THE BOW MAKER
TWENTY YEARS AGO when Bill Marykuca retired from his executive position at Red-D-Arc, a Hamilton-based welding company that he helped found in 1959, he turned his attention to something completely different. For 45 years, Marykuca has played and collected violins, but in his retirement the self-professed “outside of the box” thinker turned his hand to making violin bows. And he did it, in part, as a way to battle the paralysis that comes with Guillain-Barré syndrome, an auto-immune disease which struck him at age 57.
HE HAS CREATED dozens of unique violins and bows, and now it is time to part with his collection. At 85, he and his wife Louise are leaving their Beamsville home and moving into a seniors’ apartment in Stoney Creek. On Saturday, his collection will be auctioned off.
Marykuca has a unique inverse construction approach to bow making, unlike traditional bow design. Using the hard, orange wood of the Pernambuco tree (also known as Brazilwood) from the Brazilian rainforest, Marykuca used just a jackknife, a file, and sandpaper to shape 15 violin bows. He chose the exotic wood for its density, stiffness, and weight.
“Pernambuco wood is very hard … twice as dense as oak, it actually sinks in water. Those qualities make it perfect to carry the resonance of sound produced by a violin.” The wood’s unique qualities also make it ideal for the creation of thin bows with great balance that keep their memory. To complement the wood, Marykuca uses Mongolian horse tail hair, which is then press fit in the final construction of the bow.
Marykuca has also designed and made two violins constructed without the use of a mould. In keeping with his out-of-the-box thinking, he replaced the traditional maple bridge found on most violins with one made of carved moose antler. “Moose antler is very dense and absorbs all the undesirable sounds a violin makes.”
Canadian fiddle champs have played with his bows and his violins, and now Bill is hoping that other musicians will, too. “They have become part of me. They each have a different personality and sound and something exciting about them.”
Bill will continue to play and work the open mike for the Waterdown Fiddlers at the Waterdown Legion, which he has been a part of for the past eight years.
Beamsville’s Bill Marykuca with his collection of violins and handmade bows, most of which he is auctioning off on Saturday.
Above, Bill Marykuca in his Beamsville home working with the highly-regarded Brazilwood he uses for bows. Above right, a vice of sorts to shape the bow. To the left, the work area, and some of his precision instruments.