Handmade instruments that are medicine for happiness - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Handmade instruments that are medicine for happiness

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It's a perfect day for Thurmond Knight to be in his Glover woodshed.

"We're going to do a little chopping," said Knight.

But he's not splitting wood for the winter. He's carving it for year-round entertainment.

Knight hand makes violins, violas and cellos for his business Northern Knights Violins.

"So the instrument is totally sculpted from the outside in and from the inside out," said Knight.

Knight harvests much of the spruce and maple wood from his own backyard.

"I have different trees I use for cellos than I do for the violin and viola," said Thurmond.

He was 35 when he first started playing the cello. His minister asked him to learn so they could perform together. While playing one day he broke his cello.

"I squeezed a little too hard and the whole side cracked. I remember the noise I was just sick because I was still new at it and it was my first cello," said Knight.

When he went to get it fixed he fell in love with the repair shop and it inspired him to take violin-making classes. While he was studying, he was also a busy full-time family doctor at Gifford Hospital in Randolph.

"If you're catching babies like I was 4-6 a week you really don't sleep," said Knight.

It was a passion that was wearing on him.

"I woke up one morning and felt like I was going to die; I looked into the mirror and didn't recognize the guy," said Thurmond.

Knight left the world of medicine 3,000 babies later in 1991 and now makes his own babies. Only these take three months to deliver instead of nine.

A Northern Knights violin costs around $12,000, violas cost $14,000 and a cello will run you $24,000. Knight says that may be more than the instruments you buy from a factory, but the sound is worth it. Most of his customers play professionally and take music very seriously.

"These are magic boxes we're producing something to project without any electronics and the factory instruments just don't do it. They can't take the time. I spend days sometimes week tuning just the top plate," said Knight.

He's a former doctor whose medicine for happiness is his Made in Vermont instruments.

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