Violin Bow Makers
The professionals who dedicates themselves to be one of the top violin bow makers, or even working with other string instruments like violas or cellos, are called by several names, being one of the most used “archetier” (French for bow maker).
The bow is essential for a violinist. The musician moves the bow perpendicular to the strings of the violin, thus measuring the intensity of the sound according to the friction force and regulating the duration of the notes.
In fact, a quality bow should be an extension of the violinist’s hand. A good bow significantly improves the musician’s performance. The bow has undergone various transformations over centuries until 1785 when a well-known French watchmaker, François Xavier Tourte, in collaboration with the Italian violinist Giovanni Battista Viotti, perfected the French bow that we know today.
The work of an archetier and a violin maker is entirely artisanal, requiring deep knowledge. This is why we find bows on the market that are worth a fortune. Quality violin bow makers typically use horsehair from breeders in Mongolia, Siberia, Poland, and Argentina.
To shape the bow’s stick by creating the curvature, the professional heats the wood until it reaches the appropriate shape. Just like in modern violins, the bow requires high-quality wood, and the best wood for making traditional violin bows varies depending on the region.
Typically, the average weight of a violin bow is around 60 grams, a cello bow is 80 grams, and a viola bow is approximately 70 grams. When the bow is too light, the violinist will need to exert more effort to produce the appropriate tone. On the other hand, when it is too heavy, it becomes tiring for the musician. The bow needs to be comfortable for the musician.
Certain precautions should be taken to ensure the bow’s durability:
- Clean the bow after playing to remove any rosin residue and sweat.
- Store the bow in its case in a dry place. If you don’t plan to use it for an extended period, release the tension of the hair.
- The horsehair has a typical lifespan of 180 to 200 hours. When you notice it becoming worn, it’s time to replace it.
Important Bow Manufacturers
Today, we have prominent manufacturers of bows for violin, cello, and viola who seek to uphold the traditions of the great bow makers of the past. Their bows are used by the finest musicians in Europe, the United States, and Asia. Some notable bow makers include:
- Basil de Visser: Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Walter Barbiero: Padua, Italy
- Lucchi & Cremona: Cremona, Italy
- Charles Espey: Port Townsend, Washington
- F. Grabenstein: Washington D.C., USA
- Emilio & Luca Slaviero: Cremona, Italy
- Jean-Luc Tauziede: Anglet, France
- Ralph Ashmead: Tuolumne, California
- Peter Prier & Sons: Salt Lake City, USA
- Thomas Dignan: Boston, USA
- Fausto Cangelosi: Florence, Italy
- John B. Aniano: New Jersey, USA
- Jose DaCunha: Miami, Florida
- David Forbes: Gainesville, Florida