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do bow sticks age?

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by Hortense&bow, Apr 17, 2002.

  1. Hortense&bow


    Apr 15, 2002
    Hi All,

    Can the stick of a wooden bow age and loose it's qualities?

    I've had a pernambuco(?) french bow with a round stick for 12 years or so, it's signed Peasold, bought in Paris. The best I thought reasonable for my wallet at the time ~300$ (my teacher's bow felt much more pleasant and easy but was way out of my league).

    I got it rehaired recently like I've been doing evry year for the past 4-5 years with black hair. The good feeling of new hair did not last more than a few days, and find my bow slow and I can't get the precision I am looking for.
    Is it possible that the stick has aged? (I bow 15 to 20 hours a week) or can the new hair be of lesser quality or set-up too loose, which makes me tighten the screw more and force the stick to be too straight and too stiff?
    Or is it time for me to get a better bow, though I tend to think that my technique , not my gear is what limits me?

  2. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    This is impossible to diagnose over the internet, but over time, a bow can lose its camber. I don't know of a permanent treatment for this.

    Bad hair might be another problem. If it's not gripping or holding rosin, that could be a reason for your "lack of precision." Do you usually play with a lot of tension in the hair?

    I'd hang on to the bow and see if another rehair works. A $300 pernambuco bow is a rarity these days.
  3. Well new bow hair usually (almost always sucks) and needs a week to break in and hold the rosin the way I like. Did you have your usual guy do the rehair?

    Bows, over time, can lose their camber (like Chris said), or become warped. AFAIK, this only happens if the tension is never or rarely released.

    One of my bows is about 80 years old and plays and sounds great.
  4. Hortense&bow


    Apr 15, 2002
    thanks for your insights.

    I don't think holding rosin is a problem; I have had
    the new hair on for a few weeks now; I usually don't like to play with a lot of rosin anyway.
    For the tension, I think I have been increasing the tension little by little over the past few years; I am aware I tended to do that especially when the hair was getting old to try and compensate for whatever I feel I am loosing when the hair gets old.

    It's been the same guy who did my bow several times. He says it's a nice bow. He does most of his work , both instruments and bows, on lesser quality gear I guess, for schools and so on. He did some
    regluing of an old crack that had dried out and some minor bridge setup a couple of times on my bass after I brought it from France and it ajusted to the eastern Canadian climate... But he sent me to someone else when I mentionned maybe getting a C-extension because he sayed my bass was to nice to goof of. Turns ou that the guy he sent me to makes bows; I haven't talked to him yet; I should bring him my bow and maybe also try some of his to compare the feeling.

    My bow will never be the bow of my dreams. I still remember my teacher's bow back in France; that's the one I'm dreaming of! Very light, did not feel like
    you had anything in hand, but it was making the strings sound as if your brain was commanding them! I settled for mine as "good enough " for me and my skills.

  5. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    I would guess it's the hair or perhaps bad rosin.

    As far as old bows go my bow rehair guy says mine is around a 100 years old and it is still good. It is nothing special almost not worth a rehair job but it works fine. It real stained white wood form some where. :)

    You did not run your fingers down the bow hair did you? People oil is hard on bow hair.

  6. Hortense&bow


    Apr 15, 2002
    Nop, I did not touch the hair.
    I use Pop's rosin. My tub is old though; went
    through many temperature changes ( in my car especially); maybe I should get some new rosin.
    Any prefered brand?

  7. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    I'd question the hair. It's not enough just to be Siberian or Mongolian. There are gradations of quality.
    As for the rosin, the biggest vote getter is Swedish, either Carlsson or Nyman.
  8. Hortense&bow


    Apr 15, 2002
    Thanks for the tip on the rosin, Don.

    This morning I tried with less tension on the hair and I found I got a more precise response form the strings. Funny, it seems counter-intuitive to me.

    I'll get the local bow maker have a look at the hair and see what his take is.

    I have been browsing around to look at some bows on the web. I am amazed by the huge price range, even only among the pernambuco sticks.
    The higher end ones seem to have all the little pieces made of precious material like gold, mastodon bones and whatnot. If there is any bow maker reading this they're going to scream: if I am looking for a good bow, I am not after jewlery or antiques!
    Do these material actually contribute to the musical qualities of the bow (even just because of their density?) or is it just aesthetics and tradition.
    Would it be possible to get a very good bow at a more affordable price by having one mad with a very good stick but with accessory pieces made of slightly less precious material? Could it make a difference or is most of the cost the maker's time?

  9. The lapping (what the stick is wrapped with eg. silver and leather) helps balance the stick making it easier to play. These materials and any pearl on the frog actually contribute very little to whatever the cost of the bow is.

    Most of the cost of a pernambuco bow is in the stick. Pernambuco is rare, and pernambuco suitable for a bow is many times rarer.
  10. Tim Ludlam

    Tim Ludlam

    Dec 19, 1999
    Carmel, IN
    I thought I read an article on Reid Hudson, and supposedly pernambuco is no longer commercially available (i.e., harvested).

    So now, all the modern bowmakers have to go in search of existing caches of the wood.
  11. Any bow that has good wood can be recambered by a competent bow maker/repairer.
  12. Hortense&bow


    Apr 15, 2002
    It seems wise to hang on to old pernambuco bows then. It may even be smart to invest now on a good one before prices become prohibitive!

    A quick question: does a stiffer stick give a better bow, or is the stiffness a matter a personnal preference?

  13. While stiffer and more flexible sticks will certainly feel different (I know, I have one of both), I think it's impossible to say one is better than the other based on that quality alone. My two bows have a large disparity in weight and are cambered differently. That all effects the way the bows play.

    And to summize KPO and Sue Lipkens, and maybe other's posts in another forum, when it comes to upgrading bows, forget personal preference and adapt to the better bow. I recently did this myself too after realizing the bow I'd had around for a back-up sounded better and grabbed the string a little better than what I'd been using as my main bow.
  14. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Hey, you made me register!

    A little about bow hair- the hair should grip a little better when slightly loose, this is because if the hair is too tight, the rosin doesn't get a chance to grip the string, it just deflects off, or skims.

    Rosin- What kind of music do you play? (this question you should ask yourself about bow hair too!)
    I think pops is great for "stickier" playing, when accuracy counts, but find it easier to express myself using carlson, when I need to be lyrical.

    If you need a really good bow hair, send it to robertson & son's in albequerque Sp?
    1-800-A-Violin. Those guys will do you right.
    Talk to them on the phone about the climate where you live, how much hair, what kind, etc, then put a note with your bow detailing your conversation.

    They cost a little more, but will do it right, they also keep current on all the latest bass stuff, and do probably the best bass repair work in the country- you've seen edgar meyer's bass

    Also, if you are looking for an affordable, playable bow, check out jean grunberger's carbon bows about $800, they play better than a lot of more expensive bows- especially if you want a lighter stick that is very well balanced, or check out a bow by prochownik sp? His wood bows are affordable, and he worked with Grunberger.

    If you have any questions, ask, I have tried just about everything.

    Good luck on your quest
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