© 2018 by Ken Altman


In early 2009 Christopher Spencer, a Tacoma, Washington area bass player, commissioned me to make a German style bass bow with a mastodon ivory and Sterling silver frog. This was an intriguing, and to a certain degree a daunting project. Mastodon ivory is much more dense than ebony, the material most commonly used for bow frogs, so a mastodon frog will weigh quite a bit more than a comparable ebony frog. In order to compensate for this extra weight, I had to find a piece of pernambuco for the stick that was not too dense, but that also had enough stiffness to make a reasonably strong bow. Choosing the right piece of wood was a critical factor in the success of this bow. As I worked the stick down closer and closer to the final dimensions, I paid very close attention to the weight and balance of the bow, taking into account the extra weight of the frog, with the intention of imparting the bow with the proper playing characteristics.

At Mr. Spencer's request, I carved the button to resemble the spiral flutes of a narwhal tusk.

It's an honor to work with rare and beautiful materials like this ivory, not to mention the fine pernambuco wood. I feel a responsibility to do the best work that I can with these resources, so that my bows will serve their owners well for a long time to come.