Ron Cook Studios Celebrates 50 Years in 2022
I began making musical instruments in 1972 when I wanted a dulcimer to play and I couldn't afford to purchase one. I made it in the simplest and cheapest way possible: I went to a local lumberyard and found some inexpensive veneer for the top and sides. I picked up an old cheap, broken guitar at a flea market and used the tuning gears for the dulcimer head, as well as pulling the frets off the guitar neck to re-use on the dulcimer fretboard. I tuned up three guitar strings, and that was that.
This first dulcimer was an unqualified success, and I played it many times on stage. "The Coffin" occupies a place of honor in my collection today.
Soon after I made The Coffin, I began carving heads on musical instruments. Fascinated with the history of musical instruments, I spent many long days studying medieval, renaissance, and baroque instruments in the San Jose, CA public library. If carved heads looked good on Baroque instruments, I reasoned, why not try them on dulcimers? I had been drawing since I was a kid, and figure drawing came quite naturally to me. I picked up some carving tools at the flea market and made the transition from charcoal faces on paper to hand carved heads in walnut and maple.
I gradually started collecting power tools and assembling my woodworking shop. I taught myself to bend wood, and made several dulcimers for friends and collectors.
In the meantime, reality had dawned, and I needed to earn a living. In my father's footsteps, I became a union carpenter. Later, I returned to college and became a tech writer. After several years in high tech, making only a few instruments a year, I returned to full time instrument making in 2001. I've never regretted my decision. Through all that time, my ever-inquisitive mind helped me develop into the Renaissance Man I have become today.
Nowadays, not only do I create traditional instruments, but I create original instruments and replicate historical pieces. I also repair and restore antique instruments. Because of the repair log I provide with each repair, I have become sought after by people wishing to document a family or historical instrument. I have become particularly known for zither restoration.
But the wheels of my ever-inquisitive mind are constantly turning. Over the past two years, I've started making Medieval furniture, at first as companion pieces for the Medieval instruments that I've made, but now as pieces that stand on their own.
Today, I make what I want. Autoharps. Dulcimers and their ancestors. Furniture. I give lessons in carving. Occasionally, I take commissions.
I'm a real one-man-shop. I do all the research, all the designing, all the creating, all the wood milling, all the carving, all the sanding, all the finishing, all the sound clip recording, all the repair log writing and all the web work. There's only one thing I don't do. My wife the accountant insists on doing the books.
Owner, Designer, Maker, Curator, Chief Cook And Woodcarver
I create one-of-a-kind wood sculptures, musical instruments, and furniture characterized by hand-carved figures and motifs. My pieces are based on historical sources, yet relate to today's artistic attitudes, sensibilities, and values.
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