Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Making Frogs for a Cello Bow

Lester keeps going at it with his new line of bows. This time, he's gearing up to enter some bows for a competition in October. Many bow makers often order parts from manufacturers and fit them on to the stick. I was flipping through their catalog the other day, and I had no idea that there are over a hundred different kinds of frogs. Lester tells me though that while basic frog templates by Sartory are studied and published in books, bow makers are always reinterpreting these traditional master makers in their own style.

[Ebony Frog, Pattern]

However, Les' training since this summer has taught how to make even the small things from scratch. Screw and button making was a first for him, but so was frog making. This cello bow he's making are by far the most hand made thing he's made.

[Ebony Frong for Cello, slide]

The photo below shows his latest work in horn. I'm not sure if this comes from water buffalo but there's a bunch of other materials such as snake wood or ivory (the latter now being illegal). Usually though, he works in good dry ebony blanks.

[Horn Frog for Violin, Cutting Stage]

The length of time it takes to make a frog can range from 12 hours to a day. Realize though that these frogs are often made as the bows are carved. Frog making isn't a step-by-step process. It's a series of fine cutting, chiseling, and filing are done with adjustments to the stick.

I asked Les why he still bothers to make frogs by hand when he can order pre-cut frogs. For one, he says it increases the value of the bow. He also says that he adds an artistic value that he can customize for the player. It may not seem like much but he can control the feel of the frog in the player's hand with slight nuances of the ferrule or curves of the frog's body.

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