Artisan

The sound
of satisfaction

Simon Ambridge, Devon, England

Simon Ambridge, 67, from Devon, became fascinated with guitars while growing up, and cobbled together his first from an old bit of sideboard. By the time he was an art student in London – and a keen guitarist – he decided to have a proper go.

“I was forever staring into music shop windows, but I couldn’t afford to buy an expensive guitar,” he says. “I had the woodwork skills because I was making furniture, so I decided to make my own. I went to an evening class in instrument-making and the first one turned out pretty well.” Simon then moved to Devon, where he still lives, and Ambridge Guitars was born. He’s since become such a renowned craftsman that he exports instruments to Spain – the home of classical guitar music – and only produces around eight of his masterpieces every year.

“I still learn something
new every day”

“I used to make around one a month, but I work the same amount of hours now, and do them slower, with more effort,” he says. “I still learn something new every day. Every piece of wood you use for a guitar is different, and you’re forever moulding it to your needs. The bit that really counts, the soundboard – you develop a sensitivity to that. No two are the same. It’s forever a challenge, and a nice puzzle, to get it sounding right. That gives you real contentment.”

“People say I work too
much – but I’m just
playing in a workshop”

A second helping of job satisfaction arrives when some of the best strummers in the world give Simon positive feedback about his creations. “It’s wonderful seeing highly skilled guitarists playing them,” he adds. “I still play myself as a keen amateur, but to hear somebody say my guitar has improved their playing, or that they’ve fallen in love with the sound, is great. People say I work too much – but I’m just playing in a workshop,” laughs Simon. “To me, making a guitar is a bit like playing: you get immersed and lost in what you’re doing. I love it.”

Photography by Jody Daunton