How important is straightness of grain in a bow?


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Was it ever common wisdom that off grain gets you better performing bows? I get the the impression that the makers weren't horribly worried about it. As far as I know nobody tries to do it skew any more and maybe that gives us the answer.

 

Bruce

That's the point: 'not being worried about' it would explain the actual amount of bows that are off grain.

If the camber behind the head  is deliberately filed in off grain, either because of it being easier or because the bow performs better, I would expect to see more off grain bows of that particular maker.

To my knowledge there is no maker that produced predominantly off grain bows !?

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That's the point: 'not being worried about' it would explain the actual amount of bows that are off grain.

If the camber behind the head  is deliberately filed in off grain, either because of it being easier or because the bow performs better, I would expect to see more off grain bows of that particular maker.

To my knowledge there is no maker that produced predominantly off grain bows !?

Maybe it was used on bows where a little more flexibility in that area was desired, without changing the weight or balance. I don't know. Start watching for it and see what you think.

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To my knowledge there is no maker that produced predominantly off grain bows !?

 

I've been sort of wondering about this point, since I first started reading this post.

 

 In order for their to be a change in the direction of the grain, just before the head, along the shaft, the blanks would have to be drawn and cut with this curve at the head end, right from the beginning, and then incorporated, somehow, into the bows curve - and such a cut in the blank would only be idiotic, not really possible or easily accomplished, and fairly well obvious, right from the beginning.

I imagine.

Wouldn't it?

What giant concept am I not understanding, and not seeing in this thread?

 ...otherwise an intentional "Off grain" cut in the pernambuco, would have to be fairly shallow, and would show through the entire length of the bow.

?

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  In order for their to be a change in the direction of the grain, just before the head, along the shaft, the blanks would have to be drawn and cut with this curve at the head end, right from the beginning, and then incorporated, somehow, into the bows curve - and such a cut in the blank would only be idiotic, not really possible or easily accomplished, and fairly well obvious, right from the beginning.

I imagine.

Wouldn't it?

I think all you'd need to do is bend that area convex while planing the upper facets (continuing the plane stroke down the entire length of the bow), and then finish the rest of the bow normally. Or the blank could be sawn out that way.

I'll try to remember to ask Bernard Millant about all this if I run into him sometime.

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I am still a little confused about what exactly everyone is going on about . Is everyone talking about grain in the the same way. a few drawings would be helpful to avoid any confusion?? Anyone??

I can still not understand how one could tell if the camber has been filed in behind the head  apart from heresay?? How many( Apart from Florian) who`ve commented have actually made more than a handful of  bows as some of the suggestions would make it a very awkward process ? :)

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Anyone ready for some facts?

 

VSA volume18, no 3  "The Hill Methods of Bow Making" by Tim Baker.  The blow blank is cut out from the plank, made into an accurate square tapered bow and then bent with heat.  Later, the bow is pulled straight with an inserted wire and finished off--that means making it 8-sided and correcting the camber using block planes (using a bottom of the line Stanley block plane, I might add).  There is probably some additional heating to correct the camber at the very final stages.  No mention of cambering at the tip with a file though I could see how you could do a little of it to smooth out the taper, making it more attractive to the eyeball. 

 

To get back to the issue at hand, mellowpa's bow had some bad grain at a vulnerable region.  It would have been even worse if it was located at the region of maximum camber which is also where most of the deflection takes place.  This bow should never have gotten out of the Hill shop.  And the article makes clear the Hill's destroyed bad bows rather than selling them; so there is a mystery here.

 

Mike D

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Anyone ready for some facts?

 

VSA volume18, no 3  "The Hill Methods of Bow Making" by Tim Baker.  The blow blank is cut out from the plank, made into an accurate square tapered bow and then bent with heat.  Later, the bow is pulled straight with an inserted wire and finished off--that means making it 8-sided and correcting the camber using block planes (using a bottom of the line Stanley block plane, I might add).  There is probably some additional heating to correct the camber at the very final stages.  No mention of cambering at the tip with a file though I could see how you could do a little of it to smooth out the taper, making it more attractive to the eyeball. 

 

To get back to the issue at hand, mellowpa's bow had some bad grain at a vulnerable region.  It would have been even worse if it was located at the region of maximum camber which is also where most of the deflection takes place.  This bow should never have gotten out of the Hill shop.  And the article makes clear the Hill's destroyed bad bows rather than selling them; so there is a mystery here.

 

Mike D

A lot of bows left the Hill shop down someone's trouser leg, very possibly ones earmarked for landfill. I seem to remember that these often had an additional stamp behind the head - does this ring any bells?

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I am still a little confused about what exactly everyone is going on about . Is everyone talking about grain in the the same way. a few drawings would be helpful to avoid any confusion?? Anyone??

 

Exaggerated drawings:

Top drawing:

Grain line path in a bow that's done this way. The grain follows the curvature of the stick until it approaches the head, where it becomes straight, producing the grain runout seen on so many bows.

 

Bottom drawing:

A way this may have been done. Bow head is bent down, like over the edge of a bench when planing, to achieve this grain path. When the pressure on the head is released and allowed to spring back, you have planed-in camber in that portion of the stick, and the runout.

Pretty simple, huh?

 

Planed%20in%20cambera.jpg

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And there is no claim that the Hills were among the people who did it.

 

 

If I could direct your attention to message #1 in this conversation, mellowpa says this is a Hill bow. 

 

The VSA article makes no mention of "planing in" camber.  Rather, the heat-bent-bow is straightened out with a tight wire between the hole in the tip and some kind of try-frog (temporary frog).  The bow is completed while be held straight by the wire which I think means made 8-sided and then some adjustments in thickness to keep the bow straight relative to the wire.. 

 

Mike D

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If I could direct your attention to message #1 in this conversation, mellowpa says this is a Hill bow. 

 

The VSA article makes no mention of "planing in" camber.  Rather, the heat-bent-bow is straightened out with a tight wire between the hole in the tip and some kind of try-frog (temporary frog).  The bow is completed while be held straight by the wire which I think means made 8-sided and then some adjustments in thickness to keep the bow straight relative to the wire.. 

 

Mike D

Read the thread. The discussion has moved away from that bow. That one appears to have had wandering grain (sideways) to begin with.

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Read the thread. The discussion has moved away from that bow. That one appears to have had wandering grain (sideways) to begin with.

Based on the post showing the 'exaggerated drawings' it seems as if the discussion has fallen off a cliff. I see no rationale in those depictions, and seriously doubt that any professional archetier (trained in the 'French method') would give credence to them. Please offer correction, if I am wrong.

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Hello Matthew,

 

Do you have images of Kittel bows you could post, showing a steep camber behind the heads?

This is the first time anyone has mentioned "steep" camber. I wasn't specifically discussing steep camber, but actually any camber.

I will see what I can find photo wise when I get to the shop tomorrow. I just brought up Kittel because it seemed relevant to where the discussion was headed. If everyone feels it deviates too much from the discussion, I won't post pictures. I'm finding the discussion rather stimulating though.

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David, I like your drawings, they show a modest and well nuanced character :) !

 

Martin, Hill bows were sold by employees on a sort of side income? When they were meant to be burned? Interesting!

 

Mike, the OP's original bow was the start of a conversation. Until now only the Dodds were named  to file in the camber behind the head which deliberately puts in some off grain. 

 

Of course it's possible to build bows with cross grain quite easily: Take a straight grained bow blank, if the stick has some slight runout behind the head already, great! Plane and file the stick to oversized dimensions leave some extra thickness behind the head. Then camber (bend) the bow with heat, give it a good amount of camber in the upper third but don't do your best behind the head and leave the stick a little flat there. Now file in the extra camber you need/want. Result is a dangerous amount of off grain.

 

This would in my opinion (until now) explain the amount of off grain bows and especially explain why more bows of early 20th century production show that 'feature': this was the time when the extra camber behind the head was fashion (as opposed to earlier french bowmakers with more even curves) and when economics forced bowmakers to compromise sometimes.

 

So the question for me still is if some bowmakers actually wanted that off grain there. If the reasoning is extra flexibility, there are much safer ways to achieve that: Make the stick a little thinner, put in a 'Peccatte nick' at the transition from head to stick, broaden the chamfers or give the stick a more triangular shape for the first few inches (which is natural anyway as the sides of the head need to transition into the stick). 

 

David, the correlation between bows considered especially well working and off grain: is  a possible explanation that those were makers with normally a bit stiffer bows there? So that the accidentally added off grain is actually a benefit for those?

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Wow, I really did not expect my original post to spark this kind of discussion, but I'm glad it has.  I know I have certainly learned a lot in reading through these posts.  I now understand the difference between the side grain in my bow versus other examples shown here, and I believe the new bow I'm considering has a grain that is more in line with the examples.  Sounds like the consensus is that there are plenty of bows from high quality makers out there with this occurrence, and I should just be sure to insure the bow.

 

Someone earlier in the thread asked what the stamp on my Hill bow is.  It is indeed a W.E. Hill & Sons stamped bow, made by William C. Retford.  So yes, this was a disappointment to me, and I wish I had known what to look for in a bow way back when I bought it.  At least I got 15 good years out of it...

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Based on the post showing the 'exaggerated drawings' it seems as if the discussion has fallen off a cliff. I see no rationale in those depictions, and seriously doubt that any professional archetier (trained in the 'French method') would give credence to them. Please offer correction, if I am wrong.

Some of the responses are sounding like those in threads a number of years ago, when the sonic superiority of Stads was brought into question, and some people couldn't even entertain the notion that Strads weren't always superior.  ;)

 

If you posted under your name, or gave some details about your training, it would be easier to have a sense of how much credibility to give your comments, including the one suggesting knowledge of "French method".

 

The next question would be, "Which French method"? It's not uncommon at all to talk to older people in the trade, and find that methods aren't the same as they once were. That's why I thought Bernard Millant might be a good person to ask about this.

 

 So the question for me still is if some bowmakers actually wanted that off grain there. If the reasoning is extra flexibility, there are much safer ways to achieve that: Make the stick a little thinner, put in a 'Peccatte nick' at the transition from head to stick, broaden the chamfers or give the stick a more triangular shape for the first few inches (which is natural anyway as the sides of the head need to transition into the stick). 

 

David, the correlation between bows considered especially well working and off grain: is  a possible explanation that those were makers with normally a bit stiffer bows there? So that the accidentally added off grain is actually a benefit for those?

In a shop I once worked in, there was a very good player who evaluated products the shop was considering selling. He came across some bows by a particular contemporary maker which he thought were uncommonly good playing and sounding, like some of the best old French bows. The sticks on these were unusually thin near the head (straight grain).

But he had several break while playing them!

 

Perhaps it's possible to make a bow with similar flexibility in that region, but which is actually more durable, by having a little runout combined with greater thickness in that area. The idea of grain runout altering stiffness isn't alien at all to violin makers, who use wood which inherently ends up with runout, being a curved part carved from a solid piece.

Perhaps there are excellent sounding fiddles made from bent tops, but I don't think I've run across any.

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David , thanks for the drawings, seems a bit like lunacy to me ,i cant see any benefit to doing that,other than to ruin a bow blank!! :) I`ll try it on a piece of cheap abeille wood and see what happens.

I can't rule out that it was filed in, rather than planed. The "bend and plane"  notion came from a bow maker, thinking along the lines of what would be most efficient and likely from a "process inherent" standpoint, kind of like what Roger Hargrave has done with historical instruments.

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Ok, I really like this thread, it's the most interesting for bowmakers in some time.

What I still miss is some confirmation (apart from David) that this working technique (as stated in the passage in the book) is/was considered beneficial for the quality of the bow by either great bowmakers of the past or experienced contemporary bowmakers. This might get a good discussion going in Oberlin, and it's a pity that not more bowmakers are present on Maestronet.

Matthew, have you got an opinion of Mr Pasewicz what he thinks about that or could you lure him into this discussion?

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