Tom Owen Bows

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by oklarain, Mar 1, 2002.

  1. oklarain


    Feb 4, 2002
    Seattle, WA
    Hello all,

    Last week I shipped my inexpensive bow to get rehaired. The bowmaker informed me that the frog had split during shipping. Major bummer.

    Since it was a cheap bow I decided not to have it fixed. Then followed the terrible task of trying to decide on a bow in my very limited budget. Not fun.

    Based on some reviews I read on these forums (Monte and Aroneng) I decided to give this bowmaker in Oklahoma a call. (Tom Owens - 580-927-9939). I am very glad that I did.

    I recieved my bow last Monday (I called him on the previous Friday afternoon). Having spent a mere 5 days with the bow I am elated. I knew a good bow could make a huge impact on your playing, but I didn't actually think it would work with me. Beautiful craftsmenship and an amazing feel has me convinced that for the price I don't think that I could have done too much better.

    Thank you for your recommendations and your candor. I am once again whole.
  2. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    Glad you liked Tom's bows. He is a treasure; you guys would die if you ever saw little Coalgate, OK. TINY town in the middle of "Little Dixie" (historical name for area in southeastern part of state that always votes Democrat) and this great bowmaker no one has hardly heard of turns out that stuff.

  3. oklarain


    Feb 4, 2002
    Seattle, WA
    I actually grew up in Norman (OK) before traveling the country on a school tour. I have driven through Coalgate once (we were lost). After seeing the town I surely wasn't prepared for the types of bows he making.
  4. Tom sent me two german bows to try out.
    1 139.5 g and the other a 142 g
    I have to say on my bass, the 139.5 didnt pull a strong tone easily. At
    first I thought maybe it hasn't been played in.
    The 142 g was totally different. Grabbed the string nicely, big round sound and very articulate. It is just so easy to play....

    My old brazilwood is actually a good bow and the major differences are 1. the rounder more sophisticated tone and 2. the ease of play.

    I also noticed the frogs came with the edges rounded (shaved). Somthing my teacher recently did to my brazilwood making it more comfortable and a bit more resonant. I'll be interested in asking Tom if he gets the frogs that way or if that's somthing he does.

    At any rate, I just found a fantastic bow. yahooooo.
  5. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    My Owen bow gets better and better everyday. As nice as his bows are, I don't think he uses the best hair in the world.

    When I got mine, it was strong and loud, but very coarse sounding haired with salt and pepper. The bite was inconsistent. It took nearly a month to get a nice even rosined hair in place. My teacher even heat flashed the hair a couple of times. It was stubborn.

    As I have played the hair in, the bow has darkened up a bit. It is definately an excellent orchestra bow. I still prefer my Meinel for soloish stuff, but if I had to sell one bow, it'd be the Meinel. I love the Owen.

    Is your bow that beautiful bloody red color? The finish on my bow is really unique. It looks amazing.
  6. Mine's pretty brown. The salt in my salt and pepper hair is more blond and lt brown than white. Seems to grab very evenly.

    I real happy with it from the start.

  7. This is by no means a bad review of Tom Owen bows -- I didn't actually try one of his bows. That said, here's my recent experience with bow audition in $800-$1,000 range.

    I too've recently been bitten by the bow upgrade bug. I'm already playing a Winkler pernambuco bow that I bought back in '87 for $400. It's a good stick, but I wanted to see what else is out there in the $800 - $1,000 range. So I auditioned a collection of bows from Roberston's Violins (2 Carbow's and 2 Marco Raposo's). Surprisingly, none of these bows were compelling enough for me to want to ditch my Winkler -- the 2 Carbow's being particularly disappointing.

    So I called Lemur and talked to the "bow specialist". She told me that she's not surprised that I didn't care for the Carbow's and Raposo's, and that I wouldn't hear/feel/see much improvement from my Winkler in that price range. She suggested I save my money and try again later when my budget allows for a bow audition in the $3,000 range.

    Then I asked her about Tom Owen bows, she told me that "they're OK bows" and that they've had two in stock for some time now -- everytime they go out on audition, they get rejected for Seifert's or Durrschmidt's in the same price range. Now I know we have TB'ers that absolutely love their Owen bows because I researched TB thoroughly for bow info.

    My only advice (not actually seeing an Owen bow), is to audition Owen bows in a collection of others in the same price range before you plunk down your hard earned cash. You might be surprised with how good your current bow is (unless it's really crap), and be a bit bummed about having to jump up to a much higher price range for really a better bow.

    - Mark
  8. In addition to trying other bows in the price range, make sure you get more than one bow from Tom!
    I received 2 and they were very different. (No idea why.....)

    And instead of asking for 2 Owen's from Lemur that keep comming back, try getting a couple from Tom.

  9. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    Why do ducks float?
  10. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas

    I've auditoned 12 of them between me and 3 others I know that were buying or have one. Mine and Mark Osborn (OKC Phil) and 2 others were really good for the money $$, 2 were well worth it, and about half were good but not anything special.

  11. Wow -- that's a lot of bows! I'm disappointed that:
    1. Lemur and other bow suppliers aren't doing a better job of selecting bows from bow makers. :mad: If Lemur's Owen bows are indeed rejects, then they ought to call Tom for replacements. His, and their reputations are at stake. :meh:
    2. Bows from a single bow maker are so inconsitent that you cannot pick one out of a much smaller number like say -- three or four. Twelve ... that's really unacceptable! :eek: From a business perspective, a bow maker should judge the quality of his product, creating "good", "better", "best" buckets and price them appropriately.
    Monte, please tell us that your collection of twelve was from multiple bow makers.
    - Mark
  12. Mark, My impression from Tom was that he isn't bass player enough to judge the playing characteristics of his bass bows. I think your last point might be unrealistic, unless the luthier could have a skilled local player test each one and then there's some subjectivity by player, bass, hair and strings

  13. Dave, that (i.e. subjective diffs in bass, strings, player, etc.) is fair enough, but it's a bad excuse for poor business sense don't you think? I refuse to audition 12 Tom Owen bows, or 12 Carbow's, or 12 anythings for that matter in the same price range. Besides, nobody will send you 12 bows to try out all at once. Visiting the bow maker's shop of course is a different story all together, but most of us don't have that luxury.

    We've all heard the terms: "workshop bow" and "master work". Tom, being an up and coming bow maker, may not yet have the experience with wood selection and bow lutherie to know if the bow he just finished is a "master work" or a "workshop bow" ... but maybe he does (?).

    He prices all of his bows at around $800. Wouldn't it be worth $100 for Tom to pay a bassist to come over and judge/classify his bow selection? Then Tom can charge more for the good stuff, and less for the so-so stuff. To push this off to the consumer is what I find objectionable. Over time, Tom will end up with a collection of rejected bows as we (the consumer) eventually sift through them picking out the gems from the duds. Then he will be forced to have a clearance sale to move the duds out -- while we make off with the gems for a song-and-dance.

    Tom would have a better, longer lasting name in bow making by having a "good", "better", "best" product line. The "good" stuff going to students and the "best" stuff going to pros. So many artists (like Tom) don't make it because a lack of business sense. I sincerely wish him all the luck in the world.

    - Mark
  14. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas

    I think you are missing the point.

    Out of 12 bows, about half were at LEAST good enough at that price point, with some being better than other factory bows in a higher price range.

    You gotta understand the price point. In terms of comparing it to basses, we are looking at a good carved Juzek, not a master Vuillame bass.

    Tom's bows are worth the money. If you try any two bows from any other maker in the price range, you are going to get variations in just how good they are. Just like you can play 3 Juzeks and one might be great, one might be a solid deal, and one might be iffy.

  15. Well reasoned but I think there's one variable not considered.
    Tom Owen may not "need" to do these things. He comes off to me as more craftsman than businessman (good for us)
    He doesn't have many bows laying around. If he were all about managing his business for maximum growth, then yes. But then again the price point would probably be well above $700

    Just to keep perspective, its not like people have had to try 12 Owen bows to find thier gem. He probably never has that many on hand to try in the first place. I only tried 2 Owen bows and 10 or so others ranging from carbon graphite to pernambuco north of 1300.00

    So take the debate where you want but my story is I played several bows without finding one better than my brazilwood, finally heard about Tom Owen on this board. Talked to him, found him to be an extremely easy person to work with, tried 2 of his bows, and found that one of the 2 was exactly what I hoped for. ... for $700
    No complaints from me. :)

  16. I have a second hand story about Mr Owen's bussiness.

    I was at Violins Etc in Austin last week to check out one of Mr Owen's bows. They only had a German and I play French.
    But the proprietor said Mr Owen travels to Fiddler Festivals and spends much of his time re-hairing bows. He'll trade bows for old violins (fiddles) to repair and makes some violins of his own.

    He indicated that he was semi-retired and does this for fun.
  17. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    To summarize:

    The point of a auditioning a bow is to find out if it works well in your hand on your bass. you could have anyone you choose play the stick on any bass you choose and it'll be different when you grab it.

    If four or five bass players auditioned 12 bows from any maker on their own bass and were asked to pick the best three, all 12 may get picked at least once. It's the nature of the beast.

    Since no one jumped on or at least commented on my Monte Python reference, I'll say it more clearly. Bows are made of wood. It's organic. For all kinds of reasons, it will shape up differently even in the hands of the same maker.
  18. How does one go about auditioning 12 bows at the same time? The only way I was able to get more than 3 bows at a time was to source them from multiple places at the same time (4 from Robertson, 3 from Lemur, 3 from Kolstein, 2 from Owen, etc). The trick is timing it all so you don't mistakenly "buy" a bunch of expensive bows.
    - Mark
  19. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA

    Not so sound too cheesy, but finding the right bow is like finding the right mate, when you find it, you'll know it. I have never had 12 bows in my possession at any one time.

    Just get a few and play them. If one speaks to you, buy it. Otherwise, send them all back and start again.

    Even better, lug your bass to a shop that has a decent selection and play every bow in the place. I like this practice because you will often get a chance to play a bow that otherwise you would not. For example, I wouldn't ask a shop to ship me a $3,000 bow for audition knowing full well that my budget is $1,000. But, I would certainly give it a go in the shop.

    Playing bows of various levels of quality helps you get some understanding of why the bow matters so much.

    Buying a bow, IME, is more trying than even buying a bass.
  20. darkocuk

    darkocuk Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2009
    Kelowna, B.C., CANADA
    Because they are made of wood, or course!
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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