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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter June 11, 2013

Materials for violin bows

  • Ulrike G. K. Wegst , Stefan Oberhoff , Manfred Weller and Michael F. Ashby


The bow quality determines the ease with which an experienced violinist can produce a high-quality sound. Factors influencing its playability are partly structural (shape, point of balance) and partly material dependent (mass, stiffness, mechanical damping). Pernambuco, a tropical wood, most revered for high-quality violin bows is practically extinct in the wild. Measuring the properties of pernambuco and thirteen alternative materials by a resonant bar technique and mechanical spectroscopy in both the vacuum- and the air-dry states and comparing their performance objectively using property charts and performance indices reveals that bow-grade pernambuco has a high bending stiffness per unit mass, a high speed of sound parallel to the wood grain, and an exceptionally low loss coefficient at room temperature, and that, on purely mechanical grounds, materials exist that could make as good violin bows as pernambuco. The consequences of the use of such alternatives for bow design are described.

* Correspondence address, Dr. Ulrike, G. K. Wegst, Anne Stevens Assistant Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Drexel University, 3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. Tel.: +1 215 895-1640, Fax: +1 215 895-6760, E-mail:


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Received: 2007-5-11
Accepted: 2007-9-12
Published Online: 2013-06-11
Published in Print: 2007-12-01

© 2007, Carl Hanser Verlag, München

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