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Long term bow storage?

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by gerry grable, Nov 30, 2013.

  1. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    Quick question:
    What is the best way to store a bow if it isn't going to be used for an extended length of time? I have good bow and want to keep it that way. I won't be using it for at least six months to a year.

    Would it be better to hang it from a peg-- in safe, dry, airy place of course? Or, should I keep it leaning in a safe corner, in its blue, Lemur Music hard case?

  2. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    Good question! I actually have mine stored in a pool stick case, but interested to hear comments!
  3. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Clean the bow. A dry cloth should be able to get rid of most of the rosin. If it's really caked on there, you can use a very mild alcohol and water solution (think 1 part alcohol to 4 parts water) with just a little dot on a rag to wipe down the stick to get the rosin off. Be careful to keep the alcohol away from the hair, but you are likely going to need a rehair when it comes "out of retirement" anyway.

    Loosen the hair as much as possible. If this means the hair is dangling pretty loose, you should be fine. If not, remove the frog from the stick. If the hair is not loosened, (it also shrinks with decreased humidity) you can risk warping the bow/removing the camber. Your bow should be staying in a climate controlled environment anyway, but this is just a secondary precaution. If you remove the frog, wrap the button and the eyelet in paper towel. This prevents the screw from scratching the frog/stick, and any grease getting on the bow as well. Keep the button with the bow. This seems like common sense, but a lot of bows have lost their original buttons. They aren't cheap to replace and if it's a handmade bow you plan on selling down the road, you lose a lot of value if it does not have an original button.

    Store it in a place out of sunlight and away from heat sources like radiators and vents. Your bow was originally a straight piece of wood before it was heated and the camber was added, so exposing it to heat (leaving it on a radiator over the winter or in direct sunlight) can cause problems. If you have kids/pets/other energetic activities, keep it away from that too. The case does provide extra protection, so I would recommend that over hanging the bow somewhere.

    The big thing that you are doing with all of the above is protecting the camber of the bow. Otherwise, it really takes care of itself.
  4. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    Mike ,
    Thank you for taking the time to answer my seemingly trivial questions regarding bow storage. Clear and to the point, I intend to follow them to the letter.
    I also read, with great interest, your concurrent post on the identification of unmarked bows such as mine. Your posts are always well-written and informative, great additions to TB.
    Thanks again,
  5. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    Yep, MikeCanada covered it. I'd take a toothbrush to the hair to remove excess rosin and any grime.
  6. Sorry, but this part is all wrong.

    First of all, there is absolutely no reason to remove the frog for storage purposes. Secondly, if you loosen the hair completely there is no way the hair will be usable when you come back to it. Hair will gradually stretch and shrink on its own with changes in weather. If they are under a little tension, they are more likely to do this at the same rate. If they are loose, they will do so independent of each other. This means that when you reapply tension later, some of the hairs will be very tight while others have still be loose. Hair in such a state is useless.
  7. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    Right - no need to remove the frog. Remove tension. Clean it up. Store in a climate neutral place.
  8. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Depending on how tight your hair is, you can likely get away without removing the frog. Most bows, especially after they have been played for a while, have very little to no tension on them when the frog is completely loosened.

    Climate is a big factor. Bow makers in areas where climate fluctuates dramatically (Southern Canada, New England etc.) rehair bows with the current season in mind. Slightly long in the winter to allow the hair to shrink, and slightly short in the summer to allow the hair to stretch. This is usually a difference of 2-4mm at most. If the bow is going into storage in the middle of the winter/driest period with little tension on it, it will be fine. If it has a bit of tension on it and is going into storage in the summer/highest humidity, you are asking for trouble. Regardless, by putting it in storage with very loose hair or disengaging the frog, you are greatly reducing the possibility of the stick warping. If you live in an area where climate does not fluctuate nearly as much, the hair will not shrink and stretch to the same extent. In that case removing the frog is not necessary, and there is less risk to the bow.

    I agree with Paul that the hair will behave as individual hairs instead of as a band/ribbon while in storage. I also agree that if it is in storage long enough or experiencing enough humidity fluctuations, the hair may not be usable when it comes out of storage. The hair will do this anyway. Even if you have a fresh rehair right before it goes into storage, if the bow is being stored for a year or more, it will need a rehair. Hair has a life span when in a bow. With very frequent use it will need replaced sooner, but even in storage it will lose natural moisture, decompose, become brittle, and break.

    Your bow might not warp even if it is under more tension than it arguably should be while in storage. The more tension, the greater the risk, but some bows can live at tension for long periods of time without experiencing problems. The reason that I am advocating for the above is because fixing a warped stick is a much more dangerous and costly repair than a rehair. If there is a knot, crack, irregular grain, or previous repair where the stick is warped, very few makers will attempt to straighten the bow. Recambering a bow is a dangerous procedure at the best of times and with the added risk of the above, the stick most likely will not survive. On the other hand a rehair carries much less risk, is significantly cheaper, and will be required after extended storage anyway.

    Paul is right for shorter periods of storage and in less dramatic climates than my own. This is why we "store" our bows this way between regular use. Over longer periods of time in more dynamic climates, the health of the stick becomes more of a factor/concern, and the hair is often "sacrificed" as a compromise.
  9. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    What's the general rule of thumb on the number of hours played between re-hairs. My bow seems to be working fine, but I've never had re-haired and I play at least a couple of hours a day on it so I suspect I'm due.
  10. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    I have my bow rehaired once a year. Many pro symphony players may go every 6 months or fewer.

    You could go longer than a year but you may have lost hair, or it may stretched or just gotten diet so I think once a year is good.

    BUT shop and ask around for people who are good at it. In the Chicago area I've found that price does not necessarily correlate with quality.