Built from Wooden Boats: The Art and Music of Anthony Daniels

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Singer-songwriter Anthony Daniels plays at Jimmy’s Saloon on a guitar he made from reclaimed mahogany. Photo by Jessica Pohl of Photography by Jessica Pohl.

“I don’t ever remember deciding I wanted to play music,” says Anthony Daniels, who picked up the guitar at age 10, a few years after he started a band on the school bus. The Blind Panthers, as they were called, “had a very primitive AC/DC sound,” he says with a self-deprecating, nostalgic grin.

Today, the singer-songwriter’s music has evolved well beyond the schoolyard, with a bluegrass-y, Americana sound, which can be heard on his newly released EP, Ramble, available on iTunes. Anthony, who can often be found playing around town (The Wharf Pub & Raw Bar and Jimmy’s Saloon are frequent locations), describes the music as having “a scratchy American cowboy theme.”

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Anthony designed and built a guitar from planks reclaimed from a German Beetle Cat sailboat during his first year at the International Yacht Restoration School.

A recent transplant to Newport, RI via New York City, where he worked as a building engineer for an eco-housing developer, Anthony and his wife, Meredith Cianti, “relocated just to change our lifestyle.” And although he’d been accepted by the International Yacht Restoration School, Anthony put his acceptance letter aside, and landed a carpentry job.

“We exploded into this craft mentality when we got here,” says the musician. Meredith, who works for a Wall Street start-up, is an accomplished weaver, and the pair now have a ceramics wheel and kiln, woodworking and wood-burning equipment, and sewing machines in a designated section of their home. “It’s basically a craft shop,” he says of the space.

In 2014, Anthony decided to revisit the IYRS opportunity, and, like all first-year students, was tasked with rebuilding a vintage Beetle Cat sailboat at the wooden boat-building trade school. Assigned to a rare German vessel that had been built from mahogany, his sustainability background kicked in, and he wondered how he could reuse the material. “I didn’t want to make a coffee table,” says Anthony. “That’s kinda played out.”

Instead, he decided to make a guitar. For the next three months, he sorted out design details, patterns, and cuts. “I would just stare at my [Martin 000-15M] guitar for, like, hours at night,” he says. “It took a couple hours of work for every 10 hours of thought,” he explains. With the patina of hull paint adding to its charm, the finished product is a work of art.

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Line drawings of famous boat hulls grace reclaimed mahogany panels.

Anthony continues to be inspired by reuse and the craft of wooden boat building. A summer gig working on the restoration of Santana (which once belonged to Humphrey Bogart), yielded more mahogany, which he’s used to create wood-burned line drawings of various classic boats. “I wanted to keep the spirit of the boat and reincarnate it into something new,” he explains of the works, which are available at The Armory and via his online shop, WouldBoat, as well as by custom order.

Professionally, Anthony plans to stay in the boat building business after completing his IYRS studies later this year. (He documents his endeavors via his Instagram account, @wouldboat, which has become a sensation.) But his music and art will continue to run their courses as well. “I try to throw a million things at the wall, and see what sticks,” he says. “The music thing runs parallel to my craft. They just keep motivating each other.” Then he adds, with a contemplative laugh, “Now I have to write a song about wood, or being a sailor.”

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Photo by Jessica Pohl of Photography by Jessica Pohl.

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All photos by Anthony Daniels, except where noted.

Meaghan O'Neill is a writer, editor, blogger wrangler, and the founder of Puddingstone Post. She was formerly editor-in-chief of TreeHugger, Discovery Channel online, and TLC's Parentables. Her writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications, and her book, Ready, Set, Green: 8 Weeks to Modern Eco-Living (Villard/Random House) was published in 2008. She lives in Newport, RI with her family.

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