Getting Into Bow Making

Where It All Began

When I began studying computer science in school some years ago, a local violin shop was looking for a tech person. As you can imagine they were still running software from the 80’s and this was an excellent opportunity to work for a small business while focusing on school. As I continued in my position at the shop, my scope of roles increased tremendously. At some point one of the owners developed some serious tendinitis and wasn’t able to keep up with the bow work. After outsourcing the work without any success it was at the suggestion of violin maker, Jonathon Price, that the shop train me to do rehairs. Showing aptitude with technical information as well as sharp hand-eye coordination, this is where I began my journey into the field of bow work. 

The Learning Process

While I enjoyed the work, the learning process was rather brutal. Not everyone is a natural born teacher and thorough education was hard to come by. Being a little sheltered from other bow makers and without much direction I wasn’t too sure where to turn, but I was hungry. I spent countless hours reading on the associated trades to bow work as there weren’t any good texts on the subject easily attainable. I read through a number of books on jewelry making, clock/watchmaking, woodworking, and machining.

My employer was a student of the famed American bow maker Bill Salchow. Mr. Salchow was a former instructor for summer workshops at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and long considered the father of American bow making. Looking to expand my abilities, my employer was able to send me to a UNH workshop on advanced bow repair with George Rubino. Eventually, I ended up working full time at the local shop as I enjoyed the work at the bench and working with musicians. And now armed with a more concrete base for bow work, I spent all my time behind the bench practicing. Accruing thousands of rehairs, tip plates, windings, etc. under my belt.

The Workshop Experience

Weeks turned into months and months to years, spending over a third of my life behind the workbench at the shop. I learned much about proper tool use, the history of makers, and came into contact with a lot of really nice bows and musicians. I’m so thankful for all my experiences there, the good, the bad, and the ugly, as even the hard lessons can cause one to grow tremendously.

All throughout the history of instrument and bow makers, there is a definite tradition of working as an apprentice for an established workshop for approximately ten years. Then venturing off on your own to establish your own workshop. I more than paid my dues, diligently working, giving back to the business to help the business grow and flourish. I was solely responsible for bringing in tens of millions of dollars over 14 years, easily earning my keep, education, and then some.

I spent nearly 10 years focusing on bow maintenance and repair before ever getting into bow making. I finally felt that I had a good handle on anything you could do with a bow and that the only way I’d get a deeper understanding was to make a bow. 

Getting Into Bow Making

I tried my hand at a making few bows alone, the first 3 were fairly rough but I managed to make the stick, frog, and button on them. It was a huge learning experience both in bow making and in tool making as well. Not knowing where to turn, I just figured I hunker down and make a bunch of bows.

In 2017, I made the leap to start my own firm, AD Bows, LLC. I had my own ideas of what customer service should look like and how to respect everyone, including your atypical client. Skill-wise, I was hitting a plateau, I was hungry to grow but was being held back by being forced to adhere to antiquated techniques and ideas of repair and restoration. It was even frowned upon to involve yourself with the greater community of makers and shops. I finally had enough and wanted to share my passion with people on my own terms. 

Finding a Mentor

During this transition I started working with Rodney Mohr at Learning Trade Secrets. I used to have to beg, borrow, and steal to get any tidbits of useful information; Rodney is an excellent instructor and shares information without holding back. I feel like my bow making has jumped up several notches just in working with him. If you are interested in bow making, I can’t stress enough to find an excellent mentor as early as possible to get you off to a great start. The knowledge I have gained from Rodney has proven invaluable and not only count him as one of my teachers, but as a mentor as well.

What’s Next

I started this blog, in hopes of inspiring new generations of bow makers, peeling back the veil of mystique for musicians, and to share my passion and knowledge with anyone interested to listen. There is a book in the works, Tool Making for Bow Makers, that I hope will break down one of the barriers of entry into the profession. I have opened up a position for a workshop assistant so that I may pass on what I’ve so graciously gained from others.

If you’re interested in bow making, maintenance, or restoration, feel free to reach out and I’d be happy to talk with you or point you in the right direction!

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