Making Cigar Box Guitars with David Sutton

Posted by on May 28, 2017

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In our "Handmade Conversations" series, we ask amazing people in the craft, food and/or fashion industries a few questions that provide you with a glimpse into their world. This week's featured person is David Sutton, photographer, singer and author of "Cigar Box Guitars," published by Fox Chapel Publishing.

David's photography has been featured on The Today Show and Animal Planet, as well as many print publications. He is also a singer, and combines his love of music with his passion for creating things in "Cigar Box Guitars." 

What was the first craft item you made? 
I loved my dad's workbench and all the beat-up old tools he had around it. Though I'm sure there were smaller, earlier projects, the first one I recall clearly was a pinewood derby race car I built in Cub Scouts. I'll count it as the first because it was the first one I did completely on my own. Those came in "regulation" kits (still do), and back then, there was only one style. I spray-painted mine silver. I'd love to be able to tell you I won, but...

What is your craft medium of choice and why?
I really love wood. It comes in so many varieties, endless color variations, weights and hardnesses. The grain patterns are endlessly variable, and they change almost like the surface of a pond as you cut through or carve. The grain disappears at times and then re-emerges dramatically as you smooth and finish. It's like magic; like living art.

Tom Meuninck
Who or what inspires your creativity?
I don't think too much about creativity, but my high school sculpture teacher, Tom Meuninck, would rate as my absolute art idol. He's a gifted all-around artist, a world-class potter and seemingly inexhaustible. I looked him up recently and paid him a visit at his home/studio in Indiana, and he's still up to his elbows in clay, even in retirement. He's obviously passionate about his work, and lives his art. 
The Six-String Electric Guitar, courtesy of Fox Chapel Publishing
Which of your craft projects took the longest to finish?
I can have a short attention span and I like new things, so I gravitate toward less complex projects. Cigar box guitars are perfectly suited for that. They're GREAT for folks like me who don't have hours and hours to invest. That said, the six-string electric guitar that I built for my book, Cigar Box Guitars, is hands down the project that took me the longest to complete. That's in no small part due to the fact that I photographed every step! 

What's your dream craft project?
When I was photographing for magazines, I met a man in Wisconsin who had hand-built a birch-bark canoe using only the materials Native Americans had available, which is to say no iron fasteners such as nails or screws. I think it would be amazing to hand-build a craft I could paddle around in.

In addition to crafting, what other talents do you have?
I'm a professional photographer and I sing pretty well (and enjoy doing it).

What advice would you give to aspiring craft authors?
Begin. Don't wait until you're good enough or smart enough. Even the longest journey begins with one step.

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