Ken Altman

Bow Maker

Finely crafted bows for violin, viola, cello and bass.
At the bottom of the page are links to pages depicting frog and button making.
planing a violin bow stick
Planing a stick.
measuring a bow stick
Measuring the dimensions of a stick with a compas, (prounanced "coom-pah").  This is a traditional tool of the trade, and is very fast and accurate to use.  Each one of the notches is 1/2 millimeter wider than the one preceeding it.
heating a bow stick
Heating a stick in the flame of an achohol lamp, prior to bending.  A short section of the stick, perhaps five or six inches, is heated at a time.  The stick is heated slowly, allowing the heat to penetrate to the core.  The wood is heated almost to the scorching point.  As the wood gets hot it becomes more flexable.
bending a bow stick
Bending the stick.  The two chalk lines indicate the area that I've just heated.  As the wood cools, it will hold the curve that was worked into it when it was hot. When this section of the stick is cool, I'll move on down the stick to heat and bend the next section.  The curve, or camber, is judged soley by eye.  The amount and shape of the curve will have a profound affect on the playing qualities of the finished bow.
gluing a violin bow tip
This is a roughly shaped tip with the mastadon ivory and ebony liner just glued on.  The string binding holds the ivory and ebony in place until the glue dries.
rough viola bow tip
A rough tip ready for further shaping after the ivory and ebony have been glued on.
shaping a viola bow tip
Shaping the tip with a knife.
viola bow tip
Refining the shape of the tip with a file.
drilling violin bow stick
Forming the nipple on the end of the stick with a "bow drill".  This is done after the hole for the adjusting screw has been bored, using a long drill bit in the bow drill.

This tool is called a bow drill  not because it is used exclusively for working on bows, but because it is driven with a bow.
bow making planes
These are planes that I made, and that I  use for shaping a stick.  
All photos and text copyright Ken Altman 2004
fitting frog onto bow stick
checking fit of frog on stick
chiseling mortice violin bow
Chiseling the mortice in the stick for the adjusting screw.
Planing the stick to fit the frog.
Checking the fit of the frog.