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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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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