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Jacob

Wood used for early bows

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As I learned recently from Steve Marvin, one of the leading makers of bows for early music specialists, quite a variety of South American hardwoods were used to make bows before pernambuco came to dominate the trade. Snakewood was a big one, as Phillip mentioned, as was Amourette (unfigured pieces of snakewood). Other Brosimum species, such as bloodwood, as well as several Swartzias species, like Wamara, saw use as well. 

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European colonial powers started stripping the Americas of resources in earnest in the 16th century. Dense exotic hardwoods were valuable as dual purpose goods - ballast during the journey, and lucrative import goods when they returned to old world harbors. So, in a word, yes. 

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I'm not sure that bows were always  made of exotic  heavy hardwoods. 

I think there are a few examples  of old bows made of beech, poplar and spruce.

Mick de Hoog, who works in Dublin,   has for the last several years  been making  bows of spruce and larch. They're  very interesting,  and work extraordinarily well. They tend to draw a beautiful  sound, very responsive and open, and every bit as powerful, I think, as  the  snake wood bows. Players seem to love them.

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9 minutes ago, Conor Russell said:

I'm not sure that bows were always  made of exotic  heavy hardwoods. 

I think there are a few examples  of old bows made of beech, poplar and spruce.

Mick de Hoog, who works in Dublin,   has for the last several years  been making  bows of spruce and larch. They're  very interesting,  and work extraordinarily well. They tend to draw a beautiful  sound, very responsive and open, and every bit as powerful, I think, as  the  snake wood bows. Players seem to love them.

That's a great point and I agree. I did not mean to insinuate that bows have always been made of heavy exotics. Of course bows for instruments in the medieval period and all but the late Renaissance would have been made of much lighter European woods since that's what would have been available, and this practice would have persisted into the Baroque. 

I am really curious to learn more about your colleagues bows. I have long thought that bow wood doesn't absolutely need to be denser then water to perform. I began thinking this way when I first encountered one of those bamboo bows made by an English maker (who's name escapes me now). 

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I have to check my documents, but I believe the three extant Tononi bows are all of snakewood, and the stamp would date them to ca. 1720-30. I believe the lighter of the two violin bows comes out at 55g!

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