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Tipper Making

From bowiki

Fiddle-Bow Tippers

The tippers of choice for many players come from violin or cello bows. The key points here are that they are thin and dense. Bows generally are made of a hardwood (Rosewood or Pernambuco). A cello or double bass bow will be thicker and heavier than a violin bow. Tipper lengths range from 6" (15cm) to 12" (30cm) diameters range from 10mm to 6 and weights range from 7 or 8 grammes to over 20g

A tipper made from a fiddle bow will have a natural curvature to a greater or lesser degree, some players like that, others avoid it. The sticks will also taper to varying degrees. The part of the bow from which the tipper is taken will make a difference in terms of both curvature and taper. Bows vary in weight and weight distribution, each tipper will have a different 'action' from the next.

The length for a tipper as a rule of thumb, is the span between your thumbtip and your fingertip when fully spread plus an inch or so. 9-10" seems to be pretty standard. From a single bow it is possible to get two or three tippers depending on how long you wish to make them. A standard bow will yield 2 x 9" sticks and a shorter stick usually 6-8".

Barbeque Skewer Tipper

The ubiquitous barbeque skewer tipper is one of the most used pieces in the bodhrán player's arsenal. It is simple to make and costs pennies. It takes 5-10 minutes to put one together using household materials so it's easy to experiment with different weights, lengths & numbers of skewers

You will need

  • 1 packet of barbeque skewers (about 70p for 50)
  • Scissors
  • string or rubber grommet for holding the skewers together
  • PVA or other wood glue
  • sandpaper.
  • water

Skewer tippers are often made from groupings of 7 or 19 skewers. These numbers provide for the roundest shaped tipper with a central rod and concentric rings of rods

Pick the straightest and roundest skewers from the pile and lay them side by side with the cut ends lined up together. Skewers are normally around 11-12" long and will need to be cut to size. Mark the appropriate length and cut them using scissors. Be careful of your eyes and those around you because the pointed end will fly off if you don't hold it as you cut.

When they are cut, bundle them together and tie/whip as tightly as you can with a piece of string. Take one of the cut-off pointed ends and push it through the middle of the bundle, take another one and do the same from a different angle. This exposes the central rod.

Use the wood glue and drizzle or brush it between the skewers, being careful to get plenty against the central rod. This is structural work and will keep the tipper intact.

Remove the pointed bits of stick and the glue will ooze out from between the rods. Roll the stick between your fingers to work the glue between the rods, it's a little messy. Wet your fingers in the water and spread this along the shaft of the tipper. How much of the length you wish to cover is up to you. If you cover it all it it will dry hard and will play more like a stick than a rod.

If you only glue the central part then it will be looser and more 'rattly' at the ends. It's cheap, experiment! If you need to brush more glue on then fire away, I tend to cover mine most of the way and then wipe it off with wet fingers, this helps the glue move between the sticks and really binds the rods firmly together. The tipper is touch dry in 10 minutes but leave it for at least 30 minutes for the central rod to set in place.

Alternatively you can do the central glueing bit and leave it loose to use grommets or rubber bands to adjust the degree of 'rattle'.


Another option is to use a strip of paper that is covered with glue, and add the skewers one by one either rolling or folding the paper as you go. I have a 10-skewer triangular hot-rod made that way which provides a very solid grip. Andrew

Drumstick tipper

The Drumstick tipper is made, as the name suggests, from the end of a drumset stick. simply cut it to length. Easy peasy.

I'm also experimenting with adding rubber tips on the 'butt' end. There are two main reasons, firstly, it gives a warmer sound if played as the bottom end, however mostly because it feels like a better weight balance. This is for Single-end style of play. I don't know of anyone else yet who uses this style of tipper and grip so I'm unsure of anyone else's experiences.

I used a 7a stick which is quite thin for drumset, there are thinner available. This tipper is heavier overall than my normal tippers and I use it for practise. The use of a heavier stick for practise is commonplace to promote control because it takes more control to play with. The benefit is that when you return to the lighter stick it's all much easier.

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