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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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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