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New old Bow Identification?

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by Champagne, Dec 9, 2013.

  1. Hi Everyone,

    I picked up this gem last week. I have absolutely no info on it other than a "Germany" stamp and that it came with a 1932 Bass. I assume it is just an old german shop bow from the 30's? What type of wood do you suppose it is? It weighs 138/139 grams.

    For as little hair that is left on it, it is remarkable how easy it is to pull a note out of my basses. Very organic sounding. It took a while to get rosin to stick to it, but now that it has, I may not re-hair as long as you don't think it can hurt the bow in the meantime because it plays quite nice and easy.

    Here are a few pictures:
    11295949743_19c1df1d4b. 11295910834_4b0686d386.

    These pictures and more in high-resolution:
  2. tumbleweed.
  3. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    I am know expert but I think you answered your own question. It is a German shop bow dating either from before the post WWII partitioning or after re-unification.
  4. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I agree that while there is likely some bow-specific history here, you are looking at an exported German shop bow. As for which shop it came out of, there are a bunch of them now and were a bunch of different ones "back in the day" but most of them share a pretty similar story. Chances are there were one or two well trained bow makers that owned the shop, and they had workers (anything from 1-2 to 20 or more) under them that all performed a few of the tasks required to turn it from a log into a bow. If you were at the shop long enough, you would learn more of the tasks needed. Maybe you learned all of them so you could make your own bows, or open your own shop with your own underlings etc.

    I am not trying to discredit these shops or devalue their work. Sartory and a ton of other fantastic bow makers started their careers in shops like this, and they made some of the most desirable bows on the market. There are indeed some pretty great shop bows out there, and some shops with some pretty interesting history. The problem is that their history was very rarely and very poorly recorded. Think of it like any other factory produced item from a time when the internet and serial numbers weren't a big thing. Chances are if you have a kettle from 1930 Germany it came out of a factory too, but they just didn't really see the point in giving it a whole lot of back story. Bows until very recently were often seen just as accessories to instruments.

    The thread about LaMay bows here tells that story pretty well. They're going for $1500-2000 now but when he was making them in the 60's and 70's they were selling for $150-250. If one broke he told you to throw it out and he'd send you a new one, and that was 30-40 years after your bow.

    I would suggest a rehair. If you like it now, you will love it with good hair in it. Chris Brown might have some more history for you and that button being unusual likely means you have a better chance of finding out something about it. I'm guessing you likely won't find much more information than you already have. Enjoy it for what it is, and don't lose too much sleep over it.
  5. Thanks for the responses everyone. That was an awesome read, Mike. Nah, I'm not losing sleep but some sort of value would be helpful for insuring. I just love the history of old things. It also seems that old instruments like my 100yr old bass and this bow evoke different things out of me. Like they are my chaperone and a muse. Maybe its just me and no, I don't see dead people!

    Thanks again. I'll hit Chris up this weekend.
  6. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    As for insurance value, unstamped bows are particularly tricky. If the bow is of a well known maker and has an original frog and button, it can still usually be identified by a very well educated maker/appraiser. This happens once in a while when bows have seen a lot of wear and the stamp has been worn off, or if the butt end of the stick has been replaced/new wood has been added as part of a repair. In the latter case more value is lost than the former, but that stamp is still very valuable.

    If not (sorry for the above, but it seems like you might be interested regardless) then it becomes a guessing game. If Chris Brown can identify the bow or suggest a factory based on the button, you might be in luck. Otherwise, you basically have two options. If you purchased the bow for a "fair" price (or what you believe it to be valued at) and have some form of proof of purchase, most insurance companies will insure it for that amount without a problem. If you got a particularly good deal, it was a cash transaction etc. That isn't as helpful. In that case, you can take it to a shop and have it appraised. Even if they cannot identify the maker/factory, they will likely write something along the lines of: "Unstamped, round, pernambuco German factory bow with distinct single ring button." And take a few pictures from more standard angles than what you provided, and assign a value. With that said, a lot of shops charge $100 or more for insurance appraisals.

    Talk to whomever you deal with at your insurance company, and see what they say. Often the rules can be bent a little bit when you explain to them it is a handmade product and it doesn't have a serial number like a saxophone. If you explain to them what you would like it insured for (I'm ball parking $500 on the generous side) and that it would cost you $150 for a professional appraisal, they might dot their i's and lower case j's without one.

    The history is definitely interesting, but poorly documented. It's a shame really. Although the internet is making things a little easier now, bow makers and instrument makers tend to stay out of the spot light. Short of the often brief bio on their websites (if they even have a website) unless you have a personal relationship with one, we still don't know a lot about modern makers. This becomes especially apparent when people have bows and instruments by recently deceased makers, and no one can really turn up any information on them. That would be a really interesting undertaking: a "history" of modern bow makers. I wonder if I'd be able to get some arts council grants to take that on...