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THE ROLLAND BOW
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Traditional tools

At Rolland studio, creating a bow starts with understanding what tools were specific to the French tradition of bowmaking. Benoît Rolland makes most of his tools himself, and keeps various historical tools for restorations and replicas. He uses hand tools in all steps of the work for the quietness they afford and the direct physical control of the work that they allow.

Selected woods

Benoît Rolland rigorously selects his woods for crafting bows. His usage of the wood, of which he gathered only a modest stock, has always beeing guided by a principle of respect and moderation.

Some of his most precious Pernambuco wood comes from the Victor Fétique’s stock that he acquired in 1979. At that time, the Fétique family wished to transfer their craft heritage to a young maker who would pursue the tradition. The selection of a candidate and the commitment to bowmaking that they required were both extremely stringent. Benoît met their standards and after two years of intense labor could acquire the tools and wood that he still uses.

To complete this source, Rolland purchased selected logs of Pernambuco during the first years of his career. He planned the drying and preparation of the wood over his entire life in order to give the best possible natural care to the wood. Patiently waiting for the proper time to open a log, he then cut from it and stored each plank himself, allowing it to dry during many years. After evaluating the boards, he drafts the sticks that they can give best: the wood piece sometimes bears only one valuable stick and some lesser sticks. Rolland is utterly cautious in his use of Pernambuco wood and the sticks that he does not use himself are saved for apprentices.

By now, only excellent or outstanding parts of the wood, in terms of their musical qualities, are sculpted into Rolland bows. The woods are chosen not only for their beauty, but first according to the response and sound potential that their fibers offer. From the moment of opening a log to finishing the bow, each wood piece is purposely selected and prepared to serve the goal desired in each bow.

Frogs are carved from selected raw blocks of ebony, harvested in different countries. Very old ebony enters in Rolland’s gold mounted bows. The profound color of the frogs and their patina come from the natural quality of the ebony, simply polished.

For Information about the Pernambuco issues, visit our page “Pernambuco.”

Varnish and Finishes

Once the wood is turned into a bow, attention focuses on the perfection of the finishes, one of the highlights of Rolland bows. Benoît does not use any chemical dies or acids on his bows. Natural resins are prepared at the studio for a light French polish of the stick. The gentle action of natural light and handling will eventually darken the color of the stick, reflecting the years of practice. Eugène Sartory never dyed his wood; most of his bows now exhibit a rich patina, some of them being extremely dark, thanks to the combined actions of natural light, use and time. Nevertheless, some woods permanently retain their original color. For instance, we can still see some bright Tourte or Pajeot.

Hair

As every part of the bow, the hair is carefully chosen from select white stallion bundles, mostly from Mongolia and Siberia. Horse hair is so far irreplaceable due to its very particular grasp of the string. Research continues for finding a suitable substitute. For horse hair as for every natural resource, the principles guiding Benoît Rolland’s use are moderation and care. His respect for nature goes hand in hand with his admiration for human creation of beauty: he shows an equal awareness for preserving natural resources and for conserving the human knowledge necessary to the crafting of great art works.

Metals and precious supplies

The precious metals (gold, silver) in Rolland’s bows come from France, for their higher carat’s standard and particular nuance. The metals are prepared, sometimes even melted, at the studio for special pieces.

The bow combines precious materials enhancing its overall beauty. Valuable supplies such as elephant ivory, tortoise shell and mother of pearl traditionally come into the structure of the bow or its ornamentation. However, many of these supplies are now protected and their use regulated; mammoth ivory is thus a preferred source, and its use is authorized.

Benoît Rolland collects mother-of-pearl from many different origins, harvested some himself, and takes a particular care in composing an assortment that brings luminosity to the frog, but also reflect a stylistic choice: ancient cuts of pearl for restorations, contemporary look for some Rolland models and overall matching with the spirit of the woods paired.

Wrappings

You may also notice that Benoît Rolland uses different wrappings ( or lappings). The choice for a specific wrapping is mostly an aesthetic one, but the balance or design of the bow may also impose it. To create the best harmony in each bow, Rolland decides for the suitable wrapping:

  • pure silver thread
  • silver or gold over silk thread
  • 18 carats gold thread
  • ancient style wrapping, either alternating silver or gold over silk thread with colored silk thread (Rolland's model)
  • On rare occasions, authentic whalebone from ancient stocks was used.




Benoit's bow drill


Pernambuco wood


Rolland cutting Pernambuco wood


Pernambuco sticks
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Ebony
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Benoit's varnish bottle
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Horse hair
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18 Carats gold rings for fitting the button


Mammoth ivory
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Mother-of-pearl
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Benoit Rolland's bows wrappings
 

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