Of Wood & Steel: The Master Craftsmen of Moonshine Wood & Steel

Art can be found in the imaginative and skillful blending of texture, contour, and color. This creative expression is seen in many types of media, but David Woodside and Jesse LaPrees have chosen to forge metal and nature. This skill and artistry is unveiled in their business Moonshine Wood and Steel.

Moonshine Wood and Steel focuses on creating handmade furniture and a variety of  other custom goods. From large cabinets and tables to wall clocks and four-beer carriers, Jesse and David utilize a combination of practice and natural skill to create unique pieces for homes and businesses. Both men began their journey toward becoming craftsmen as young boys idolizing and carefully watching their talented fathers.

Before moving to Florida at the age of eleven, David Woodside began learning his trade under his father’s tutelage in Washington. “My dad was a carpenter, not by trade, but he had the skill,” says David, “He was very knowledgeable about carpentry and building in general. I helped him with projects growing up and that really got me into it.”

Across the country in Tennessee, Jesse LaPrees gained an appreciation for diligence and hard work from his father as well. “Growing up, my dad was always a do-it-yourself kind of guy,” Jesse insists, “He built a log cabin that we lived in for years. It was awesome! Learning from him that whole idea of doing things yourself taught me to work with my hands.”

Many years after learning those childhood lessons from their fathers, Jesse and David’s talents came together. “I’ve been making furniture for about fifteen years now,” David shares, “I was just tinkering with it through the years. I met Jesse about four years ago through a friend. He was interested in metalwork and making furniture, so we decided to collaborate on some things and start a business. I was doing wood and he was doing metal and it just fit.”

Jesse and David started their brand with artistry of mind and labor of skillful hands. Their combined creative genius – as evidenced by every piece created at their workshop– separates them from many large chain stores. Focusing their attention on one project at a time, David and Jesse are able to fuse creative vision with quality workmanship to craft masterpieces.

Each product that reaches the hand of a client is a one of a kind creation. Distinctive knots and gradation in colors on the wood, as well as the bend, shine, and texture of the steel adds to its individual character and beauty. The world around them is a constant source of inspiration for David and Jesse to make even the most ordinary piece of furniture become a beautiful, interesting conversation starter.

When asked about carpentry and the things that inspire his work, David said, “I just really enjoy doing it. I get inspired by a lot of things. Inspiration is everywhere. Whether it be other people’s work or something I see on a trip, inspiration is just all around. But I really like a lot of modern styles and Art Deco.”

“Taking something from beginning to end and watching it transform into something complete and polished is rewarding,” Jesse says about his own inspiration, “I like making something unique that can be passed on for years.”

Their dedication to their clients and to their craft helps Jesse and David create some truly uncommon pieces. Their attention to detail and respect for the natural and rustic look of wood and steel is on full display in their work. Some types of wood, such as cypress, walnut, and cherry, reveal their rich colors and marbling in the form of conference tables, benches, and cutting boards while the dexterity of polished steel adds both form and function to outdoor kitchens, cabinets, and bar stools.

David and Jesse’s ability to coalesce their individual talents to produce such practical and eye-pleasing work has given them opportunities to provide their goods for many local homes and businesses. The owners of Moonshine Wood and Steel were asked to build a thirty-five foot long counter, bar, and stools for Nettles Fine Jewelry. The beautiful counter is made of cherry, walnut, and maple. With its vintage inlays and polished hues and lines of the married woods, the Nettles counter is stunning.

Another example of Jesse’s and David’s fine work is not at a public location but rather in the private confines of a client’s home. The two artisans made custom sliding barn doors accented and secured with rustic steel hardware. The sliding doors function both aesthetically and practically as an impressive divider separating a kitchen and a family room.

David and Jesse hope to continue to provide high quality furniture and unique creations for years to come from their downtown St. Augustine workshop. Their reputation as artists and craftsmen and their beautiful array of products draws interest to their business. Their workshops also finds itself situated in an area that is experiencing a renaissance in unusual, but functional art. This reinvigorated artistic life brings new foot traffic from locals as well as curious tourists to Moonshine.

It’s all taken very humbly and with much appreciation from David and Jesse as they continue making customers happy with their crafts. Maintaining good relationships with both new and repeat customers is something that they desire for the lifetime of their joint venture. With a mind for business and tremendous talent, the pair is moving forward. When asked what would be the key for the continued success of Moonshine Wood and Steel, Jesse answered, “Stay small and focus on meaningful good work.”

Moonshine Wood & Steel is located at 134 Riberia Street. Visit them online at www.moonshinewoodandsteel.com. Photography by Rob Futrell

A writer and an artist, Alexter has spent his life in St. Augustine sharpening and sharing his talents. His work has been featured in the St. Augustine Record and the Ponte Vedra Leader. Alexter has written five books with many more in development.