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johnms

Would Like Comment about a Hill Bow

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I have been offered a Hill violin bow that has some aspects that leaves this novice a little puzzled.

The bow is from a legitimate source but unfortunately an unexpected death in the family has suddenly taken the dealer out of town just before I picked up the bow, and for an unknown length of time so they out of communication for many days at least. I have a meeting with a very knowledgeable professional player in 5 days but I thought I would tap into maestro reader’s expertise in the meantime.

Sadly Maestronet rules prevent me posting photographs so it is up to words.

 

This is a well-made octagonal stick that should be around 80 years old but it shows no signs of use or wear, except to the thumb pad.

My limited experience has led me to believe that the part of a thumb pad to usually show the most wear, is the area under the thumb.  However the first anomaly I see with this bow is the thumb pad shows only very minor signs of wear at the thumb position, but on the opposite side under second finger position, the leather is so worn that it has exposed quite a lot of the last wrap of the whalebone lapping that extends fully under the thumb pad.  So is this wear pattern normal, or is it possible the bow been used by just one player for many decades, (I will be able to check this with the dealer)?

The next item that disturbs  me relates to the camber.  My reading has left me with the understanding that the camber on Hill violin bows is based on Tourte.  However this bow appears to have the camber design of a later generation of bow makers, which means it is flatter through the middle, with more upturn approaching the tip, than is typical of Tourte.

Next. The number 5 stamp on the tip plate (seemingly in the correct position slightly right of centre), indicates the bow was made by Arthur J Barnes.  Now Tarisio, on their web site, make the statement that while Barnes was a skilled craftsman, his communication disabilities meant he was not able to make top quality bows. Personally I do not see why his communication problem would necessarily have limited his skill level, but hopefully experts here may offer comment given that this bow carries the top of the line stamp W E HILLS & SONS.  The lettering is about 2.2 mm high and is upside down.

The adjuster is three piece silver and ebony and its end has a pearl circular inlay inside a very thin walled, but slightly off centre, ebony ring so the wall thickness of the ebony ring varies - not the best workmanship.

The frog is high quality ebony, fully mounted with a very plain white, pearl, non-tapering slide.  The under-slide is notched out to house the heel plate.

Lastly we come to markings. The stamp that mates frog to stick is a small letter V.  Also, on the metal slide on the other side of the screw eye, is stamped the number 7 - but it alternatively this could almost equally be an upside down 4.

As well as the mating letter V on the stick there are 2 other marks very close together located between the V and the thumb pad.  The second element of this mark is positioned higher than the first (through poor workmanship?) and it could either be a capital letter B but I think is actually the number 8.  The front number of this pair I am confident is the figure 4.  So this stamp reads either 4B or 48.  I cannot see any other stamp markings on the bow.

Now 48 could be the year that the bow was made except that the year 1948 and Arthur Barnes cannot be a legitimate match because Barnes left Hills in 1939.  Does the possible number 4 on the slide have a link to the 4 on the stick and does the 4 indicate either 1924 or 1934 as being the year of making?   Or do Maestronet experts have another explanation for this marking?

Guess I am asking whether my near total lack of expertise is needlessly making me be slightly nervous about aspects of this bow, or can I consider it as likely to be totally legit?  I am sure the dealer believes it is legit but we haven’t spoken about the bow.  I was simply telephoned to say they had a bow that might interest me and we arranged a time for me to pick it up. The dealer had left town before I picked up the stick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 minutes ago, johnms said:

However the first anomaly I see with this bow is the thumb pad shows only very minor signs of wear at the thumb position, but on the opposite side under second finger position, the leather is so worn that it has exposed quite a lot of the last wrap of the whalebone lapping that extends fully under the thumb pad.

Left handed player?

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4 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

I believe that this feature is only found on Hill bows.

Or fake Hill bows.

I am away from my shop and have neither a Hill bow to look at nor my notes/books on Hill but there are certainly a good number of modern Chinese fake Hills going around. The real ones are pretty straight forward to identify but I would want the guarantee of a reputable shop before paying Hill prices.

Also your comments about camber are something to consider as cambers do change and if you are buying a bow of this caliber you want the camber correct or corrected by an expert if you expect to get the best performance from the bow.

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Thanks to all for your replies.

I will try and post photos.  My own camera has proven it is not capable of doing the job as it cannot handle the subtle dark color differences, but I have managed to capture reasonable images of the under frog stamp images.

Note that the camber upturn towards the head is relatively subtle, and is no where near as curved as the usual post Tourte type of camber.

GeorgeH - the thumb pad wear is too far on top of the bow to be caused by a thumb, so not a left handed player.  But more about the pad wear follows.  

While trying to photograph the thumb pad wear I noticed that there is also another area of excessive pad wear on its underside immediately adjacent to the visible lapping.  I did not see this bit of wear earlier, in part because I did not look at this area,  and partly because this latest damage is camouflaged as the completely worn away black leather is immediately above a black turn of the lapping.  This latest noted area of wear, along with the wear described earlier, appears to indicate that the bow has had a lot of use,  probably over a long period of time,  by a user who had a non-standed hand position in that they placed their thumb on the end of the pad at its junction with the visible area of lapping, rather than in the conventional position touching the frog.  What I now think I see is not the type of wear I would expect any self respecting faker would replicate in an attempt to convince a potential victim that a brand new fake bow was the genuine, near-antique, article.  

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I don’t understand this at all.

if the dealer is legitimate why would he be selling a fake Hill?

if you don’t trust him to sell you a real one why are you dealing with him?

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2 hours ago, martin swan said:

I don’t understand this at all.

if the dealer is legitimate why would he be selling a fake Hill?

if you don’t trust him to sell you a real one why are you dealing with him?

I agree, the best insurance in getting what you expect is trusting who you are getting it from.  There are many things to watch out for besides authenticity that a novice would have little chance identifying.

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No offence intended  :), but you sound like one of those rather difficult to please buyers ,who read too much but don`t quite understand . You say you have limited knowledge but you`re picking up on details that are more complex than just reading something on the internet,such as the camber you mention.  I understand that bows etc... can be a big chunk of money to buy but if you have questions then best to ask firstly the seller  to explain any irregularities .

Tourte bows still have a little camber behind the head but its a more gentle camber all along the stick with the low point more towards the middle than the head. That said many Hill bows despite following Tourte are alot stiffer than a real Tourte would be in general.

Im not great on Hill bows but they also followed other models as well as far as i know,but happy to be corrected if im wrong.

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In terms of possible answers to one of the various questions the OP is asking (which while I agree would better be addressed by the seller, but the excitement of acquisition sometimes carries us all way, I'd guess)... In any case, most of what I'm reading would more easily be addressed by good photos.

Not all Hill bows were started and finished by the same person, and some bows were finished later, or parts replaced later, than the original year of making.  If "on the metal slide on the other side of the screw eye, is stamped the number 7" is as the OP observed (and the number is original), it could well be that the frog was made by William Watson (#7) who was working for the Hills in '48.  If it was a repair or replacement, there is probably another mark somewhere on the stick indicating this.  If the bow was an old Barnes stick finished/fitted up by Watson, there may not be. Conjecture, of course, but probably verifiable or proven incorrect if one went to the trouble to do so.  If the above is correct would it significantly effect value?  I doubt it.

Fiddlecollector: Yes, I've seen some Hills that were modeled on specific bows that must have come through the Hill shop and caught someone's eye...

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I noted in the first post that due to unforseen circumstances it is not possible for me to talk to the seller at this point in time.  This will likely happen in another 3 or 4 days once they are back in town.  I’ll report on the meeting

 It was not excitement driving my queries but rather my professional life wherein I have learnt to take note of factors that do not compute and to find out the cause of the problem and establish whether or not the situation might prove critical.

 The Hill bow exhibited a few aspects that I did not expect to see and the Maestronet replies effectively confirmed these aspects are not normal.

 The unusual thumb pad wear and unexpected camber have now been resolved.

There is no way that the seller would be knowingly offering me a fake bow.  Nor do I believe that it is a fake, but it would be comforting to have logical explanations for the abnormal aspects.

In the meantime can any of you offer evidence to refute Tarisio’s statement that Barnes only made lesser grade bows?  If not, then I have a possible explanation for the unusual aspects of this bow.

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From my perspective a Hill bow is a Hill bow, and should be valued according to the materials, the brand, and the date.

However, from the very authoritative recent book on the Hill makers, discussing the post-WW1 intake : "Barnes ...was not as successful as a bowmaker as Bishop, Leeson or Bultitude. Bill Watson admired Barnes' skill as a woodworker but thought it difficult for him to learn the finest points of bow work because of his disability. The best gold mounted bows bearing his number may in fact have been finished by Retford".

Overall, it's important to understand that Hills were a workshop, and that any part of any bow might have been made, started or completed by a different person. To wish to name the maker of a particular bow is understandable, and musicians love to know "who made it" but I think this is misguided.

So far I haven't heard anything which could be described as an "abnormal aspect" to the bow. Plenty of bows of excellent quality bearing Barnes's stamp are known. Hill cambers are all over the place. Thumb wear comes in all sorts of irregular patterns.

As for Barnes being held back by his disability, it's difficult to learn and synthesize the entire craft and history of bowmaking if you can't engage in lively discussion with your peers. Maybe now an equivalent workshop would have all shop gossip simultaneously translated by a signer on the payroll as part of their inclusiveness programme, but 100 years ago bow-making was largely an oral tradition and life was cruel.

So I'm not sure what needs to be refuted.

There is so much to know and learn about bows and Hill bows specifically that unless you are prepared to spend the next 5 years getting up to speed I think it would make most sense to buy from a dealer who has all that knowledge and who uses it for good.

 

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I was finally able to speak with the seller.  No question in their mind that the bow is 100% genuine.  The bow is from file://localhost/Users/joannedavey/Desktop/IMG_0485.JPG estate and is being sold on commission.

 As to the date stamp, the dealer’s comment was that it was not necessarily always a date stamp as the stamps often recorded the fact that several bow makers had been involved in producing the bow.  A point made by Jeffery

 Photo of the stamps is included if anyone wants to comment. Note how carefully the stamps are positioned. The 4 could be the year of manufacture (34).

With hair fully relaxed the balance point of the bow is almost 10” from the end of the wood and that, together with the fact that the player of the bow was a woman may well account for the unusual wear on the thumb pad.

I did show it to the knowledgeable,  professional player as I indicated in an earlier post.  Their key comments were that it is a very good playing bow and, due to the superb condition, he guessed the bow’s value as being 50% more than the selling price I have been quoted.

Thanks to all who posted comments.  They have been both informative and helpful.

IMG_0483.JPG

IMG_0485.JPG

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