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Funny Chinese Bow Hair


nicolo
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Two weeks ago, I was the lone Ebay sucker/bidder on a Chinese viola bow. It seems to handle well and looks like a good stick for the money. I can’t be sure about that yet because of the hair, which tests out at 99.6% effectiveness in resistance to rosin. I spent five to ten minutes each day for three days, running Pirastro Oliv over it. That resulted in no perceptible adhesion, but all the rubbing had a remarkable affect on the rosin. It polished the top such that it looks almost new again – smooth and shiny!

I thought maybe a different rosin would pick up better, so I searched through drawers, boxes of junk, and old fiddle cases until I gathered up a wide assortment. I found the Eudoxa rosin I never liked much, the Hill rosin that had become detached from its green cloth ten years ago, a student grade relic in a three-sided wooden box, and various unidentified others, some light, some dark. I even happened across my old Cheapo-di-molto Mystery Rosin in a purple plastic cup with a green plastic cover. The purple part has a hole in the bottom so you can push out the sticky lump of strange, dark amber. That one came closest to leaving the residue I so desired, but none of them was a match for the slick, Teflon texture of the hair on my new bow. Each one polished up nicely after a few hundred strokes. Pristine, glossy finishes are almost fully restored.

The bow still can’t pull sound out of a string, of course, but my rosin collection never looked so beautiful.

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I am no expert but have rehaired several bows. After a good cleaning,(if it is hair and not nylon like one I have) grind up a large gumball ( get the pun) of rosin to a fine powder. Take a piece of 8.5x11 paper folded in 1/2 and put the powder in the crotch. Then put the bow hair on top of the powder and gradually work the rosin into the hair by tilting/turning/kneeding/rubbing. A couple of whacks on the open palm should knock off excess and you should be ready to roll. Probably will go a full week of practice before needing rosin again.(a lot longer if you practice as much as I seem to) Although it may end up having to be rehaired anyway. ($20-$50 depending on quality etc see other threads)

Good Luck

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After you alcoho bathe the hair try what I have always found effective with brand-new bow hair (I not have the technician pre-rosin the haiir for me for many years).

I hold the rosin in my left hand, place the hair on the rosin cake, and place my (very clean) left thumb on top of the hair ribbon and press the hair into the rosin while initially rosining the hair. I have not had to scratch the rosin surface or any other such thing. This has always worked for me since I started doing it about 6 years ago with a couple of Glasser Composite bows (which are notoriously difficult to get started with rosin). You can feel when the hair is grabbing the rosin - test the bow on your instrument and if it makes sound, but is not ready - continue applying rosin in a normal way.

Andy

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If you have an old chunk of good rosin, put it in an old clean coffee can with a tight fitting lid, and shake it from side to side for several minutes. The rosin will break up turning into chunks, powder, and dust. The dust will coat the inside of the can. Wait a few minutes to let the rosin dust settle. You can than take a small cloth, wipe the rosin dust from the inside of the can, and apply it to the hair. Dont use your finger, as your skin is oily.

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A lot of cheap Chinese hair has been bleached, shampooed and treated with hair conditioner, if you can believe that! There have been some good comments here about washing the hair. By the way, there is no GREASE on the hair, as was mentioned above. All bow hair is cleaned in such a way as to remove any animal residue (blood, skin, feces). Most horse tail hair that is processed in China is a by-product of the slaughterhouse industry and much of it is processed in tanneries througout China, many in the Harbin, Shonyang area (closer to Inner Mongolia). Horse tail hair that is a byproduct of such an industry has many challenges to overcome before it can be prepared for the western world's consumption. Cleansing is only one of the challenges.

My company sells some hair that is a byproduct of these industries, but primarily, we work with horse tail hair that bypasses them altogether. We call it "LIVE" hair, as it comes directly from the farms and farmers in Inner Mongolia, Mongolia, and Siberia. It arrives at the Horse Tail processing workshops loose in burlap bags, as apposed to the stuff that comes from the tanneries in bound crates on pallets. We call it LIVE because the hair is from animals that were not slaughtered for their meat.

Anyway, the hair that comes with most cheap wooden bows is from Southern China, not the Mongolian region, and is heavily treated with detergents, shampoos and conditioners.

Our advice to end-users, is to rehair their bows as a rule, right away. There are many reasons for this, not just because the hair is coated with slippery conditioner. Some bow manufacturers cheat by putting wet hair in a bow. Wet hair can be stretched. When the hair dries, it pulls and puts an undue amount of tension on the stick, thereby pulling it off center, damanging the camber or twisting the stick.

Bottom line? Get your bow rehaired and do it soon.

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I used a mortar and pestle to grind the rosin. ($10 at antiques store)(several suppliers still sell a shaker can of rosin power) Try to grind the rosin and not compress the powder into a flat pancake by pouring off the fine powder as it is created.

A Large piece of granite/marble/ceramic tile and the tip of a hammer(gently) might work but is a lot slower and messy.

I think my 3 yr old would enjoy the shaken coffee-can approach above.(good at demolishing things to a fine powder (my watch,my cellphone,a gameboy etc, etc, etc.))

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Hi Michael,

I was wondering how you clean your bowhair with rubbing alcohol? Do you put the alcohol on a cloth/paper towel and rub the bowhair with it - if so, how much alcohol do you use? Is the bowhair quite wet? Does it dry quickly? How long do you wait before you put rosin back on?

This is a very informative site - and I appreciate all your expert advice!!

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I've wiped it with alcohol and paper towels, but I've also taken the frog off the stick, coiled up all the hair and dropped it into a jar of alcohol, with the stick and frog outside. I'd say whatever you're comfortable with. Certainly leaving the frog on the stick makes things harder, so at least I'd take it off so the hair (and frog) can hang away from the stick--if you're comfortable doing that! Alcohol evaporates quickly--mostly within a couple of minutes. After the hair's dry, re-rosin.

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I appreciate the interesting and valuable information you all have responded with. If you'd be interested in a follow-up on the problem hair, read on:

I cleaned the bow hair with alcohol and took some fine sandpaper to the rosin to remove whatever contaminant was on it. The substance in that bow hair, whether it was grease, hair conditioner, or whatever, didn't all come out. It started rubbing onto the rosin and making it shiny again.

So I tried something different. Ivory soap is excellent for cutting through oily or greasy substances, and it rinses away easily, leaving no residue. Ivory soap and water got the bow hair squeaky clean. After the hair dried, it took rosin with no problem at all.

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Hi Michael,

I washed my violin bowhair with rubbing alcohol as you suggested. I even undid the frog and removed it from the bow (I never imagined ever doing this on my own) Actually, it was very easy to do - with your advise, of course. What a difference clean bowhair makes!!! The stratchy sounds that I was hearing are completely gone!! Thank you so much for the information.

I have another question - how often can I repeat this procedure? Whenever I hear the stratchy sounds? If I do it too often, will it eventually wear down the hair?

Thanks again

Obsessed

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