Cello Frog Series #3

Posted in Cello Frog, Cello frog making, Frog Making on September 10th, 2011 by Robert Morrow


In this photo the recesses for the pearl eyes are being created.  The tool that is being used is a bow drill or foret.  Just below the photo my right hand is operating the bow causing the foret to spin.  The drill bit or cutter that is making the recess is one that I made from a piece of round drill stock.  Bow makers usually make their own cutters so that they can create the exact dimensions for their own particular eyes.

The pearl eye is now in place and filed to the shape of the flank of the frog.  I will outline the process of making pearl eyes in another post when I have the photos.  To make the eye you first cut out a piece of shell with a jeweler’s saw roughly to size.  The piece is filed square and to the size of the recess.  Afterwards, the piece is made first octagonal, then 16 sided, then 32 sided, and finally round.  When Charles Espey first taught me this technique I found it very difficult and tedious.  I began to make eyes with a lathe.  While in France I didn’t have my lathe and noticed that my friend Yannick Le Canu was making them by hand.  When in France as the saying goes…  I now make all my pearl eyes by hand and enjoy the process.  Not only is it a joy but I’m sure that it is faster than using the lathe and less shell is wasted.  Working with hand tools really can be faster than machines once you hone your skills.

The channel (coulisse) for the pearl slide (recouvrement) and the heel plate (talon) have been created with files and specialized chisels.  You can see photos on my website of this work being done.

The last two photos show the frog with the talon fit and the mortise completely carved.  Ultimately the hair hank will fit into the back of the mortise and be secured with a wooden wedge.  It would be difficult to describe how to fit the talon.  Basically, cut out and bend a piece of silver that is the shape of the coulisse and heel of the frog.  It is just something that the maker learns to do.  The frog is now ready to have the pearl slide fit and that is where the next post will begin.

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Cello Frog Series #2

Posted in Uncategorized on September 8th, 2011 by Robert Morrow
After the shelf has been established the tongue where the passant seats is carved.
The passant is fit and the bottom sides are hand planed to match the width and orientation of the passant.  The front of the frog is filed square and the final length of the passant is established.  The frog is then cut to final length and the heel is rounded, first by making a series of facets.  Next the top of the frog is planed back into symmetry.
The throat has been carved which allows the maker to establish the placement of the pearl eyes.  A .9 mm pilot hole has been drilled to use as a guide for the cutter that will make the recess for the eye.
The flanks or creasage of the frog are hollowed  with a Japanese gouge to a beautiful curve.  In the next post  we will move on to the pearl eyes  and beyond.
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Cello Frog Series #1

Posted in Frog Making on September 7th, 2011 by Robert Morrow

The first step is selecting ebony.  This block is Cambodian ebony which has been cured for nine years.  I have worked with this particular lot before and it will take a high lustrous polish with a rich black color.  Not all ebony will produce these results.  Ebony of this quality is extremely difficult to procure.  Look to future posts on bow making materials for further information on this topic.

Here we see the block roughed out.  Beginning dimensions have been established and the block is now trapezoidal and symmetrical.  The flanks have been hollowed just a bit.  A hole was drilled through and a channel has been made down to the hole with a handsaw.  This is the very beginning of the throat, an important stylistic point for the maker and connoisseur.  All of the work that you will see in this ongoing frog series is done with hand tools right on the bench.  An historic French maker, say Dominique Pecatte could sit down at my bench and make a bow with the tools at hand.

Now a shelf is established on the base of the frog.  This shelf is the same depth as the thickness of the bottom of the sterling silver ferrule or passant.  You can view photos of the tools and techniques used in this process at my website,  http://robertmorrowbowmaker.com.

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Homage to FX Tourte

Posted in Historic bow makers on August 18th, 2011 by Robert Morrow


Francois Xavier Tourte (1748-1835) was the singular genius that brought us the “modern bow”. Born into a family of bow makers in Paris, Tourte’s early training was actually in clock making. Unable to make a sufficient income as a clock maker he returned to his family’s workshop sometime around 1774. By this time his father had passed away and he worked in collaboration with his brother Nicholas Leonard. During this period Francois experimented with many types of wood eventually settling on pernambuco around 1780. In 1782 the violinist Viotti arrived in Paris. Tourte and Viotti began dialogue and experimentation with innovations for the bow. Through their collaboration the height of the head and frog as well as the length of the bow were determined, the ferrule was added to the frog, and the stick was given a concave camber. Sometime during this era the ideal weights for the violin, viola, and cello bows were determined as well. Contemporary bow makers continue to employ Tourte’s innovations nearly two hundred years later!

Francois Tourte was surely a man of great sensitivity, perception, and ability to communicate. Not only did he arrive at the functional model for the modern bow, he also laid the stylistic foundation for bow makers which continues to this day. His career spanned more than sixty years, and he crafted bows at his bench until the end of his life at age 87.

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