Making beautiful music from waste

Just Regional
Mar 13, 2024 2 mins read

A local musician is banging the drum for recycling, using unwanted wood to make beautiful musical instruments.
A keen drummer, and with time on his hands because of the covid-19 lockdowns, Stephen Watson started tinkering with the sound of a wooden Peruvian percussion instrument called a cajón.

“I was keen to see how it would sound if you could adjust the snare,” he said.
And it was a short step from there to making his own instruments.

When a church in Thorpe St Andrew started throwing away lots of wooden shelves he knew it could be reused.
“I had done some woodworking before and had some tools around,” he said. “It was nice wood and I thought I could do something with it.”

According to the Wood Recyclers’ Association, well over four million tonnes of wood was wasted in the UK in 2022, and Stephen is doing his best to cut that back.

Watson Woodworks started with chopping boards, coffee tables and toy boxes, which all used material scavenged from construction sites.
“I just went along and asked for any wood they didn’t want and it picked up from there.
“Now I go along with a Transit van every two or three months and there are enough scraps to fill it up!”

The cajóns are his latest venture and are already being sold in Cookes Band Instruments in Norwich.
“How they look depends on the wood I have,” he said.
“I usually get pine, but occasionally there is some hardwood and pallets which are a different colour. I’m trying to make something that’s different.”
A knob on the side of the drum – which looks like a wooden box – adjusts the snare inside, and the sound of the instrument. Loosening it is ideal for jazz, and a tighter snare sounds more like a “normal” drum.

“I’ve designed this instrument with the needs of the drumming community in mind,” said Stephen. “And as a keen recycler and craftsman, it’s a joy to know that the good quality wood used in timber frames and door supports have found new life in many of my custom projects.”

Stephen will be in the kitchen department of Jarrolds from March 25 until Easter with his wooden items – including some cajóns.

More of what's happening in Sprowston