September 23, 2019, 10:43 AM · Has anyone ever had issues while traveling due to the fact that your bow or instrument includes parts made with now-forbidden items? (Like tortoise shell or ivory?)

Any tips on safeguards against items being confiscated?

Replies (22)

September 23, 2019, 11:07 AM · Cross-European border, or cross-continent?
September 23, 2019, 11:10 AM · From EU to non-EU. :) And later in the year, from EU to the States.

(Germany to Switzerland, in the first case, to be specific.)

September 23, 2019, 2:14 PM · If you're talking about an ivory frog, you can commission an ebony replacement from a good bowmaker to use when traveling.
September 24, 2019, 2:16 AM · The pad at the frog would also be a problem, so unfortunately that wouldn't solve the whole issue...
September 24, 2019, 2:52 AM · I've taken my violin on planes many times, both within Europe and between Europe and Asia, Europe and America, and was never asked to open my violin case. Of course that doesn't guarantee anything, I know, but since you asked for people's issues, here is my negative answer.
Edited: September 24, 2019, 5:45 AM · Get yourself a decent CF bow for traveling, or trade in your ivory-mounted bow for a different bow, or have a bow-maker exchange out all the ivory parts for different materials, or take your chances. Those would seem to be the options. Worrying and/or complaining for the next 30+ years about the arduous problems facing people with ivory bow parts doesn't seem to be a particularly appealing alternative -- for you or anyone else.
September 24, 2019, 8:13 AM · Well, “complaining” sometimes works if enough people complain in the right place - that’s why, starting soon, it won’t be an issue with instruments using rosewood, resolved at the latest CITES convention in August by musician societies and groups who appealed to them for exceptions regarding instruments. I’m trying not to take offense...didn’t feel like the question would do anyone any harm - only potentially help other folks in the same boat. And I can’t really afford a CF bow or any kind of functional second bow. That’s my boat.

I’m finding that there are certificates you can obtain for your bow and instrument, at least here in Germany, from the regional environmental office as a sort of exception. I don’t understand a lot of the technical German, but if I manage to figure it out, I’ll update folks.

September 24, 2019, 11:10 AM · I probably wouldn't risk it, paperwork or not.
September 24, 2019, 1:23 PM · Unfortunately, I have come upon the knowledge that this could be a problem too late to get a replacement bow, as far as I can think of options. (My go-to guy who might loan me a bow is on vacation.)

It is also unfortunately too late to get papers.

But this might help others whose musical tools are made with prohibited materials. Note, it takes 60-90 days to get a permit.

September 26, 2019, 3:32 AM ·
September 27, 2019, 6:48 AM · I have an Ivory frog and had no problem going through customs in Europe and America and Canada.
Edited: September 27, 2019, 4:56 PM · Anita, if you think it's too late now - visit your luthier (who on average will be a very nice and understanding person), tell him about your problem and ask him for help. If you find another bow you like in his shop, with no problematic materials, there are several possibilities.
- He'll just lend it to you for your trip, as long as you include it in your insurance.
- He'll ask for a reasonable rent.
- If you cannot afford it right now as a secondary bow, this could eventually appear in a different light when you make a 24 or 36 month installment plan, or a rent-to-buy arrangement.
- Eventually you'd even wish to trade your current bow in. And if not, which anybody would understand if you're in a hurry, then don't hesitate to get papers for your equipment. There are luthiers and bowmakers who can do it within short time. Mine gets it done within 24 hours if necessary. If you don't know one, ask your luthier or at your local touring symphony.

Eventually you might know a fellow musician with a collection of nice bows and papers, willing to help. One should not be too shy to ask, at least.

If any possible I wouldn't take any risk with CITES when traveling outside the EU, especially with valuable equipment you're dependent on, and especially with ebony. It doesn't happen too often, but it does happen. And I do know several musicians who had even their head plates changed especially for international traveling.

September 27, 2019, 7:01 PM · Nuuska M., thanks for your advice! I seem to remember you also live in the EU, in a German-speaking region? I'm tempted to reply in German. :)

For this trip (I leave tomorrow), I will go without my bow. One of the lovely teachers at the Meisterkurs I am attending has said he will bring several extra, and I can borrow one for the week. I'm grateful! I had hoped to borrow one from my luthier to take with me, but he went on vacation at an inconvenient time for me. :)

However, I think it makes sense to get the certificate from the BfN before my next trip. They were very kind and helpful, and will send me all the forms I will need to get the Schein. It is costly! which is unfortunate. But better than the bow being confiscated. Or perhaps I should look into a cheap(er) bow for travel, especially if he would agree to a payment plan - it might be comparable, especially longterm, to the price of getting the Schein. (Here in Germany, I would pay 300 Euro for it and would need a new one every 3 years...)

I do hope musician groups will succeed even further in getting exceptions to these rules. It makes sense to have strict regulations for newly-made instruments, but it makes less sense (to me) to make it so difficult to travel with old bows which were not in any way illegal when they were made. I find it just a shame to dismantle the original bow and replace these parts just for the sake of rules that don't quite fit. Then I'd just have an ivory bow tip laying around the house instead of attached to my bow.

And yes, the thing does not happen to many people much of the time. I have crossed quite a few borders with my violin, and the only time I was asked what I had in my case was the time my metronome went off (tick, tick, tick) while standing in the security line. Whoops. But it does happen, like you said. And that's the time you'd really regret not having the papers!

September 27, 2019, 7:51 PM · For about $700 you can get a JonPaul Avanti, a good CF bow which should be fine for professional orchestra playing, so it should be a decent spare your whole life (and if your current bow isn't great, it may actually handle better).
September 27, 2019, 8:09 PM · She said she can't afford any sort of 2nd bow at the moment. She's a student, it's understandable.
September 28, 2019, 12:30 AM · Anita, this is even the best of all solutions. Very kind of your teachers! And this way you'll have the chance to try out a bouquet of good bows, a situation which always boosts one's knowledge.
You're right, I'm living in a country south the Czech border. And while I continue with not having enough time for my instruments, my bow collection keeps growing. Curious where you're located...
September 28, 2019, 1:47 AM · Lydia, your confidence in the John Paul bows made me curious for a while, and an affordable but good enough CF would come handy for multiple purposes. But unfortunately the John Paul are not distributed in Europe. Codabows at least could be ordered online, as well as cheap Chinese brands. For me, available on location are only Viennabow, AS (whatever this stands for, but for sure they're not equivalent to the JPs), and Arcus. The situation might be different in metropolitan areas where the business models will vary more, but in my 200.000 city with a catchment area of probably 6-700.000, the violin shops are strictly luthier based who usually don't emphasize on higher quality CF bows.
Edited: September 28, 2019, 2:08 AM · Some of the JonPaul bows are sold under different names in Europe; many of them have a different manufacturer and are only distributed under the JonPaul name in the US.

My primary viola bow is a C.F. Iesta hybrid bow. It is now sold under license as JonPaul Fusion Silver in the US (it was not yet sold under that name when I bought it), but the C.F. Iesta name, which belongs to the German manufacturer, is still used in Europe.

You might want to consider seeing what other JonPaul bows have separate European brand names as well.

Edited: September 28, 2019, 3:32 PM · Thanks for the tips re. the bows to look out for. While Paul is right that I currently can’t afford a second bow, I’ll file this helpful info away for the future. It’s always good to know what’s out there and what’s good. Otherwise, if I stumble upon it somehow, how will I know what’s in front of me?? :)

Nuuska, I don’t mind sharing. I’m in Münster - though I visit a luthier in Düsseldorf - Herr Rodolfo Angilletta.

On my way (ohne Bogen)! Cross fingers and press thumbs for me!

September 28, 2019, 3:21 PM · Nice! I once bought my first good bow from a member of the Münster Symphony! Now I'm located right between Salzburg and Vienna.
All the best for you in Switzerland!
September 29, 2019, 12:45 PM · Jonpaul does have dealers in Europe; they are shown on the map here: I actually bought a JP bow a few months ago, in the Netherlands. It's true that many violin shops don't sell them (unlike, say, Codabow), so you may need to travel 300 km or have one shipped to you.
September 29, 2019, 3:51 PM · Hm. I visited the website of the shop nearest to me. BTW it's a shop where I already ordered tools and accessories for violin repair and maintainance. The CF bows they display on their website are carbondix, c:dix, bondix and woodix. What the heck...

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