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Bow hair not flat? Violin bow knowledge wanted

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by friedtransistor, Jan 22, 2014.

  1. Hey, just wondered your opinions on this. I don't play double bass, or anything bowed for that matter. I was just trying to make a violin, and needed bow to use for it. I got one for about $7, and it just came yesterday. I noticed after I primed it with rosin it had a few loose hairs. Well, loose monofilament, but still. So I plucked them off, but there are still some threads that aren't lying flat. I don't have my violin finished, so I tested it on my guitar's high e string. Sounds good, but now I finally arive at my question. Would it be fine if I pulled the hair off, and put it back in flat, removing what strands I need to to fit the width of the tip and frog? I mean, I wouldn't undo the knot at the tip, just pull it out to smooth it out. Also, the frog is as far forward as it can go, so I just unscrew it all the way and put a rubberband around it to keep it from falling out. I assume this is just a humidity issue as I have read elsewhere?
  2. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    If the frog is as far forward as it can go (I'm assuming "forward" is referring to towards the tip, not the button) then how much tension is on the hair right now? Usually you tighten the bow in order to achieve playing tension, and the guideline often given is tight enough that when you play your loudest dynamic, the bow almost "bottoms out" on the hair. Having an even band of hair is much more important at playing tension and even with a good rehair, when the hair is not at tension there will be a few that aren't completely flat with the others.

    Attempting to fix this by removing the hair from the tip is not something I would recommend. You run a good chance of creating a whole lot more problems than you currently have. Most cheaper bows have very poor fitting plugs that are glued (instead of properly tension fit) into very poorly cut mortises. You are likely looking at some minor bow surgery just to get the hair back in even if you are competent at cutting plugs for rehairs, and without removing and retying the knot, there really isn't anything you can do up there.

    If it is just a few hairs, you can break them off by cutting the hair somewhere in the middle, holding the head or the frog so you don't break them off when pulling on the hair, and pulling away from the middle of the bow. If you have already lost a significant amount of hair in the bow, you can heat the offending hairs to get them to shrink back into the band. You will need a small wick alcohol lamp or another clean burning small flame that is self supporting. With the hair up to tension, slowly bring the hair towards the heat with the offending hairs the closest to the flame. Keep the bow moving so you don't burn anything. With just the right amount of heat, the hair will shrink back up to meet the rest of it. Be very careful with this, as you can burn all the hair off (or melt all the "hair") really easily if you get too hot too fast.

    My guess is that with the bow at playing tension you should have most of the hair pretty even, and you can use one of the two above suggestions to get the rest there. If that isn't the case, then you're looking at a new bow. A rehair is going to cost you at least $40-80 for a violin bow, so you'd be better off starting over again with a better bow.
  3. Thank you for the response.
    I do mean toward the tip, sorry about that. When I seat the frog and put the button back in till it catches, the hair is pretty much at playing tension. As for how flat the hairs are, looking down the length of it I can see little peaks. I've pulled out a few hairs already that were kinked and misshapen, so I'm really not comfortable pulling off more without rearanging them. Although I am surprised to hear that the plugs may be glued in, not set in. I'm really not willing to take the risk right now, as I have little experiance with wood, and cheap wood at that. Give me a handful of electronic part, a pcb, and a soldering iron, and I can move the world (ok, not quite what Archimedes said, but you get what I meant), but give me a block of wood and a blade and I will just massacre it. Although I have learned a lot working on this violin neck. I bought a set of (cheap) chisels, though, which is helpful. Plus oak is very forgiving. Unless you go parallel with the grain, that is... :/

    Although, I'm equally not willing to have to pay someone to do islt since I can find bow hair for like $3 on ebay. But since it's ok for now, I'll just leave it and see. I might try that heating technique at some point. I have an electric space heater that put out a pretty focused stream of hot air (just like me!).
  4. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    At this point, I would say a picture (or a few) is worth a thousand words. Being able to see how much tension you have on the bow, how loose the offending hair is, how necessary "rearranging" the hair might be etc. would be helpful. While it sounds like you might be in a situation where your bow needs a rehair, it might not be as bad as I am envisioning it to be.

    When it comes to plugs being glued in instead of tension fit, it is a way for unskilled labour to cut corners. Factories can "train" someone to glue in a pre-cut plug that doesn't fit properly a lot quicker and cheaper than someone to properly fit plugs. It also means that the mortises don't have to be as precise, as the glue is holding the plug in place. Again, cheaper, easier etc. The cost of good quality materials to make a violin bow in North America is around $200. That is before a single man hour, or any of the tools and knowledge come into play. At $7 for your bow, there definitely have been some corners cut.

    I would equate a rehair to anything else you pay a skilled labourer for. While the material costs might be rather low, you are paying for the time and knowledge of the person doing the work, just like taking your car to the mechanic, hiring a plumber, electrician etc. If you are really interested in learning how to rehair bows, there are resources out there that will walk you through it, and courses you can take to learn it. A lot of violin shops "pay their rent" in rehairs alone, as they come in the door very frequently, a skilled bow maker can do them fairly quickly, and yes the material costs are fairly low.

    I am not trying to scare you away from anything. A rehair isn't completely rocket science, but it is a skill that you need to spend a fair amount of time learning to do well that requires some fairly specific tools, which will tip the cost/benefit scale way too far for a one off attempt. It is kind of like going out to get all the tools/knowledge it would take to run an automotive shop. If you plan on using them regularly and doing a lot of work, they can pay for themselves fairly quickly. If not, it is a lot of sunk cost.

    I am guessing your space heater would be much too hot to use to shrink up the hair. You would be better off with one of those little "tea light" candles if you don't have a small alcohol flame. You need very little heat in a very small area. I fear your heater would be a little like using a jack hammer to put in a finishing nail, for lack of a better analogy.