Richard Gwilt - Historical Bows

Bows from European indigenous woods

I use cherry, plum, pear, maple, yew and beech to make bows of quite distinct characteristic qualities. These woods are all relatively light, and the short early 17th-century bows made from these woods are astoundingly appropriate for the repertoire - and inspiring to play. If you've never tried one, I can pretty much guarantee your first reaction on picking one up, is - “ what, so light? ”, and then on playing - “ wow, so fast? ” They seem to me to shed light on how to play this early repertoire (Monteverdi, Castello etc). All these bows have clip-in frogs

There are as good as no surviving bows from the time, so my bows are all modelled after iconographic evidence. See the Background for a detailed discussion.

Here are some of my bows:

Yew, with an ebony clip-in frog
(Here, by the way, the curious little horizontal line you can see behind the frog is a short lnegth of gut g-string, slipped between the hair and the frog to tension the hair. It's a quick and easy way to control the tension - slightly more elegant is a thin sliver of leather set into the channel at the back of the frog

Cherry, with a boxwood clip-in frog

Beech, with an ebony clip-in frog

In general, it seems fairly clear, at least as far as the smaller instruments go, that as soon as snakewood arrived on the scene, the indigenous woods fell out of favour fairly quickly - except for the larger bass instruments, where we have plenty of evidence that they continued to be used. Their relative lack of strength is irrelevant in so large a bow, and the clarity and transparency of sound remained sought after. A surprising exception lies in an 1828 book about the art of violin making by Gustav Adolph Wettengel, who mentions beech as, still, a possibility for a classical violin bow (although indeed better for bass bows!). Having made such a classical bow from beech, I'm more than surprised at the articulation and sound options it gives ...

Richard Gwilt - Tel. +49 (0)2243 911829 - Handy (Mobile) +49 (0)1525 394 1771 - Email: