Bow cases: a big racket, and an unexpected solution

Most cello-related equipment is expensive. There’s a good reason for this: good craftsmanship costs money, and playing the cello is enough of a minority activity that people making our equipment aren’t ever going to make a fortune doing so.

Even so, I resent spending megabucks on something that doesn’t do much. The case in point? Bow cases. Even not-very-good ones, with the flimsy latches and the ill-fitting interiors, cost around $50, a sum that is not inconsiderable for many freelance musicians. The fancy bow cases can go for $200 or more.

I had cause to shop for bow cases recently, since mine had broken (I’d bought one of the cheap ones). I was planning to borrow cellos on an upcoming international trip to spare myself the expense and trauma of flying with the cello, but wanted to bring my own bows so that I could maintain some control over my equipment. That was when I realized that the whole thing was a big racket.

I’m about to let you in on a fabulous discovery I’ve made. You don’t have to pay the big bucks for this stuff. You don’t need this Pedi bow tube, which retails for $106, even though it boasts real leather, space for two bows, a shoulder strap, waterproofing and so on.

You know what else does all these things for a fraction of the price? A Minnesota Fats billiard cue case, which I bought from Kmart for $17.95.

I’m feeling incredibly pleased with myself for making this discovery, which happened entirely by accident. On a recent flight to Europe, where I took my bows in my old bow case before its untimely demise, an airport security official asked me if I was carrying pool cues, since these would be considered a weapon on an aeroplane. I showed him my bows and he let me through, but the whole thing got me thinking, and when I got back to America I went to a sports store to investigate.

You might wonder if such a thing would be sufficiently protective of your prized bows, but I can assure you that it is. The shell is just as hard as that of a bow case, and the ends have padding in them.

Here’s a picture of how the case looks: exactly like a bow case, since cello bows are approximately the same length as billiard cues.

Minnesota Fats billiard cue case

Minnesota Fats billiard cue case

Here’s a picture of it with two bows in it. As you can see, the bows are just as swaddled and protected as they would be in a designated bow tube.

With two bows inside

With two bows inside

…and it even has a little compartment for your rosin. I’m sure the makers would be astonished to know that this is what I use it for, but it works.

Rosin compartment

Rosin compartment

Billiard cue cases—you heard it here first. And you’re welcome.

UPDATE: Google has informed me that I did not, in fact, dream up this idea. I suppose I’ve needlessly reinvented the wheel here. Oh well, it was the first time I’d heard of anyone using a billiard cue case for a bow, and I was pretty happy about it.