Photos courtesy of Mark Freed
Types of Artistry
David and Mack McEntire
Instrument builders and bluegrass musicians
Rutherfordton, NC (Rutherford County)
Since 2003, David McEntire and his father Mack have been making guitars, mandolins, and banjos from Mack's woodworking shop, creating the kind of instruments that have been played in their family and community for generations. "We try to make instruments that play good and sound good," David says. "An instrument that never gets scratched is one that never gets played."
David's uncle Dennis McEntire has been teaching young people to play traditional mountain music in Rutherford County for decades, and he started teaching David to play banjo when he was eight years old. "I continued playing banjo all through high school," David says, "and when I returned to Rutherford County in 1998, after a few years away for school, I started playing mandolin." Mack grew up playing music with his brother Dennis and others around the community. "He played guitar as far back as I can remember," David says.
Mack worked as a mechanical engineer, but he was interested in woodworking. Mack built a shop and filled it with tools to pursue a furniture-building hobby. When David acquired a book about building mandolins, their interests intersected. "He had the tools, and I got the knowledge," David says. Using a piece of pine from an old church pew bench, David and Mack built their first mandolin. "Once I made the first one, I was hooked," David says. "It took us two or three to get it right, and once we did, I was so happy."
David and Mack's interest continued to grow, and soon they were building square-neck resonator guitars, then dreadnaught-style guitars, a banjo, a lap dulcimer, and a bass. "It sort of snowballed," David recalls. "When we started making instruments, we didn't think it would become this addictive." Since they started, the two have built seven mandolins, six guitars, five resonator guitars, a banjo, a lap dulcimer, and a stick bass. They are currently working on an acoustic bass, and they have helped David's cousin Casey McEntire build a few instruments.
The McEntires model their guitars from a 1960s Martin D-28 and use the Gibson Lloyd Loar mandolin plans. "With most of our instruments, we finish with a Spirit Varnish, which really lets an instrument ring," David says. "And we mostly use proven woods that have been used for many years for instrument making." With some of their guitars, they have used wood from old pianos or furniture that has already seasoned.
In addition to making instruments, David and Mack play at local jam sessions and family gatherings. David plays at church and sings with his wife. They play and perform with McEntire instruments that they made.
David and Mack welcome orders for instruments, and they will consider requests for performances, private lessons, demonstrations, and elementary school classroom programs.