About historical bows


Bows from the 17th and 18th century

The bows I make are copies of original bows, or reconstructions from paintings.
Finding an original bow from the 17th or 18th century, which is still in a good and playable condition, is rare nowadays. Fortunately many painters from the 17th and early 18th century, such as Evaristo Baschenis (Bergamo, 1604-1678), or Francois Desportes (1661-1743) , worked very precisely, so they give us detailed information about size, design, choice of wood, style of frog (clip-in or with screw) and colour of the hair.
I try to combine this information from the paintings with the data of the “real” bows which I measured. 

Clip-in-frogs and black hair.

Although the enormous variety of bows in different countries, times and even regions, two things must be noticed as it might have been a common characteristic:
till about 1725 most bows had a “clip-in-frog”. Only a few had a screw and nut to give tension to the hair. Most likely it was too expensive to produce the screws which were needed for the more “luxurious” version of a bow. Making screws was handwork, since there was not yet an industry to produce series of them.
As a second characteristic we can see many of the bows with a clip-in-frog had black hair. Experiments showed us that black hair is in all weather-circumstances much more stable than white hair, so the tension of the bow with black hair (in spite of the fixed frog) stays the same in winter and summer.
I always advise my customers, who order a bow with a clip-in-frog, to take black hair with it. An additional advantage of black hair is the somewhat “rougher” sound, which results in a more carrying tone in churches or bigger concert halls. 

Second half 18th and beginning 19th century

Gathering information about bows from this era is much easier for the bowmaker: many bows from this period are still in use amongst players, or can be measured and played at musea. Like this there is enough variety to select the brilliant ones for copying.