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Making bamboo bows


hobbyjob
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I have made three bows, and sold two. For me also the making of the frog was more sweat provoking than the stick. I'm pretty sure that the reason is that many of the skills required to make a frog in the French tradition are more peculiar to jewelry than to most other skills in lutherie. Very small mortises using very small chisels. If your instructor is adverse to milling machines (as both of mine were) the first act of making a frog, that of fitting the ferule, is daunting. If you make all of the surfaces fit and all of the joints meet perfectly, you have accomplished a difficult task -- and that just starts the ball rolling. I realize that the true art is in the surfacing and graduating of the stick and the beauty of the head, but a modern frog is a wonder of craft and engineering when it is done with chisels, knives and files. 

 Amen!

 

Thanks for that one MeyerFittings.

An agreement (like the one you have written) is a great thing for me in this venture, as, I am now making (soldering the silver) for the ferrule.

Luckily, I have done some silversmithing (jewelry) in the past, and am used to violin making, so small intricate parts are, in a very real way, my forte, if you will, and I am grateful that Josh is insistent on hand making all of the parts...

And - is willing to see me through all of this.

I will admit that I am finding bow making very much to my liking...

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Yes David,

I've known a few fiddle makers that were exceptional chiselers.

 

Puns are so low, how fitting?

 

the frogs..... were.....(German) ones...... Many current bow makers (here anyway) buy their Frogs, for instance from Paulus in Röttenbach near Bubenreuth

At least Eric made his on purpose.   :)  :lol:

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Craig, here's a little tip that helped me see the high spots when fitting the ferule. If you put a little alcohol  on the ebony with a swab, it dries so fast it doesn't raise the grain but dulls the ebony enough so you can see easily the spots where the silver is hitting. This really helped me in fitting the verticals on the edge of the ferule which I found difficult to see. I don't think Josh would object. He sat across the bench from me at Oberlin.

 

Alcohol can make many things easier if you don't wind up using internally until beer-thirty.  ;)

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Craig, here's a little tip that helped me see the high spots when fitting the ferule. If you put a little alcohol  on the ebony with a swab, it dries so fast it doesn't raise the grain but dulls the ebony enough so you can see easily the spots where the silver is hitting. This really helped me in fitting the verticals on the edge of the ferule which I found difficult to see. I don't think Josh would object. He sat across the bench from me at Oberlin.

 

Alcohol can make many things easier if you don't wind up using internally until beer-thirty.  ;)

 

Ahhh, thanks for the tip, MeyerFittings.

 

They're all going into my notes on the subject; which are already three different "notebooks" filled with 1. bow stick making diagrams and information, 2. Published Torte information, and 3. frog making minutia...

 

All this is "new" to me, so I can use all of the help I can get.

 

( Hmmm, I'm also waiting patiently till 'beer thirty' gets here...

 - you ARE talking about 'beer thirty' tonight, right?)

 

Ok sorry - I'll serious up.

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I played a bamboo bow many years ago.  It was very well made.  The problem was the

moment of Inertia, the center of percussion, the second moment (to give it some of its

technical names).  The head was beautifully made of pernambuco, but the weight of the 

head relative to the shaft was so high that it was very different from the usual feel of a bow.

This made rapid string switching (Bach, Solo partita #3) very uncomfortable.

 

To make a really good bamboo bow, Matching the density of the head wood,

not the appearance, wood type, etc the DENSITY, of the head mus match the

density of the stick, at least a bit.  If the stick is light, a heavy pernambuco head

will make the bow feel very strange.  The head is not a part of the active bending

bow action.  Simple first moment balance is not the problem.  Second moment

moment of inertia is crucial!  (Yes I have a test rig for center of percussion).

Weight (zero moment) is interesting but not crucial. 

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  • 9 months later...

I have just come across the article on split cane bows. My father Lawrence Cocker developed the bow as an affordable bow for promising students as apposed to the cheap and non flexible cheap bows and the highly priced good bows. He patented the bows, but did not re issue the patent as he was well advanced in making them and did not mind if someone else also tried.

 

He made bows for all over the world. He never advertised, all orders were from personal recommendations..

He made bows for a full orchestra in Australia and when he died in 1982 a memorial concert was performed in Derby where all the player had Cocker instruments and bows.

 

The heads of the bows were spliced into the bamboo shaft, which were constructed in a similar way to a split cane fishing rod ( he had made his own fishing rods and this was where the idea came from). The wood he used varied, his favorite being Kingwood, which was very hard to work. Coocobola caused an allergic reaction from the dust. Another hard woods he used was Rio Rosewood.

 

He used mother of pearl dots and slides and had tried Abaloni shells,cutting and drilling out the dots until this too caused an allergic reaction.

 

All the bows were hand made throughout, the ebony frog was mounted in solid silver.

 

I am happy to provide any additional information if required.

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Lawrence Cocker made all the parts to his split cane bows, including all the parts to the frogs. He made the side and dots, the silver mounts and ferules and the thin silver lining. He made his own tools or adapted his original tools to meet the need.

His ivory tips was sourced as off cuts from a piano manufacture in Long Eaton Nottingham. His hard woods and violin woods were selected and bought at the Liverpool docks by my father and a buyer from Fletchitt and Woolacot.

My father made the bows for philantropic reasons, to provide a good bow for students, but it was the teachers and professional player who bought them When he died in 1982 he had a substantial waiting list of 2 years with many people ordering more than one bow.

 

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When I was a student in the sixties, a Cocker bow was a life saver--I couldn't afford a more expensive one.  Mr. Cocker was a delight to work with--he allowed me to send him a few dollars each month until it was paid for.  Then I longed for a violin so again it was a few dollars each month for about two years until the instrument was ready.  It was a beautifully made instrument but eventually needed repairs which in those days were done for me by Joseph Kun in Ottawa.  Unfortunately, it was smashed beyond repair on its return journey to me.  I eventually traded in my bamboo bow for one of Mr.Kun.  However, I rather missed the bow so when I saw one in Brompton's auction a few years ago, I got it.  Then I began to think what I would really like would be the viola version and by luck one came up in Tarisio's New York auction and although there were other bidders, I got that one too.  I do use the viola one very often and I admire the craftmanship of both of them.  I certainly have fond memories of dealing with Mr. Cocker.

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I am planning to graft a pernambuco (or other wood) head onto the end of the bamboo stick using a Spanish luthier's scarf joint, which I have used in the past for putting angled heads on guitar necks.  It's very strong.  

attachicon.gifScarf.JPG

Just FTR, a much preferred scarf joint is obtained by the neck running through on top of the headstock,. Doing it like that enables you to disguise the joint completely, wheres the method in the picture is always going to show a somewhat unsightly joint at the top of the neck.

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I have no recollection of Cocker wanting, far less being “obsessed with”, producing anything “cheap” at all. Rather he was convinced he had introduced something technically superior. As such, one could argue the other way around regarding the noticability in an orchertra pit, with regard to the colour.

@ Ron: As far as I know, the frogs/adjusters were bought (German) ones. Mind you, that is nothing unusual. Many current bow makers (here anyway) buy their Frogs, for instance from Paulus in Röttenbach near Bubenreuth

Hi, I'm Mary  (Formerly Cocker), my father made every item on his bows, I have recently posted information about his bows which might interest you. The bows, were all made to order and he worked long and hard to fulfill his order books. The light colour was intentional, to set them apart from  conventional bows he did however, experiment with dyeing the cane but decided against it. 

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