The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Bow making (musical)

 

The making, repair and restoration of bows for violins, violas and other stringed instruments.

 

Status Currently viable
Craft category  Instruments
Historic area of significance  London
Area currently practised  UK
Origin in the UK  17th century
Minimum no. of craftspeople required  21-50 (professionally)
Current no. of trainees  Unknown, probably 6-10
Current no. of skilled craftspeople  11-20 (specialist bow makers)
Current total no. of craftspeople  Probably 21-50

 

History

The craft of bow making probably developed in England in the 17th century, and during the 17th and 18th centuries, bows appear to have been made by craftsmen of low status.

The design of the bow changed significantly between 1750 and 1800. A wide range of woods were tried, and pernambuco was widely adopted by 1800. Until 1800 English bows of great quality were made, but the continued popularity of the ‘cramer’ style of violin bow for some twenty years after it was superseded in France delayed the evolution of the English bow. It wasn’t until the 1820s that English bow making came back into the mainstream of excellence. Further details can be found in the article ‘The Development of the Bow in Britain’ by Tim Baker and Derek Wilson.

Several families and workshops dominated English bow making – around 1800 it was the Dodd family, by 1830 the Tubbs family had become the predominant force, and the from the 1880s Hills dominated the market.

 

Techniques

Silversmithing/goldsmithing, planing and carving of wood.

 

Local forms

 

Sub-crafts

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Training issues: Lack of structured training/apprenticeships.
  • Training issues: Shortage of opportunities to learn the skills for bow restoration, which is very much needed
  • Supply of raw materials: Raw materials are expensive and difficult to come by.
  • Difficulty of encouraging people into the craft where the materials are unavailable

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

The British Violin Makers Association maintains a list of bow makers but the distinction between amateurs and professionals is vague.

 

Other information

 

References