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Das Creakin Solvin...

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by Don Kasper, Mar 13, 2014.

  1. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    The topic of "Teflon Tape" appeared in a "thread"/thread down in "Setup and Repair" today ( "Loose Tip").

    I've used Teflon Tape, (as used in the Plumbing Trade), to eliminate the "creaking" of the bow screw that occurs on almost every German bow I've owned. I wrap enough layers of Teflon Tape on the bow screw, (ONLY on the un-threaded section of the bow screw), to eliminate the "slop" in the thru-hole ( in the stick), that the screw passes thru. This slop is usually the source of that "creaking". Trial and Error is used to wrap a flat, consistent layer of just enough tape to eliminate the looseness/slop.
    You're Welcome.
  2. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Don, which hole at which end of the screw is that "slop" occurring in? Is it the hole at the very end of the stick with the nipple that connects to the button, or the opposite hole on the stick side of the bow?

    I have seen some bows where one or both of these holes is significantly larger than it should be. That can be the result of a replacement screw that was not the proper size, poorly aligned holes, eyelets that are too loose or too tight etc. and I wouldn't say it is limited just to German bows. If one (or both) of the holes are considerably too big or misaligned, the bow would benefit from the hole(s) being filled and re-drilled. These are some of the most structurally fragile parts of the bow because so much wood has been removed to facilitate the screw, which is why it is so important that the holes are the right size.

    The "creaking" sound is not coming from that space additional space, but that space is providing a resonating chamber for the sound. The "creak" is coming from you turning the button, and it rubbing against the wood at the end of the stick. Because of the tension, the button is grabbing and releasing the stick in much the same way the hair grabs and releases your bass strings, creating sound. It is more prevalent in German buttons than other bows, because usually the contact is wood on wood, and there isn't as much silver (if any) to dampen the acoustic properties of the wood. If the hole at the nipple is too big, then the sound can travel through it and resonate there, and in the mortise in the stick, creating the audible creak. By filling the space with tape, you are reducing the resonance in much the same way that drummers used to put blankets or pillows in their bass drums. In a sense, this is treating the symptom, not the disease.

    Other than the hole being too big, (which is disconcerting in itself) I would be worried about eliminating all of the space. There is intentionally a little extra left because the wood of the stick shrinks and expands with changes in humidity, where the screw does not. If you had a rather prevalent creak when the hole had expanded to its largest, and filled that space with the tape, you could be in trouble when the hole shrinks back down and there is no room for it to do so. No one likes cracks in bows.
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  4. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Hi Mike,

    The slop is in the thru-hole at the very end of the stick, not the blind hole past the mortise.
    The "creaking" does not occur during tightening of the screw, but occasionally during playing, as my grip calls for a space between the edge of the frog and the inside of my palm, which causes the button/endscrew joint, (where the stick meets the button), to come into contact with the top edge of my hand.

    I agree that the sound is the result of the nipple and the button surfaces rubbing, much like a fingernail on a chalkboard. The slop allows the button/endscrew to move laterally, against the nipple, and causes the creak. By eliminating most of the slop, I limit the ability of those 2 surfaces to move laterally and rub/chafe/creak.

    I have never noticed a change in the sound of the bow by adding the tape, as the stick and button are still acoustically coupled at the nipple/button joint - I've simply eliminated the ability of those 2 surfaces to move laterally(?). I don't think I've dampened the system very much, if at all. (I may be misunderstanding your "blanket or pillows" analogy, here). By "filling the space with tape", as you say, I'm simply replicating what an ideal hole diameter would be in a "perfect" bow, one that would allow a minimum of both slop and resulting lateral movement. The tape is very forgiving - it is very thin and compresses and crushes easily - I think you'd have to really "over-pack" and over-fill that space to risk causing a crack due to humidity expansion and contraction. I've never had a crack, (of any kind), in any of the bows that I've owned.
    Also - Do bowmakers use any lubricant ( wax, maybe), at the joint between the nipple/button, (when it is "wood-wood"), to eliminate the potential for creaking?

    Thanks for your time, expertise and civility - I always enjoy your detailed and insightful responses.
  5. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Thank you as well for answering my questions in detail, and letting me know exactly what is happening. It helps that we are talking about the same spot and that we agree that it is the "wood on wood" contact that is causing the sound. Given my bow hold and my small hand size, I do not usually come in contact with the button while playing although I definitely see how a lot of other players would.

    Now, I am wondering not only about the size of the hole at the end of the stick, but the integrity of the nipple on the end of the stick. When making a bow, the nipple is one of the last things that is cut. With the hole the right diameter (typically leaving 1/5th-1/10th of a millimetre of room for the wood to shrink and expand) the nipple is cut in order to hold the button in place. If properly sized, it should prevent the button from wobbling around and in this case, creaking. When you remove the button from your stick, it is hollowed out a bit around the screw, and the nipple is cut so it fits snug inside that hollow. If you are familiar with woodworking, (or are looking for something to google if this all sounds like French to you) it functions similar to a mortise and tenon joint.

    A lot of older bows have a significantly smaller than original nipple left on them, as they have been worn away with time. That happens as the hole expands in the many ways previously mentioned removing wood from the inside. As the hole expands, the screw can move more and the walls of the button rub against the outer edge of the nipple. Because Ebony and especially silver on buttons with rings are both harder than the Pernambuco of the stick, the nipple suffers instead of the button. This also adds to the potential for movement. When I previously mentioned filling and re-drilling the hole, that repair can often involve removing a bit of original wood so the plug that is fit is wide enough to facilitate adding a new nipple. That repair is pretty much the same repair as if there was a crack in that end of the stick, but it both prevents the crack and doesn't devalue the bow. It is one of many preventative repairs that very rarely happens on bows, because it doesn't directly alter the playing characteristics.

    I am not familiar with Teflon tape, but if it compresses/compacts well, then you likely wouldn't have a problem. I assumed that you would not intentionally over pack the tape, but I was worried that the tape might not be overly forgiving, and thus potentially a problem.

    I guess I wasn't particularly clear when I was trying to explain the resonance/sound issue. While bow woods are very much tone woods, and there are things that can be done to alter the resonance of a bow, (windings/leathers are one of the things that come to mind, but that's another topic for another day) in this case I am not talking about the playing characteristics of the bow. Filling that space with wood or tape is not going to dramatically alter the bow's sound.

    The "resonating chamber" I was referring to is basically a tiny instrument that has been created at the end of the bow. the wood rubbing against the wood is the source of the sound, and the hole in the end of the stick as well as the mortise is creating that "resonating chamber" functioning as a tiny little instrument. With an enlarged hole, there is a bigger "body" to the "instrument" which allows it to produce a bigger sound. When you fix that problem, either by adding wood or tape, you not only make the creak smaller because it has less space to move around, but you significantly reduce the "body" of the "instrument" because you have filled in the space. So you are basically solving two closely related problems with one repair.

    Hopefully that makes a bit more sense. Explaining some of these things in words isn't all that easy. I am considering getting a decent camera to document some of these types of situations, because pictures can make it a lot clearer.
  6. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Hi Mike,

    I think you've correctly identified the underlying problem - the nipple is worn down and no longer prevents the button from wobbling. I've done some wood/metal-working and am familiar with your mortise and tenon description. At some point I guess I should have the stick filled and re-drilled to create a more accurate thru hole and nipple.
    The bow in question is a no-name "2nd" bow that I keep coming back to and liking - I've had it for over 30 years and don't even remember how much I paid for it - all I know is that I like it better than a Robert Reichel bow that I bought 20 years ago and keep "trying to like"...Live and learn. I did have a Reid Hudson bow, ( circa late 1990's ), that I loved, that I, (Idiot!), was forced to sell. Live and learn. (It's the "learning" part that I seem to have trouble with).
    Thanks for clarifying the "resonating chamber" concept - I see what you were getting at...
    Finally, I agree - words are sometimes......what's the word..."inadequate/cumbersome", compared to a photograph.
  7. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Filling and drilling would definitely help the health of the bow. I worked on a bow fairly recently that had a very enlarged hole in the nipple and a very large and poorly aligned hole in the stick. As a result, the side walls of the mortise were damaged because the eyelet had be wobbling around, the eyelet was stripped because the screw was going in on an angle, the frog was loose because of all of this... You get the picture how one "small" problem can turn into several. Your tape solution is more than likely helping to prevent a lot of those other problems from happening, or from them getting any worse if they have already started to happen.

    There are some really lucky players out there with "no name" bows. I have played a few that have really impressed me, but they can be tough for both buyer and seller, because it's hard to put a price on something you can't really identify. I know a few players that have Reid Hudson bows from the same time period, and in a lot of ways that seemed to be the perfect time to get one. The price wasn't what they are today, and he was absolutely at the top of his game as a maker.

    One day when I get a government grant or something, I would really like to collect some bows and stories from modern makers. While a lot of the pedigree bows are fantastic, it seems like no one is working to preserve the history of modern bow making. It would be a real shame if all we are left with is a few fragmented anecdotes like those we have of guys like Joseph Kun and Lawrence LaMay. Something along the line of Christopher Brown's "Discovering Bows for the Double Bass" but more with chapters on makers instead of a few paragraphs.