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.
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.
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
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.
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
- 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
- On rare occasions, authentic whalebone from ancient
stocks was used.