Ian Chisholm


I made my first guitars when I was a student nearly 60 years ago.  I really began to learn about lutherie – the art of stringed instrument making – sometime in the ’70s by taking classes at the old London College of Furniture taught by Tony Smith where I built a steel strung guitar and an archtop mandolin.  At about this time I also met Stephen Delft, then living in London, who was very helpful to a beginner luthier.  I built a lute at a Morley College class run by the late Stephen Barber.  After moving to Ditchling I built a classical guitar in the Lewes workshop of Pablo Requena, learnt more about steel strung guitar construction with Nick Benjamin and built an archtop mandolin under the expert eye of Richard Osborne.   Recently I’ve been making archtop jazz guitars with hand carved front and back.

I do not believe in “mastery” – learning never stops.

A quartet of Chisholm instruments The Rising Sun on Barham Down performed by Doc Rossi

About 10 years ago Will Fly asked me to make him a tenor guitar. Although I was aware of these instruments I didn’t appreciate what a distinctive bright clear sound they have. Since then I’ve made quite a few of these instruments including one for virtuoso player Richard Durrant who plays three of my instruments, a celtic bouzouki, a ukulele and a tenor guitar.  Of his tenor guitar he says “My four string guitar has a magical, silvery sound that brings a new, almost folky dimension to each concert. Exploring Bach on metal strings played with a plectrum is a fascinating experience!”.

I mainly make flat top steel strung instruments but have also made nylon strung guitars inspired by a late 19th century Martin 0-28 guitar.  These have a quite different feel to a modern classical guitar, what they lack in power they make up for in sweetness and clarity.