The Cooper

Published in The Strad Magazine Vol. 94 No. 1124  Dec. 1983



A decrepit, down at heel and uncared for bundle of bows has recently arrived from the depths of rural, Hampshire in Nether Wallop.  However, even under these conditions any bow with ivory mounts tends to stand out. So it was with one of these bows.  Quickly discarding the rest, this one was given more careful scrutiny and declared either a German copy by Dodd or at best a rather mutilated English bow with a completely seized-up frog and screw.  The mutilation was evident because of a large hole drilled into the rear of the frog, giving the impression that someone was guilty of poor restoration.  Still more puzzling was the fact that it appeared to be an open frog with a matching ivory slide, indicated by the grain at this juncture.

After releasing the seized frog from the shaft, the situation became more intriguing as it became evident that the bow was branded as Dodd.  With the frog now released a closer examination of that large hole was possible.  After two days of gentle probing, which brought forth old hair, thread, resin etc., it became obvious that this aperture was genuine and original.  It was approximately  ½” deep, not exactly round but with the suggestion of a slot formation at the top of the hole  (Fig. 1). This aperture then became half as small and flattened into a slot by the time the front of the frog was reached. So now we had a large hole to take the bound hair, a step to retain it, and a slot to produce a ribbon of hair at the ferrule.  With an open frog this would have been difficult to achieve but the so-called slide is a fact not a slide at all  (Fig. 2) but an integral part of the whole.  The question now arises - how is it possible to bore such a complicated perforation in a solid piece of ivory?  There is one clue at the ferrule end. At least half of a small pilot is visible (Fig. 3).  Although seemingly impossible to carve such a frog, the rehairing is of the simplest kind and needs no wedge.  The tongue onto which the silver ferrule fits is a complete “box”.  That the hair is not allowed to spread to the ferrule itself means only a narrow ribbon of hair is possible - the only drawback to an otherwise incredible piece of “internal carving”.  It would appear to be unique and, if so, it stands alone in the history of bow making

An important departure from orthodoxy is the fitting of the frog to the shaft.  By milling the bottom at a slight angle the frog tends to lay back quite prominently, therefore tilting the ferrule slightly upwards.  This is acceptable to the eye only in relation to the stick, which has just a slight inward camber.  The head (see Figs. 4 & 5) also shows originality as it has a “pear” shaped ivory facing.  The stick has but a slight inward camber and, as Fig. 5 shows, it is of sturdy proportions and made from finely figured pernambuco of a rich dark hue.  It has all the qualities so desirable in a fine bow.  Branded Dodd on both sides, its full length is 283/8 “ (722 mm), the length of hair 25” (635 mm) and weight 55 grms.  This bow is almost certainly the work of Edward Dodd (1705 - 1810) and dates from c. 1740.  It is not possible to be more precise except to say that by the quality of the bow it is undoubtedly the work of a bow maker at the height of his powers.  This was a period of experimentation and transition - Edward Dodd was responsible for many innovations.  A good example is to be seen in William C. Retford’s book Bows and Bow Makers (Novello, 1964, Plate V111).  The question arises, was this bow an experiment?  If so, how many were made or is it a “one off” and therefore unique?  With the passing of two hundred years or so perhaps we shall never know.


Photographs by C. Hosking, Romsey, Hants.