Friday, December 31, 2010

WILL’S BOW Part 3. Fitting the Frog.

The cambering is now done although more adjustments and corrections will come later. Now the stick gets planed down to about one millimeter oversized and the frog is fit on the stick. The frog must be in exactly the same axis as the head.

The frog is fit on the stick with a small plane, the ‘fin fer’. This one was made by a late 19th century Mirecourt toolmaker. In Mirecourt, a whole trade existed to make the specialized tools of the luthier and archetier. One of the first people I worked for in Paris was Roger Giraudon, an instrument dealer who was not from the luthier trade. A poet and musician, he kept an apartment in Paris, London and Tokyo, making the rounds to sell fine old bows and violins. Giraudon was a friend of André Chardon’s widow and he helped her sell the remaining materials from the Chardon shop. This included hundred-year-old pernambuco sticks. But Giraudon would only sell me three for every time I delivered restored bows to his apartment…to keep me coming.

This plane from André Chardon sat on a shelf in Giraudon’s apartment and each time I made a delivery I would ask to buy it. Finally he gave it to me. You can see a tiny ‘C’ stamped on the side. The pencil gives you the scale.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Will's Bow part 2. Cambering.

When the stick is planed out to an oversized taper the cambering or imparting of the bow’s curve begins. Apart from the quality of the wood, the camber is probably the single most important element of the bow’s playing quality. You could compare it to a violin’s arching. Each bow-maker has a personal idea of what constitutes an ideal camber. Camber gives the bow its feel, contact, flexibility and level of power and it works hand in hand with the bow’s graduations or taper. The camber is also where the maker relies on his intuition or sense of what will feel right because these things are so hard to quantify. Sometimes after many years a stick can warp a little or lose a little camber. This can be restored but if the restorer does not respect the maker’s original intent, the bow’s original camber may be lost forever.

If heated to a certain point, Pernambuco wood can be bent and maintain that curve indefinitely. We heat up a few inches at a time and slowly put in the curve we have in mind. Every bow I make has the camber traced on a strip of mat board and this gives me a reference to refer to as I camber. But each bow ends up a little different depending on the wood and the requirements of the player. Will and I have discussed his bow in depth and he has tried several bows belonging to a colleague so I now have sense of what should work.

Here Charles Bazin is cambering a stick. In Mirecourt the bowmakers would go to the bakery when they swept the coals out of the oven. They would fill an old ‘Marmite’ or Dutch oven with coals and use them for cambering. I use an old fashioned hotplate with an exposed element to give the same even heat but in other traditions an alcohol lamp is used as well.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Will's Bow

I have already made the frog although it isn't polished yet. The frog is without silver under-slide at the intersection of frog and stick. This was the norm for makers like Tourte and Eury working the late 17 hundreds and very early 19th century. The polishing will come later after it is mounted on the stick.

This bow is for Will Fedkenheuer of the Fry Street Quartet. The bow will have to perform well on his Gagliano as well as a new Moes & Moes violin he will be getting shortly. He has been using a nice old Pfretzschner that is quite light. Here we are going to a bow weighing about 59.5 grams but the frog and winding will be relatively light so the stick will fairly dense and quite powerful. The stick is wonderful pernambuco wood I found in Espirito Santo, Brazil in 1987.

Here the stick is roughed out and ready for cambering tomorrow.