The modern violin originated in Italy in the 16th century, but the violin bow as we know it today is much newer: dating to the late 18th and early 19th centuries, in France, with master bow maker François Tourte leading the way. Tourte’s innovations were wildly popular, and to this day his techniques inspire violin bow makers across the globe.

Though the materials for violin bow making have changed in recent decades, the overall design has been unaffected. At a general level, a bow consists of a tapered stick made of a type of wood — brazilwood or pernambuco — or carbon fiber (and in rare instances, fiberglass) that is bent into an arch. Between each end of the bowstick is stretched horsehair violinists glide across the strings of their instrument to create their desired sound. The other key part of the violin bow is the frog.

But how is a contemporary violin bow made? Read on to learn about bow making at a high level.

Traditional Methods: Crafting the Bow

Conventional violin bows are often made of brazilwood or pernambuco. To manufacture a bow from these raw materials, logs are collected from Brazil and then sawed into planks before being sawed yet again into an outline of the eventual bowstick and its tip. After that, bow makers do the following:

  • Craft the wood closer to the bow’s final dimensions. This step is often called “roughing the stick,” and it’s done to achieve the curvature necessary for creating an arch.
  • The bowstick is then heated slowly, making it bendable without breaking.
  • The frog — which goes between the grip and the bow’s end screw — is made by hand or machine, using a process of bending, shaping, and soldering.
  • After completion, the frog can be fitted to the roughed out bowstick. Then, knives or other small, sharp tools may be used to begin refining the bowstick, getting it closer to its final dimensions.

Depending on the bow maker, the bow they produce may have no varnish on it — especially if made from pernambuco, which is considered higher quality than its brazilwood cousin. However, some bow makers dip the bowstick in chemicals to give the bow polish and color.

Handcrafted Remains the Standard

To this day, most violin bows are crafted by hand. And though specialty machines are sometimes used to help expedite the process while ensuring precision, many of the bow making innovations from the 18th and 19th centuries endure today. Following the bowstick’s completion, the frog, leather, ferrule, eye, a tip plate, and winding are added. Horsehair is then attached at the end.

The majority of bow frogs are made from ebony, but there are suitable alternatives. CodaBow features a proprietary blend of natural fibers and resin called Xebony, which is stronger and more durable than ebony. Xebony offers violinists peace of mind for not having to rely on ebony, a controversial raw material that’s an endangered resource.

Carbon Fiber for Violin Bows

Stan Prosen, a material scientist who fabricated the earliest carbon fiber parts ever made in the mid-20th century, came from a musical family and founded what became CodaBow. Innovator of the carbon fiber violin bow, CodaBow is an industry leader that uses traditional bow making methods, except we use innovative materials and carbon fiber in a way that rivals the performance of pernambuco, which for generations was considered the top material for bow making until becoming endangered.

At CodaBow, our master bow makers pair their expertise with leading scientific research to craft innovative carbon fiber bows that are designed to suit the performance needs and preferences of violinists of all skill levels.

Carbon Fiber Bows From CodaBow

Try a new, American-made violin bow with our convenient seven-day, in-home trial or visit your local CodaBow dealer to try one of our award-winning carbon fiber bows in person. Our master bow makers pride themselves in crafting durable, high-quality bows for players of every style, station, and aspiration.

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