BIO RICHARD YOUNG
I'm Richard Young, a life-long professional woodworker who began making and repairing classical guitars in 1998. My work has been based in Eastford, Connecticut since 2004. I welcome you to join me in my studio.
My father, Richard A. Young, was my first influence in the use of tools. The earliest skill I learned was metal art. I'd get a picture I liked from a coloring book, glue it to a piece of metal, and hammer it out with different sized punches and metal hammers. I remember this really sparking my creative interests.
When my father performed home repairs or renovations he always took the time to explain what he was doing, and showed me how to properly use his tools in each project. Some of my fondest early memories were going to the lumberyard with my dad; the odor of fresh-cut oak and pine boards; and all the beautiful moldings and cool machinery. At the time I didn't realize that I was hooked. I was destined to make woodworking my life. My dad taught me how to cut wood with his Simonds handsaw, and I still use it today.
After 22 years as a finish carpenter/cabinet maker, I providentially met my luthier master in 1998 through my classical guitar music instructor in Boston. He knew I was a wood craftsman, and knew my passion for classical guitar. He asked me if I'd like to begin an apprenticeship with Georgy Konstantinovich Babichev, a master luthier visiting from St. Petersburg, Russia.
Richard and Georgy, 2002
Georgy accepted me as his apprentice, and I trained with him for about three years cumulatively in my shop in Medway, MA. He elevated me from a skilled cabinet-maker and finish carpenter to a master craftsman possessing old world skills such as the humbling discipline of hand-sharpening tools. For weeks Georgy never let me touch a piece of wood as I practiced the labor-intensive task of sharpening hand planes, chisels and furniture scrapers to his specifications. When he finally allowed me to attempt hand-ripping a slab of Padouk guitar back, I was happy to finally be working with wood.
Slowly and carefully hand-sawing the thin slice of wood lengthwise, I saw the first glint of acceptance in Georgy's eye. He informed me that no other apprentice had successfully hand-ripped a guitar back their first time. As I progressed, I had to learn the proper use of each hand tool I had sharpened in order to free myself from reliance on power tools.
Hand-planing spruce bracing stock
Next, Georgy taught me the fine art of hand-craftsmanship. At this point I had 22 years of professional carpentry experience behind me, but the transition was mentally and physically draining. I was humbled by how little I really knew about wood, even with my extensive carpentry background. I worked hard to learn how to build guitars—alone when Georgy was back in Saint Petersburg—and under his supervision when he was here. Georgy was a tough and demanding teacher, expecting nothing less than excellence and total dedication from me. Compliments were few and far between. If he didn't make me re-do something or negatively comment upon it, I took it as praise.
Outside the demands of training Georgy was my best friend. I have many fond memories of drinking cognac, cooking over an open fire, and sharing many delicious meals together. We hosted amazing musical jam sessions, and a parade of musicians came through my small shop from virtuoso classical geniuses to enthusiastic musicians with limited skill. It was always fun. I was Georgy's ninth and final apprentice, and he offered this apprenticeship freely, asking only one thing in return: That I pass on his luthier school to the next generation of builders.
Inlaying a rosette
On one of the last evenings I spent with Georgy before he went back to St Petersburg for the last time, a group of his friends from Russia visited my shop. With a huge smile Georgy introduced me to them as the “new” master. This was one of my proudest moments. His confidence meant the world to me. Georgy passed away in August of 2003.
As a result of my apprenticeship, and with 12 years of practice, I am now able to repair and handcraft guitars full-time in my studio. The challenge at this level of proficiency is to compose a harmony between an aesthetically beautiful guitar that is comfortable to play, and that is also tonally brilliant. My ultimate passion is to craft each classical guitar to bond immediately to its owner. When owners e-mail me to say, “I love my guitar!” whether it's several months or several years after purchase, I feel I have succeeded.
I dedicate this website to my father, and
Georgy, and all the other great old-world craftsman and
carpenters I was privileged to work with over the years.
Each of them took the time to demonstrate and school me in
different aspects of my craft. If not for them I would not
be doing what I love today. Thank You!