“Great Contemporary Bow Makers from the 21st Century, Vol. II”

Posted in Books, Contemporary bow makers, Contemporary bow making, Historic bow makers, Port Townsend on February 8th, 2014 by Robert Morrow

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This post is several months overdue.  Please forgive me.  In September of 2013 Andy Lim of Darling Publications, Cologne, Germany released his publication of “The Great Contemporary Bow Makers of the 21st Century” Vol. II.  The event was held at the Palazzo Trecchi in Cremona, Italy.  Twenty makers including myself are featured in this volume (full list to follow).  Andy released “The Great Contemporary Bow Makers of the 21st Century” Vol. II, and another book documenting the exhibition at Palazzo Trecchi cataloguing the work and biographies of the 57 makers who were in attendance.

Andy Lim is a talented publisher, cellist, business man, and he throws quite a party from time to time.  The 15th century Palazzo Trecchi in the home town of Antonio Stradivari, made a splendid back drop for the gathering of 28 bow makers and 29 violin makers from around the world.  Three days were spent eating and drinking in the good company of many fine archetiers and luthiers as well as various other people from the world of stringed instruments.  The makers shared an exceptional camaraderie during this time as we admired and discussed each others work.

For a more detailed description of the book see my earlier post on Vol. I.

Bow makers who were included in Vol. II

Morgan ANDERSEN-Rosalia (WA), USA

Emmanuel BÉGIN-Montreal, Canada

Victor BERNARD-Paris, France

Emmanuel Carlier-Bruxelles, Belgium

Edwin CLÉMENT-Paris, France

Sebastian DIRR-Erlangen, Germany

Blaise EMMELIN-Toulouse, France

Bernd ETZLER-Gód, Hungary

Eric FOURNIER-Quimper, France

Boris FRITSCH-Paris, France

Éric GAGNÉ-Montreal, Canada

Eero HAAHTI-Helsinki, Finland

David HAWTHORNE-Boston, USA

Ole KANESTROM-Port Townsend, USA

Gary LEAHY-Newport, Ireland

Dirk LÖSCHER-Barcelona, Spain

Robert MORROW-Port Townsend, USA

Rudolf NEUDÖRFER-Bubenreuth, Germany

Mitsuaki SASANO-Nice, France

Emilio SLAVIERO-Cremona, Italy

Georges TÉPHO-Quimper, France

Stéphane THOMACHOT-Cucuron, France

Risto VAINIO-Helsinki, Finland

 

 

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Let the beauty we love be what we do

Posted in Uncategorized on November 14th, 2013 by Robert Morrow

 

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

— Rumi

via Let the beauty we love be what we do | Gorgeous Company.

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Back in Port Townsend!

Posted in Port Townsend, Uncategorized on November 10th, 2013 by Robert Morrow

Here is a photo of the new bow shop in Port Townsend.  It is located in the historic Mount Baker Block Building, which was built in 1890.  This room works very well as a bow shop, quiet, good light, and right down town.  It feels good to be back in Port Townsend!

Mount Baker Block bow shop

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Bending the stick #2

Posted in Bending the stick, Contemporary bow making, Pernambuco, Roughing out the stick, Stick selection, Uncategorized on November 19th, 2011 by Robert Morrow

This photo shows a stick which has been rough cambered.  The stick has been planed down considerably from it’s initial size after being selected.  I like to remove as much material as possible to relieve stress on the stick during bending.  As stated in an earlier post the stick is heated section by section gradually working from one end to the other as the curve or camber is induced.  I use a heat gun with a temperature range from 0-1100 degrees.  Normally the sticks are rough bent at about 650 degrees.  The curve is formed by hand bending the stick over the edge of my bench.  The stick needs to remain straight at the same time that the camber is established.  An interesting side note to this process is that often the stick will twist from one end to the other as it is bent.  This presents no problem though as enough material is left on the stick to facilitate more planing and everything can be brought back into axis.

It is very hard to keep your cool as a bow maker when this happens!  Time has been taken to carefully select a stick.  Tools have been sharpened for the work.  Perhaps an hour or two have been spent planing the rough stick down.  Now the maker is bending the stick.  In this case I was about 2/3 finished, probably another hour of hard work.  Suddenly the stick gives way like butter under the same amount of pressure used on the rest of the stick.  This was a beautiful, strong, and resilient stick and now it’s highest use might be as repair material!  It cannot be overstated how difficult it is to obtain pernambuco of this quality.  It simply isn’t available anymore short of a bow maker’s estate sale.  Player’s can acquire bows with wood of this quality but maker’s have great difficulty in replenishing their supply.

In the next post I will fit the ivory tip plate and ebony liner.

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Bending the stick #1

Posted in Bending the stick, Contemporary bow making, Historic bow makers, Pernambuco on October 22nd, 2011 by Robert Morrow

This is a great photo of the archetier Joseph Arthur Vigneron.  Vigneron was born in Mirecourt and trained with his step father Claude Nicholas Husson.  His early work is indistinguishable from the work of his master.  In 1880 he relocated to Paris to work for Gand & Bernadel.  He remained in Paris until his death at the age of 54  It is said that Vigneron could easily make a bow a day.

The photo shows the 19th century bow maker surrounded by many tools that are familiar and useful to the contemporary maker.  In the background on the wall are hung a variety of chisels, files, and pliers.  The bench where he sits is well worn.  There is a groove on the side facing the camera that was probably used for bending sticks.  A few sticks are in progress on the bench.  To the right of his knee there is a model used to determine the head profiles and height.  In front of his right elbow you will see a small bucket with coals from the bakery.  On the coals there is a small glue pot filled with hide glue.  I chose this photo for this post for the bucket of coals.  These coals would have not only been used to heat the glue but also to heat the sticks for bending.  Contemporary makers use a variety of heat sources.  Alcohol lamps, heat guns (similar to hair dryers but much more powerful) and butane burners of the type used in chemistry lamps are the most common heat sources used today.

Bow makers whether working in the 19th or 21st century apply heat to a small section of the stick and then slowly bend it into shape over the corner of the bench or sometimes over a curved bending jig.  Working down the length of the stick an initial or “rough” camber will be put into the stick.  This is only a jumping off point for further work on the camber as the bow and it’s dimensions are refined and finalized.  The maker will return to the stick over and over correcting for straightness while inducing the optimal camber for a given piece of wood.  The camber cannot be “cook booked”.  Every stick has it’s only particular qualities that must be taken into account during cambering and graduation.

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More on the stick #1

Posted in Contemporary bow makers, Contemporary bow making, Pernambuco, Roughing out the stick, Stick selection on October 13th, 2011 by Robert Morrow

My next bow will be a cello bow and I’ve selected a handful of candidates from the rack.  Selecting a stick is one of the most demanding and nerve racking steps for me in bow making.  If I don’t look carefully a flaw in the stick could become apparent later in the process rendering the stick useless.  The maker can waste a lot of time this way so it pays to spend time pouring over the stick early on.  Some common flaws are discoloration, cracks, run out in the grain, problems with the grain orientation, the wood being too dense or too light, large knots (small knots are permissible, beautiful even, and often are an indication of very nice wood), lack of strength, and an absence of nervousness in the stick.  Nervousness is a way to describe the liveliness of a particular piece of wood.

 Progress, I am now down to my four favorites from the initial selection.  These will likely all work quite well.  They are beautiful, strong, the proper density, lively, and seem to be free from imperfections.  This photo shows the basic shape of a stick after it has been cut from the board.  The next step is to begin roughing the stick out so that it will be ready for the initial bend.

Here you can see a stick which has been roughed out and is ready to be bent.  The dimensions of the original stick have been reduced but still remain oversized to facilitate further planing as the bow takes shape.   Every curl of wood in this photo represents a stroke with the hand plane.  That is a lot of plane strokes, and the stick is only roughed out!  Many more will follow before this bow is ready.  I rejected this stick because it shows some run out in the grain.  I should have caught it earlier, but oh well.  On to the next stick.  One of Charles Espey’s early teachings to me was never to use materials that are even the slightest bit questionable.  It is an excellent piece of advice for the bow maker.

This photo shows a comparison to the earlier photo of the end of the stick.  Here you can see how the shape of the stick is changing.  The triangular shape that you see flows back toward the handle end of the stick but gradually becomes square as it does.  The stick is shown on a card of drawings from old French bows that I have sketched over the years.

In the next post I will describe the process of putting in the initial, rough camber.

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Stick Selection

Posted in CTES, Pernambuco, Stick selection on October 6th, 2011 by Robert Morrow

This is a photo of one of my stick racks.  In 2007 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species  of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) http://www.cites.org/ listed Pernambuco as a species which would be regulated in regard to it’s international trade.  Basically the listing stipulated that pernambuco in it’s raw form would need proper documentation to cross the borders of any of CITES signatory countries.  Most bow makers took the initiative to document their own stocks of pernambuco at this time.  If properly documented the wood is considered “pre-convention” and could cross international borders with the proper paperwork.  It is possible that CITES could implement a stricter listing.  If this happens the wood in any form including finished bows would require proper paperwork to cross borders.  Can you imagine the logistical problems that a touring symphony orchestra would face if the stricter listing occurs?  Since 2007 when I write certificates for my own bows the stick number from my documentation process is included in the paperwork.  The row numbers in the photo were part of the third party documentation that was done on my stocks.

So now it’s time to get to work on the stick.  The maker just needs to grab one off the rack and get to work right?  Not so fast,  stick selection is perhaps the most critical decision in making a bow.  In the coming posts I will describe some of the qualities that I look for in a stick.

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The Great Contemporary Bowmakers of the 21st Century.-Vol.One

Posted in Books, Contemporary bow makers, Contemporary bow making on September 25th, 2011 by Robert Morrow

 

Andy Lim of Darling Publications will be releasing the first volume of his new book, “The Great Contemporary Bowmakers of the 21st Century” at Mondomusica 2011, Cremona Music Fair from 30 September until 2 October.  In the photo we see Mr. Hendricks from Kleve, Germany who is the artisan chosen to bind the massive book.  Each volume will be about the size of a viola case.

If you look closely the top page shows photos of four bows from the French bow maker or archetier Arthur Dubroca.  The bow photos in this book are unprecedented in that the bows are full size, to scale, and the entire bow is in perspective.  What do I mean by in perspective?  The entire bow is represented so that no matter what part of the bow you are looking at it will be seen as if you are looking squarely at it.  To achieve this perspective Andy had a special digital camera created just for photographing bows.  The bow is placed on a track that slowly passes under a digital camera.  The camera photographs the bow many times over nearly an hour while the bow passes underneath.  The photographs are then stitched together producing an image that is seen from directly in front throughout the whole image.  Andy’s work will help preserve for posterity not only the makers craftsmanship but also the dimensions of the bow as seen from the side and the shape of the camber.  It is very rare to find an old bow that still has it’s original camber and makers would dearly love to have this information.  If a book such as this one of the work of great makers of the past existed it would certainly be found in every contemporary maker’s shop.  Andy’s intention is to chronicle the work of each bow maker.  As such he has asked us to send him bows spanning our careers, from early work through the present.  Andy intends to publish a second volume in which he has been kind enough to include my work.

The list of makers for volume I include:

Morgan Andersen

Alexandre Aumont

Sylvain Bigot

Christophe Collinet

Franck Daguin

Arthur Dubroca

Pierre-Yves Fuchs

Josef P. Gabriel

Eric Grandchamp

Klaus Grünke

Tibor Kovacs

Yannick Le Canu

Tino Joh. Lucke

Johannes Miething

Mitsuaki Sasano

In producing these books Andy Lim has done a great service for bow making and more broadly the world of classical music.  There will be a very limited number of copies of this book produced.  These and Andy’s other fine publications will be available through Darling Publications  www.darlingpublications.com

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Cello Frog Series #4

Posted in Cello Frog, Cello frog making, Frog Making on September 18th, 2011 by Robert Morrow

The pearl slide has been fit.  This step begins with selecting the shell.  Most often I use Japanese abalone which is known as awabi.  As with all bow making materials finding the highest quality shell is a task in itself.  Once the maker has found a source for the awabi and purchases a quantity he or she must sort it out.  I would expect a yield of 20-30% on average of usable shell.  Shell is prone to many defects.  The maker will pick out a gorgeous piece only to find a tiny crack, blemish, chip, or hole from some tiny invasive predator.  It can be heart breaking really to have to pass up some otherwise lovely material.

Once the piece of shell has been selected I thin it out from approximately 1 mm in thickness to about .6 mm on a diamond stone.  Now it is thinned it is glued to a 1 mm thick piece of ebony.  After the glue has set it is filed to match the dovetails seen in Cello Frog Series #3.  The taper is filed to match the channel or coulisse and the slide is slowly fit.  When it reaches the back of the channel against the silver talon or heel plate it is filed to match.  The front of the slide is then cut off with a jeweler’s saw and the front is filed to match the ferrule or passant.

Returning to the top of the frog the coulisse for the silver underslide is created using chisels made specifically for frog making by local artisan Ed Louchard http://www.zephyrwerks.com/contact.asp.  One of these chisels can be seen to the right of the frog in the photo.  I made the handle from Bubinga wood and did a short silver wire wrap that is similar to a winding on a bow.  Ed has made some beautiful tools for me based on old French models provided by Charles Espey.  I will devote some time in future posts to the tools and French method.  The channel that you see in this photo was created entirely by hand with chisels and the base was finished with a fine file.  Early French bows were fit onto the stick as you see this one.  That is to say the silver under-slide wasn’t used until the early 19th century.  I have made several bows in this fashion.  You can see a photo of one at the following link, look for my 2006 gold medal winning cello bow.  Notice that there is no line of gold in between the frog and the stick.  http://www.robertmorrowbowmaker.com/bows/indexflash.html  It is possible that the under-slide has a dampening effect on sound quality.  The bows that I have made without under-slides have been well received.  The trade off is that the ebony is fragile and can easily be damaged by careless work while re-hairing.

The silver under-slide has been fit, glued in place, pinned with silver pins, and filed flat.  I make the under-slides on a steel form made by local machinist Wayne Meginnes.  The hole for the eyelet is drilled at this time as well.

In the next post we will move on to the stick.

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A bow maker’s day off

Posted in Holiday on September 12th, 2011 by Robert Morrow


Here are a few photos from last weekend’s trip into Washington’s Olympic Mountains.  The images are of Mount Olympus in the distance and zoomed in.  The photos were taken from the High Divide Trail http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/high-divide-loop.htm .  I have hiked on several continents and this ramble certainly ranks near the very top of the list.  We have had a cool, cloudy summer for the most part but recently a lovely Indian summer has settled in.  The temperatures were perfect and there was hardly more than the slightest breeze at any time.  To the south of the divide were vistas of Mount Olympus and surrounding peaks.  To the north was the Seven Lakes Basin.

Bow making requires an immense amount of concentration.  I would compare it to playing tournament chess for a livelihood.  I’ve found it important to balance my working life with time spent in the outdoors.  We are truly blessed here in Port Townsend to have the Olympics out our back door.

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