Ever see or use a Bamboo Bow

April 30, 2012 at 06:19 PM · Considering making a bamboo bow

Replies (27)

April 30, 2012 at 06:27 PM · I tried one: it was very heavy, it probably had to be very thick to be stiff enough.

April 30, 2012 at 06:42 PM · There was an English bow maker who used cane to make bows. These were made in commerial quantities so must have been efective. Does anyone remember the name of the maker?

Cheers Carlo

April 30, 2012 at 07:00 PM · The maker's name was Lawrence Cocker. He also made good instruments. I purchased one of his bows in 1967. His method was quite ingenious: he laminated six strips of split cane and then grafted a head of pernambuco or some other wood to carve the head. It was a nice bow, certainly not heavy, but I found it too stiff. Later, Joseph Kun took it as a trade on one of his bows. I'm told that after Cocker's death, his wife continued to make some similar bows but with greatly diminished quality.

April 30, 2012 at 07:35 PM · For most of my life I used an Orvis impregnated bamboo fly rod. Until I tried a modern CF rod.

Theoretically, you could make different weights/lengths for different music. For example, a 9ft/6 weight bow for the Trout quintet. For La Mer, something heavier for salt water. And for the biggest string instrument, a "bass" bow...

April 30, 2012 at 11:25 PM · Ironically I've got a piece of pernambuco that isn't good enough for a bow but long enough to make a golf club shaft. Always wanted to at least make a putter.

May 1, 2012 at 01:31 AM · Well, the bow that comes with my erhu (traditional 2-string Chinese fiddle) appears to be made of bamboo, and is quite convex. But since I don't play the erhu, but merely have it for decoration, as I do with several other instruments in my collection, it's a moot point!

I think I just wanted to say "erhu" and "moot"


May 1, 2012 at 02:31 AM · Erhu proud of yourself now?

May 1, 2012 at 02:33 AM · Erhu and moot for me too. Good things about bamboo can't be overstated though -- super flexible, keep its shape even under a lot of heat, resist water well and very environmentally friendly. Since I don't know how the bamboo stick will sound on a violin, the above praise is a moot point.

May 1, 2012 at 10:14 AM · Eric wrote:

"Ironically I've got a piece of pernambuco that isn't good enough for a bow but long enough to make a golf club shaft. Always wanted to at least make a putter."


Do you think it should be round or octagonal? Would you put a silver grip on it, or faux-whalebone?

May 1, 2012 at 12:55 PM · Yes, Lawrence Cocker made bows from bamboo--split cane bamboo sticks with pernambuco heads and handles grafted in. I've got one that I'll photograph and post the pictures later after I get through my morning rehair appointments. It is a very interesting bow.

Josh Henry, Bow Maker & Restorer

May 1, 2012 at 01:23 PM · Eric and John - as we know, "to er is hu man". Not that I want to bamboo-zle anybody!

May 1, 2012 at 03:35 PM · "to er is hu man".

Shall we forgive all of these divine puns?

David- the old clubs were gripped with leather and the shafts were hickory, but the oldest clubs known, 16th Century Troon Clubs, were actually LAMYnated.

May 1, 2012 at 04:26 PM · Just so this discussion doesn't run out of other things but bad puns, here's somewhere the discussion can go:

There are thousands, possibly tens of thousands of types of bamboo. I am fairly certain not all types of bamboo have the same stiffness and flexibility features. There may be some bamboo varieties that are more feasible for a bow than others; any thoughts on candidate varieties?

May 1, 2012 at 04:36 PM · Many years ago, long before today's carbon fiber and exotic alloys, some cycle racing wheels were being made with cane rims, for a nearly ideal combination of lightness, strength and resilience. My grandfather, a track cyclist about 100 years ago, used them. I have no more details, but wouldn't the properties I've indicated be considered for violin bows made of bamboo?

May 1, 2012 at 04:42 PM · Eric, were those Lamy-nated clubs ever decorated with Tourte-iss shell?

May 1, 2012 at 05:32 PM · Let's not Pecc atte these puns too much. I guess I have to take some responsibility for the way this thread has moot-ated!

May 2, 2012 at 12:55 AM · Josh might know, but most glued up laminates would come apart with heat bending so, good question. How in the hell did he do that?

I don't mean to Maline you guys but thes puns are pure Tourture, they are Sartory like To massin Vigneron a cut.


May 2, 2012 at 02:37 AM · Eury-ly giving us the Bazin-ess! It's all Dodd-Hill from here!

May 2, 2012 at 02:48 AM · I deserve some bamboo caning to the soles of my Fetique.

Recovering punaholic, sorry, really.

May 2, 2012 at 01:44 PM · The type of bamboo that is used for FlyRods would most likely be the best to use for a bow. It is Tonkin. The reason is that it is very large and can be split into sections that are easily workable. You first split the cane then shape it into 6 perfect triangles to be glued together. The bend would be created in the same way that the straight flyrod is created and that is during the glue process. 30 minute epoxy is used to give plent of work time. You tape the 6 pieces first, cut one place in the tape to "fold" open the 6 pieces. Put on the glue then bind with string (going down then back up to counter the twist effect. Once bound, you roll it and work it straight (in a bow, you would work in the curve at that point.)

To make it lighter and stiffer you would hollow the bow by cutting off the top of the triangles before gluing and simply put a string in the middle to pull out the excess glue after it is bound.

Not sure if I will make one or not. Seems that it would be fun to make one though.

May 2, 2012 at 05:27 PM · So you would use a form for the shape of the curve? Would there have to be some kind of adjustment for spring back or twisting? Even epoxy would loosen with heat, wouldn't it? I thought old bamboo rods use casiene (sp?) glue. What year were these bows made?

My late friend and luthier Jess Wells was always talking about setting up to make rods. How do you cut and true the facets to make the joints? I've got several old fly rods, they are beautiful.

May 9, 2012 at 09:52 AM · Here are some pictures of the Lawrence Cocker violin bow that I have. I apologize for the delay in getting these posted, but this really is a pretty unique bow.

The stick is made from split bamboo (I believe from 8 different pieces which form the 8 sides), although I do not know what specific species it is. Also, I really do not know if it was made straight and then cambered (as in traditional bow making) or if the stick was glued together inside of some sort of mold that created the camber. As you can see in the first three pictures, the head and handle are made from pernambuco, and are attached to the bamboo stick in a v-graft.

The playability of the bow is good, although a bit different than many bows. The bamboo stick is quite stiff, but springy and bouncy. I can feel the weight of the head and of the handle with the stick flexing in between (what I refer to as the "dumbbell effect"). The response of the bamboo is very quick, reminding me of some carbon fiber bows.

Lawrence Cocker violin bow

Lawrence Cocker violin bow

Lawrence Cocker violin bow

Lawrence Cocker violin bow

Lawrence Cocker violin bow

Josh Henry, Bow Maker & Restorer


May 9, 2012 at 01:28 PM · Very interesting Josh and thanks for the photo. My memory may be deceiving me but I think my Cocker bow was made of six strips so that it was hexagonal rather than octagonal. It was because it was too stiff that I eventually traded it in. The head of mine was made of cocobolo wood.

May 9, 2012 at 08:46 PM · Ron, you are correct about the six sides on Mr. Cocker's bows. I just assumed that there were 8 sides because that is what I always see on bows. After reading your post, I pulled out the bow and counted the sides--and there are indeed only six.

This is the only one of his that I have ever seen. Did your bow also have all of the fancy engraving? This one is dated 1981 on the ferrule--do you know when Lawrence Cocker died? How many bows did he make?

Josh Henry

May 10, 2012 at 03:18 AM · I've joked around a lot on this thread, but all kidding aside, I am curious about this. Bamboo is actually a type of grass, as I understand it, but also very strong. It is also hollow and has knots, which I think would militate against an even balance. Is it for these reasons and more that a bamboo bow is put together in strips?

The photo is very interesting. I'm wondering about the discoloration - or at least uneven coloration, although it affords more of a glimpse into the material.

Just looked through an excellent article on bamboo in Wikipedia and learned some amazing facts, from how fast it grows to all the different uses it's put to. There are good photos there, too, and a link to a separate article on bamboo musical instruments.

Wow, a whole post w.o. a single pun. I must be slipping!

May 10, 2012 at 10:45 PM · The silver on the frog of mine was plain. Workmanship on the frog was a bit rough but it worked well enough. I don't recall when Cocker died but I remember reading the curious news that his wife began to make similar bows after his death and that these are rather poorly made. I also had one of his violins, beautifully made but I wasn't happy with the sound so traded it with Joseph Kun for one of his bows.

December 11, 2013 at 02:46 PM · After reading all of this I started to regret that I had traded my Cocker bow many years ago--so when I saw one for sale in Brompton's auction I bid on it and won. It hasn't arrived yet but I'm waiting for it with interest.

Also, I've just noted that Martin Swan has one for sale. At 60 grams, it's a bit heavier than the one I've just purchased.

If nothing else, mine will be an interesting conversation piece when I show it to my colleagues and to my rehairer.

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