Ltd, Worthing

Musical Instrument Makers

Two visits to Howarth’s manufacturing facility in Worthing were arranged for groups of ten members and guests. This manufacturer of world class Oboes is tucked away in a relatively small workshop area behind the main shopping area of Worthing and would nomally go completely unnoticed.

The instruments manufactured and sold here are all hand made and of exceptional quality. Used by many of the worlds best musicians they are, as one might expect, relatively expensive and in a class of their own. Even the cheapest instrument they make in Worthing for ‘students’ has a price tag of £1500 or more.

The tour started in tbe ‘shop’ with a brief overview description of the process and then we were conducted on a tour of the various sma1l workshops in the complex to see the Oboe being manufactured. This started with the initial preparation of the hard wood blanks for seasoning, and proceeded through the whole manufacturing process for the wooden sections of the instrument, the manufacture and preparation of the many small metal components, then tbe initial assembly of an instrument. The instrument was then total stripped down to allow all of the components to be plated and / or polished before the incredibly time consuming task of reassembling the Oboe into its finished state could be undertaken.

This was a fascinating insight into the ‘engineering’ of a musical instrument and was all the more interesting to see tbe skills that were being used to produce some of the finest musical instruments in the world by in the main ‘non-musical’ craftsmen. The company employs whenever possible ‘model makers’, rather than skilled machinists, or mechanical fitters, or even musicians, for their expertise in manufacturing and assembling miniature components, of which there are dozens in an Oboe.