Melody Maker

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When composer and artist Daren Banarsё first picked up a toy melodica, he was hooked. It only cost him £20, it was easy to play, and so small he could take it anywhere. The former lecturer at Goldsmiths College who has written music for hundreds of adverts and TV productions, including The Apprentice and Top Gear, but decided to devote a few years to the melodica and see if he could discover its full potential.

At first it was great fun, and quite a novelty to be playing a toy instrument to a high standard. But it had its drawbacks. You couldn’t play fast melodies without some of the notes dropping out, and the tone was so shrill, I felt sorry for anyone sitting next to me. But perhaps worse of all, I found it difficult to be taken seriously at music sessions when I pulled out a bright plastic instrument which was ultimately designed to appeal to kids.”

Because of this, Banarsё was ready for a professional melodica, but there wasn’t anything out there, so that’s when he thought about making one. He’d heard of 3D printing, but it was something he knew nothing about.

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I began the journey by getting some lessons in CAD software. Once I’d covered the basics, I took my melodica apart, and bit by bit recreated it within a 3D environment. And once it existed in virtual reality, I could make all the changes I needed to create my dream instrument. I wanted something that sounded as good as any other professional instrument, with a clear tone. I also wanted it to look a bit special, something I could be proud of.”

He ended up with the design for one large section, a type of frame which was 40cm long and had 32 small keys that slotted into it. He bought a Flashforge Creator Pro with the idea that he’d print the 40cm long frame in sections, and glue them together. After printing out some of the keys, it soon became clear that the accuracy wasn’t sufficient for building a melodica.

Instead, I decided to get it all printed in Nylon 12 as I’d heard they were strong and flexible. There was one potential problem though – melodicas need to be airtight and watertight, and Nylon 12 is quite porous. I got around this by coating it in a few layers of acrylic sealant, before finishing it with paint and varnish. Once assembled, I could see that I had the right material. It was strong and light, and looked great with a layer of acrylic paint.

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Once it was all working properly, it was time to turn it into an organic looking instrument that would look at home in a professional environment so he carefully shaped some wood to fit on top of the black keys, and added extra material in areas to give the instrument a traditional feel. He also stripped the ivory from some old piano keys to recreate the touch of a quality instrument.

Banarsё is now currently taking the project even further by experimenting with alternative materials. In his quest for perfection, he redesigned the instrument to take handmade Italian reeds, similar to the ones you’d find in an accordion, with a sweet timbre.

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The Workshop has been helpful for the current process of this project as Banarsё has been making use of the wood workshop, building cases out of various timbers, so he can see the effect each wood has on the tone quality and projection. It was the development on the melodica itself that brought Banarsё to Blackhorse.  After starting a research MA in London when looking around for a place to make some prototype instruments, he soon realised he was in the wrong environment.

“Rather than going to lectures and writing essays, I needed direct access to a fully equipped workshop, where I could try things out as soon as I thought of them. So I decided to ditch uni and join Blackhorse, where there is always someone on hand to get advice from and there seems to be at least one specialist in every creative arena.  As well as that, there’s a great community here, and I can get inspired by just strolling around the workshop.”

There has been a lot of trial and error involved, and he admitted that the process can get quite frustrating sometimes. But at the same time he also admits that nothing beats the feeling of being able to turn up at music sessions or recording, with his very own, homemade dream instrument!

An Insider’s Guide

How do you explain Blackhorse Workshop in a single image? This is how! We love this new illustration by Joe Prytherch ( which has been created for the upcoming exhibition in Vienna at the Architekturzentrum all about Assemble. So if you happen to be over there, or feel like an excuse for a trip its running from 1st June -11 September. POST_JP_Bench SpaceIt’s a drawing you could spend hours looking at, which we probably will…Below are some extracts showing our bench space and machine room, not to mention the new café!POST_JP_Machine Shop Posters will be available to buy in Vienna, and we’re hoping for a re-print…watch this space!

Let There be Light

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Furniture and Lighting Designer Marc Wood’s first memory of making was perhaps one of the first memories he has.

“At the age of four, I would go into my Grandad’s workshop at the end of the garden and we would carve miniature boats and other toys out of blocks of wood. I used to watch him make small items if furniture for his house. He was very passionate about furniture restoration.”

Those early experiences sparked off a lifetime love of building things: treehouses, skateboard ramps, rudimentary bits of furniture and anything I else could think of and ultimately in him wanting to pursue a career in it.

While completing his studies in Furniture and Product Design at Nottingham Trent University, Marc really began to hone his craft, creating two pieces for his final degree show that he is the most proud of to date. His aim was to create two very different products, a simple lighting collection designed for mid-market, volume production and a console table to be a statement art piece for the top end of the market.

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“Visually the console table is the most interesting. I designed it using state of the art computer software which uses algorithms to create interesting forms, and made it using steam bent wood, an ancient production process. The combination created a piece which juxtaposes traditional and modern to create something pretty unique.”

Since then Marc has focused more on lighting design and has gone on to make some beautiful pieces like the copper leaf sculpture above which was commissioned by an interior designer and now sits in the foyer of a 5 star hotel in Wales. This piece was inspired by nature and jewellery, in particular copper annealing, which is a hand metal-forging process that has been used by jewellers for centuries.  Marc takes inspiration from jewellery in his lighting designs, saying he believes that “lighting features are pieces of furniture for jewellery for the home”.

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Because of the combination of the design process and the making process involved in lighting design, Marc spends half his time upstairs in his studio designing and half his time downstairs in the Workshop making, allowing him to facilitate his flexible working style.

“There are so many people here doing so many interesting things. It enables us all to be exposed to new ideas and different processes and creates a great energy. I love how well the space is managed. The technicians and office staff are always on hand and keep the place moving very smoothly. I seem to get no end of advice from the staff who are very knowledgeable and always happy to help.”

Looking ahead, Marc has several projects on the go, with the main one being his debut lighting collection which he will be launching in the summer.

“I have a few more lights which I need to develop and prototype to complete the collection, as well as several bespoke commissions. It’s going to be a busy year.”

To see more from Marc, check out his profile on our Members Directory.  We’ll also be running a steam bending course at the workshop in July. Dates to be announced shortly.

A Satisfying Sleep

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When qualified Joiner Lindsay Draws agreed to make furniture for a friend who was moving into their first unfurnished flat, the bed ended up being the most exciting prospect. Since qualifying from the Stratford Building & Crafts College in May last year, Lindsay has made an assortment of furniture, but this was her first bed project and it’s a beautiful one at that. The wood of the frame  is made from solid beech sourced from fellow member Bruce Saunders’ wood seasoning business: Saunder’s Seasonings. The headboard and footboard have decorative mild steel bars and Lindsay made the slats herself from poplar, held together with cotton webbing.

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Having just two days a week to work on it, the whole project took 4-5 months from start to finish to complete.  This included designing the bed and working with her friend to make it exactly how she wanted it.  Just like any project, during those months, this project wasn’t short of colliding with a few hurdles, but each hurdle seemed to help graft the direction of the finial design.

“There were lots of obstacles along the way, like buying bed bolts that were longer than any drill bit I could find! This was my first major project since qualifying as a joiner so there was always going to be a steep learning curve but at least one of the mistakes I made led to better design. The sides of the headboard and footboard were originally intended to be straight and quite narrow. After messing up the cut on one of them (always mark your waste wood clearly!), I realised that they would look much better if they were cut to follow the angle of the metal instead and I’m really pleased with how that looks.”

headboard light.767x407One of the main positives in this for Lindsay was the use of the actual beech itself.  This was her first project working with hardwood, beech in particular, because in all those months working on it, she never got tired of looking at the beautiful grain pattern.

Lindsay is currently in the process of setting up a working partnership with Christina French, another joiner at the Workshop, At present she is working on doors, small pieces of furniture and pots, but is keen to make another bed in the future having ironed out some of the basics of bed construction, particularly making this same design with wood instead of metal in the headboard, which we can’t wait to see when she does.

Made in London at Heals

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We’re delighted to say that Blackhorse Workshop has been selected by Heals to be part of their annual Modern Craft Market. Showcasing some of the most exciting design being produced currently in the capital, they have chosen nine of the workshop’s resident designers to present their latest projects.

Work will be on show, and for sale from De Allegri & Fogale, Group Design, Upcycliste, Tim Summers Design, Wilson Palmer, [M]odel Maker, Made by Rofa and Michael & George.

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The work will be on display in their flagship Tottenham Road store from next Monday 10th April.  A great chance to present the high quality craftmanship and creative flair of those using the workshop to a wider London public.

So join us for the launch or pop in when you’re passing. Also featured will be work from master glass blower Michael Ruh, cloth from London Cloth Company, furniture from Goldfinger Factory, upholstery from Shoreditch Design Rooms and ceramics from Jode Pankhurst and Amanda Sue Rope and much more.

Three is the Magic Number

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Thanks to everyone who came down on Friday night to celebrate the launch of our new building & building. Was a great party. Kicking off with the exploding birthday cake, thanks to Cllr Clare Coghill for her work snipping the ribbon! Super set from bands Firestations & Half Penny Pass, great food from Peter’s Jerk Chicken & hot dawgs from Wood St Coffee, not to mention the absolutely delicious birthday cake from Crumbs.  Can birthdays happen more than once a year? See you all soon…

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Photos (c) Simon Way

A Chest for Dagenham’s White House

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To celebrate the opening of the Dagenham White House, childhood home of British fashion designer and tailor Hardy Amies, we were asked to run a workshop to build a wooden chest to be housed in the new centre, with carved panels inspired by his work and made by those involved with the project. Made over the course of two days, participants individually carved panels relating to the work of the designer.

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Known for making dresses for the Queen to costumes for 2001: Space Odyssey, Hardy Amies became known as a world famous couturier and dressmaker.

The exhibition about his work runs until Saturday 25th Feb. And the space will continue as a public space for art and community activity. For more information, click here.

Introducing Tim Summers

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After studying Illustration and working as a freelance Illustrator for a couple of years, new member Tim Summers began working for artists and fabricating work for them, which he has now been doing for 10 years. It was during this time that he realised that he loved making things and he wanted to spend more of his time doing this.

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Once graduating from the CASS Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture with a BA in Furniture and Products, Summers proceeded to make various pieces, the one piece that stood out among the rest was his Flip Desk. ‘I designed and made it a couple of years ago but it won the Heal’s Discovers 2016 competition last year.  Heal’s are now producing it and its for sale in their Tottenham Court Road store and online. The brief was to design a piece of furniture that fitted into their Ambrose range, so I used my own experience of compact London living and developed a semi-permanent desk for multi-functional spaces that could be folded away quickly and easily. The process involved developing multiple prototypes and honing each one until I had the right balance of functionality and form.

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He joined Blackhorse after looking for somewhere with a strong community and a good workshop. “Blackhorse is affordable, convenient and has provided a place that I can come to everyday and think, make, experiment, and sometimes even make money. It is the perfect platform at this stage to enable me to work on whatever projects I need to. It’s great to be surrounded by such a busy and enthusiastic community of fellow makers. The café also serves great coffee so it ticks all the boxes!

Tim has currently started working on a commission for a Library in Hampstead and along with 8 months of business mentoring with the Crafts Council under their Hothouse scheme.

If you want to hear more about his work, projects and success with Kickstarer, Tim will be discussing his work at this week’s Show & Tell event on Thurs 2nd Feb from 6pm alongside Wilson Palmer Furniture. All welcome.

Nothing Ventured…


It’s good to be back. Resolutions are kicking into action as the workshop begins to fill again, with new designs and projects all underway.


Business as usual for some of our members: reclaimed furniture maker Fay Sebel from La Maison de Furniture is back working on her seemingly never ending production line of beautiful reclaimed wood furniture, student Tianyi Shi works on her latest university project, and weekend regular Carolus Reinecke is building an oak display cabinet for his home.


If you’ve got something in mind you’ve been hankering to get started with, sign up to one of our inductions on the membership page of our website.Viva La New Year Resolution!