Brazilwood violin bow vs. Pernambucco????

September 16, 2007 at 05:13 AM · A violin dealer is going to send me 3 violin bows made out of fine brazilwood by Lamy, Morizot and Pajeot.

Is a higher end brazilwood violin bow equivalent in quality and performance to a mid-end pernambucco bow?

Basically, I'm curious if a higher end brazilwood violin bow would equal the performance of about a $3,000-5,000 good pernambucco bow?

Any thoughts?????

Replies (9)

September 16, 2007 at 11:57 AM · No--they are not the same. Pernambuco is the heartwood of the tree and much denser, but I'll leave the rest of this for Angelo or Raphael to wrestle with.

September 16, 2007 at 01:24 PM · Just to clarify, I know pernambucco and brazilwood are not the same. However, I did read somewhere that some great french bowmakers used brazilwood and the results are quite good (although not the same caliber as pernambucco). I have never tried a brazilwood bow, so this is why I was asking the question.

September 17, 2007 at 05:58 AM · Sung,

I believe you are confused, and understandably so, because there is also the term "Brasilwood" (with an "s" not a "z") With the "s," it is another name for Pernambuco, though rarely used. The one with the "z" doesn't seem to be an official word, but rather something adopted by the industry to denote, as explained above, the later-growth wood of the (yes the same) Pernambuco tree. It is considered inferior.

to make it even more confusing, there is more than one species of Pernambuco! In fact, there are quite a few, and the one used by the old masters hasn't been available for decades. -But this depends upon which book or website you choose to believe. It's incredibly confusing and arcane.

IIRC, Pernambuco is generally denser & has less sap, so it has the preferred weight-to-stiffness ratio.

However, there can be good Brazilwood, and the skill of the maker may mean as much as the wood selection itself. Where does Brazilwood leave off & Pernambuco begin? Well, there's the rub, so best to stick to a known maker, and trust that he selected his blanks well. Then don't worry about what it's called.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. (but what do I know, I think classical violinist are always out of tune ... )

September 17, 2007 at 03:04 AM · Those 3 bows should be in fairly different price ranges, and the Pajeot will be considerably different from the Lamy and Morizot. Pajeot made very, very fine bows.

I think brazilwood is the cheap stuff, but I could be wrong.

September 17, 2007 at 02:20 PM · Pernambuco (also know as Pau Brasil-the tree of Brasil) is a unique tree where the heartwood expands as the tree matures so that at a young age there is almost no heartwood and a very old tree will be completely heartwood. Because of the unique qualities of the wood especially in it's resonence it is the prefferred wood of choice for almost all top bows.

Brazilwood, by it's curent normal usage refers to non Pernambuco wood (which in many cases doesn't even come from or anywhere near Brasil). Occasionally in the past many top makers, especially in Europe, either slightly before, during, and for a few years after WWII occasionally had difficulty getting Pernabuco (after all it ONLY grows in Brasil and there was a war on). These bow makers made bows using other woods, many times gererically referred to as Brazilwood. The quality of their work was usually as good or better (to compensate for the wood) than their work using Pernambuco so the bows play decently but don't usually have the value of a Pernambuco bow from the same maker/time/quality.

Brasilwood (with an S) was used as stated above to describe bows or the wood used from the outer (non heartwood) area of a not fully mature Pernambuco tree. Because of translation differences (Brasilians call another tree not related to Pernabuco, Brasilwood) and the fact that Pau Brasil (Pernambuco) means the "Tree of Brasil" now most manufacturers don't use the term Brazilwood to describe anything but non-Pernambuco bows. Other woods that are more closely related to Pernambuco (Epee for example) have been tried but don't have the strength and flexibilty to work. Sound is OK but tip breaks are the norm rather than the exception.

Hope the info helps.

September 18, 2007 at 02:00 PM · Pernambuco is the higher quality of wood for a bow.

But "bee wood" or "snake wood" or "iron wood" (brazilwood)is a good compromise for a good fine bow from the French Masters of bowmaking.

The price of a bow like this is +/- 30 % less expensive than the pernambuco bow.

September 19, 2007 at 02:21 AM · Angelo,

Your description is only one of several. Some websites & books agree with you, others are in absolute contradiction. You might be correct, but the most common explanation seems to be as given above, that the late-growth, outer wood of the "Pernambuco" tree is classified (loosely) as "Brazilwood" with a "Z."

-But of course, this is the latewood of a DIFFERENT species of Pernambuco than what Tourte used. He settled on Chaesalpina Echinata Lam, which is evidently not the "true Pernambuco" of today. Hennce, one could correctly say that Brazilwood is a different species altogether, AND one can say that Brazilwood is the late-growth of the SAME species.


Even stranger: Arcos Brasil (a company that probably knows a bit about the subject) equates Brazilwood with true Pernambuco, quote: "The scarcity of historical and botanical information about brazilwood (also known as Pernambuco wood) has created an air of mystery" -And at least one other website backs this up, albeit using the term "Caesalpina Echinata Lam" instead of ""Chaesalpina Echinata Lam"

Makes the head spin.


All that really matters is the quality of the wood itself. The strength-to-weight ratio, the damping factor, the Lucci number (speed of transmission) etc, so again, best to either trust the maker, or audition the bows without worrying about what they are made of.

October 13, 2007 at 04:48 PM · Allan, If your head is not spinning enough the Arcos Brasil article on Pernambuco has descriptions on possible sub-species with the following break down.

"Three morphological distinct groups have been detected up to now. The most common variant has been observed at several locations along the Brazilian coast. It has smaller leaflets (figure 7a) and the wood is often an orangy-chestnut color. The second variant differs slightly from the first in its larger leaflets and reddish-orange wood (figure 7b). Individuals with these characteristics were observed only in cultivation at the Sooretama Biological Reserve (Espirito Santo) and Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden. The third variant has large leaflets (figure 7c) up to 12 cm long and blackish-red wood. Several individuals with these marked differences were found in Bahia. Young specimens from this population are under cultivation at the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden."

October 14, 2007 at 03:58 AM · If it's really made by Lamy or Pajeot I'd buy it if it were made out of reconstituded catfish wiskers. They better have papers.

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