Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Replacing Silver winding on bow


Recommended Posts

I would guess that the silver winding you have on your bow is really copper wire that's been coated with a silver-like finish. The coating's worn off, leaving the copper exposed and discoloring your finger. I don't believe there's anything you can do to restore the silver color apart from having the winding replaced by a luthier, this time with real silver winding if that's your preference or imitation whalebone, etc.

It depends on how much the bow's worth to you to have the work done.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another thought -- perhaps you or your luthier would be able to wrap the winding with a clear plastic of some sort. (I've seen less expensive bows equipped this way on delivery.) It won't fix the looks of the present winding but it would stop the problem from getting worse and would stop the transfer of color to your hand.

Not sure of the cost -- I'd guess from $25 to $75, depending on what option you choose. I'll defer to others on the forum to give a better estimate.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Real silver bow windings do tarnish. When they do, the silver turns black. It takes a long time (years) for this to happen, and usually when you get the bow rehaired the tarnish will be cleaned off. After the tarnish is cleaned off, the winding is as good as new.

This is quite different from what is happening to your bow now. Your bow is wound with silver-plated copper wire. The silver plating has worn off, leaving the copper exposed. There is no way to fix this other than replacing the winding.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sterling silver is best unless you can afford gold. Sounds like an expensive bow for only having silver plated copper on it.

I would expect nickel silver at least.

Victor's right it sounds like plated copper.

Victor Zak's suggestion to change material of lapping just for the sake of change isn't a good idea.

You wouldn't change the material used for the lapping unless you want to change the balance and weight of the bow.

If you replace silver with whalebone or silk then not only does the weight of your bow change, but the balance point will as well.

Lets say hypothetically, that the balance point on a hypothetical cello bow is 9" from frog end of wood stick (don't include the silver screw end) .

Maybe this feels too frog heavy to you and you wish there was more weight at the tip. If this were the case then replace the silver with a lighter material.

The ideal balance for a cello bow is around 9 1/2 inches.

Some like it more frog heavy at around 9".

I would change a bow's balance if it's more than 9 5/8" or less than 9".

The weight of a bow is less critical. Cello bows target weight is around 80 grams, but you can find that they can weight much less and much more.

70 grams all the way up to over 100!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you should be able to get a new winding for $50 to $90 (it can be a tedious job). It depends on where you go - just ask your local repair person. If you don't like tarnish, you can use pure nickel wire (costs about the same as silver, but won't develop the patina, of sterling). This is not the same as plated wire and will never tarnish. I don't think you should go for anything heavier than what you have, but if you want a wire winding, I would suggest nickel if your frog is nickel mounted, and silver if it is a silver mounted frog. If you are measuring the balance with the frog forward and from the end of the pernambuco, 9.5 inches is good. Some folks measure from the front of the frog, which gives an entirely different measure.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's not a standard procedure to measure from the front of the frog, so I'm pretty sure that any 'standard' measurements you see will be from the end of the stick. I _have_ seen people measure including the button, though. As Mamawelder said, a balance point of 9-1/4 inches is well within the normal range.

A lot of people have nickel allergies -- that's the reason that the titanium chinrest screws have become so popular in Europe (I've even heard they are mandated, but don't know for sure). Nickel silver (also known as German silver) has no silver in it, but it does have nickel. Sometimes nickel silver is just called 'nickel', in the same way that 'mother of pearl' is typically just called 'pearl; a 'pearl' inlay is really mother of pearl (ie made from shell). I think if you ask for 'nickel' wire you will probably get nickel silver. The wire itself costs less than silver, but the labor to wind it on the stick is the same, so I wouldn't expect to pay much less for nickel winding than for silver; labor is worth more than materials. (Gold, on the other hand....)

One thing you can do is polish the wire and then coat it with clear nail polish. This will prevent the wire from tarnishing, and from staining your fingers. It will need to be renewed every once in a while, depending on how corrosive your sweat is. Or, as someone suggested a while back, get one of those clear plastic sleeves that are sold as ergonomic grips.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Claire,

William Salchow's website describes the balance point as being measured from the front of the frog nearest the grip, and gives 16.5 to 19cm as being a suitable range for violin bows. He is of some renown, so clearly there are advanced makers using such measuring methods. This measure seems intuitively correct to me.

I would say there are at least two camps of opinion as to where to measure the balance point from. Many books I have read also give measurements from the frog (St. George's - The Bow, Its History, Manufacture, and use, comes immediately to mind). Given the fact that the thumb is most commonly positioned directly at the front of the frog, i.e., at the point in question, there is a strong argument for it being more appropriate, as there is an additional physical correspondence for the player, which the stick end does not offer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was taught to loosen the frog push it to the forward position then measure the balance. You can do it from the front of frog or the way I do it, from end of stick.

9.25" is fine for a violin bow. Cello bows balance is commonly below 9.5. however I like to keep violin bows as close to 9.5 as I can get.

It can be made closer to 9.5 by changing the winding material or having a little piece of lead put in the tip under the wedge at your next rehair.

I usually polish all the silver when I rehair a bow. I also clean the stick and if needed french polish it.

If you rehair your bow once a year (most pros do it every 6 months) then tarnishing shouldn't be an issue. At least if your luthier has the same maintenance routine as I have.


William Salchow's website describes the balance point as being measured from the front of the frog nearest the grip, and gives 16.5 to 19cm as being a suitable range for violin bows.

Salcow is well respected, but that range seems big to me at nearly an inch. Many great bow makers aren't as focused on ergonomics as they should be. I feel 10" balance is tip heavy and therefore is hard on the wrist unless your a big guy.

For us more delicate folks who may experience wrist pain in your bowing arm. I suggest sticking to bows as close to 9.5" as you can.

19cm from frog front puts the bow I'm looking at at a 10.5" balance/ouch!/. When measuring the frog I would keep it at 16.5 to 17.5 (18cm max)

but that's my personal preference for the sake of comfort. I have friends who suffered from CTS because of poorly balanced bows.

I had a bow by Paul Clutterbuck that had a 10.125" balance. I took off the whalebone and replaced it with silver, added a little extra weight under the thumb wrap and got the balance to 9.5" .

Even though it weighed about 4 grams more, it felt much lighter in the hand. Now it's a really nice and comfortable playing bow!

Target weights:

violin bows 60 gms.

Viola 70 gms

cello 80 gms

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I measure the balance point from the end of the screw cap - not that it makes physiccal sense to do it this way, because the hair length can vary between bows and the balancing thumb's position can thus change.

Nevertheless, I have found the balance point to be quite consistently 10 to about 10.5 inches from the end of the cap on a number of violin bows i have measured. Only the ARCUS concerto I measured had a shorter distance to the balance point and I thought it was teffectively too light in the tip untill I changed the wrap and in stalled titanium hardware to decrease the weight at the frog. Measuring the bow from the tip would be consistent irrespective of the hair tightness.

A bow with short distance from the frog to the balance point feels more like it is part of the hand, but has a lot of problems in serious playing - and even in tone production.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...