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bow hair question


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From what I hear, some people change the bow hair about every 6 months or so, once they feel that the hair no longer grabs the strings properly, even though the hair was recently rosined (i.e. the bow needs overly frequent rosining.) I think the theory is that the hair "wears out" in some way so it can't properly hold the rosin for any length of time.

This hasn't been my experience. I don't rehair a bow until I've lost enough hair (from the bow...) that I feel it starts making a difference in the performance of the bow, perhaps 20 or more strands. For me, this means several years of use averaging perhaps 2 or more hours/day use. Over this time, the hair does get pretty grungy especially by the frog (within about 1 cm of the frog). But I can live with that -- I don't use that bottom one cm of the bow and make sure I don't let my friends see how dirty it is...

I'm not sure why my experience is different than some other's. I make sure I rosin my bow relatively infrequently -- perhaps once a week -- to make sure that the hair doesn't get clogged up with old rosin. Said another way, I try to run the bow to almost empty before re-rosining (within reason of course). Maybe this makes a difference.

I believe re-hairing a bow runs the risk of changing how the bow performs -- a bit of potential trauma you could say -- depending on the skill, preferences and mood of the person doing the re-hair that day. So it's something I like to avoid until absolutely necessary. Call me "paranoid."

So, for me, the sign that the hair is going bad is that hair starts snapping frequently, either because it's getting brittle or just plain wearing thin from the constant friction.

I suspect that others will argue otherwise.

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Bow hair goes "bad" when it gets dirty, or is rosined with a poor quality rosin, or just plain is missing many strands of hair from use. Dirty bow hair can be cleaned and re-rosined, whereas a bow that is missing too many hairs simply needs a rehair. If a customer requests a rehair and the bow still has most or all of it's hair intact, I recommend a cleaning rather than a rehair.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Check out http://www.bestbowhair.com/ for everything you ever wanted to know about bow hair. Sowden's been in the horse hair business for over 40 years, starting in the pushbroom industry when he was 14 I believe. He's been sorting hair for violin bows since the late 90s when he and my former business partner Erich Husemoller started a partnership. Erich was the #2 man at Wagman Primus. It's an interesting story and thankfully I'm out of that loop now. But Michael and I both buy hair from the same workshop in Anping, China. The difference is I've been to the shop. There are some pics and a short video on the bow hair site about that. Michael's out of the business pretty much, but his sons have learned the trade and can answer pretty much any question you have. Or you can ask me

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Originally posted by:

More bowhair does not necessarily always mean better or bigger sound.

Yes -- in fact the opposite is true. Too much hair acts like a mute. Ideally, you'd want each hair to touch the string and aid in the excitation of the string, and no additional hairs to add mass.


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