THE BOW MAKER

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - STORY AND PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY CATHIE COWARD

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.

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