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Question to luthiers, is Brazilian rose wood a viable option for bows?


Concertmaster1

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On 4/6/2023 at 5:10 PM, joerobson said:

Just an aside and a question.

The "discovery" of Brazil and later Brazilwood was important in the dye trade as red sandalwood (teracarpus santalinus) was difficult to obtain. Red sandalwood is traditional for the erhu. Has anyone tried it for bows?

on we go

Joe

 

@joerobson

Interesting, I wonder what the tonal differences are between the red and white and green sandalwood ?
off topic, did you read some of those posts under @bill’s link ? Has anyone tried a sandalwood bow before ?

 

Heres the review: " mike d. 

 

These Holstein Green Sandalwood bows have got me wondering why in the world did I spend $2500 on French Sartory bow. The Holstein is just as balanced and even draws out more tone from my violin.

 

Can't tell you how much I love this bow. For the price??? What was I thinking? I bought two for them and I use them daily. 9 STARS. " ( Sorry meant to reply yesterday however I still have the daily post limit . ). 

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On 4/6/2023 at 5:19 AM, jacobsaunders said:

Rosewood is, I believe also subject to CITES restrictions, so that it would as a replacement wood for pernambuco be like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire

@jacobsaunders

I was referring to pre CITES, as in if there are any recorded information of using such wood for a bow a hundred+ years ago .

On 4/6/2023 at 4:54 AM, Brad Dorsey said:

I don’t know if Brazilian rosewood would be suitable for bows.

Centuries ago, large quantities of pernambuco logs were shipped from Brazil to Europe, because a red dye extracted from the wood was found to be useful for dying cloth.  The availability of pernambuco in Europe led early bow makers to try making bows with it, and they found that it worked well.  Perhaps Brazilian rosewood would have worked just as well, or even better, for bows, but it wasn’t available for bow makers to try because it wasn’t imported as dye wood.

@Brad Dorsey

That is very interesting, I didn’t know that . Thank you very much . Indeed it would certainly be an intriguing experiment to find out .

On 4/7/2023 at 7:09 AM, The Violin Beautiful said:

Brazilian rosewood is heavily restricted by CITES, as others have pointed out. There was a dramatic and heavily publicized raid on the Gibson factory a while back because of their large collection of the wood. After that  the larger companies became very nervous about using it for fear of a similar seizure. Nowadays, the selection is quite limited, so makers have to pay a hefty price just for wood that no one would have wanted before CITES. I was talking with some guitar makers at a folk festival last year and they talked about how difficult it was to get Brazilian rosewood. They told me that most of what’s available is just the dregs, often very thin cuts from stumps.

A friend had the idea to try making a violin neck, ribs, and back out of it as an experiment. He carved the scroll and then decided it was just too much of a hassle to work the wood and gave up the experiment. The scroll became a decoration.

It might be interesting to see how it worked in a bow, but the difficulty in sourcing the wood and the cost for a board would prevent it from becoming a replacement for pernambuco. 

@The Violin Beautiful

Indeed it is quite hard to acquire nowadays. However sometimes the slabs cost more than the vintage guitars themselves ( A Brazilian rose wood classical from the 50s is currently worth about 300 but it does need quite a bit of work to acquire the full tonal possibility ) . That certainly sounds like an interesting project . Let's encourage your friend to complete the bow , I am quite eager to establish if there is indeed a tonal difference .

15 hours ago, Michael Darnton said:

Brazillian RW is also appreciated for boards and bridges. There seems to be an obvious difference. You can make a marimba from Brazillian RW but not Indian. Brazillian rings brightly, Indian goes "thud", relatively.

@Michael Darnton Indeed, that analogy is correct, I found Brazilian to ring brighter but also be equally as punchy (actually a reason why rosewood is always preferred for flamenco set classical guitars as well ) . 

18 hours ago, Don Noon said:

While we're at it...

The best sounding violins have maple backs, so why not make bows out of maple?

The best sounding instruments of almost any type have spruce soundboards, so why not make bows out of spruce?

The best sounding bows are made of pernambuco, so why not make violin backs (or tops) out of pernambuco?

Some things don't transfer to other applications.

@Don NoonI suppose so but it never hurts to find out so if any of you know of such experiments that have been done and documented , please do tell ! 

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1 hour ago, Concertmaster1 said:

@joerobson

Interesting, I wonder what the tonal differences are between the red and white and green sandalwood ?
off topic, did you read some of those posts under @bill’s link ? Has anyone tried a sandalwood bow before ?

 

Heres the review: " mike d. 

 

These Holstein Green Sandalwood bows have got me wondering why in the world did I spend $2500 on French Sartory bow. The Holstein is just as balanced and even draws out more tone from my violin.

 

Can't tell you how much I love this bow. For the price??? What was I thinking? I bought two for them and I use them daily. 9 STARS. " ( Sorry meant to reply yesterday however I still have the daily post limit . ). 

French Sartory bow for $2500, this alone puts the whole story in doubt

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The Gibson seizure was not connected tp Brazilian rosewood. It had to do with rosewood and ebony from India, and whether they were legally obtained and imported from plantation grown sources. Brazilian (dalbergia nigra) has been on the CITES 1 list of restriction since 1991 and has not been used by any large guitar factory since then. Indian rosewood is not currently restricted by CITES but needs proper paperwork for export. I have been working with USFW for permits to sell my pernambuco and Brazilian rosewood that was proven to be obtained before their CITES classifications.

Having some experience with guitar making and bow making I can't see rosewood as a good bow material but I could see pau brazil as a decent guitar body.    

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22 hours ago, MeyerFittings said:

The Gibson seizure was not connected tp Brazilian rosewood. It had to do with rosewood and ebony from India, and whether they were legally obtained and imported from plantation grown sources. Brazilian (dalbergia nigra) has been on the CITES 1 list of restriction since 1991 and has not been used by any large guitar factory since then. Indian rosewood is not currently restricted by CITES but needs proper paperwork for export. I have been working with USFW for permits to sell my pernambuco and Brazilian rosewood that was proven to be obtained before their CITES classifications.

Having some experience with guitar making and bow making I can't see rosewood as a good bow material but I could see pau brazil as a decent guitar body.    

Are there any woods per se that you have heard of or have experience with that may potentially be a better alternative for pernambuco? 

 

On 4/9/2023 at 1:38 AM, Strad O Various Jr. said:

French Sartory bow for $2500, this alone puts the whole story in doubt

He possibly meant sartory style. Maybe this stamp (holstein) is not as good but were there ever sandalwood bows that were taken seriously? 

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I don't understand the drive to find an alternative to pernambuco.

The tree is endangered by clear-felling for coastal development and agriculture, not by bow makers. Indeed bowmakers are perhaps the principal forces in pernambuco conservation - if they don't look after this tree then who will?

As concerns the question of whether you could find a "better" wood for bows than pernambuco, that's an absurd concept. Classical violin technique has evolved around the specific properties of pernambuco. Why would you need or want something better ...?

 

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On 4/9/2023 at 2:41 PM, MeyerFittings said:

The Gibson seizure was not connected tp Brazilian rosewood. It had to do with rosewood and ebony from India, and whether they were legally obtained and imported from plantation grown sources. Brazilian (dalbergia nigra) has been on the CITES 1 list of restriction since 1991 and has not been used by any large guitar factory since then. Indian rosewood is not currently restricted by CITES but needs proper paperwork for export. I have been working with USFW for permits to sell my pernambuco and Brazilian rosewood that was proven to be obtained before their CITES classifications.

Having some experience with guitar making and bow making I can't see rosewood as a good bow material but I could see pau brazil as a decent guitar body.    

I'm appalled after all this time confusion still persists regarding the Gibson seizures.

There were (at least) two separate Gibson incidents.  In the first instance, the source of ebony and rosewood was from Madagascar (CITES II listed).

The second instance, when Gibson's CEO tried to rally public opinion, involved the import of Indian rosewood and ebony (not CITES listed, but violated international trade laws, export of unfinished/unprocessed lumber).. 

Gibson tried to conflate both the Madagascar and Indian woods as as the same issue.  In the end Gibson was unable to get the the Madagascar rosewood back.  The government however did return the Indian ebony to Gibson.  You can read all about the DOJ settlement here:

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/gibson-guitar-corp-agrees-resolve-investigation-lacey-act-violations

"The criminal enforcement agreement defers prosecution for criminal violations of the Lacey Act and requires Gibson to pay a penalty amount of $300,000. The agreement further provides for a community service payment of $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to be used to promote the conservation, identification and propagation of protected tree species used in the musical instrument industry and the forests where those species are found. Gibson will also implement a compliance program designed to strengthen its compliance controls and procedures. In related civil forfeiture actions, Gibson will withdraw its claims to the wood seized in the course of the criminal investigation, including Madagascar ebony from shipments with a total invoice value of $261,844."

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3 hours ago, martin swan said:

I don't understand the drive to find an alternative to pernambuco.

The tree is endangered by clear-felling for coastal development and agriculture, not by bow makers. Indeed bowmakers are perhaps the principal forces in pernambuco conservation - if they don't look after this tree then who will?

As concerns the question of whether you could find a "better" wood for bows than pernambuco, that's an absurd concept. Classical violin technique has evolved around the specific properties of pernambuco. Why would you need or want something better ...?

 

I suppose why not, if better exists than certainly it's worth implementing, right ? As for finding an alternative, I wasn't truly aware as to the severity of the situation before writing this post , I was just curious as to if anyone had tried an alternative . 

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6 hours ago, Concertmaster1 said:

I suppose why not, if better exists than certainly it's worth implementing, right ? As for finding an alternative, I wasn't truly aware as to the severity of the situation before writing this post , I was just curious as to if anyone had tried an alternative . 

Though you may not be aware of it personally, in the past, many varieties of tropical woods have been used, dozens of different species.

Many of these work ok, but pernambuco rose to the top back then, and this situation has not changed.

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On 4/7/2023 at 1:10 AM, joerobson said:

Just an aside and a question.

The "discovery" of Brazil and later Brazilwood was important in the dye trade as red sandalwood (teracarpus santalinus) was difficult to obtain. Red sandalwood is traditional for the erhu. Has anyone tried it for bows?

on we go

Joe

 

As I understand it pernambuco (formerly known as caesalpina echinata, now paubrasilia echinata) was used as a replacement for sappanwood (biancaea sappan), a dyewood that had been sourced in Indonesia ...

 

 

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On 4/6/2023 at 1:44 AM, Concertmaster1 said:

Knowing that in the guitar world, the best "Cadillac" of woods is the Brazilian rose wood due to it's tonal qualities, has anyone tried or seen or know why ( apart form recent export bans ) Brazilian rosewood isn't used for violin bows instead of pernambuco ?   

Brazilian Rosewood, Dalbergia nigra, doesn't have the stiffness required for bowmaking.

The famous bow woods are much denser and stiffer.

Cheap student bows made in Germany and France in the 19th to 20th century were usually made from Massaranduba, aka Manilkara bidentata, aka abeille wood. It's a dull brown colour and the grain is not visually exciting either. It was usually finished with red shellac to make it look more like Pernambuco.

Mid 20th century onwards Ipé has been used. It can look very similar to Pernambuco when it is stained red. All the ones I have seen are finished in hard lacquer. It is often sold as genuine Pernambuco...caveat emptor.

All if these woods have similar very high stiffness and density. 

Pernambuco is considerably more expensive because of its very low yield from a tree,  and its very high desirability.

 

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On 4/10/2023 at 10:43 PM, martin swan said:

I don't understand the drive to find an alternative to pernambuco.

The tree is endangered by clear-felling for coastal development and agriculture, not by bow makers. Indeed bowmakers are perhaps the principal forces in pernambuco conservation - if they don't look after this tree then who will?

As concerns the question of whether you could find a "better" wood for bows than pernambuco, that's an absurd concept. Classical violin technique has evolved around the specific properties of pernambuco. Why would you need or want something better ...?

 

I am sure one can optimise carbon fibre to a level where it is superior to wood for bows, simply because it is much easier to manipulate weight in different areas of the bow along with optimal elasticity. As a matter of fact, some carbon fibre bows are already very good if not cutting-edge for technique.

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On 4/11/2023 at 6:01 AM, martin swan said:

As I understand it pernambuco (formerly known as caesalpina echinata, now paubrasilia echinata) was used as a replacement for sappanwood (biancaea sappan), a dyewood that had been sourced in Indonesia ...

 

 

Pterocarpus santalinus and santalin which is the dye it is known for.

20230412_160607.jpg

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On 4/11/2023 at 1:38 AM, Concertmaster1 said:

I suppose why not, if better exists than certainly it's worth implementing, right ? As for finding an alternative, I wasn't truly aware as to the severity of the situation before writing this post , I was just curious as to if anyone had tried an alternative . 

I am no expert but I attended a talk given at Newark three or four years ago which was given by a well respected maker and researcher about some of his experiments making reproduction historical bows and instruments. I will not name him in case I have interpreted his talk incorrectly. I recall him saying he had experimented with Brazilian rosewood and it worked very well for some types of bows.

The bows  - and instruments - he was making were, I think, made to be used by musicians attempting to recreate a French ensemble based on what is known of "Les Vingt-quatre Violons du Roi". I cant remember the exact time period he was considering but I recall that for the type of music and the possible period playing style, as suggested by contemporary engravings, showing the very formal and restrictive dress of the court musicians that this ensemble played that a bow with characteristics and dimensions quite different from what is needed and desirable in modern or classical models. I do recall him saying that for the bows for some of the instruments that experments made in rosewood worked very well.

Sadly though, as many others have stated this spectacular wood is no longer traded or at least is restricted to certified wood felled before a certain date. I think there are similar replanting initiatives going on for brazilian rosewood  as there are for pernambuco. I have heard that "plantation grown" rosewood lacks the character of the natural timber but hopefully plantations may allow it to be available again, in some small way, some time in the not to distant future?

When I was at at college in the late 90's I spent many hours at an 'exotic timber' place, rooting through the rio rosewood scrap bin looking for possible guitar bridge blanks etc. I eventually got a summer job there and because I seem to have a strange desire for stuff that is no longer readily available - hence my collection of old wooden planes etc etc - I acquired a lot of 'borderline' unusable/usable pieces of rosewood at the rate of £10 per kilogram. I have enough of it for many hundreds of guitar bridges, some guitar bindings, some big chunks for metal plane infils etc and even two guitar backs and sides. Needless to say that I have used nearly none of it since finishing college! 

Unfortunately, making stuff from my little rosewood horde, and even worse trying to sell anything, all felled pre-ban but without any certification, is now difficult or impossible so perhaps I could specify in my will that I should be cremated on a small bonfire of rio rosewood?

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40 minutes ago, Spongebob said:

I believe it's older stock

Since the last CITES conference in November, we would urge any and all bowmakers not to use any pernambuco that doesn't have a clear proof of legal export. If this wood had good paperwork the seller would be making that clear.

If people don't take this seriously we will be beck at Appendix 1 in less than 3 years' time.

I see the Facebook post has been removed :ph34r:

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Martin, so what's up with stuff like this? I presume you get emails like this too?

"Hi Friend,

This is Amy from Luoyang Jinqu industry and trade Co.,ltd in China, the supplier for the violin, viola, cello, bass, viola da gamba and bow, case, bow hairs and so on violin family instruments and accessories.
 
We have promotion for the brazilwood bow( half slide mounted, full slide mounted) and Pernambuco bow( nickel mounted, silver mounted) , picture pls check below: Are you interested?"

 
Makes we wonder where most of the Brasilwood and Pernambuco for bows is really going, and whether you or I really have the power to do anything significant about it?
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14 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Martin, so what's up with stuff like this? I presume you get emails like this too?

"Hi Friend,

This is Amy from Luoyang Jinqu industry and trade Co.,ltd in China, the supplier for the violin, viola, cello, bass, viola da gamba and bow, case, bow hairs and so on violin family instruments and accessories.
 
We have promotion for the brazilwood bow( half slide mounted, full slide mounted) and Pernambuco bow( nickel mounted, silver mounted) , picture pls check below: Are you interested?"

 
Makes we wonder where most of the Brasilwood and Pernambuco for bows is really going, and whether you or I really have the power to do anything significant about it?

If you believe that is real brazilwood and pernambuco on those cheaper Chinese bows you are more than a little bit gullible

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I would say the vast majority of what's being sold from China isn't pernambuco. I really haven't seen any Chinese bows that are definitely Paubrasilia echinata

Of the known cases of smuggling or unauthorised export, a very small amount has gone to China, which is not to say that there aren't Chinese bowmakers with stockpiles of pre-CITES pernambuco.

The general intention is to implement a system of complete traceability for all new bows made from pernambuco. We have suggested that there might be an amnesty for non-legalized wood in the form of a tax that would go towards ecological restoration.

I know these issues can seem massive and insurmountable, but given that Brazil is the only source, and that Brazil wishes to find a way of providing a responsible supply fo bow wood, I don't think it's impossible.

But it requires bow-makers and musicians to act responsibly.

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