Speaking of Wood: David Cureton

Welcome! Building community in wood working is extremely important, and there are many areas of woodworking that I am interested in and this interview series is a great way for me to explore those areas and get to know incredible creators around the world.

In this edition of Speaking of Wood, I interviewed David Cureton at Muskoka Guitars. All of the pictures in this post were sent to me by David, and detail his process as he creates the instruments.

D•M Woodshop: What is your name? If you have a website what is the address?

David Cureton: David Cureton at Muskoka Guitars www.muskokaguitars.com.

DMWS: Where are you located?

DC: I am located in Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada.

DMWS: Are you a member of any woodworking social groups, either online or in your community?

DC: I am a member of Guild of American Luthiers. On Facebook, I am a member of Luthiers Unplugged and various acoustic building sites. I have a Facebook blog at Muskoka Guitars. Luthiers Unplugged is my main interest.

DMWS: Do you have any interests besides woodworking?

DC: I completed a 4 yr diploma in Art Craft and Design, at the Kootenay School of Arts Co-op in addition to previous training in guitar making with Michael Dunn. He sparked my academic interest in craft history and traditional ways of working wood. Most of my interests are related to my artistic practice, instrument making, and generally transforming materials. I maintain a rural lifestyle, gardening and managing my chunk of forest. I also build furniture, make tools, sculptures, and get in a little blacksmithing action now and then. Recreationally I cross country ski like a madman, enjoy cooking and building my house. My house includes a major timber framed porch and sunroom which occupied my thoughts for quite a while. As a luthier I am primarily interested in acoustic instruments made from locally sourced woods, guitars harps etc. These usually have some “historic” precedent.

DMWS: How long have you been woodworking and what was your first experience with it?

DC: In 1981 I had my first experience as a carpenters helper. I’ve also worked as a custom finish and general carpenter on and off usually on mansion scale projects. I also build stairs, railings, timber details, cabinetry, etc. It is pretty satisfying, the money is good, and the scale of projects and different techniques from studio work are also pretty cool.

DMWS: What kind of woodworking are you primarily interested in? Why are you drawn to these kinds of projects?

DC: My mad passionate interest is still acoustic guitars. My training was pretty thorough, the combination of the marquetry and final sound appeals to my love of fine detail, mystery, alchemy. Harps captured my interest for a while, larger instrument appealed to me. I’ve also completed a lot of custom architectural details, custom staircases railings, solid wood cabinetry finish carpentry details. I find that pretty satisfying and the money and kudos are good.

DMWS: Are you an “unplugged” wood worker or do you use power tools? What are some of your favorite tools around the shop?

DC: I’m unplugged where it counts. I think Torres would have appreciated the usefulness of a tablesaw, router and bandsaw. My training was mostly unplugged and designed so you could build a guitar with basic hand tools. Hand-sawing guitar backs from planks soon removed the romance from that idea. I am unplugged where it counts, i.e. voicing, inlaying, neck/heel carving, joining. I still hand joint all my plates with a two-dollar Miller Falls plane and then join them with rope and wedges in the traditional Spanish style. Most of my guitars, steel and nylon strung, have a Spanish joint at the heel. I love my hand planes and chisels, the rope and wedges process, hand scrapers, gobars etc. Hand tooling and hand work brings the meditative process to making which is lost when you are watching your fingers. I use a big old General table saw for the grunt work and have well equipped general wood shop.

DMWS: What are some things, tools or not, that would be included in your ideal shop?

DC: I’m pretty old school and like quiet handwork, my shop is equipped with compressor, table saw, band saw, drill press routers, router table and shaper also with the necessary hand power tools. I may add a vacuum press this winter. Also this winter I’d like to permanently reassemble my blacksmith gear and acquire a crucible.

DMWS: Who are some wood workers who have had an influence on your work or wood working education?

DC: My influences include Mike Dunn, Geza Burquhart and Ray Nurse, all world class luthiers who I had great fortune to receive training from and dialogue with. Maggie Tchir (textile artist, alchemist and co conspirator), Krenov, Sam Maloof, Frank, Nakashima. Historically the Larson bros and Mario Macaferri luthiers.

DMWS: What would say has been your biggest success as a wood worker? What is your biggest struggle?

DC: My biggest struggle is always marketing. My biggest success is successfully pursuing my dream of fine woodworking and luthiery, and not letting it be stale. I always want to go to studio.

DMWS: What advice do you have to people who are just getting started in woodworking or are interesting in learning?

DC: Learn your hand tools and practice them. Always take fresh challenges in diverse areas. Commit to the idea. Plan and resolve ideas on paper Maquettes etc. before beginning. Your design sequence is important. Take a course but always learn independently too. Establish your community of like-minded creatives and maintain and contribute. Learn new mediums, it will inform your woodworking. Make things adjustable. Practice the art of completion. Be independent. When the going gets rough, do something else for a while and return. Maintain your health and avoid toxicity.

Thanks again to David for agreeing to talk about his work and his process. It’s always nice to hear from woodworkers from different disciplines. Plus as a woodworker and guitarist, I am especially interested in the lutherie process.

Thank you for reading, and as always if you got value from this post please consider sharing it with your friends. Let’s build community together!

-S.A.

Author: Sam Adams

I am a musician, educator, and composer based out of Kentucky. I also dabble in wood working.

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