In 1958, Dr. Roger Bacon carried samples of his newly invented material into the Naval Ordnance Lab. He wanted official ASTM specifications for his carbon fiber, or ‘graphite whiskers’, and Stan Prosen was the man to do it – he had developed the standards after all. Stan fashioned the carbon fiber into a standard-sized test ring. What his tests revealed, though, was anything but standard; this was a revolutionary new material. In his notebook, Stan scribed the prescient if understated memo: “strength and modulus of carbon-based fiber indicates that such fibers will soon outperform glass and other fibers in composite structures.” And then—perhaps in his excitement—he dropped the ring. It hit the floor, bouncing back almost to its original height. It was not just the remarkable efficiency of that bounce that caught his attention, however, but the sound of the ring produced against the tile floor – a tone remarkably clear and sustained, unlike anything he had ever heard before.
Within twenty years, high-performance carbon fiber was revolutionizing industries as diverse as medical technology, aviation, architecture, and recreation, making it one of the most significant material advances of the twentieth century. But Stan, who came from a musical family, was still thinking of the sound of that ring drop in his laboratory and how to harness its acoustic properties to make beautiful music.
Early prototypes of the CodaBow were born in the attic laboratory of a dormant liniment factory in Winona, Minnesota. Amidst the hand-blown flasks and graduated cylinders, the makers gathered their ingredients. Some ingredients, like graphite-fiber technology, were new to bowmaking, yet some were as old as bowmaking itself: a passion for the art, a dedication to the science, and an uncompromising commitment to performance. In all our craft, CodaBow continues to honor the significant historical events that pioneered the modern bow, whether two decades ago creating prototypes in an attic, five decades ago testing a new advanced material in a lab, or two centuries ago in a Parisian workshop where M.Tourte revolutionized the concept of a stringed bow.
During all those years, CodaBow founder Stan Prosen held onto that original carbon fiber test ring, the one whose remarkable tone first inspired the idea for a new type of bow. It sits in the CodaBow Workshop today, a reminder of our origins, and a continuing source of inspiration.