Having exhausted nearly every option for gluing mother of pearl to ebony hardwood, a manufacturer of bows for string instruments struck the right note on discovering the performance characteristics of LOCTITE® 330 from Henkel. This general purpose structural adhesive, which is ideal for use on dissimilar substrates, has solved the bonding dilemma for Bowmaker, John Matthews once and for all.
Based in Gosport, John Matthews the Bowmaker has been supplying players of bowed string instruments around the world with industry leading bows since 1996. Ornate in design, the master craftsman’s bows are made with the benefit of many years experience. However, one particular process had long-remained a challenge, namely the successful and reliable adhering of a mother of pearl inlay to the bow’s ebony ‘frog’, what holds the hair ribbon and gives the bow its tension.
“Over the years we’ve tried everything; superglue was probably the worst,” states John Matthews. “The problem with superglue is that it doesn’t like heat, and after I’ve adhered these two parts together I have to perform a little saw cut. The tiny bit of heat produced by the blade is enough to separate a joint made using superglue. I’ve also tried many general-purpose adhesives, but the joint comes apart after a short time.”
A personal recommendation for LOCTITE 330 prompted Mr Matthews to give it a try. “LOCTITE 330 is marvellous; the joint sets really hard,” he states. “In addition, we can work with it shortly afterwards as the adhesive goes off quickly.”
Mr Matthews has tried on several occasions to deliberately separate the joint, but a variety of mechanical methods failed to prise the materials apart. “I even boiled the joint in a saucepan for 30 minutes, but it still wouldn’t separate,” he says. “Having tried further techniques, I discovered the joint was so good that the mother of pearl would break up before it separated from the ebony. I was very impressed and will not be using anything else. From experience, I know a lot of bowmakers have the same problem, so it’s good to share the success of this leap forward.”
Despite the fact that he describes his mother of pearl inlay as little more than a ‘piece of fancy decoration’, discovering a product able to adhere it to the ebony frog has been a huge relief. “The mother of pearl I use is very special as it’s from the Jersey Ormer shell,” explains Mr Matthews. “Ormer is found around the Channel Islands, where it is fished for local restaurants. However, it is becoming increasingly rare due to pollution, which is reducing population numbers.”
Many of the famous French bowmakers of the 19th Century used this same type of shell, which they called Ormeaux, making it revered among players of bowed string instruments. “To be honest, we don’t want to be wasting mother of pearl due to failed adhesive, which is why it’s so great that I’ve found LOCTITE 330,” concludes Mr Matthews.
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