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Pernambuco bows?

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by TenorClef, Mar 15, 2004.

  1. I'm getting my first upright set up next week, fitted bridge and some other bits and bobs. I've also just bought a set of euronsonic light gauge strings. This forum is haven of knowledge when it comes to all things bass.

    To those in the know what is the difference from a pernambuco bow and a brazil wood bow. Are they not both made in brazil? Why are the former more expensive?
  2. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Suprior wood begets superior tone.
  3. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    IIRC, all pernambuco is Brazilwood, but all Brazilwood is not pernambuco. I think Brazilwood is a more generic term for a variety of species of South American trees.

    Pernambuco is favored for bows because of the density of the wood, grain, etc.

    These bows costs more because:

    A. The wood ( just like ebony, rosewood and most other woods used for instrument making) is becoming harder and harder to acquire in quality and quantity.

    B. Pernambuco is the choice of wood of the elite bow makers. A bow doesn't cost $2,000 because it is pernambuco. It costs that because of the quality, knowledge and skill of the maker. In other words, a top bow maker could certainly make a VERY good bow out of generic brazilwood. And it would probably cost a lot of money. But, of course, these makers prefer a quality of material consistent with the quality of their work.

    FWIW, in working with my teacher recently to find a bow, it was his opinion in more modestly priced bows (less than $600-700) pernambuco isn't necessarily a plus. That, in his experience in working with students, a $400 brazilwood bow may actually be a better bow than a similarly-priced pernambuco bow. You just have to play them and evaluate them for sound, feel and playability. Don't worry too much about the wood.

    We ended up selecting a $300 brazilwood bow that played and sounded as good as or better than any pernambuco bow within my budget. Based on the bows we played, I was going to have to spend close to $1,000 to get a bow that would perform significantly better than the one I ended up buying.

    I did not try the carbon bows, but I would have liked to. I found none locally to try. I think I will look at those much harder when I make the next bow upgrade.
  4. Tim Ludlam

    Tim Ludlam

    Dec 19, 1999
    Carmel, IN
    I believe that I read an article on Reid Hudson, and if I am not mistaken, I thought that he said pernambuco is no longer harvested. You have to find pre-existing slabs. That is why you are beginning to see a lot of alternate woods come into play.
  5. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    My understanding is this: Developers are clear-cutting forests. Instead of having the balls to deal with the people making all the money, some bright people thought it would be great to financially penalize the people who would buy pernambuco. The result is that the forests are still being clear-cut, and the pernambuco that gets cut down is being burned or left to rot, saving no forests and benefitting nobody.
  6. Tim Ludlam

    Tim Ludlam

    Dec 19, 1999
    Carmel, IN
    Thanks Don. Ain't that just beautiful.
  7. Thanks for that info, i think the bow i have at the moment is a brazil wood bow, french? I noticed when i use it i get a lot of hamonics coming through, it helps when i take off the rosin from the strings.
  8. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Beyond Donosaurus understanding, here's more info: International Pernambuco Conservation Initiative
    (already posted elsewhere, but quite apropriate here)
  9. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Thanks, Olivier.
    The situation I described existed for awhile. A bowmaker asked me to keep quiet about it until the bowmaking community could come up with something. This agreement was conceived by the bowmakers.
  10. basslife


    Mar 23, 2004
    Fabaceae: Pea Family (Leguminosae): legumes containing water soluble gums and natural dyes.

    Brazilwood: Caesalpinia Echinata
    Sappanwood: Caesalpinia Sappan

    Brief Historical Perspective: Shortly after the famous voyages of Columbus, the Portuguese and British discovered New World sources of brilliant red dyes from a South American tree. The remarkable botanical discovery forever changed the wardrobes of Europe and led to the birth of a nation, Brazil. There are European records of true red dyes during the Middle Ages, primalily from the heartwood of an Asian tree called Sappanwood (Caesalpinia Sappan). Sappanwood is native to India, Malay, Sri Lanka, Thailand and is cultivated throughout the Asian tropics.
    The Sappanwood was imported into Europe since Medieval times, but only in limited quantities. Recent archeological whipwrecks of Chinese junks have substantiated the evidence that Sappanwood was a highly prized import from China's southern neighbors. These shipwrecked junks date back to 1,000 A.D.
    The dye was a beautiful red, the color of burning coals (in French and English, "braise") and was called bresil or brasil by the Portuguese traders. In 1500, Portuguese ships discovered and claimed the Atlantic side of South America that straddled the Equator and the tropic of Caporicorn. This massive land was called "Terra de Brasil" and later, Brazil, because of the dyewood trees (Caesalpinia echinata) that grew there in abundance. Like the closely related Sappanwood, the valuable dye from Brazilwood (called brazilin) became a popular coloring agent.
    When Portuguese merchants landed on Asian soil, they mistakenly named the Sappanwood tree to be Brazilwood because of their similarities.
    Brazilwood and Sappanwood are almost the same.
    Sappanwood is in abundance and inexpensive.
    Save Pernambucco and Brazilwood.
    Why not make bows from Sappanwood?
  11. There's a very interesting article in the latest issue (April 2004) of Smithsonian magazine about this very topic.
    Here's a link, but the new issue isn't up on the site yet:
  12. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
  13. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    That was a very interesting feature. I enjoyed reading it very much. Thanks for sharing.

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