Bow making (musical)
The making, repair and restoration of bows for violins, violas and other stringed instruments.
This craft uses products derived from animals – please read our ethical sourcing statement.
|Historic area of significance||London|
|Area currently practised||UK|
|Origin in the UK||17th century|
|Current no. of professionals (main craft)||11-20 (specialist bow makers)|
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main craft)
|Current no. of trainees||Unknown, probably 6-10|
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|Current total no. of leisure makers
|Minimum no. of craftspeople required||21-50 (professionally)|
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quality were made, but the continued popularity of the ‘cramer’ style of violin bow for some twenty years after it was superseded in France delayed the evolution of the English bow.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.
- Carving and planing wood
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
Craftspeople currently known
The British Violin Makers Association maintains a list of bow makers.
Richard Wilson – based in Northumberland
Tim Baker at Baker Bows – based in Oxford
Peter Oxley – based in Oxford
The website of the British Violin Makers Association
Baker, Tim and Wilson, Derek, The Development of the Bow in Britain.