All about Bows

All about Bows

Original Article by The CD String School © 1998 / 2004 - Please use all info. ® ver 0.83 - Updated Aug 2004

This page is a Courtesy of Roland Herrera Wps, Bristol, UK

Introduction France; England; Germany;


A good bow is often considered as important as the violin itself. Students should not overlook the importance of possessing a reasonable bow. The best bows are without question French. They are sought after for their exceptional qualities which secure a fine, rich and rounded sound. They are followed in quality by English bows, though early English bows compare well with French bows. English bows are more sturdy and stable, lying half way between French and German bows in style and framework. German bows come last, and are very popular in their mass produced and affordable quantities. Remarkably, no other country has a tradition or school of bow making. As with English bows, some of the earlier makers produced their best bows. Oistrakh, though very fond of French bows ( he would buy a whole bunch every visit to Paris ) played with one of the original German Nurnbergers ; he also used a Richaume. Kreisler's favourite was a Fleur de Lys W.E.Hill & Sons. In early times, it was common practice for violin makers and shops to stamp and supply bows made by others.

Pernambucco wood ( Brazil wood ) ( Tourte discovered South American Pernambucco to be the best wood, after having experimented with various other materials ) is used for making a bow. This wood is heavier than water ( it actually sinks ). The average weight of a violin bow is 60 grams ; a viola bow 70 gr., and a Cello bow averages 80 gr. Bow hairs since the middle ages have consisted of horse hair. North American horse hair is stronger and more robust than Asian hair, which is finer and more silky in texture. No more than 5% of the hair is suitably cylindrical and regular to be used for bows. Black hair is too coarse ( therefore used on double basses ). Synthetic nylon substitutes do not produce the same cohesive and smooth tone. Surprisingly to some people, the tonal qualities of bows fall into 2 categories; "dark" sounding & "soprano" like qualities. Lamy would fall into the former category, and Voirin into the latter ( though my Voirin is very deep and velvety ) . In all cases, however, a good bow possesses a compact and rounded tone, and adheres to the string to a high extent, ensuring a substantial "bass" component in the sound. A stiff or cheaper bow does not "hold" the sound, as it glides superficially over the string without "sinking in." and produces no satisfying body of tone... consequently, chords and spiccato are thin sounding and frustratingly unsatisfying. Good bows at an affordable price are becoming hard to find. If you do invest in a fine French bow make sure you insure it !

How to choose a bow ; practical thoughts

    Well, here's how I do it. I play open strings, especially the D.. plain, even and simple... ( look at my tonus articles ) : I am trying to listen to the tone of the violin / bow ; how much body does it have ? Does the tone on the E string have body ? Do chords sound full and round ? Does spiccato bounce sweetly, or is it rough and brittle ? In short, I play with the bow and determine if it has a good sound. I don't pay attention to balance, weight and mounting of the bow.. these are all external, and quite superficial characteristics, that people are usually drawn to or put off by. Most people think that bows are very subjective... more so than violins. However, I believe the quality of a bow can be measured by the quality of sound it produces. A heavy bow does not necessarily mean a large tone : A large sound can be obtained from a light bow, and a thin sound from a heavy bow. It's important to feel the true capabilities of a bow, and to hear if it is drawing the maximum tone from your violin. An exceptional bow will feel and sound striking straight away... it's tone will distinguish itself. If this happens ( and if you are capable of playing and manipulating a bow so that it draws forth a pure tone ) then you have probably stumbled across a fine English or even French bow.

       I sometimes help people find a bow.. but only for a fee ! But what's a mere £100 fee ( plus travel expenses to London ) when one is risking £2000-4000 or more ? I would only charge £50 to select a bow in the £1000 range. If I help students or friends select a bow for no fee I feel it's only fair I should have first choice : I even write reviews on bows. Lastly, I am certain when I come across a great bow by one of the French masters ; perhaps even more certain than the dealer who is selling it ! Once I found a Richaume Cello bow for a near bargain ! I think I have a talent for finding a good bow and despite my fees I am confident I usually save buyers hundreds of pounds !


List of famous Bow makers in France, England & Germany

PRE-HISTORY back to top

A Transitional bow was used in Mannheim for the compositions of Tartini, Haydn and Mozart. F.Tourte & The Dodds made them. Wilhelm Cramer ( 1745-99 ), a Mannheim violinist went to London in 1772. The type of bow he used is called "The Cramer bow". Tartini was also involved in improving bows, around 1730, using lighter wood and using a straighter stick ( as opposed to a convex curve ) He also established the octagonal form of the bow at the heel. . The Cramer bow was also quite straight, but Tourte Pere used a decidedly concave stick as used nowadays. From an illustration in Leopold Mozart's Violinschule, it can be seen that convex bows were still being used in Germany for some time after these improvements.



PARIS & MIRECOURT (Alphabetical order)

ADAM Jean Dominique ( b 1795 to 1864 ) Pupil and successor to his father Jean (Grand) Adam. Only his best bows are stamped. His octagonal bows are very much in demand.

AUBRY, J. Aubry (see L. Morizot)

AUDINOT, Jaques Paris, c1955. Round stick, mounted with silver and ebony. Price: £3,000


BARBE, Auguste Paris, c1890. Round stick, mounted with silver and ebony. Price £4,500

BAZIN Charles Nicholas Great French bow maker (1847-1915). Son of Francois Xavier Bazin, bowmaker, he took over his father's workshop in Mirecourt when he was only 18. One of his bows was made around 1890 and comes with a Raffin certificate. (Charles) Nicolas Bazin was born on April 24th 1847 in Mirecourt. He was a great craftsman and was responsible for producing a great many bows that were - and indeed still are - in much demand. In 1869 Bazin established a workshop in Mirecourt and employed some of the most famous bow makers there. In the first six years of the 1900's there were between 12 and 17 makers producing some 2 000 - 3 000 quality bows a year. Bazin spent fifty-six years of his life devoted to making bows. He died on 6th December 1915. Here is a description of one of his examples : A fine classic French pernambucco violin bow made for Joseph Hel of Lille France (a respected violin maker and dealer from 1865 to 1902) and branded "J.Hel" on each side of the shaft. Charles Nicolas Bazin is known to have made these bows for Joseph Hel. The bow is nickel-silver mounted and weighs 58.5 grams. The round shaft has both strength and flexibility and draws a fine tone.

BAZIN school. Many bows are unbranded French silver mounted circa 1920 emanating from a member of the Mirecourt based Bazin family or their workshops.

BAZIN Family : Charles Alfred BAZIN (F-1907 / 1987). A. Son of Charles-Louis, with whom he worked (1922). Established on his own accord in 1945, at Mirecourt, succeeded his father in 1952. Retired in 1980, he was the last bow maker of the great family. His bows are stamped in the same way as his Grandfather's : C. Bazin. A Cello bow by Charles Alfred Bazin, Mirecourt, c1960. Octagonal stick, mounted with gold and ebony in 2004 is priced £3,000 -- Charles Louis BAZIN, called Louis Bazin fils (F-1881 / 1953). A. Son, pupil and successor (in 1907) of Charles-Nicolas Bazin II. Louis Bazin took over form his father Charles-Nicolas (to whom he had apprenticed at the age of 12) in 1915. Many bowmakers worked with him (Granier, Lorange, Tournier, Delprato, Lapierre, Ouchard, Jacquemin, Dumont, Couturieux, Richaume, Bourgeois, Bontemps, Husson…). Stamped his bows "Louis Bazin". Had 2 sons : René and Charles-Alfred. -- Charles-Nicolas I BAZIN (F-1831 / 1908). A. Son of François-Xavier. -- Charles-Nicolas II BAZIN, called Charles Bazin fils (F-1847 / 1915). A. Son of François-Xavier, who formed with him (1859), and who was succeeded by him (in 1865). His bows are in great demand. He worked for Nestor Audinot, Charles Brugère, Joseph & Pierre Hel, Georges Chanot, Charles Peccatte… He was a member of the Conseil municipal de Mirecourt (his town of birth). Had 3 sons : Emile, Gustave et Charles-Louis. -- Emile Joseph BAZIN (F-1868 / 1956). A. Born and died in Mirecourt. Son of Charles-Nicolas Bazin II. First a bowmaker, then a professor of music (1894). -- Eustache-Joseph BAZIN (F-1823 / 1864). A. Born and died in Mirecourt. Cousin of François-Xavier. Not to be confused with Joseph-Eustache, father of François Xavier (1785/1863), who was not a maker of instruments nor bows. -- François-Xavier BAZIN (F-1824 / 1865). A. Brother of Charles-Nicolas Bazin I, and father of Charles-Nicolas Bazin II. Probably formed by Dominique Peccatte in Paris, then established himself in Mirecourt around 1840. A catalogue of Louis Bazin Son mentions him "Manufacture d'Archets de violons - Maison fondée en 1840". -- Gustave BAZIN (F-1871 / 1920). L. A. Son of Charles-Nicolas Bazin II. Starts off as a bowmaker (working for Collin-Mézin atParis from 1888 to 1891), then moved on to instruments making (Settling in Mirecourt, his home town). Gold Medal at the Rochelle (1898). -- René BAZIN (F-1902 or 1906 / 1982). L. A. Son and pupil of Charles-Louis (for bow making), pupil of Dieudonné (for instrument making). Worked with Marcel Vatelot in Paris, et with Fridolin Hamma in Stuttgart. A typical date for a BAZIN Louis (II) would be c.1950.

was extremely skillful

BERNARDEL, Gustave shop brand often bows by C. Thomassin


DUBOIS from Mirecourt. Here is a description of one of his bows ;  The following is from a certificate of authenticity by MOREL & GRADOUX-MATT of New York. Stich is branded DUBOIS MIRECOURT : The stick is round in shape of an orange colour, Beewood pernambucco. The frog is made of ebony, silver lined, with silver mountings and inlaid pearl eye. Screw is made of ebony with 2 silver rings and pearl eye at the end. Tip plate made of Ivory typical work of Mirecourt at this period. Bow and all its parts are in fine condition and all original. No breaks, repairs etc.

EULRY Clement ( c.1760 - c.1835 ) French bow maker and teacher ( or pupil ? ) of Nicolas Maire or Pajeot fils. He was the first maker to use a metal thumb facing on the frog. His bows are similar to Maire's though less carefully finished.

EURY Nicolas ( b.Paris c.1785 d.c.1835 ) A member of the Mirecourt family of violin makers. His bows are very rare, and a number of other makers stamped their bows with his name. Details are few on this maker.

FETIQUE Victor ( 1872 - 1933 ) son of Charles-Claude. Formed by Husson (Charles-Claude), Maline (Sigisbert) et Miquel (Emile). Worked in Paris with Charles-Nicolas Bazin (the second) in 1901. Established himself in 1913. Other than his son (Marcel) and his brother (Jules), Thomassin, Toussain, Rémi, Morizot, Weidhaas and Richaume worked for him. One of the "Meilleurs Ouvriers de France" . Signed his bows Vtor Fétique. Was from a French family of bow makers. He was apprenticed in Mirecourt, working for C.N.Bazin, before joining Caressa & Francais in Paris in 1901. From 1913 he worked independently. His bows are patterned after those of Voirin, though less distinct. Characteristics : Made in Paris, France c. 1920 Wood: Pernambucco Colour: Reddish brown, Shape: Round, Frog: Ebony with a Parisian eye, Mounting: Silver, Button: One-piece silver cap, Lapping: Silver winding with a leather trim, Tip: Ivory, Weight: 60.5 grams. Below the stamp of a Victor Fetique bow. Fetiques have gone for between $1,000 and $10,000. The price range tells you that some of the Fetique bows are very fine and some may not be so good at all. Victor Fetique was capable of producing some very good bows, but the attention of his atelier seemed to focus on quantity, and thus the output is frequently of a more commercial quality. Fetiques are also counterfeited (so beware). While a replaced frog may not hurt the playing qualities of a bow, it certainly decreases its value - if the maker's name has a value, as Fetique's does. A Cello bow by Victor Fetique, Paris, c1920. Octagonal stick, mounted with silver and ebony in the year 2004 costs £11,000.

FETIQUE Jules ( 1875 - 1951 ) was brother of Victor, and also worked for Bazin before becoming assistant to Eugene Sartory. He joined Caessa & Francais in 1917. His best works resemble and are comparable in quality to the bows of Sartory.

FONCLAUZE Joseph ( 1800 - 1864 ) One of the best French makers. Was trained by Dominique Peccatte ion Mirecourt and in 1820 went to Paris to work for Lupot, Tourte and Vuillaume. From 1840 he worked alone. Most of his bows are stamped. Also Henry Fonclauze ( c. 1812 )

GEROME René Vincent (F-1910 / 1987). L.

GILLET Louis A fine bow by this great French maker. Gillet worked with Sartory for over 15 years! This bow weighs 62grms and is in good condition. A certificate from Raffin comes with this bow.

HENRY Joseph ( 1823 - 70 ) Studied with Peccatte in Paris. Established his own business there in 1851. His work is similar in style to that of Peccatte, and he is also known to have worked briefly with Simon. Peccatte’s two most well known pupils were Joseph Henry and Pierre Simon. Henry produced a bow similar to a Peccatte but of a somewhat lower general quality. Henry bows sometimes play very well but with the occasional exception seem coarse and clunky by comparison with a fine Peccatte

HOLDER (Thomas) Jacques Mirecourt school - imported to London and then Cardiff. T.J. Holder worked for Jean Baptiste Vuillaume in Paris until establishing on his own

JAMMONEAU Michel : Professionally trained French bow maker, working in France. A very fine playing bow. Excellent investment too. Made in 2002, 63.5 grams. ($4000 in 2004)

JOMBAR Paul : The Violinist Hilary Hahn uses one of his bows.

LAFLEUR Jacques ( 1757 - 1832 ) Violin and bow maker. Apprenticed in Mirecourt, and under Francois Tourte. He moved to Paris in 1783. His bows resemble those of the early Adam school, and are considered rare. His bows are noted for their elasticity and lightness. Occasionally Maire and Pajeot fils used his brand name. His son, pupil, and successor was Joseph Rene Lafleur who initially started out as a violinist. His bows can be observed in the Museum of the Paris Conservatoire. He also made a bow with a flat stick. back to top

LAFLEUR Joseph Rene ( 1812 - 1874 ) Son of Jacques Lafleur, and initially a violinist, he surpassed the work of his father. He learnt much through observing existing bows, and was associated closely with Nicolas Maire.

LAMY Alfred Joseph ( 1850 - 1919 ) Studied in Mirecourt with Husson ( from 1862 - 68 ) and worked for Goutrot in Chateau-Thierry before working for F.N.Voirin in Paris ( 1877- 1885 ). Copied the Voirin model even when he continued on his own. In 1889 he received the silver and gold medals at the Paris Exposition. His son Alfred ( 1876 - 1944 ) succeeded him. By 1880 many makers were beginning to consistently aim for an even heavier, stronger model, with varying degrees of success. Alfred Lamy picked up where Voirin left off, with similar variance in weight and quality of materials. The best Lamy bows are very good but often feel stiff and unyielding, never coming close to equaling the beauty of tone, or nimble handling qualities of a fine Voirin.


LORANGE Paul (F-1902 / 1969). L. Established himself at Lyon, his home town, before being associated with Paul François Diter in Marseille in 1927. Founded the firm "Diter & Lorange".

LOTTE, Francois Roger Francois Lotte, born 1922, was the son of bow maker Francois Lotte. He studied and worked with his father and took over the business in 1956.... although his father continued to be involved for several years after. Bows by Francois Lotte, Mirecourt, c. 1940 price £4000 in the year 2004

LUPOT Francois ( 1774 - 1837 ) One of the sons of Francois I, and brother of Nicolas. He claimed to be a pupil of Stradivarius, but this has always been questioned. He invented the metal under slide ( fixed to the upper side of the frog, this piece reduces wear and tear caused by friction as you tighten and loosen the bow hairs ). His bows are considered among the best in France.

MAIRE Nicolas ( 1800 - 1878 ) A member of the Mirecourt family of violin and bow makers. He trained in the Lafleur workshop in Paris, where he may also have worked with Pajeot. In 1833 he succeeded Jacques Lafleur. His work varies in style but is consistently of fine craftsmanship.

MALINE Guillaume ( b.1793 d.c.1855 ) Worked for Vuillaume and other makers, but produced unbranded sticks. His heads are modelled after Peccatte's style, and the frog section are of the Vuillaume type. Fine nickel mounted violin bow by Maline, dated 1840 - Vatelot certificate

MALO Francois French-Canadian bow maker who trained with William Salchow and Stephane Thomachot. He is one of the judges at the Violin Society of America Competitions. He lives in Canada.

MARTIN Jean Joseph , dated 1880 - Raffin certificate

MILLANT Jean-Jacques  ( b 1928 ) son of violin maker Roger was apprenticed in Mirecourt. His bows are of the Peccatte school. His cousin, Bernard ( b 1929 ) produced bows similar in style. Over the last quarter of the 20th century, the most important bow-maker was probably Jean-Jacques Millant who made excellent playing bows following the Peccatte pattern more or less faithfully. J.J. Millant bows function much as good facsimile Peccattes. The combination of choice of materials, weight, strength, and flexibility make them excellent playing tools, and bows by this maker are becoming increasingly desirable in the market today.

MOINEL, René Joseph 
(F-1889 / 1932). A. Born and died in Mirecourt. René worked for Cuniot-Hury (1906).

A French Violin shop producing bows and instruments at the turn of the century. Some bows stamped Moinel Cherpitel have been attributed to Bazin.

MORIZOT Louis ( Pre) Great French bow maker (1874-1957). He worked in Mirecourt in France. Louis Morizot worked with Cuniot Hury, CN Bazin, and then Eugene Sartory before returning to Mirecourt to open his own atelier. He won the Grand Prix in 1924, and then a gold medal three years later. It became a family dynasty, with his five sons taking over the shop in 1937.

NEHR, Jean Pascal (gold & tortoise)

OUCHARD, Emile O ( 1900 - 1969 ) was son of Emile François. Worked in Paris, Chicago and New York., returning to France in the mid 1950s. His bows are similar to those of the Voirin-Lamy school. His son, Bernard, ( b.1925 ) became his pupil, and worked with Vidoudez in Geneva before being appointed professor of bow making at the Mirecourt school in 1971. In a London shop in 2004 a violin bow by Emile Auguste Ouchard, Paris, c1940. Round stick, mounted with silver and ebony has Price £7,500.

OUCHARD Emile FRANÇOIS ( 1872 - 1951 ) Great French bow maker. Studied with Eugene Cuniot-Hury in Mirecourt, succeeding his business. Also know as simply Francois Ouchard  (1872-1951). Apprenticed to Eugene Cuniot (of Cuniot-Hury) at age 14. Set up his own workshop in 1923 in Mirecourt. An example violin bow is from circa 1940 with a Raffin certificate.

OUCHARD, Bernard [S11/330] Silver Violin Bow: Probably Geneva, c. 1970 2,430/3,240 $ in 2004

PAJEOT ( 1791 - 1849 )His father, Louis Simon ( c.1750 - 1792 ), was also a bowmaker. Pajeot was a student, then a business partner of Maire. Produced excellent but rare bows.

PECCATTE Dominique ( 1810 - 1874 ) Apprenticed to a violin maker in Mirecourt, he soon worked in the workshop of J.B.Vuillaume, from 1826 - 1837. Here he studied with Persois, and also met Tourte. Like Voirin his early bows were sometimes stamped with the name of Vuillaume. By 1837 he had taken over the workshop of Lupot. He returned to Mirecourt in 1847. He seldom used a stamp mark, making his bows hard to distinguish. His bows are considered second only to those of Tourte. His brother, François ( 1820 - 1855 ) was also a good bow maker who worked in Mirecourt. Dominique Peccatte, (who is presumed to have learned his craft with Persoit, and apparently worked in the Lupot atelier as well, before a stint in the Vuillaume workshop) continued the trend with a bow patterned after Tourte’s strongest, heaviest model. The Peccatte concept for a bow was generally heavier than anything before him in France, and his output was vast and consistent. If not as flexible as earlier bows, Peccatte bows are still normally fairly flexible; the increase in weight from earlier concepts makes Peccatte bows well suited to the production of the volume of sound and degree of articulation appropriate to large, modern concert halls. The Peccatte bow is one (but not the only) ideal compromise in terms of tone production and handling. Although it neither produces the beauty of tone of a Tourte, nor handles with the nimbleness of a Nicolas Kittel, a fine Peccatte does everything it must do very well, and with a thick rich sonority.

PERSOIS ( b.1790s ? )Employed with Vuillaume for 15 years. His bows are stamped and resemble those of Tourte.

PILLOT a Paris - $1000-3000 range

POULLOT, Jacques & Monique - Contemporary French bow makers

ROLLAND Benoit Website Contemporary French master bow maker and violinist. His Spiccato bows are thought to be the world's best carbon-fibreglass bows. The flexibility of the bows can be altered by an invisible adjusting system

RICHAUME Andre Georges ( born in Mirecourt on 08/02/1905 and died in Paris on 31/03/1966. ) Apprenticed with Emile Francois Ouchard in Mirecourt, before joining his uncle, Victor Fétique in Paris. He worked on his own from 1923 to 1957. Was named " Meilleur Ouvrier de France " Suplied fine bows to other Parisian makers under his own brand. The fact that Richaume was apprenticed with Emille Ouchard Pere and later his uncle Victor Fetique resulted in a bold and artistic style of making that one can clearly see in his bows. Etienne Vatelot 'Les Archets Francais' (Second edition published by Sernor - M. Dufour) states in Volume 2 page 808 "One of the most remarkable bow makers of his generation". Christopher Brown 'Discovering bows for the Double Bass' 1994 Beaux Arts Editions page 173 writes "One of the great French bow makers of the 20th century". The violinist David Oistrakh used a bow by Richaume throughout his life.

SARTORY Eugene ( 1871 - 1946 ) was taught by his father in Mirecourt. He worked in Paris for Charles Peccatte and Alfred Lamy before setting up on his own in 1893. He fortified the Voirin model, producing sturdily built bows with strong shafts. Emile Ouchard also uses fortified Voirin model. His bows are marked "Sartory". The apex of the trend toward heavy, strong bows was exemplified in the output of Eugene Sartory, who developed a style of bow to which his atelier adhered consistently for decades. Vigneron and Jules Fetique produced bows that at times could rival a Sartory in terms of strength and handling, but the consistency of Sartory bows has made them a perennial favorite among musicians even if they lack some of the subtlety of older bows. But Sartory bows are utterly reliable as playing tools. Following Sartory, E. A. Ouchard produced an even heavier and stiffer type of bow. There are some Ouchard bows that perform beautifully as tools, but many of them are just too stiff to be considered optimal as playing tools

SIMON Paul ( 1808 - 82 ) Apprenticed in Mirecourt. Became one of the most important makers of his time. He worked in Paris for Peccatte, Vuillaume and Gand freres. In 1847 he purchased Peccatte's business. His bows have 2 distinct head models, one his own and the other based on a Peccatte model.

SIMON Pierre ( same as Paul probably ) A pristine and glorious bow finely mounted in silver and ebony with a round shaft. It bears the maker's brand, "Simon a Paris." This bow glorifies the wonderful qualities of Simon's work. The strong, finely balanced stick produces a smooth and velvety tone. This is the finest example of Simon's work seen by Steven Reiley, President of Guarneri House and Master Bow and Bass Maker. 60 grams. Simon was one of the most skilled makers ever. He made bows on several patterns and of varying weights. Sometimes he used a model similar to the Peccatte interpretation of Tourte, and these heavier Simon bows play similarly to Peccatte bows. But the classic, bell-shaped Simon head is derived from an earlier Tourte model. These tend to be lighter and more flexible than the classic Peccatte model. The finest Simon bows can have a highly attractive, lithe flexibility and a genuine beauty of tone.

THIBOUVILLE-LAMY. Jerome ( complete name Louis Emile Jérôme Thibouville-Lamy or J.T.L.) (F-1833 / 1902). A superbly balanced and elegant silver mounted bow circa 1920 from this Mirecourt manufacturer. The round stick feels just right in the hand and the hair grips the string and pulls out sound really well. Branded J. Thibouville-Lamy and one side and on the other side D'apres Lamy. A nice large mother-of-pearl dot on each side of the frog.  Settled at Mirecourt the day of his marriage (1861), The bow department was created with the help of Jean-Joseph Martin, in 1870. This shop closed in 1968.

THOMACHOT Stephane World renowned contemporary French bow maker who has trained some of the most eminent bow makers active today. He frequently judges at the most prestigious international bow making competitions. He made many bows including gold-mounted violin bows. The modern revival and interest in bow-making has been led by makers such as Stephane Tomachout in France

THOMASSIN Louis ( 1855 - c.1905 ) After working with Bazin in Mirecourt went to Paris in 1872 to work with Voirin, and later with Lamy. From 1891 he had his own workshop in Paris. LOUIS THOMASSIN, ca. 1880. Thomassin worked with Voirin, and continued Voirin's shop after his death. His son and pupil, Claude ( 1870 - 1942 ) also made fine bows in Paris, based on Voirin's model. Here is a description of one of Claude Thomassin's bows on sale : c.1920 Paris. This is a professional bow  made of round orange-brown pernambucco wood. The ebony frog is silver mounted with pearl eyes.  The ebony end button has two silver rings.   The finger grip is leather with silver winding.  The bow is branded with the maker's usual brand: "C.Thomassin A Paris".  The bow weighs 61.5 grams. ($12,500 in 2004). Claude Thomassin has been called one of the best makers of his generation. He learned at the end of the 19th century in the Bernadel shop; stamped Gand & Bernadel, this is one of his earliest bows. He set up his own atelier in the Rue de Paris in 1901. Typical Claude Thomassin would be dated 1920.

TOURNIER. Joseph Branded J Tournier Paris this silver mounted bow is a really exceptional item. A truly artistic head tops a near mint condition round stick of a red-brown colour while the fine playing qualities of this bow really do point to it being made by a top archetier. The bows stamped by this violin maker were nearly all made by Louis Bazin, Louis Morizot & Fils or Emile A. Ouchard.

TOURTE Francoise XAVIER Le jeune ( 1747 - 1835 ) most famous maker of all times did not stamp his bows. Initially a clock maker, he went on to designed the modern bow, thanks to his apprenticeship with his father, Louis Tourte Père ( c.1720 - 1780 ) , also bow maker. TourteThe modern bow was approved of around 1785 or 86 by Spohr, who described them as having " trifling weight with sufficient elasticity of stick and the beautiful and uniform bending, by which the nearest approach to the hair is exactly in the middle between the head and the frog" as well as the "extremely accurate and neat workmanship" in Spohr's " Violinschule " published in 1832. Tourte designed it with Viotti's suggestions. Tourte, according to Fetis, fixed the length of the violin bow at 74 to 75 cm, the playing hair at 65 cm, and the balance point at 19 cm above the frog. The weight averaged at around 56 grams. Each bow fetched 15 Louis d'Or, and each bow, unless entirely faultless, was destroyed. He never varnished his bows but only rubbed them with pumice powder and oil. Tourte achieved his bend ( as is still done now ) by heating the wood thoroughly and then bending it. Up to then, bows had been cut at once to the desired bend. The Tourte pattern was followed by Dominique Peccatte, Nicolas Eury, Nicolas Maire, Francois Lupot, Joseph Henry and Persois though these followers did ( especially Peccatte and Voirin ) tended to make bows about 1 cm shorter.

VIGNERON Joseph Arthur ( 1851 - 1905 ) Studied with Husson in Mirecourt. Before opening his own workshop in Paris worked for Gand & Freres. His bows were quite solid and followed his own individual style. Somehow they lack the grace of his contemporaries, though his best bows are equal to the finest in his day. He was succeeded by his son André ( 1881 - 1924 ) a prolific maker in his father's style. Andre supplied unstamped bows to other makers in Paris. Typical date of manufacture would be 1890.

VOIRIN Joseph c.1870 typical dates of workmanship

VOIRIN Francois Nicolas ( 1833 - 1885 ) in Paris, brother of Joseph Voirin. He was known as the "Modern Tourte". Apprenticed in Mirecourt then worked in the workshop of Vuillaume at first ( 1855 - 70 ). In fact his early bows were stamped with the name Vuillaume. He produced a radically different bow from Tourte; Slimmer head; the camber moved closer to head, yielding a stronger stick and reducing the thickness of the shaft esecially at the heel. A very, perhaps too light ( as low as 52 gr. ) but strong stick. Voirin was often tempted by English makers and dealers to work for them, but he always refused, saying his work belonged to his country. His bows are stamped F.N.Voirin. Voirin taught Charles Peccatte ( 1850 - 1920 son of François Peccatte.) His followers were Alfred Lamy, Louis and Claude Thomassin and Charles N Bazin. After he died his wife carried on the business, often using his brand on his pupils' work. A Violin bow by Francois Nicolas Voirin, Paris, c1860. Round stick, mounted with silver and ebony costs £10,000 in the year 2004 in a London shop. Francois Nicolas Voirin was the most skilled maker of his generation, one of the finest makers ever, and he produced a uniformly high quality product. But Voirin bows suffer from inconsistency with the quality of wood, and many of his bows were produced on a lighter, smaller model. The best Voirin bows are exquisite playing tools; they are strong and nimble and produce a beautiful tone. These represent a relative bargain in the market place since the general price for Voirin has been held in check by their inconsistency in playability (not quality of workmanship!).

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VUILLAUME Jean Baptiste ( 1798 - 1875 ) was trained as a violin maker in Mirecourt and later became one of the most famous French violin makers of the early 19th century. He set up his own workshop in 1828. He was a good businessman and of course a good inventor. For example he did invent a hollow steel bow, and a self re-hairing bow, though neither these inventions proved to be of lasting importance. He made a profound study of F.X.Tourte's bows, and though he, himself was not a bow maker, he did direct and supervise the work of his own makers. Bow makers who passed through his shop were Dominique, Francois & Charles Peccatte, Joseph Fonclause, Pierre Simon, Persois, Guillaume Maline & F.N.Voirin. Although he probably did not make bows himself, J.B. Vuillaume exerted a profound influence on bow making. Vuillaume experimented with the design of the bow: innovations such as the self-rehairing bow, by which a musician might change the hair without the aid of a repairman, and the Vuillaume style frog and button, designed to mitigate against normal wear and tear, as well as the invention of the Steel bow, which while lacking in terms of warmth and beauty of tone, handles remarkably well. None of these modifications or experiments have had a lasting impact on subsequent makers however, and Vuillaume’s most important legacy to the art of bow-making was his capacity to extract the highest quality output from the many bow-makers who worked for him. In particular, Nicolas Maline produced his most carefully finished and best playing bows for J.B. Vuillaume. Other makers such as Charles Peccatte and F.N Voirin made extremely fine bows for Vuillaume. Maline’s bows were presumably influenced by Peccatte, whose bold hatchet head they seem to emulate. While they generally do not possess the kind of subtlety and color nuance present in a fine Peccatte, Maline bows often play very well, and the vast output of Maline’s atelier subsequent to his tenure in the Vuillaume workshop gives us plenty of chances to become familiar with the playing qualities of his bows after his affiliation with Vuillaume. The Vuillaume bows are nearly always the best of Maline's output.

Burr, Paris,

Sirjean, of great distinction


DARCHE Nicholas ; Belgium. Beautiful and rare professoinal bow in exquisite condition. $5600


ENGLAND back to top

BRISTOW , Stephen E. Trained with Hill & Sons. Contemporary bow maker in the vicinity of Bristol. Email

BULTITUDE, A.R. (1908-1990) His bows bear the makers brand stamp on each side of the handle and 'England' on the bottom facet. Made bows of the finest quality. Some bows are in the style of Vigneron with a profile that is a combination of half-round and a half-ellipse. The frogs often have the trade mark Tudor Rose emblem, the face is fitted with silver. On the sticks beneath the frog can be seen figures such as  58 75, recording that this would be the 58th bow made in the year 1975. In this year Bultitude  was aged fifty. His production of bows was quite prolific. In some years between 130 to 140 bows were made.

COLLINS, Roy. A very decent quality silver mounted bow suitable for a good student or as a second bow for a touring professional. The stick is in the style of bows made by Vigneron.

DODD John ( London 1752 - Surrey 1839 ) son of Edward Dodd ( Sheffield 1705- London 1810 ), who was also a bow maker, even though his bows were often unstamped. In fact it is not entirely certain whether father Edward ever lived ! However, John Dodd became the greatest English bow maker until Tubbs. He was a gunlock fitter and then a money-scale maker before turning to bow making. His later bows are particularly fine, though judged to be a little short. John Dodd was a contemporary of F.X.Tourte and worked in London. He made fine bows, but his measurements and quality of bows are never entirely consistent. For instance, some bows were made slightly shorter than the norm. Though Dodd was often in dire need of funds, it was recounted that he was very secretive about his art, and once turned down an offer of 1000 pounds sterling for a copy of his pattern. He also refused to teach pupils for the same reason. Dodd used 2 forms for the head ; the slender "swan" type and the squat " hammer " head type, more common in Italy and France. An excellent choice of Pernambuco wood was available to Dodd and much of this came to England in the form of Barrels. This explains the numerous traces of nail holes which sometimes run right through his sticks. According to Baillot, it seems that Viotti may have used a Dodd bow which was about 2½ cm shorter than the Tourte model. Many of Dodd's bows have this fault of not being long enough. He arrived at a similar bow design to Tourte, though through entirely independent means.

HILL & SONS ( W.E.) designed own bow, English in character, from Dodd & Tubbs. Many 20th C English bow-makers passed through Hill workshops. The Hills used five different stamps, each one denoting a different quality level. They are, in order of quality top to bottom: W. E. Hill & Sons - W. E. H & S - Hill & Sons England - H & S - Hill. The last two are debatable as to which is the higher quality, but this is the order William Retford put them in.

There are fake Hill bows floating around. They're easier to copy than some other bows because the shop was so meticulous about the workmanship being the same. But most of the copies are stamped "W. E. Hill & Sons" to make them more valuable.

RETFORD William Charles served with the firm of Hill for sixty-four years as a Bow Maker & Restorer.

TAYLOR, Malcom Morris ( b.1933 ) Apprenticed with Hills & Sons, also working there until 1973. Set up his own workshop in Barnstaple, Devon . His pupils include John Clutterbuck, Stephan Bristow and Brian Alvey, all at Hill's.

TAYLOR, Michael John ( b.1949 ) Trained at Ealing Strings, London. His fine bows combine the Tourte model with a more sturdy and solid English framework.

TUBBS, James ( b.1835 d.1919 ) Son of William. He worked in London, at first for W.E Hill & Sons. The most famous member of this bow-making family. An eccentric man, who made many highly individual bows. Strange action & balance require some getting used to. Together with his son Alfred ( d.1912 ) they produced more than 5000 bows. Another member of the family was Edward, who worked in New York around the turn of the century. Typical James Tubbs would be dated to c. 1900.

TUBBS, Thomas ( c.1770 - c1830 ) witnessed the birth of the modern bow. The quality of his work was variable. His son, William ( c.1805 - 1878? ), was also a bow maker, though his bows are rare.

WATSON, W.D. Made bows for W.E.Hill & Sons.

WILSON, Garner Contemporary bow maker. His Gold mounted bows sell for £2200 in the year 2004. One of the few modern makers to feature regularly in Sotheby's auctions. Trained by Bultitude. Website link


GERMANY back to top

BAUSCH, Ludwig Christian August  ( 1805 - 1871 ) Studied in Dresden and eventually set up his own firm in Leipzig. He combined the best elements of French and German styles, and achieved enough fame to be called the "German Tourte". His 2 sons, Otto and Ludwig produced bows until 1908.

FINKEL, Siegfried  ( b.1927 ) From a Swiss bow maker family. They continued the work of Ewald Weidhaas in Markneukirchen. Siegfried studied with Ewald's son, Paul, also becoming Paul's son in law. He worked on his own in Brienz from 1952. His bows are well made Germanic versions of the Peccatte model. Seigfried taught his son and pupil Johannes ( b.1947 ).

HOYER, Otto named "the Parisian", because he worked in France for some time with the famous bowmaker Sartory

KITTEL, Nicholas  of German origin worked in Petersburg ( from 1839 to 1870 ) was known as the "Russian Tourte". In Czarist Russia Nicolas Kittel served as violinmaker to the court, and produced a unique style of playing bow, often using beautiful, highly flamed wood. The design of Kittel bows is also derived from an advanced Tourte model although this interpretation of Tourte is distinctly different from the French interpretations. Kittel bows are nearly always quite light and flexible. Despite their flexibility, Kittel bows have extremely quick playing characteristics alongside a unique beauty of tone.

KNOPF family

( FRANZ ) ALBERT II NURNBERGER ( 1854 - 1931 ) Worked with his father, Franz Albert I, ( son of Karl Gottlieb ) in Markneukirchen. His father founded the bow making school there. He ( Albert II ) established himself around 1880, using Vuillaume, Tubbs and Touerte bows as models. His brand was also used by his son, Karl Albert ( b1906 ). The earlier bows are superior to the latest models with this family. Others include Johann Christoph, who worked for 5 years with Vuillaume and Philipp Paul, son of Albert II, who established himself in 1897.

Nurnberger Brothers bows- many of the family members stamped their bows "Albert Nurnberger." Franz Albert I (1826-1895) was the son of Karl Gottleib Nurnberger. He founded the bow-making school in Markneukirchen, and instructed there for twenty-five years. He was supposedly a student of Bausch. Frantz Albert II was an established bow maker around 1880. He became one of the the most prominent bow makers in the world. Some of the family productions are more of the "shop" variety. Others rival French bows

PFRETZSCHNER, Herman Richard  ( b.1857 )was first a pupil of his father, then of Vuillaume in Paris. He established himself in 1880. He created the "Wilhelmj" bow. His sticks are not varnished. ( common with German bows ). Pfretchner worked for J.B.Vuillaume for a year (1874) in Paris. In 1888 he opened his own workshop in Markneuchirchen. This full-length model perfectly demonstrates what a brilliant maker he was. The head is elegantly carved and has neat, precise chamfers. The stick is round and made from wonderful dense pernambuco that is of an attractive light brown colour. It is strong yet full of elasticity. The frog bears a royal court-of-arms brand. In 1901 Pfretchner was appointed the title of Bow maker to the Royal Saxonian Court. Bows after this date were stamped with this brand. This superbly balanced bow is a delight to use. Silver mounted.

PRELL, Hermann (ca. 1875 - ca. 1925) set himself up in Markneukirchen in 1898, although before World War I he supposedly worked for a short time with Eugene Sartory in Paris. The head of his bows are fine copies of original Sartorys; the bows may be stamped " Herm. W. Prell," in very small letters


WEIDHAAS, Paul (1894-1962) worked in Paris, probably with Victor Fetique, before World War I. He established himself in Markneukirchen in 1918. His bows may be stamped with either with his own stamp " Paul Weidhaas," or with that of his employer, "Victor Fetique a Paris."


Brazil, contemporary makers

BOTTONI, J ; Brazil; Octagonal bow; strong but lively; exquisite balance, 61.2grams. Mounted in gold and ebony. $2,000 in 2004

CARLESSO, A ; Brazil; Octagonal, mounted in silver and buffalo horn. $1,200 in 2004

PEREIRA, M ; Brazil; Round, silver mounted. Special Edition. $1,200 in 2004 - another bow is round, mounted in gold and ebony. Moderately light, lively bow. $2,000 in 2004

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Last modified: January 22, 2004 02:20