Recommended Posts

I've been thinking... (yeah, I know - big mistake)  and a discussion I've had with an individual, on bows and bow making, has gotten me interested in bows again.

I've had this drive in the past, and having made a decent number of violins (in the past) has made me feel that it might be possible to accomplish making one or two of these things.

I do know that there are various ways to go about this - and I do have the Kun/Regh book on bow making, where there's a machine to accomplish every aspect of the project. And, I must say that I absolutely respect such an attitude, and the book "The Art of Bow Making" is a trove of information that I would recommend to anybody that is interested in making bows regularly...

 

But that's not me, and I don't want to spend a lot of time, $, and energy tooling up.  

 

I know that this subject has been gone over and over in various places and one of those places is here.

So be it.

I'm thinking of attacking this problem right now starting today, and I have some pernambuco and some rosewood blanks already cut and ready to be shaped and I would really like to learn to make octagonal bow sticks.

Well, whatever. 

 

I'm hoping that I can manage to start shaping these sticks fairly quickly, and wind up with a decent bow eventually. I'm thinking of simply buying a ready-made frog. I have lots of hair, and have haired and rehaired bows for many years, so, that's not going to present any challenges, and I can and have 'gripped' quite a few bows in the past, so I've got the silver wire and the leather for that, already on hand also... 

 

I know that, for the last couple of years I have been spinning my wheels here on MN... so I'm hoping to start a "project" that I can work on that will renew my drive (in a way) in regard to making something.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 418
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Get ready...Set...Go!!

 

Craig, as you do this project, ask specific questions to jump the hurdles that you will encounter.

 

I agree with you on the Kun/Regh books. Nice books, great photographs, interesting method, but not traditional, and not for the person that intends to make just a few bows. I am one that believes that you cannot learn bow making from books, but they can be helpful to reference. In my opinion, the most informative book for making bows in the one written by John Bolander. It is long out of print, with poor photographs and stuffed full of typos and grammatical errors, but it describes quite well the process that you should follow as well as the hand tools that you will want to use.

 

At this point, my recommendation to you is to find a set of bow planes, and sharpen them like bow planes (not violin making planes). Traditional French bow planes come in three sizes and are cast of iron or bronze, with the largest about 4" long with a 3/4" wide iron, the medium plane 3" long with a 1/2" iron, and the small plane 1" long with a 3/8" iron. Sharpen the irons with a steep bevel--something around 40-45 degrees, and then hone them to purposefully get a burr in the cutting edge of the iron. There is usually no need to hone past a medium grit stone. (The violin maker inside of you will be tempting you to lower the cutting angle and hone and polish the cutting edge--but you must resist!)

 

If you don't have a set of specific bow planes, you can often modify some of you old planes to do the work. An old Stanley 103 is what I use to rough out sticks, and years ago, I modified a flat-soled thumb plane to use for finer work. There are also bow planes with a vertical (scraping) iron, often referred to as English bow planes, but personally, I find these to be more difficult to get a smooth cut. Results will vary of course.

 

The first step for you is to "rough out" your sticks. Start with your worst wood as you are learning. Plane the sticks so that they are perfectly square, with a taper from around 10mm at the butt to around 7mm just behind the head. Use a caliper to check the squareness, sighting down the stick often. As you plane the stick, don't "nibble" with the plane, but take plane strokes that are long and smooth--this will help not to make holes and bumps in the stick. Before you go octagonal, you should first make sure your stick is accurately square, without any bumps along the length. This is a foundational step, and will take lots of practice--but it is important!

 

That should be enough to get you started for now.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Get ready...Set...Go!!

 

....

 

That should be enough to get you started for now.

 

This is something that is sorely missing in the bowmaking literature, so please guide CT through the steps so that we all learn or re-learn properly.

 

ps some super bows at the VSA including a scary-real looking tortoiseshell frog which was not tortoiseshell.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The first step for you is to "rough out" your sticks. Start with your worst wood as you are learning. Plane the sticks so that they are perfectly square, with a taper from around 10mm at the butt to around 7mm just behind the head. Use a caliper to check the squareness, sighting down the stick often. As you plane the stick, don't "nibble" with the plane, but take plane strokes that are long and smooth--this will help not to make holes and bumps in the stick. Before you go octagonal, you should first make sure your stick is accurately square, without any bumps along the length. This is a foundational step, and will take lots of practice--but it is important!

 

 

Craig--If you don't have pernambuco (or very much of it), you can often find suitable practice wood at hardwood stores or a place that sells hardwood flooring. You won't be making anything that will play well, but to practice your planing stokes, it is a ton less expensive than using the limited amounts of pernambuco that you might have. At the hardwood store, look for Ipe (often sold to make decking on boardwalks and boats) or Chakte Viga (called "Mexican" pernambuco), and for hardwood flooring--look for Brazilian cherry or Brazilian teak. I'm sure there are other woods too, but these are often readily available and affordable.

 

This is something that is sorely missing in the bowmaking literature, so please guide CT through the steps so that we all learn or re-learn properly.

 

 

I look forward to a friendly and informative discussion.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I made this plane from lignum vitae (later added a brass sole for more durability).  It has a vertical LieNielsen blade.  Works very well.  The side marks were made by a steel wire used to straighten the stick (Hill-French method?).

 

Also a photo of a very heavy bladed knife for the head work.

post-24474-0-43524300-1411227272_thumb.jpg

post-24474-0-19375600-1411227300_thumb.jpg

post-24474-0-73770000-1411227322_thumb.jpg

post-24474-0-18438400-1411227354_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Many planes can be made to work ,ive used this for bow making in the last 10 years or so almost constantly (its certainly my favourite plane for bows). Brass channel with a blade mouth cut out ,rosewood palm grip /blade bed set quite steep and the blade is a piece of hss machine hacksaw blade (can still see the remains of the yellow paint on it) The blade frog etc. i made rather quickly out of brass bar and turned a screw on the lathe. Its a bit wider than standard bow planes but will cut through even the most nasty  pernambuco of wood grain laeving a glassy finish. It is sharpened so the total angle is about 75 degrees and it has no burr left at the cutting edge. The base is 65mm x 35mm.

post-3446-0-61312700-1411228144_thumb.jpg

post-3446-0-77764000-1411228145_thumb.jpg

post-3446-0-82357800-1411228146_thumb.jpg

post-3446-0-15501800-1411228148_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Planes resembling bow making planes are available,in solid brass for under $25 for a set of 3 at Harbor Freight stores.

They will require "tuning" however.

 

Umm.... The key word here is resemble. Stay away from these Harbor Freight planes. "Tuning" won't help them--they are completely useless for use on pernambuco and ebony. However, they do look cool all lined up on a shelf.

 

 

Ok.. Show and tell. These are the planes that I use:

 

The first picture shows several sets of planes. The planes on the bottom are what I use to rough out sticks. The large one on the right is a Veritas plane and the one on the left is a copy of an old squirrel-tail palm plane.

 

The set on the upper left are reproduction French planes made by Sai Gao in Seattle. The dimensions were taken directly from original French-made planes.

post-25151-0-61804600-1411229393_thumb.jpg     post-25151-0-89206100-1411229426_thumb.jpg

 

The set on the right of the picture are modern-made planes made by a machinist friend of Jerry Pasewicz's. I don't think that these are available anymore.

post-25151-0-06162100-1411229411_thumb.jpg     post-25151-0-81935000-1411229440_thumb.jpg

 

This last picture shows a couple of violin-maker planes that I've used in the past. The larger on is the flat-bottomed IBEX plane that can be found in most violin supply places. The smaller plane is also flat-bottomed, and was made for GEWA. I stole the blade from it to use in a different plane. Any plane similar to these can be used as long as the blade is ground with a high cutting angle for working with stubborn wood.

post-25151-0-21051900-1411230072_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Josh ,do you not find very tight mouth like in the modern set you show a bit irritating to use? (with regards to shavings collecting above ).I prefer being able to see through the mouth from above so i can tilt the plane and see where its removing wood better.

 

No, the tight mouth on the modern planes works quite well--especially on pernambuco that is tight and "glassy" looking. The only plane that tends to bunch up shavings is the smallest one, but that is something that I think all small planes share in common.

 

I do use both sets, but the modern planes are the ones that I usually reach for first. If they start chattering or tearing out grain, then I'll try a different plane. Either set, when properly sharpened and tuned works very well.

 

I don't look through the plane mouth to judge the cutting angle and location, but that is a good suggestion that I'll have to try.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Listen up -  my thanks to everyone that has posted so far, and anyone showing an interest in this is welcome to interject anything at any time.

 

But in particular, I want to thank Josh, and am asking that perhaps you would continue to speak your mind here, with regard to this venture. I'm finding your suggestions very helpful, and I am accumulating all of my "old" bow making "garbage" out of the outdoor shop.

 

(it has been pouring rain here continually for the last week, and the outdoor shop is old and starting to leak badly - grrr, that's where all of my power tools are, and ALL of my wood is kept. I have to re position much out there, simply to keep it dry, again - a large "Grrrr".)

 

I am doing this in order to 'get moving' again.

I do have some pernambuco blanks roughed out and ready to go - but I agree with your advice to practice on other, less valuable wood, in order to establish some sort of working order or practice - before I RUIN the really good wood I might have.

So I am going to start by roughing out some rosewood blanks that I have also cut out some time back...

I am sort of laughing about that at this point, because I know with confidence that is exactly what would happen, if I tried to shape my pernambuco now - i would ruin it, and have to toss it...

 

So I will post a photo of what I am currently doing, as soon as I take some photos, and am able to post them here on Mnet from flickr, or, more correctly, when I learn how to or 're-discover' how to post from flickr once again, since they have changed it once again, and every time I establish a way - it changes....

 

Once again my thanks for any interest shown, and posted in this project - and I promise, probably today, I'll get some photographs up of the wood I'm starting with, and I'am going to TRY to get some of my own violin making planes back up to snuff...

I'll probably have to go on the hunt for some "bow making" stuff, including some dedicated planes, but I'm going to start with what I've got on hand now anyway...

My thanks again, for all of the advice and interest shown so far. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

You're welcome Craig. Let's make a bow together! I'll do the same thing that I will recommend to you, and post pictures. As we make progress on this, we can compare and discuss the process. I'm sure that there will be input from others suggesting different methods and tools--and that is good, but I will keep my suggestions and comments narrowed to the process that I apply to make bows.

 

I'll look through my notes from when I was an apprentice to refresh myself with the process, to basic tools, and the measurements that I was taught. I'll then spend some time coming up with an order of steps and a breakdown of the information that you can follow. 

 

In the meantime, I'll start roughing out and photographing a stick to start the process.

 

Anybody else game?

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm also in the process of building my first bow—out of cocobolo.  I have a pernambuco bow blank, but as it turned out, it was not quartersawn, and the density is on the low side, so it would not have made a good bow in any case.  The cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa, a type of rosewood) is straight-grained and quartersawn, with a specific gravity of 1.16.  I also have a nice piece of very heavy snakewood, specific gravity about 1.3.


 


I first used a bandsaw to get the dimensions close, then a block plane and ibex thumb plane.  I found a long sanding block very useful for bringing everything to a straight conclusion (formerly used on electric bass guitar necks).  The stick will be octagonal; I've just started knocking off the corners of the square cross section.  I didn't hit all my target thickness dimensions exactly, but no matter—it's a learning exercise.  I'm not going to bend the stick until it is fully shaped, and then I will use a heat gun.  


 


I also bought some Tonkin bamboo as a further variation on my bow-making experiments.  It's the variety that fly-rod makers use.  Bamboo bows are hexagonal cross-section, laminated with epoxy from six pieces of bamboo, each with an equilateral triangle cross-section.  A planing jig lets you dial in the desired taper.  The camber is set during the lamination process (not bent using heat, although heat tempering is often used to "improve" the properties of the bamboo).  Should be interesting.  There are a couple of people making bamboo violin bows in Montana.  


 


post-76933-0-29951400-1411342587_thumb.jpg


post-76933-0-63474500-1411342605_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

You're welcome Craig. Let's make a bow together!  

 

 

Anybody else game?

 

Hey listen Josh,

as long as you remain interested, and don't simply get tired of me, my grande boca, and my slow and wandering attention, I'm completely game. I see there are others that are interested in this also.

This is going to be a lot on your shoulders, so, I'm going to thank you once again, and then I'm just going to do my very best to follow what you tell me to do - and I swear to you, and all the rest of anyone that's watching, that I'm not going to stop this time, until I get a bow made. A real bow.

I know what it takes to get something done.

Some things are more difficult than other things - but we all know that. Some things are worth the often difficult learning curve. This is one of those things. I've made violins, from scratch, and have become a fair violin maker... But bows have given me the slip. 

No more. This time I'm going to persist until I get one (probably more than one...) made.

I've got the materials, I've got the time . I've got the person interested in some online help... nothing is going to stop me this time.

 

So, now I've got some crap on fliker - time for me to start putting up isn't it?

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

I'm also in the process of building my first bow—out of cocobolo.  I have a pernambuco bow blank, but as it turned out, it was not quartersawn, and the density is on the low side, so it would not have made a good bow in any case.  The cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa, a type of rosewood) is straight-grained and quartersawn, with a specific gravity of 1.16.  I also have a nice piece of very heavy snakewood, specific gravity about 1.3.

 

I first used a bandsaw to get the dimensions close, then a block plane and ibex thumb plane.  I found a long sanding block very useful for bringing everything to a straight conclusion (formerly used on electric bass guitar necks).  The stick will be octagonal; I've just started knocking off the corners of the square cross section.  I didn't hit all my target thickness dimensions exactly, but no matter—it's a learning exercise.  I'm not going to bend the stick until it is fully shaped, and then I will use a heat gun.  

 

I also bought some Tonkin bamboo as a further variation on my bow-making experiments.  It's the variety that fly-rod makers use.  Bamboo bows are hexagonal cross-section, laminated with epoxy from six pieces of bamboo, each with an equilateral triangle cross-section.  A planing jig lets you dial in the desired taper.  The camber is set during the lamination process (not bent using heat, although heat tempering is often used to "improve" the properties of the bamboo).  Should be interesting.  There are a couple of people making bamboo violin bows in Montana.  

 

 

 

Ahh Chris, great to see you and your work!

 

Thanks for posting this.  I've heard of this move towards bamboo...

This ought to be one interesting 'new road' to travel.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey CT... Flicker is bigger but Maestronet is quicker!

If you want to post pics directly:

1-Just click on the "more reply options" at the bottom right of your reply window.  Then the option to "attach files" direct from your computer is at the bottom of the new window.

2-Click on "choose file",

3-select the file from your computer

4-click on "attach this file" and you are done!

 

Looking forward to great pics.

 

Josh... Thanks a million for taking the time to coach CT and posting your instructions, advice and pics!  Just wish I had some time on my hands, but too many jobs on the go to join in on the fun... but you can be sure I will be watching with great interest!

 

Cheers!... Mat

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey CT... Flicker is bigger but Maestronet is quicker!

If you want to post pics directly:

1-Just click on the "more reply options" at the bottom right of your reply window.  Then the option to "attach files" direct from your computer is at the bottom of the new window.

2-Click on "choose file",

3-select the file from your computer

4-click on "attach this file" and you are done!

 

Looking forward to great pics.

 

Josh... Thanks a million for taking the time to coach CT and posting your instructions, advice and pics!  Just wish I had some time on my hands, but too many jobs on the go to join in on the fun... but you can be sure I will be watching with great interest!

 

Cheers!... Mat

 

Very cool Mat!

My thanks.

 

I have some free time this morning, so I will try this method and hopefully it will work, as I'm really tiring of attempting to unravel filckr's most recent "secret" for posting photos. I'm hoping it really is this easy. I got used to using the old flickr method -

And I do have some material I would like to post here, from my stock of "bow making" materials... and, some attempt to get, perhaps, some working tools gathered. But I'm doubting the efficacy of the tools that I now have on hand... 

 

You'l be watch with great interest? VERY COOL.

So will I... Yes, so will I.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Very cool C.B.

 

And I agree with you - and I'm going to stop here for a moment and say something that I feel probably needs to be said.

Many people think that these type of things should not, or cannot, be done by ordinary individuals simply having a desire to do them.

And, I understand this viewpoint, and the various types of thinking goes on in particular with regard to the violin making, and in the violin 'repair world' also.

There is a valid realm where what one does, should fall within the abilities that have been arrived at by virtue of experience - and I would not suggest otherwise.

 

But the fact of the matter is, that with outright building of anything, there are no actual restrictions that apply to anyone desiring to do, to build, anything. In my opinion.

Go ahead and build.

All you can do is, at worst fail, or at best, succeed.

And failing is very often a valid step in learning something, anything new. The more complex it is, the more possible it is that you will see some failing, before any real success, well I can tell you it's extremely probable...

As, that's exactly where I am.

Then again, this is a great deal of what makes this project interesting to me - that I have tried it and failed in the past - but I do know that this is within my capabilities.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.