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Hair knots

Mat Roop

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The previous tread on "Bow blocks" is prompting this...

How do you tie a bow hair knot?

I have used the Harry Wake style of knot using 28 ga. brass wire, it really pulls tight, but I dislike the twisted ends.

When doing a string knot, what style of string knot do you use? ... I use the constrictor knot... a little awkward, but effective.


Do you seal the string knot with glue?... super glue?

Looking for better ideas!

Cheers, Mat

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I was taught to tie the knots by Lynn Hannings at one of her classes. I don't really think that I can describe it in words, but one of the keys is to make it tight enough that it won't slip, even without rosin or glue on it. We had to practice those knots on a hank of hair until Lynn couldn't make the knots slide.

When powdered rosin is burned into the end of the hair hank, it swells the hair a bit, and anchors everything together. Some people prefer superglue for this, but if it wicks up into the hair bundle, it will make it too stiff to bend into the pockets of the head or frog.

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I was also taught by Lynn Hannings. Attach a nylon spool to your workbench. Powdered rosin on end of hair. Keeping the thread tight one wrap then a half hitch, 2 wraps then tie a square knot. 2-3 more wraps and another square knot. Cut thread, heat end with small flame making sure not to melt the nylon thread. This small amount of heat will cause the thread to stick together and the initial rosin on the hair to melt. Squeeze the knot flat with parallel jeweler plier (no teeth). Powdered rosin on the knot and melt with small flame.

If you do not like using melted rosin, medium viscosity ca glue is great.

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I wasn't taught by anyone but this is what works for me. I use Coats&Clark 100% nylon upholstery thread available almost anywhere. I cut off more than 12" of thread and tie one end to a C clamp attached to the bench, the C clamp is my third hand. I wrap the thread around the hair two times then make an overhand knot, pull tight then wrap one more time, make another overhand knot, pull tight then another overhand knot so that this last knot is a square knot. I trim the hair close and dip the end in a drop of gel type super glue that I had placed on a piece of paper. I have tried regular super glue but it wicks up into the hair and wrecks everything. The gel super glue works great for me. Let the glue dry good and keep the glue away from your working area.


David Tseng's rehair posts on MN were very usefull to me. Thankyou David Tseng

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...How do you tie a bow hair knot?...

In theory, tying the knot is difficult because it requires three hands -- one to hold the hair and two to tie the knot. I first learned rehairing from Arnold Bone, who held one end of the thread in his teeth. But now I use Lynn Hanning's method of attaching the spool of thread to the front edge of my work bench. I have the spool bolted to a board which I clamp in the bench vise when I rehair, so that the spool is not in the way when I'm not rehairing.

...what style of string knot do you use?...

For the head knot, I tie an overhand knot around the hair bundle, wrap the thread four or five times around the hair and the thread strand coming from the spool, and finish with a square knot, keeping the thread under heavy tension the whole time. I do frog knots the same, except that I make about four turns of thread and a square knot around the hair followed by another four turns of thread and another square knot. That way, If I find that I've cut the hair a little too short, I can cut the second knot and let out a little extra hair.

...Do you seal the string knot with...super glue?...

Yes, as I explained in the other discussion.

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I haven't done a lot of bows, maybe 20 or so in the last 25 years, but I have always used Johnson unwaxed tooth floss for tying off the hair. This is very strong stuff.

Once tied, I dip the end including the thread/ knot into the glue pot, and then immediately burn the end in an alcohol lamp flame. The glue sort of bubbles up until it burns, but I squeeze the burnt part of the hair ends between my fingers to break off the ash and repeat the process until the hairs are all fused into a nice tidy little ball just past the thread knot. I dip it one last time into the hide glue and let it dry before wedging it.

I don't know if this is an accepted method or not, it was taught to me when I was a kid by a local violin maker long passed away by now. He used some sort of nylon thread, but I was unable to find any at that time, so I tried tooth floss and have used it ever since. I've never had a knot failure yet. I use a knot similar to what Brad describes.

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To get the knot really tight you have to wrap the thread, after the first overhand tie, so that it covers the thread coming from the spool. In other words if you are right handed you tie the overhand knot, then wrap from right to left - not left to right. This helps make the square knot really tight because it brings the two strands right next to each other.

A square knot means that you make one tie with the free end going over the fixed end, followed by a second tie with the free end going under the fixed end.

It does take practice. Hairing is at least as hard as anything else in making bows in my experience. Maybe the hardest part, surprisingly.


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I have a large spool of button/carpet thread anchored to my bench. I hold the hair in my left hand and wrap the end with my right hand (the first part of a shoelace knot) with an assist from my left hand. I pull as tight as I can then make 3-4 more wraps under tension followed by another half knot. This gets repeated until my thread bundle just about fills the mortice, and ends with a square knot. I cut the thread and burn the thread ends with a lighter and apply CA glue to the knot and the thread. I finish with a drop of CA at the end of the bundle then quickly flatten the bundle with parallel jaw pliers and while still squeezing the bundle I press the hair into the vertical edge of my workbench at a 90 degree angle so that if any CA has wicked past the thread it's set at the proper angle for insertion into the mortice. Though rather obvious it's probably worth mentioning; don't get too much CA on the thread and rush it into the frog mortice, depositing CA on the slide 'tracks'. If you don't notice the glue you can have a nearly unremovable slide. Be nice and don't ask me how I know this.


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I was also taught by Lynn Hannings. Her classes at UNH in rehairing and repairing are fantastic and well worth attending. There were quite a few guys attending who had been rehairing for years but were still wowed by her methods and technique. Her methods are great for building quality and consistancy in to your rehairs and she's a fantastic teacher.

To follow on from Ben's thread I've been doing silk and tinsel ever since I attended although only where bow weights and balance permit. Lynn showed us some pictures of some of the different silk colour combinations the great French makers used and I forgot to take copies. I recall Dom. Peccatte used Black with two blues and Simon use a combination that included a wine colour but I can't remember any others. I recently picked up a Laberte with original lapping, nice combination of Blue and Tinsel .It's worn out and not worth keeping but I intend to recreate it.

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