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Hot, dry weather and shrinking bow hair


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Last weekend I played some shows at an outdoor Celtic festival in Reno, NV; the temperature was around 100 degrees with very low humidity and even though the violin and bows stayed in a humidified case when not in use, during the performances the hair on my Arcus Sinfonia shrank to the point that the bow was still at playing tension even with the tension screw fully backed off. With a composite bow I'm not concerned about damage to the stick in this situation but it's an annoying problem and I'm wondering what the process is to correct this. Does it require a rehair or is there a way to stretch the existing hair or otherwise correct the problem? Thanks -Steve

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You live in San Francisco where the air is humid, and you encountered this problem in Reno where the air is dry. Moving from a humid environment to a dry one dried out the hair, causing it to shrink. When you return to SF, the problem will probably fix itself as the hair re-absorbs moisture from the air and stretches again. If you're bothered by the constant tension on the bow and don't have to use it, you could remove the frog from the stick until you get back.

Be sure to keep your case well-humidified and the violin in the case whenever possible to protect to violin from shrinkage caused by the dryness.

If you're staying in Reno, a rehair is in order.

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Thanks guys. I actually live east of the Oakland hills in an area that is typically hot and dry in the Summer and Fall (the Bay Area is amazing in its variety of microclimates; in the Summer you can go from cool, foggy weather to hot and dry in a couple miles!), and although the bow has more or less returned to normal now that it's been home and in its case a couple days the hair is still a little tauter than it was back in the rainy season so I think that I may run into similar problems here later this Summer. If it's a matter of a rehair I'll wait until it needs it (the bow is only about 8 months old) unless the problem gets extreme.

Brad, your warning about keeping the violin humidified is a good one; my second fiddle (an old German factory "Schweitzer") had a tiny saddle crack that had been stable for years open up into a several-inch-long crack after it was exposed to heat and humidity down in the 15% range during an outdoor performance a couple of Falls ago! I'm much more careful these days; in similar conditions I now use my nondescript old student fiddle (which has a great tone even though it's a mutt and worth very little), and make sure it's only out of the case when I'm playing. -Steve

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It's the dryness. I have this problem every Monday of the academic year with orchestra rehearsals in an air-conditioned room. When I loosen my bow hair to put the bow away, it is just loose, but by next morning at home it is hanging in a catenary shape like the cables of the GG bridge.

I have always tried to avoid outdoor desert performances, but for almost 20 years I had at least one every year with never any long term bad effects (to my instrument or bow) - just carefully watch the bow as the hair first dries out, so you can keep backing off the tightness (I have seen carelessly attended bows that broke because of the increasing hair tension).


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