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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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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