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Kevin

Snakewood bows

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Does anyone here own or has tried a bow made out of snakewood?

Do you think that they are better than bows made out of pernambuco?

and are they more expensive?

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I know that every "snakewood" bow that I have seen or owned, that was made at the turn of the Century, has been a cheap grade of wood (beech maybe?)that has been hand painted to imitate snakewood. There are lot's of imitations out there. Most have been fitted with fancy bone, celluiod or ivory frogs.

george

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I believe that some modern bows are currently being made of actual snakewood, but they are very rare.

For a modern bow, snakewood is less desireable than good pernambuco, although I suppose good snakewood would be better than bad pernambuco. Snakewood is not as resonant and 'live' as pernambuco.

Snakewood can be very expensive, but a snakewood modern bow should not automatically be considered more valuable by that fact alone.

Real snakewood is very heavy and stiff, at least as heavy as bow-quality pernambuco.

[This message has been edited by Andres Sender (edited 04-21-2001).]

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The term 'ironwood' is probably the single most-broadly-applied wood 'name' there is. There are multiple south american species which are called 'ironwood' locally or as a trade name somewhere it is imported. There are several species of 'ironwood' in the US, etc.

For modern bows, I have yet to hear anyone claim to have found a wood which is the equal of good pernambuco.

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According to a bow making acquaintance of mine, snakewood is preferred by baroque and period players. If I remember right the most popular reason players gave was the action is softer, not quite so lively as the best pernambuco. Every once in while he'll get a Lucci meter reading on a billet of snakewood that matches the tippy top of the highest readings for pernambuco. Generally he's found the average elasticity readings for snakewood to be just below those of high grade pernambuco but only just. If we're going to play guessing games I would guess a bow made from "good" snakewood will be on average be better than one made of a medium grade pernambuco.

However broadly the name ironwood is applied it is my understanding the term when accurately used is for trees that grow extremely slowly, end up as lumber of scant size, often times more precious than pernambuco, and almost always anything but straight or clear enough to be cut as a bow blank and would add little more value other than as a novelty or freak.

While we're on the subject, a strange tidbit to ponder; in the instructions for the Lucci meter it lists elasticity measures for Torte bows as being below the readings for those of other makers in his time as well as first class modern makers.

Here's a suggestion if you're not too anally fixated on traditional materials; try seriously looking into carbon/graphite fibre. The best of the man made materials are now better than most players realistically need and almost certainly better than the vast majority of wood bows being made today. It may not save one acre of rain forest but on the other hand...

Now, who's up for some fake ebony?

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Greetings everyone: I have been told by a luthier/bow maker that real snakewood is very hard on tools; much more so than pernambuco

If you look into the mortice of the frog you should be able to tell the differance in snakewood and imitation snakewood. The wood is colored in the factory and is usually some sort of fruit wood. I have seen several imitation ones and they are very cheap looking and look as though they were colored with a marks-a-lot pen. shocked.gif Hope this helps.

Ed

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A fine Louis Panormo snakewood bow repaired amazingly well by David Orlin, 
Not sure if it's violin or viola, perhaps viola since it's heavier. 
I'd appreciate input from bow makers on whether snakewood is suitable for a modern bow, 
as Panormo seems to have made one.....I don't see why not. 


 

Panormo 1.JPG

Panoromo 2.JPG

Panormo 3.JPG

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I really love a lot of old amourette bows mainly 19th century (which is snakewood but usually refers to in bowmaking as snakewood with little or no figure).  Highly figured stuff is usually only used for so called baroque  style bows . Ive found a good amourette bow can play just as well as a good pernambucco bow. Others may disagree but then they may have not tried a good 19th century French amourette bow .

There is no reason why it cant make a good modern bow. But be careful as snakewood is pretty difficult to season ,so be careful where you buy it from.

I bought a big heap of old seasoned stuff  from a Uk auction house under the description of it being pernambuco ,it was highly figured but i sent it back as i was expecting pernambuco. If it had been only slightly figured (ie more streaky than highly spotted i would have kept it ,as unfigured snakewood is often discarded by big wood dealers in favour of the typical high figure /high price stuff) . Dealers like Espen in germany sell the low figured stuff .

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Many thanks FC ! 
Any idea if the well known masters used snakewood much ? 

I received two good snakewood sticks today, one flamed. 
Never tried a snakewood bow myself, and will have a go and making one of them in Baroque style, Cello bow for other I think. 
I was thinking of trying Espen for pernambuco actually, so thanks for the tips.  :-)

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All the good early /mid 19th century French makersTourtes ,Peccattes, Schwartz, Maire , Pajeot ,Maline,Simon ,Guinot, Gallard, Lafleur ,etc.... only went out of fashion in the last quarter of 19th century due to the thinking that only pernambuco will do amongst many players.(which is still the vogue on the whole)

Heres a nice Maire cello bow

https://bridgewoodandneitzert.london/product/cello-bow-by-nicolas-remy-maire-paris-c-1840-with-pierre-testa-certificate-2/

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3 hours ago, baroquecello said:

I playd a modern snakewood Cello bow by a living maker.  It drew a good Sound, was a spectacular bow for soutillee, but for my taste it was simply too heavy.

Interesting correlation with the weight.  I just bought a new violin bow for my son.  We had two on trial.  They were closely matched but one weighed 2.5g heavier.  They both played well with spiccato but the lighter one just could not compete with the heavier bow with sautillé bowing. May have more to do with stiffness than weight.  Your comments on weight and sautillé just caught my attention.  BTW, only the scale could tell which bow was heavier although their balance felt different even though the actual balance point was the same.  It surprises me how complex bows are compared to how simple they appear.

-Jim

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And for reference - and to increase the sample size - here are 2 less than crisp pictures of mine...^_^

20180123_163630.jpg

20180123_163727.jpg

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7 hours ago, fiddlecollector said:

I really love a lot of old amourette bows mainly 19th century (which is snakewood but usually refers to in bowmaking as snakewood with little or no figure).  Highly figured stuff is usually only used for so called baroque  style bows . Ive found a good amourette bow can play just as well as a good pernambucco bow. Others may disagree but then they may have not tried a good 19th century French amourette bow .

There is no reason why it cant make a good modern bow. But be careful as snakewood is pretty difficult to season ,so be careful where you buy it from.

I bought a big heap of old seasoned stuff  from a Uk auction house under the description of it being pernambuco ,it was highly figured but i sent it back as i was expecting pernambuco. If it had been only slightly figured (ie more streaky than highly spotted i would have kept it ,as unfigured snakewood is often discarded by big wood dealers in favour of the typical high figure /high price stuff) . Dealers like Espen in germany sell the low figured stuff .

Thanks for the info.  When I looked at Ben's bow it struck me as being amourette (some of your many previous posts on bow wood have greatly helped me in getting at least an inkling for identifying bow wood varieties).

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