W.E. Hill Bows, etc.

August 29, 2004 at 04:04 AM · Hi, I am maybe considering getting a new bow for around $3000. I saw that some of the Hill bows are around this price. Basically, I am looking for something to fill in for my Bazin bow's weaknesses. The Bazin pulls a nice, rich sound out of my violin, but it is very slow and too flexible so it doesn't respond well to spiccato, richochet, etc. Are Hill bows better suited for this?

Or, would it be better to get this kind of bow from another maker? Can anybody suggest any?

Lastly, does anybody recommend commisioning the bow from a reputable maker? Can anybody suggest some makers that do these comissions?


Replies (27)

August 30, 2004 at 12:40 AM · My teacher has a Hill bow, it's nice.

But I had an old french bow restored and remounted by Michael Vann, and I must say his work is top notch.

Take a look at his bows, they are of great quality.

Also you might want to look into John Norwood Lee, who makes bows for Perlman and Zukerman, his bows are on the same level as Vann's, and have great playing characteristics.

August 30, 2004 at 02:28 AM · Hill bows are excellent as all-around performance tools, and you should certainly look into them.

In that range, though, you'll also find bows by just about every contemporary maker, and they'll well worth the money. I would look at Michael Vann, Lynn Hannings, Paul Siefried, Isaac Salchow and many others who are excellent makers.

The John Norwood Lee bows that I've tried leave me a little underwhelmed, though. To me they tend to be heavy and a little clubbish in their response.

August 30, 2004 at 02:29 AM · Some of my favorite bows have been from the former Hill firm. Their rapid appreciation in value over the past decade is quite remarkable--today players and collectors alike are snapping them up at quite a clip.

You may be interested in the work of Ole Kanestrom from Washington State. He's producing some incredible bows that the market has taken strong notice of (I believe his most recent asking price for a silver/ebony violin bow is $3200). To date I've played a few concerts with soloists using Kanestroms, and also know several rank and file musicians who use them. Each time I play one I am impressed by their sharp agility on and off the string. I believe he has a webpage that shows some of his work.

I myself play on a carbon fiber Righetti (another name that has rapidly gained value over the past five years). Righetti creates all his bows by hand according to French archetiere--file marks are evident around the stick. It has immediate feedback and incredible strength, ideal for a more aggressive player. The stick has a liveliness that I have been hard-pressed to find elsewhere. My bow commands a tone that is extremely focused and pure, greatly facilitating access to my instrument's tonal capacity. I rarely touch my Tubbs, which tends to be more enveloping, even lethargic, on the string.


August 30, 2004 at 05:23 AM · I have just bought a bow that is marked "Hill" and I'm wondering about that, because usually the Hill bows are marked "Hill & Sons." Any comments? Is this a fake?

August 30, 2004 at 10:11 PM · Some are Hill & Sons, while some are H&S...you raise an interesting question.

You should see an archetier to authenticate the bow.

...Where did you make this purchase?

August 30, 2004 at 10:51 PM · The Hills used five different stamps, each one denoting a different quality level. They are, in order of quality top to bottom:

W. E. Hill & Sons

W. E. H & S

Hill & Sons England

H & S


The last two are debatable as to which is the higher quality, but this is the order William Retford put them in.

There are fake Hill bows floating around. They're easier to copy than some other bows because the shop was so meticulous about the workmanship being the same. But most of the copies are stamped "W. E. Hill & Sons" to make them more valuable, so it's unlikely that yours is not authentic.

August 30, 2004 at 10:55 PM · My bow is stamped 'hart & sons,' but it's a hill. Take it to someone you trust to authenticate it.

I like my hill fairly well; it gets a good response, has a nice bounce to it. Of course, there's a wide variety of hills out there....try lots of bows, best of luck in your search.

August 31, 2004 at 03:36 AM · Hello, Ken Altman is a meticulous bowmaker who is individually producing bows that are generating great reviews among professional players. His Sterling Silver mounted ebony frog w/Parisian eye, divided button, pernambuco stick, silver or whalebone grip bows retails for $2,400. He will send bows to be tried for a refundable deposit. His website has detailed, interesting pictures of the process: http://www.open.org/~kalt

Best of wishes for the perfect bow for you. WJJ

August 31, 2004 at 05:48 AM · I recently purchased a David Samuels bow for my wife, after we tried many other bows from such makers as Matt Wehling, David Russell Young, and others. The Samuels bow has superb craftsmanship, and we were attracted to it because of the maker's reputation and the fact that the bow draws a warm sound from her slightly bright-sounding Cremonese violin. However, I'm wondering about the quality of pernambuco on the stick. Specifically, it has many open pores in the tip area, and also a knot mark on one side, about 4 inches down from the tip. Does this mean that the wood quality is not so great? Since the bow draws a warm sound, and bounces very aggressively, does this mean that the pernambuco is overly soft? My wife likes the bow--which is the most important factor--but I'd really like to know if the pores and knot are indicators of lesser quality pernambuco. I suppose even the best makers sometimes must work with materials of varying quality.



September 1, 2004 at 04:34 AM · Thanks for the explanation on the Hill bows. I looked at several from different (reputable) dealers. All the other Hill bows I saw bore stamps like H & S. The quality was comparable among them. They have good response and focus.

November 14, 2004 at 04:04 PM · Yes--what do you need to know? It's pretty long to type out here.

November 14, 2004 at 06:58 PM · I tried a Hill at this price when auditioning bows recently, but found the stick too flexible for my needs.

November 14, 2004 at 07:06 PM · Hill bows often have a sort of a waterlogged feeling--not all of them, but enough for it to be a general characteristic of Hill bows. As a result, they can sound good and stick to the string, but fall short on certain types of bow strokes that need resiliance. However, generalizations are never very helpful in this type of thing because no one ever buys ALL of a maker's bows--they just need to find ONE that works for them, and every maker has a wide range of characteristics within what he's made.

December 14, 2004 at 08:28 AM · John B. - I hope somebody will answer your question. My favorite bow has a knot about where you describe. It doesn't seem to cause a problem; it plays fine, it's old and hasn't warped. I was told once that violin makers "like to use all the wood" I suppose meaning they resist throwing wood away. My thought would be that with his reputation, he knows a thing or two and at least wouldn't have put his name on the bow if it wasn't up to par. That's just my guess though.

December 14, 2004 at 02:31 PM · Hill bows have a good reputation. There were a number of good makers that worked for the company and sometimes they left a mark on the bow which distinguished them. The way the name is put on says something about the quality. The best says "W.E. Hill & Sons". There are several levels as I understand it. Other levels include Hill & Sons or perhaps just plain Hill. (I know just a little about this. Talking to an expert might be helpful.)

December 15, 2004 at 11:19 AM · I have a "W.E.H. & S." stamped Hill bow - i.e. second quality - from the 1920s. I adore it. If I remember I think it cost me £1500 a year or so ago....

January 4, 2005 at 11:11 PM · I am trying out a WE Hill and sons bow from Reuning, stamped W. E. H&S. They're asking $5,000, is that too much? What's the range of bows stamped W.E. H&S?

July 14, 2007 at 11:54 AM · There is a Hill bow on ebay


What do you reckon, could this be an authentic Hill bow? The bow looks awefully clean except for the nicks.

1. Does the orientation of the Hill stamp correct (or should it be upside down)

2. The ebay seller neiappa does not seem to be responding to my queries.

3. There is no reserved price

4. The seller does not take paypal, nor return

Otherwise, you reckon is this worth bidding and up to what price?


July 14, 2007 at 03:06 PM · I agree with Michael opinion totally.Most of the Hill are easy to play with on the string,But not as great like the prestige french bow on off string playing.

July 14, 2007 at 05:08 PM · I have a very nice Hill made by Retford. There is indeed a code on the bow as to who made it, but I don't remember them. Mine was appraised at $4,500 to $5,000. It's silver mounted and ebony frog if that helps.

July 15, 2007 at 03:55 AM · There were a number of luthiers working for Hill, and as suggested on this thread the quality and price on today's market have quite a wide range, with some valued at over $10K. As with any bow, you have to find what works best with your instrument, strings, repertoire, playing style, etc. To me it seems to be very personal, and hard to generalize. You just have to try the bow.

Patrick Wong asked Is anyone familiar with the numbering system they used to identify who made each Hill bow?

As I understand it, at least with the better Hill bows, to identify the maker of a Hill bow, the bow must be disassembled to allow you to look for the maker's characteristic identifier (e.g., a notch) at the tip. Matt Wehling in fact did this for me (I have a Hill bow in which he was interested). I was also told identical information by the bow expert at a major dealer. But I don't know if this applies to all Hill bows, or just the period that mine comes from.

July 15, 2007 at 11:34 AM · Hi,

All the Hill Bows were numbered by each maker from the firm.

My teacher has a Gold mounted Hill bow numbered,"14"

If you guys want to see the unique characteristics of each bow,go to this link,


P.S.Hope the link is useful!


July 15, 2007 at 11:35 AM · And...my teacher paid £2000 for the bow in 1963.

It also came with a certificate.

December 27, 2016 at 04:07 PM · Michael Darnton wrote :- "Hill bows often have a sort of a waterlogged feeling--not all of them,.."

As well as some recently made bows I own, all made by ex-Hill makers, I have 3 Hill sticks which are about 100 years old. Each if these has a more modern counterpart with very similar wood and construction, so I can compare like with like. The older bows feel LESS waterlogged than the newer ones. They are more resilient, and deliver better saltando and spiccato strokes. Age seems to be a factor.

The famous and expensive French bows are even older, and will seem even LESS waterlogged, IMHO.

BTW I think a number 14 Hill bow will be a Clutterbuck stick. Also, I highly recommend the www.hillbows.com website, the brainchild of the English dealer Tim Toft.

December 27, 2016 at 09:53 PM · If you see a used John Stagg bow up for sale, know that John Stagg* was a Senior Bowmaker at W. E. Hill until he left some 30 years ago, setting up his own successful bow-making business in Bristol, England.

A used John Stagg bow for sale seems to be a rare event, suggesting that players tend to hang on to them.

He has written a detailed treatise** on the craft of bow making and repairing.

* www.johnstaggbows.co.uk/

** http://www.johnstaggbows.co.uk/book.html

December 28, 2016 at 04:41 AM · IIRC, Michael was especially hard elsewhere on Bultitude and some of his trainees. [Please let me know if not correct.]. In any case, some of their work seemed to be aiming at a Lincoln Continental / Buick sort of ride, not the liveliness of some of the older French shops.

December 28, 2016 at 06:06 AM · There's a new book available :-The Hill Bow Makers by Derek Wilson and John Milnes.

Should be easy enough to track down , if anyone's interested.

BTW yes, I seem to recall that posters such as Dr. Cole have called bows by Bultitude and others "Clunkers". Some truth there, as there are many 65gm fiddle bows by him around.

My first "quality" bow was by Arthur Bultitude. At the time, our concertmaster was using a fine Dominique Peccatte bow. This stick was very lively and the slightest hint of nervousness would send it all over the place. Said concertmaster sold that extremely valuable French bow and bought my Bultitude from me. This bow would STAY ON THE STRING !!!

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