Posted on January 13th, 2017 by:

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By Cpl. Tom Shehan

CAMP REYNOLDS, PA.—Making violins, some of which have been described by Alexander Blackman, former conductor of the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra, as possessing excellent tonal quality, is the hobby of T-4 Jacobus Theddorou.

Theddorou, who is a cook here, came by his hobby as a family heritage, having learned the art from his grandfather and his uncle on the island of Cyprus before emigrating to this country in 1930. Employed as a cook and baker in New York at the time of his induction in 1942, Teddy was sent to Cooks and Bakers School at Camp Pickett and then transferred here in March 1943. Since coming here he has become a citizen of the United States.

WWII violins soldier GI army camp reynolds

Camp Reynolds Fiddle maker T-4 Jacobus Theddorou at his bench.

During the time he has been in the Army, Theddorou has found time to complete only one violin and partly finish another. But since he came to this country he has made 10 and repaired hundreds. One was displayed in an exhibit sponsored by Rudolph Wurlitzer last summer to prove that excellent violins could be made in this country as well as in Europe. Theddorou was offered $800 for it at the time.

A violin is made up of more than 65 individual pieces, and it takes Teddy more than 150 hours to cut and shape them all by hand and fit and glue them together. Then 15 coats of varnish are applied, and each coat is allowed a week to dry before it is rubbed down and polished and a new coat is applied. The whole process takes five months

The violins are made from maple imported from Czechoslovakia, where it has dried and cured for many years.  The wood costs from $5 to $5o for each piece, depending on its individual quality.

Theddorou’s CO has permitted him to set up his workbench in the barracks alongside his bunk. The barracks has its disadvantage as a workshop, since it is not practical to hang the instruments up to dry there after they are varnished. “I tried it,” said Teddy, “but somebody was always touching them to see if the sign (WET VARNISH—DO NOT TOUCH) was true. It was too dusty in here anyhow.”

Ironically, although Teddy has been making violins for years, he can’t play one. “All I know,” he said with embarrassment when we suggested that he play us a number, “is enough notes to tune one.”

For More on Violin Making Check Out:

Stradivari’s Genius: Five Violins, One Cello, and Three Centuries of Enduring Perfection

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