Port Angeles craftsman lauded for tone from his handmade violin

A self-taught violin maker has been recognized for his craftsmanship in an international competition which featured almost 200 violins.

When Richard “Rick” Thanem of Port Angeles entered a violin of maple, spruce, rosewood and ebony woods in the Violin Society of America’s 16th International Competition earlier this month, he did not expect to walk away with a Certificate of Merit for Violin Tone.

“I was trying to make some improvements from comments the judges made during the last competition,” Thanem said. “It was unexpected, but welcomed.”

Although Thanem’s violin did not win a medal, a certificate of merit in a pool of 190 violins made by men and women from around the world the recognition is an accomplishment.

Spare-time project

Thanem, 52, who owns The Violin Shop in Port Angeles, said he built the violin in his spare time at home.

“I spent one to two hours a night off and on working on the violin,” he said.

“I worked between 180 and 200 hours on this violin.”

The instrument, which is modeled after a Stradivarius, is the 18th Thanem has built.

In 1988, Thanem began making violins and said he learned from books and critiques from others.

“I am self-taught so entering the competitions were a way to get good criticism so I could improve,” he said.

“When you go before the judges you have to bury your ego.”

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