MEET the UK's only dedicated maker of a rare ancient Swedish harp fiddle - who handcrafts each one from nearly 100 intricate wooden pieces.

Ian McMaster, 67, can't even play the unusual looking nyckelharpa, but learned to make them 13 years ago after his partner heard one at a music festival.

Each one is made in a workshop at the bottom of his back garden using 80 tiny hand-cut wooden pieces, fitted together in a precise millimetre by millimetre way to make the perfect sound.

A single instrument takes at least 280 hours and seven or eight months to make, and he sells them for up to £2,500 - despite his time being worth much more.

The grandfather is believed to be the UK’s only dedicated maker of the traditional folk string instrument.

It sounds similar to the violin and has four main strings played using a bow, as well as keys which can be pressed to change pitch.

Among the most intricate instruments to create, it is thought to date back to 1350.

Dad-of-one Ian, a retired youth worker and Waitrose shelf-stacker from Wellington, Somerset, said: "A lot of affection goes into making these. I don’t do it for the money.

"Every time I make them I think 'that’s a beautiful one' - and they always are.

"The only reason I sell them is because I can’t have 23 hanging on the wall

and I want to make another one so I have to sell them on."

Ian's partner Sue Rhys, a legal secretary, fell in love with the nyckelharpa when they were helping on a friend’s stall at an instrument-maker’s festival in St Chartier, France, in 2007.

He had recently made himself a hurdy-gurdy, and a guitar years before, so undaunted he decided to make her one when he saw how expensive they were to buy.

Sue's - and the second one he made for a friend - were made from pre-cut pieces sold by a Swedish nyckelharpa maker, Soren Ahker.

But after he got the knack of it, he started making them from scratch to sell, and has so far made 23 in total.

Each instrument takes Ian seven to eight months to complete, and sells for between £1,400 and £2,500.

Each one needs a minimum of 280 hours labour, but the process takes longer because the wood needs time to adjust and settle.

He said: “Sue had a go on one and loved it. I was very taken too.

“They are very expensive so I decided to make her one.

“She loved it. I got a big hug.

“I am most proud of the one that Sue has now, number seven.

"It’s a really good one because it has this beautiful loud strong voice.

“She calls it the Uberharpa.

“She was very sad to let the first one go, but this one is so much better."

The nyckelharpa spans four octaves and is known as the "keyed fiddle" because each string has keys to change pitch, and It’s played across the chest by bowing vertically.

Three strings reverberate 12 'sympathetic' strings and the fourth is a drone string, and they were originally carved from a single piece of spruce.

A depiction of two instruments, thought to be nyckelharpas, can be found in a relief dating from 1350 on one of the gates of Källunge church in Gotland.

They are played in folk music and at social dances, such as at weddings.

Ian said: “Imagine the Scandinavian arctic winter, when people would have made them as a hobby or in retirement.

“They were made from a single piece of spruce, because it makes such a warm rich sound.

“You could make one with a minimum of skill, if you have a good hand, a good eye and are good at measuring.

“You can use basic tools like a band soar and chisel, but I have special ones now to make it easier and more accurate.

“Others in the UK who make guitars and other instruments make them - lots of people make just one.

“I can be more efficient and refined with the process because I’m making them more often.

“If you mass produced them you’d get an accurate machine but you’d lose the heart of the instrument.

“I can work with faults like resin pockets in the wood, and select particular pieces of wood for specific parts; a machine can’t do that.”

One of Ian’s favourite musical moments saw three musicians, each using one of his creations, playing together at FolkEast festival in Woodbridge, Suffolk in 2016.

He said: “It was just amazing - so overwhelming. I just stood there at first, then I got all my friends to come and listen.”