SMU Professor of Music Thomas Tunks shares his love for woodworking

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SMU Professor of Music Thomas Tunks displays one of his many woodwork creations in his Owen Arts Center office. Photo credit: Rebecca Ragsdale

Thomas Tunks held a small, smooth box made of walnut and maple wood in his Owen Arts Center office one recent sunny afternoon. A look of pride washed over his face.

“Mostly what I do is make gifts for my family members,” said Tunks, a popular professor of music who has been teaching at SMU since 1980. “I make little boxes and other kinds of things.”

If you’ve taken classes at SMU such as the Art of Listening or Acoustics of Music, chances are, you’ve met Tunks. However, most students don’t know that he is also a skilled woodworker in his spare time.

Tunks has created around 50 objects out of woods like walnut, maple and cherry. He works mostly from his home near White Rock Lake. His creations include things like lap desks, small toys for his children when they were younger, and small furniture pieces.

“I look at things that I see in stores or at craft fairs, and I just look at how they’re made and I think I could do that,” said Tunks.

Professor Tunks’ wife Jeanne Tunks, Associate Professor of Teacher Education and Administration at the University of North Texas, can attest to her husband’s hobby.

“Tom has always enjoyed working with wood,” she said. “He is very meticulous and careful when he works and his inventions last and are a pleasure to have, hold, and behold. “

Tunks learned his woodworking skill from his father as a teenager. Growing up, the collector of exotic woods actually helped build the family home in Michigan. He has even taught his two sons, Adam and Gordon, his craft.

“Currently, our youngest son and Tom are jointly, over the next several years, restoring a 99-year-old canoe that Tom’s parents canoed in when they were dating in the early 1940s,” said Jeanne Tunks.

Even though Tunks has never profited monetarily from his woodwork, he enjoys sharing his gift with others.

“It’s good for the soul,” he said.

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