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Should I try a rehair on a cheap bow?

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by Nate74, Jun 5, 2012.

  1. First, let me say I play 99.9% pizz. I got a Glasser bow for one single song that my current Irish/Pub band is doing and the rest of the time I use it for fencing gestures towards the drummer, etc.

    With that level of seriousness in mind, I wasn't that picky when I bought some rosin and ended up with Pop's, since that was all the local Sam Ash carried.

    Fast forward to last month sometime when I noticed the hairs on my bow were all sticking together and turning greyish green. Also the notes weren't coming as easily when I played arco. The fiddle player (who is a real violinist but enjoys Guinness) said that my rosin had maybe gone "bad" and that I might need a rehair and then new good rosin. Paying $75-$100 to rehair a $50 bow obviously doesn't make sense so I'm wondering:

    - I'm fairly handy, can I rehair a bow myself? Is there a tutorial anywhere?
    - What caused the issue with the current hair and can that be fixed instead of a rehair?
    - Are some rosins more prone to this sort of "melting together" effect ?

    Yeah, I'm a newbie to this so any kind words would be appreciated.
  2. Rehairing is a hard task. I tried it once, took a lot of time and the result was acceptable but never as good as made by a professional. On the other hand a professional rehair costs as much as your bow, the hair is relatively cheap. You can try, but best look for information how to rehair a bow on the net. Some bow builders show it on their websites, since almost no one wants to do it themselves after seeing this.

    You might not need a rehair. I think with Pops you got a very soft rosin that melts easily, even if it sticks in the pocket of the bass cover. Maybe it melted in the sun and textile stuff inside your bow pocket melted into it. So the bow hairs needed to be cleaned. You can try it yourself (not too dangerous with a cheap fiberglass stick) or let a professional do it (who can also inspect your bow and bow hair). There are hints hwo to do that on talkbass, I think.

    Always keep rosin out of direct sunlight and hot weather. Some people use softer rosin like Pops in the winter and a bit harder (rather middle hard) rosin during the summer.

    Melting the hairs together might also mean you used too much rosin on your bow.
    Try to bow it out (change you attitude to 99,9% bowing for some time), even with the hairs melted together. It may take some time but would be the cheapest solution if it works. Hopefully the dirt will get out too. After the hairs separated you may try to use a toothbrush to get unwanted rosin out of the bow hair. (Not your normal one ...)

    A popular all-purpose rosin that don't melt too soon (but still does in the sun) is Nyman's rosin. At least a good staring point and probably good enough for 0.01% arco playing. For cold winter days you can still use your old Pops then if you feel the Nymans would be too hard.
    There might be other recommendations by other bassists, but I wouldn't care too much for 0.01% arco playing.

    Get some kind of plastic bag or a cheap hard case (some snooker queue cases may work too) for your bow to avoid getting dirt onto your bow hair in the future.
    Put the bow with the bag around it in the pocket of your bass bag. This avoids textile inside the bow pocket sticking to your bow hair.
    Ask a classical double bass player about the do's and don't's with the bow, if possible.
  3. EXCELLENT INFO! Thank you so much for taking the time to put all this good info into your post. A lot to go on here so thanks!!!
  4. Bijoux


    Aug 13, 2001
    There are a lot of videos on youtube. it is hard to do it but I think that if anyone follow all the steps and take the time to do it it can probably come out pretty decent.
    although on the other hand if you are just looking for a beater that gets sounds out of the strings there are plenty of real cheap bows on ebay.
    I got a pretty decent $34 wooden french bow for outdoor summer gigs. The type of stuff that it wouldn't matter if I used an expensive bow or a cheap one. and besides the bow is very playable. I can even see myself taking it to some Orchestral rehearsals. Anyway maybe that has to do with luck too, maybe they selkl some real bad ones too. but at any rate that is still cheaper than re-hairing a bow.
  5. Michael Eisenman

    Michael Eisenman Supporting Member

    Jun 21, 2006
    Eugene, Oregon
    With a Glasser bow (cheap, fiberglass), you won't need to cut new plugs or the spreader wedge; they are plastic and reusable unless damaged. That's the hardest part. Actually, there is no plug in the frog, but I make one to replace the hinky screw that clamps the hair.

    You can get parts here, if you need them:

    Good luck,
  6. chris1125


    May 14, 2007
    If you want to try expanding the life of the hair, you can use a toothbrush to free up the hair that's stuck together which should hold you over for a little while. If that's not enough, you can use alchohol to clean the hair. I'm sure there's a video on youtube of this somewhere.
  7. On a glasser, try warm water and shampoo with the toothbrush after using alcohol to dissolve the rosin.
  8. DC Bass

    DC Bass Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    In my experience, the best way to get excess rosin out of bow strings is to "play it out" as DoubleMIDI has suggested. A dry toothbrush to work through the hair prolly won't hurt anything, but respectfully, I would not suggest attempting to clean the hair with water, shampoo, alcohol, what ever.

    The fact that the bow only cost you fifty bucks is irrelevant imho. The cost of a rehair is maintenance and upkeep. If you got a car for five thousand dollars, and kept track of every penny you put in it, would you throw away the car and start over with another one when you reached five thousand dollars in fuel and maintenance costs?

    There is nothing wrong with re-hairing a Glasser.

    My .02- YMMV and all that.

  9. NicholasF

    NicholasF Guest

    Jan 17, 2012
    Didn't this come up in another thread?

    +1 to DC
  10. ahsbass6


    Apr 13, 2004
    It would be cheaper to buy a new bow, if you are staying with the fiberglass.... rehair at a shop is $75 plus . Buy a stamped bow and you will get better tone but when it is needed, you can justify the cost of rehair.
  11. Some great input guys. Thanks. I have tomorrow morning free so I may just play the heck out of the bow and see if any of the rosin "plays out" Then, maybe some time with an old tooth brush (or at least the wife's)....
  12. Glasser bows generally come with a synthetic hair installed. Though it may seem silly to invest in a rehair which costs more than the bow itself, having real horse hair on the bow will make your quality of life better. Of course, so would having a real bow.

    Pops is a good rosin and is used by perhaps a majority of professionals. You need to be careful with it -- it's rare that you'll need more than one or two swipes at a time. After applying it, be sure to fan out the hairs with your thumb nail to shake loose the bits and crumbs.

    Bow hair needs to be replaced from time to time. It's a fact of life. I'm finding a fresh rehair necessary every three or four months. A mostly pizz player might need a rehair about once a year.

    Finally, you should let a professional rehair your bows. It's one of the hardest things a luthier routinely does, and you get what you pay for. A glasser is certainly easier to rehair than a traditional bow, but you still want it done properly and with high quality hair.
  13. Well I have learned more about bows and horse hair in the last few days than I ever thought I needed to know. I got a chance to play about an hour this morning all arco and discovered a few things. Firstly, the hair did seem to come apart a bit. So much so that a gentle rub with an old tooth brush was able to loosen almost all of them the rest of the way. Secondly after that much playing I started loosing the ability to get the notes to start so I'm thinking I now have a bow that "needs" more rosin. Now my question is, do I go with the Pops that I'm confident has gone bad or melted or some other darn thing or do I go buy something a bit harder for the summer months?
  14. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Rehairing a bow is not an easy process. One of the most difficult things a bow maker does? Maybe not, but it still isn’t an easy process. Having made a bow myself, and performed some repairs as well, there are a LOT of things that can go wrong when
    rehairing a bow.

    A plug or wedge that doesn’t fit perfectly can mean the difference between a good rehair, and the hair coming out, usually mid-gig. A knot that isn’t tied perfectly, can mean the same, and can also result in hair that isn’t an even tension, which can lead to a warped stick. That, is likely one of the most difficult (and dangerous) repairs a bow maker is faced with. A Glasser likely wouldn’t warp because of it being fibreglass, but anyone else considering an “at home” job should be worried. A bad rehair or repair can lead to much bigger problems, a lot of which can be significantly costly, and can permanently damage your bow.

    I completely agree with rehairs being maintenance, and I also believe that an upgrade can be well worth your money. It really depends on what you plan on doing with it. If you plan on the bow being a “last note jazz bow” then does it make sense to you to buy a more expensive bow? A rehair might be your answer.

    Rosin is a debate among a lot of players, some prefer a lot more than others, some less etc. However, Pops in the summer time can be dangerous. I still feel like a rehair is definitely your answer, but before you put a bunch more rosin on, (Kolstein All Weather is a personal favourite for the warmer months) try relaxing your bow arm. A relaxed arm, pulling the sound out of the bass, instead of a tight arm pushing the bow into the bass, can often lead to a much better sound than too much rosin. A lesson with a bow using bassist in your area can help a lot with that, and will also be the easiest way to get some guidance on the hair, amount of rosin etc.
  15. mirwa


    Aug 4, 2012
    Australia - Perth
    If you want, I can talk you through how to rehair, trust me once youve done it once, you will gladly pay a luthier his asking price to rehair your bow from then on.
  16. moles


    Jan 24, 2007
    Winnipeg, MB
    I agree that one shouldn't shy away from re-hairing even a cheap bow, especially if it's come equipped with synthetic hair. IME synthetic hair has no grab of its own, and that may be the reason why you felt you needed so much rosin to begin with.
    Another thought - if it's going to cost you $80 to re-hair anyway, maybe an upgrade to even a cheaper $100 wood bow (which would at least come with real hair anyway) would be a smart move.
  17. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
  18. Rehairing a bow that came with synthetic is a significant upgrade of the bow, so you end up with something better than you started with.

    An alcohol wash of real horsehair is fine, but who knows what it would do to the synthetic stuff.

    The #1 thing it sounds like you've been doing, though, is using way too much rosin. Pops kind of encourages that by being so sticky, but really, a couple of swipes is enough.
  19. This is a bit of an older post but I wanted to throw my 2 cents in.

    I say hell yeah, do it. WE have a local shop here in Ottawa closing its doors so I've picked up a bunch of bows for about $10.00 a shot. NO hair and used and a bit battered but some of them are bows that retail at over $100.

    I also grabbed a large hank of hair good for about 30 rehairs or so and a rehair Jig to help make things easier.

    I did my first rehair and though not of professional level it sounds better than the $125.00 bow that I had purchased. I'm going to rehair again because the hairs are not super straight but how else are you going to learn?

    One day I might buy an expensive bow and if I do I'll be ready to rehair it myself. And no, it is not hard to do but not easy to do well. I'm not going to rehair my good bow until I've perfected doing it on my cheap bows.

    Best of luck. Best advice: Go slow and you'll be fine..and do it on a sacrificial bow.
  20. OldBows


    Dec 11, 2010