Recommendation for bow re-cambering in Northern California?

October 23, 2018, 6:45 PM · Thread, simplified: I need an older bow re-cambered and possibly have a new frog made, any recommendations for someone that could do a great job of this in Northern California (specifically, I'm in Sacramento, but willing to drive/mail the bow)?

Long thread below-------

So, in starting to think about getting a better bow for myself, I remembered I have a bow that was purchased as a "viola bow" on craigslist back in 2005 by my mom.

I never really used it because it seemed like it didn't pull a great tone from the viola, but of course that's because it was never a viola bow, but a violin bow. I didn't learn this until much later.

Anyways, in looking at it with a "new eye" recently, because I'm thinking of the faults with my primary bow, I realized some things:

1) The material seems very, very good.

2) The bow has been remarked upon by qualified people at least two times before, regarding it being a professional-grade bow, but it wasn't discussed much more because I wasn't at these places for the bow.

3) The stick seems to resonate really well with my violin, and the action of the stick also seems quite good. The sound it pulls from my violin is way more focused and clear than with my other bow (jon paul two-star)

4) The bow is named "J.L. Warner" and the only information I can find regarding this name is that he patented a "violin-piano" in the early 1900s. I would be curious if anyone else here has heard this name before.

Now the bad:

1) The frog is probably 30% taller than a regular violin frog. Thus, it constantly feels unstable at the lower half of the bow. I can't tell if it's the original frog, or something added on later by someone who wanted a taller frog for whatever reason (viola use, maybe?). I don't know if this information is useful, but there are some letters+numbers carved/drawn really tiny into the stick where the frog lining meets the bow, and the frog lining itself has the same letters+numbers carved into it. My instinct tells me that at some point, someone recambered this bow (poorly), and the same person crafted this taller frog to compensate for their botched recamber. Either that or it was repaired.

2) The camber of the bow is odd: the upper 2/3 of the bow have a healthy, linearly curved camber, and then the bottom 1/3 straightens out as it approaches the frog. This part of the bow just doesn't match the curve of the upper 2/3. My luthier thinks the bow may have broken underneath the winding at some point, and that this straightening is a result of the repair. However, I wouldn't really know without removing the winding.

Anyways, if you guys have any advice and/or general knowledge based on what I've described, it would be great. Thanks!

Replies (15)

October 23, 2018, 7:16 PM · Call Jeff Sahs and see if he does that. Nice guy, and has done some good work for me. He’s in Sacto.
October 23, 2018, 7:20 PM · Other names in the Bay Area would be Roland feller in sf and joan balter in Berkeley. I don’t know specifically if they do this work but they have good reps.
Edited: October 23, 2018, 8:06 PM · You need to work with a bow maker who has a good track record with re-cambering (it's a dangerous operation that can destroy a bow). A regular violin shop won't cut it for this kind of work. I unfortunately don't know who does this well on the west coast. Also, note that what you're talking about isn't cheap, and may exceed the value of the bow.
October 23, 2018, 11:24 PM · I think the bow may actually be reasonably was suggested that it might be worth 1500 or so, and that was in 2007. (This of course is assuming that recambering is all it needs, and that it's not broken under the winding, in which case that value would be much lower).
Edited: October 24, 2018, 10:23 AM · I just had my bow recambered last week Erik and it wasnt expensive at all.I was charged just for the time it took to do the job (about 15 minutes) and the hair was shortened slightly.The whole procedure was not the "major operation" I thought it would be.
The bow , made by Jean Joseph Martin had no curve behind the head and the lower third was basically straight.The repairman used a template that he has had for 40 years and rebent it to that shape.It's taking a bit to get used to but it now has a "sports suspension" instead of the quaint " cushy sedan" feel.
Edited: October 24, 2018, 2:40 PM · Recambering generally starts around $100 and goes up from there. Handmade replacement frogs start no less than $800 depending who you get. Someone could get a premade frog from Germany for around $200 but it still should be fit to the stick. Recambering could take care of the unstable feeling. German bows tend to marked with lines on the bottom of the frog and on the stick. That tells me that they match and the frog is original to the bow. Vorin style curves are not even throughout. More curve behind the head and flatten out towards frog. Tourtes are more even, but still not the same all the way through.
October 24, 2018, 5:00 PM ·
Edited: October 24, 2018, 8:02 PM · Good info to know, Anthony! I think you might be right about the stick just being a Voirin model.

I'm thinking at this point I should just get a professional bow commissioned. The more I think about it, it's probably the route that will make me the happiest.

I was originally convinced that I'd have to get "the BEST" modern bow if I got one, and that would run me 10k+, which just seems like way too much since I only paid 15k for my violin.

But I've decided to take a step back and just find a local bowmaker who will probably end up costing more like 5k, and whom I'll be able to easily communicate with in order for them to match my needs.

It sounds like it's probably more important that a bowmaker is close by, geographically, than it is to have one that's more famous, but farther away. At the end of the day, I would assume any professional-level bow maker that has reviews from good players will probably be able to more than match my needs, without me having to spend over 10k, and without me having to fly across the country.

October 24, 2018, 8:56 PM · Given that you might not be certain what you really want from a bow, it might be preferable to try a lot of existing bows rather than commissioning.
October 24, 2018, 11:05 PM · Lydia, I had originally considered that, but from the sounds of it, many bow makers keep a collection of several different examples of their own bows in the shop so that the player can try them all and decide which characteristics are desirable, and also which bows resonate correctly with the particular violin being used. So the player might try bows A-Z and say "I like the way A feels in the hand, but I like the tone of J, and the springiness of bow C".

I think they do this so they have a firm idea of what the player exactly wants in a commissioned bow before the process is ever started. In fact, I would think it would be almost impossible for an archetier to know what a player wanted without this process, wouldn't it? Terms like "more reactive" or "better tracking towards the tip" are so general and relative to the player's own perceptions that I don't know how a player would communicate exactly what they wanted to the archetier without actually having a "sampler plate" of bows that the maker could use as templates for what the player is trying to describe.

E.G. "Ah, so the characteristics of bow B are what the player is trying to say when he says a *soft* bow"

(please correct me if this assumption is wrong)

October 25, 2018, 7:52 AM · There is no such thing as a perfect instrument or bow. It's kinda like saying something like: I like the versatility of an SUV but also want the speed of the sports car and get the gas millage of a hybrid, the comfort of a mini van but the looks of a Ferrari. It's good to know what you want, it's best to find a bow maker you generally like their work as well as like working with them. Support local if you can and you don't have to spend more than $5,500 to get a top tier American bow that plays great. A lot of the stuff above that might be mounted in gold and/or ivory, and not necessarily play better, but looks better and is more of an investment. Name recognition has a lot to do with bows above 6K. (Ebony and Silver)
October 25, 2018, 7:58 AM · Erik, that generally is not the case if the bowmaker's commissions are selling well. A lot of bowmakers have nothing that you can try.
October 25, 2018, 9:18 AM · The price is more or less the same for most of the award-winning makers here and in France, about $6K, and Lydia is right, for a lot of makers you will have to get on their list...often 3-6 months, but sometimes as much as two years. A few will send you two to pick from but it's not the norm. Makers often have a relationship with a shop or two and it may be possible to try multiple bows sooner that way than commissioning.
Edited: October 26, 2018, 4:32 AM · I wonder the difference that a player like me would notice between a bow from a pro that has a long waiting list vs a pro that has a couple of bows in stock?

Like, I'm thinking there must be diminishing returns when it gets to that point, right? Like the difference between a Zyg violin and a violin commissioned by a local professional Luthier?

Edited: October 26, 2018, 2:01 PM · No. Indeed, the example you give would be an *enormous* difference in violins, in all likelihood.

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