AP PHOTOS: In Serbian village, violins are made with love

KOVACICA, Serbia — In the small Serbian village of Kovacica, Jan Nemcek makes violins the old way — with no machines, only his hands and tools. And with love.

Nemcek's eyes soften as he takes a piece of wood and starts working slowly and patiently, lifting it against rays of sunshine protruding into the workshop.

Nemcek does everything himself: First he chooses his own forest wood, then dries it and cuts it into smaller pieces for violin parts.

The workshop in Nemcek's home in Kovacica is a haven of nature and art. Pieces of wood and violins are everywhere, while ready-made instruments of all sizes hang on the wall.

Nemcek says it takes about 200 hours to craft a good violin. To test the sound, Nemcek closes his eyes and gently knocks on the resonating violin body. The older the wood the better, he says, as it gets lighter and more melodic with age.

Nemcek learned his craft from his father and has taught his son how to make violins. He also teaches violin-making in Slovakia, where his 65 students have all made at least one violin.

The gentle, gray-bearded man says whoever starts making violins continues to do so for the rest of their lives.

Nowadays, Nemcek's violins enjoy good reputation and are valued on the market. Nemcek says many people come to visit his workshop to see how violins are made.

Apart from crafting new ones, Nemcek also restores old violins. His favorite is a violin from Prague that he says could be some 500 years old.

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