The Future of Restored Bows

Historical Bows

As big name makers such as Sartory, Peccatte, Tourte, etc. are continually raising in value and are pushed out of the the price range of most working musicians. However, a repaired or incomplete example may be obtained for a fraction of the price.

I anticipate that within the next decade we will see an increased market for repaired bows that previously were considered to have little or no value.

Bow Restoration

The field of bow rehabilitation has improved tremendously in the past decade and now was considered a good repair twenty years ago may now be considered an obsolete method. New methods along with the development of synthetic materials and adhesives allow for a bow to be made playable again without any detriment to its function or sound. Which is why it’s important to take your bow to not only a reputable technician but someone who is intimately connected with the rest of the industry and stays up-to-date on current research and practices of restoration.

Determining Value

The value of a bow is heavily determined by name and condition. Bows of high value generally come with some sort of certification. What does these certificates even mean to musicians? As a musician, I’d rather play on a bow presented as a restored Dominique Peccatte, that plays and sounds great and only cost a few thousand dollars instead of an all original Peccatte that has excessive wear for hundreds of thousands of dollars; which may have been grafted or repaired in a manner to deceive or worse, not even be an actual Dominique Peccatte. Collectors and dealers are not necessarily players and they see little to no value in a restored bow, but who are these bows actually made for?

Moreover the people who are establishing the value of bows are not the same people that do restoration work. There seems to be a large disconnect between bows and the instruments themselves as far as repairs go. In the instrument world, things like the neck of a violin can be replaced, or a major crack repair to the top will have little to no detriment to the value. Why should it be so different with the bow, especially if what is replaced has little to no effect on the durability, function, and sound of the bow? In many cases, the restoration improves on those aspects. Why is a bow that is all original but hardly functions, or may not even be playable, worth more in that condition? Why should the value of the bow suffer so much if the ferrule is replaced? Why can’t a bow be grafted at the handle?

Some nice bows get thrown away because there is so little residual market value remaining. To think about sustainability, what a waste of precious pernambuco this is. I honestly believe that the market will start to demand more repaired bows as environmentally and financially responsible players start to gravitate towards these types of bows as well as the more reasonably priced bows of modern makers.

Your Thoughts?

Besides some of the obvious arguments such as art value and historically significant names, what are your thoughts on using a repaired bow?

2 Replies to “The Future of Restored Bows”

  1. Grafted bows unavoidably gain a stiffness in the area of the graft because of the glue joint. This has been my observation when doing head grafts; some may see it as an advantage, or not even notice it, but a maker can. The use of synthetic materials/adhesives in major repair work is inadvisable because such materials have no track record of more than about two decades – for instance, cyanoacrylate glue joints fail because the brittle (though initially strong) glue can’t move when the wood wants to move. Bows can be repaired so they look cosmetically lovely for website photographs, but cannot behave like the original, and have a lower and possibly fatal structural integrity. The worshipped French makers of the past would laugh their socks off if you told them their bows were still being used – and what they were changing hands for – some 200 years after they were made; they’d tell you to go out and treat yourself to a new one. Andrew Bellis, Bournemouth U.K.

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