Bow winding and grips

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by mmoehring, Aug 7, 2013.

  1. mmoehring


    Jun 25, 2012
    East Texas
    When it comes to bow repairs and rehairs, my favorite thing to do are grips and winding. I wanted get an idea from my fellow bassists what your favorite winding was. I want you to set aside weight and balance of the bow and give me your answer based solely on aesthetics and usage. Lets assume whatever winging and grip you choose makes your bow perfectly weighted and balanced.

    Here are some options. List more if you have another preference.

    Imitation whalebone
    Silver winding, thin or thick
    Silk thread winding

    Cow leather: black standard
    Lizard leather
    Thick surgical rubber tubing

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts! Attaching photos would be fun too
  2. mmoehring


    Jun 25, 2012
    East Texas

    For a bass bow I really like a thick silver winding with a thick cow leather grip. I like the grip to be built up a little for extra comfort.

    During college I used the rubber tubing and found myself with more comfort but less control(probably had to do with added weight at the frog).

    I really like the silk thread winding look but not on a bass bow.
  3. Edvin


    Feb 25, 2010
    i like it naked!!
  4. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    As someone who also works on bows, I really enjoy silk. You can do a lot with it, make a really great signature, and it really adds some "flare" for lack of a better term.

    A LOT of players have a strong opinion one way or another about it. You can really feel the response of the bow with it, it is beautiful, and often was a way for makers in the old "factories" to distinguish their work from others. On the flip side, some think it looks cheap because it isn't silver or gold, which is largely because of the over saturation of bows with silver on the market, regardless of whether or not their weight and balance require it. But that's another post...

    As a German bow player, I prefer my bows to be unwound. I have a bow that has, and needs a silver winding. I prefer to have the stick balanced, and if any extra weight is required, have it in/behind my hand in the frog and button.

    I use goat leather for the traditional black look. I also have some beaver tail I occasionally use, in brown or black. It has a nice figure to it, similar to lizard, and is extremely tough.

    My two cents. If you have a preference as a player, why? Feel? Look? Sound?
  5. Fran Diaz

    Fran Diaz

    Mar 28, 2002
    Santander, Spain
    +1...and if I can choose, no eyelet either.
  6. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    I used my bow without a grip for about 20 years. A few years ago, I tried a silver wire grip, which in my case, dampened the tone a bit and changed the balance slightly.

    When I got it repaired and restored, Jerry Pasewicz, after some discussion, did a lovely job with a silk grip of alternating colors. Sort of a dark green/black pattern.

    Feels and works great, doesn't mute the sound, and didn't affect the balance noticeably. Sort of the best of all worlds, for me.

    Post #19 has a photos, with the silk:
  7. Fran Diaz

    Fran Diaz

    Mar 28, 2002
    Santander, Spain
    Eric, That's a beautiful job. I suppose that french bows really need a grip, what I don't understand is why many players use that latex tube on beautiful, expensive bows. Shouldn't already be a more elegant solution?
  8. gerry grable

    gerry grable

    Nov 9, 2010
    The French bow I bought in 1961 for $125 (a lot of money for me at the time!) has what I had always thought was black and white striped plastic. Later, someone told me it was baleen or whale bone. Who knows? It still looks like plastic to me.
    Do bow makers still use baleen? I would think not with the laudable policies of protecting sea mammals.
  9. mmoehring


    Jun 25, 2012
    East Texas
    I agree with you about the silk. I do it a lot on violin, viola and cello bows but many times for balance reasons I am not able to on basses. When I do windings sometimes bass players ask for the whalebone because they think its a standard. That's why I started this post. It's all about education, teaching them there is a reason for each winding. Thanks for all the responses.
  10. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Great responses! and some really good questions too.

    Rubber tubing: This is often used by players who have injured their hands. In this case, it can be a career saver. It opens up the hand more, which puts different stress on different muscles, and can really get you back in the game. In moderation (short ones, just big enough to bridge the frog and the stick where your thumb will go) do add a couple of grams of weight at best, and upwards of 4-6 grams if someone gets carried away. This can move the balance point significantly, which often negates the benefit of the tubing. If I am doing a repair/weight and balance adjustment for someone who I know uses rubber tubing, I definitely encourage them to use a smaller amount, and take its weight into consideration when adjusting the balance.

    Other people use it because it feels comfortable, because their teacher uses it, etc. and often do not require it. Don't get me started on the cellists that use the huge long ones.

    Whale Bone: Technically Baleen, and yes it was used historically. There are still some old bows that have real baleen on them, and it was very popular among English makers. What you see now is most often plastic. This is because of the ethical/legal reasons why most people chose not to use real stuff. It has a weight between silk and silver, which is very handy for bows that need it. It is much thicker than silver or silk, so it opens up the hand and can be a benefit for much the same reason as silver and silk. It also looks fairly similar to the original whale bone seen on some English bows, and is aesthetically one of the many choices available.

    There are a handful of people out there that are still using real whale bone. some claim that they had old stocks of it from before whaling was a legal problem, some actually do, some have found other ways to procure it. Much like tortoise shell frogs, or elephant ivory tips, they can still be found. Spend a couple of seconds on the internet. Googling whale baleen, the first four autofill results I was given?
    Whale Baleen
    Whale Baleen for sale
    Whale Baleen value
    Whale Baleen price
    There are a lot of people doing horrible things in the world.

    HOWEVER, historically, most people where not at all concerned with conservation of any of the materials used in bow making. There are actually accounts of conservationists hunting Elephants, because they believed that they were responsible for the devastation of grasslands in Africa. Tortoise was, and still is in parts of the world a food source. Hawksbill sea turtles (the species often used for tortoise shell frogs, combs, and other decorative uses) were hunted for this purpose by Ancient Greeks. Likewise, whales were used for oil and food, and the baleen was used in corsets and many other things. NO ONE gave a second thought to the preservation of these species, largely because the turtles and whales came out of the ocean, and obviously the ocean is huge and infinitely full of resources. We know better now.

    Unfortunately, most of the wood we use for bows, (Pernambuco and Ebony but other species such as Snakewood, Lignum Vitae, and basically any rain forest hardwood) are in bad shape too. Brazilian Mahogany is considered "commercially extinct" yet many guitar companies decided to pack up and go to Africa, where they could still find something similar. A lot of bow makers have started a huge conservation and reforestation effort to attempt to save Pernambuco, and are also looking at Ebony and other woods and hoping to be able to preserve them as well. Some people are still buying and selling illegal wood, and don't care. I am not saying we should stop using Pernambuco for bows, it is a great resource, but we should be doing much more than we are to protect it.

    Moral of the story? If you are concerned about the ethical/legal nature of the materials used on your bow, (and you should be) talk to the maker if you are purchasing/commissioning a new bow. If you are getting a repair done that involves potentially troublesome material, ask the shop what they use. There are alternatives to everything. MOST shops/makers will not use elephant ivory, tortoise shell, whale baleen, some endangered animal leather for thumb grips etc. but if you don't get an answer you are happy with, walk away.

    Sorry for being long winded. I have mentioned Pernambuco being endangered to several string players, and a lot of them had no idea. Education is the first step towards real change.
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