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sabaugher

Bow horse hair, where to buy?

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Hi All,

 

I'm thinking of learning how to re-hair some bows. I have a number of warped cheap wooden bows to experiment on, and I've been able to gather a fair bit of data on the process. However, does anyone have any recommendations for a good horse hair vendor? Or can anyone endorse a particular type of hair? I've heard that white hair from a stallion is the best for a violin bow (though I wouldn't mind experimenting with some cheaper hair first, just to have a test run so I don't ruin something really good). 

 

Thanks so much for any and all advice! :D

 

- Sarah

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For practice I would recommend Hervex synthetic. It's cheap, works a lot like horse hair and does not waste good hair (find it with Google). When you get better, International Violin sells decent hair, as do several others. It will be a while before you need to worry much about quality, unless you are unusually gifted.

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Wherever you buy, get good hair. You will be more successful and less discouraged using good hair, it is easy to get discouraged. Take that little gem about stallion hair, or any notion about hair from live horses and bury them deep in the back yard under the concrete pad the grill sits on.

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Wherever you buy, get good hair...

 

Jerry,  Could you expand on this a bit.  What are the characteristics of good hair?  How can I tell if some hair that I have is good?  Without seeing it, how can I know if hair that I am buying will be good?

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I would say the first thing with hair is to trust who you are buying from. The suppliers I get most of my hair from are New Cleveland group and Century strings.

In choosing new hair I am looking for

consistency, (all the hairs should look the same) Elasticity, (test to see how much the hair stretches)' and I also smell the hair, this will tell you how fresh it is.

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Interesting topic. I don't rehair bows, but my assistant does quite a bit of that, so with the increasing amount of bow work, I've had to start testing some suppliers. And finding a good consistent supply of hair, that seems to be venturing into the dark arts! As much as I've heard Sowden & Co. recommended I'd have to say I found their hair very brittle and lacking in elasticity. Maybe it just isn't suited to the dry climate here. We tried two separate batches of their blue string brand, both had pretty much the same problem. We've ended up using, for the time being, the most expensive mongolian hair from Dick (Dictum as they call themselves now) which is very elastic, but perhaps a little unpredictable from one bundle to another. Perhaps it is even too elastic, as the hair band actually seems to stretch out over time more than other hair, especially on a strong bow. 

 

I wonder how fresh it is, it doesn't smell a whole lot, do you think that is a big issue Jerry? I am so confused by this bow hair business that I am considering a trip to inner mongolia too see how this whole business works!

 

To the original question; I would say that working with short and bad hair would probably discourage you! Go for smaller quantities of good hair, and remember that bad bows are often nearly impossible to do a perfect rehair on, try to find bows that are at least mechanically in good condition: not overly weak sticks - and straight. 

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Theres an article in the fittings accessories supplement in the latest Strad ,asking ``where has all the good stuff gone?". I have to admit that its seems to be a bit of a lottery at the moment whether or not your going to get a good batch . My last lot of hair i bought i had to put aside as it seemed over elastic and kept breaking when wetted. I dont know if the Chinese are using some sort of dodgy detergent with a very high pH  in the washing process or what.

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Interesting discussion.... My experience with anything from China has been erratic... sometimes its wow! this is good, and the repeat order falls way short. 

Does anyone know about Canadian or Argentinian hair... is there better quality control?

BTW... I buy the most expensive 32" white unbleached Siberian Stallion hair from Michael Vann  http://www.vannbows.com/index.html  ....with good results.

 

I am becoming convinced that although hair that is called "unbleached Siberian stallion", that the hair is not necessarily that, but rather that naming is used as a grade or quality indicator.... sadly not necessarily a consistent indicator.

Cheers, Mat

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I would say the first thing with hair is to trust who you are buying from. The suppliers I get most of my hair from are New Cleveland group and Century strings.

In choosing new hair I am looking for

consistency, (all the hairs should look the same) Elasticity, (test to see how much the hair stretches)' and I also smell the hair, this will tell you how fresh it is.

Jerry, what do you do if you get a batch of hair that does not "smell" right... does that justify a return? or do you cringe and use it on lower quality bows?

Thanks, Mat

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Hi All,

 

I'm thinking of learning how to re-hair some bows. I have a number of warped cheap wooden bows to experiment on, and I've been able to gather a fair bit of data on the process. However, does anyone have any recommendations for a good horse hair vendor? Or can anyone endorse a particular type of hair? I've heard that white hair from a stallion is the best for a violin bow (though I wouldn't mind experimenting with some cheaper hair first, just to have a test run so I don't ruin something really good). 

 

Thanks so much for any and all advice! :D

 

- Sarah

I agree with the others... use the best hair right off the bat!  Using cheap or plastic hair would be like trying to learn violin in a serious way on a $50 ebay instrument!

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The smell is a reference point to be able to tell you about the supplier of the hair. If I was testing hair from a new supplier and was told it was fresh but it smelled like a dusty garage, I would know something wasn't adding up.

Jerry, what do you do if you get a batch of hair that does not "smell" right... does that justify a return? or do you cringe and use it on lower quality bows?

Thanks, Mat

I do not get hair that doesn't smell right. if I did I would know that there was something amiss with the supplier.

We do not use lower quality hair. All of the clients are paying the same price for the work so they deserve the same quality hair and attention to detail. So to answer your question, I would probably send it back and call for an explanation.

I know this sounds like I am a hard ass, but if you use hair that is below your usual quality you will not find out there was a problem for a long time. Players are reluctant to say anything thinking it may need to "break in". By the time they realize it is the hair, I will have been through 1, 2, or 3 more bundles. I have had to send out fresh tubes and loaner bows to customers so I could redo the rehairs where there was a hair issue.

Choose wisely.

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The bow hair market is so mysterious, it actually becomes fascinating. Prices vary rather a lot. And all this folklore and hearsay (stallion hair, the famous "little scales", not to speak of origin: Mongolia, China, Siberia and so on)  One guy showed up with a bow he said was haired with "italian" hair, anybody heard about that? Looked rather coarse, but he liked it. In reality some people worry about factors that have no importance, and vice versa. And we have no control whatsoever over certain factors... until someone thinks out a watertight D.O.C. system for bow hair, I will take any info about origin with several grains of salt. 

 

I've been thinking that length is one factor you can't fake, so I've been buying the max length, for all I know it could be a waste of money, but it does seem that there is a longer part of the hair with uniform elasticity in the longest hair. Constancy of supply is hard to find, my assistant, who does the actual work with the hair, says that different bundles from same supplier seems to react differently to humidity.

 

I would like to hear about any european suppliers I might not be aware of...

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Magnus, I tried a few: Delaruelle, Sowden, Dick, Freudenblum and even imported some from china myself.

Wasn't really able to find really consistent quality in any of those....

At the moment I've got a good batch of Freudenblum and I only use about 3 kg a year, so I am not someone who can push a supplier to his limits.

 

What I do is, check smell (should still be smelling of stable) so that I am sure its not old and not over aggressively washed, and I check elasticity.

I don't like too elastic as that stretches too much in my climate and feels a bit soft for playing.

When that is good I will not send back. 

I am prepared to bin about 1/3 to 1/2 of the bundle while selecting the hair for the hank. I tried using the ridiculously overpriced mongolian of Dick, had to select as well and it seemed a bit on the too elastic side, so didn't like it...

 

Florian

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Wow guys, thanks for all the responses! I'm very grateful for all the information.

 

Also, thank you to Mr. Pacewicz for responding as well! It's great to glean a few gems from the leader in bow re-hairing in my geographic area :D

 

Yaay, thanks to everyone! You've all been a great help! 

 

- Sarah

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I have found Pioneer Valley Luthier Supply Platinum and Platinum coarse to be very consistent......especially if you are only buying a few hanks at a time. The Premium Stallion hair from International Violins is also very good. I only mention these as they have worked very well for me buying only a few hanks at the time. Other suppliers have better deals but these suppliers worked well for me until I was ready to buy in bulk.

David Blackmon

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I have just recently been trying some of the Sowden green string (Canadian?) hair. While the hair seemed to have far less culls in the bundle and handled well I had the feeling that it stretched more than some other hair which can be a problem in my area since a fair number of my clients live right along the coast and hair tends to lengthen after they get it home especially if they play outside weddings or festivals.

 

My usual source for hair is Bow Works in CA.  Their hair is much less expensive than the Sowden and seems less stretchy although I have to do a bit more final sorting of the hair.

 

Jerry, since you are doing rehairs for people all over the map how do you adjust length for all those different climates? I gather you want stretchier hair but  since there is a limit to how tight you can make the hair to begin with don't you ever find that it stretches too much?

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