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Bow rehairing


yancypup
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I bought the Wake book, "Violin Bow Rehair and Repair" when I was in grad school for music. It was one of the first violin books I had bought. I had been making an instrument with instruction from a maker during grad school (which is what had gotten me into this business) and I thought I could learn rehair from the book to make extra money while I was going through school. I had heard from shop people that doing rehairs was more difficult than it seemed, but somehow I thought it would be different for me. I was in way over my head. It was interesting to read at the time, but my business venture never worked out.

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Bow rehairing is like playing chess. An hour or two to learn the basics and a lifetime to learn to do it well.  I have no idea how many bows I have rehaired including Tourtes and so forth but when there was a real bowmaker in the area I was more than willing to send the rehairs to him. The problem with doing rehairs is that you really have to be ready to replace or repair every part of the bow because there are often problems that the owner doesn't know about but will be certain to notice when they get their bow back from the rehair . A lot of problems may not show at all until you strip the bow and you have to be very careful to examine every bow with a paranoid eye before you let the customer leave it with you. Greg Alf told me years ago " Don't work on Basses and don't rehair bows". I've managed to shift the bass work to a bass playing repairman but since the nearest bow maker is over a hundred miles away I can't really say no very easily.

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I guess the professional players that asovlc talks about are idiots for wanting to take their bows to an experienced person?

There was an anecdote some years back about a well-known artist (was it Jamie Loredo?) who took his bow for a re-hair to an up-market shop.

He was given the rather snooty response - "we don't do synthetic bows". 

(The player had presented him with a top shelf Berg bow)

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I have a couple of books, and a video on rehairing. I also took the UNH rehairing workshop with Lynn Hannings. All use different methods. Some are tip to frog, some are frog to tip. Some use wire to tie the hair, some use thread.After using the UNH workshop, I use Lynn Hannings method- tip to frog, hair tied with thread. I've tried the other methods, but prefer this one.

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In my humble opinion, rehairing is nuance over knowledge and, unfortunately, nuance is hard to glean from a book.  I had the privilege of studying rehairing with Josh Henry, where I learned that it's a fluid process - almost like ballroom dancing.  When you forget/skip/confuse the "dance steps", you lose the ability to properly finish with solid rehair. The repetition is what replaces the awkward and instills the nuance.  I believe am a fast learner, but I do believe it would have been infinitely more difficult without someone like Josh to help one understand why your head plugs "tip in", or how to wedge a bow with a fingernail ferrule - or Vuillaume mounted - or the thousand other questions that come up during rehairs.

 

As was said by Rue and Brad, rehair training needs to go hand in hand with some degree of restoration training.  While learning, I had one completely fall apart.  The ferrule was the only thing holding the frog together.  Sadly, similar things are not terribly uncommon.

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There was an anecdote some years back about a well-known artist (was it Jamie Loredo?) who took his bow for a re-hair to an up-market shop.

He was given the rather snooty response - "we don't do synthetic bows". 

(The player had presented him with a top shelf Berg bow)

 

 

Leaving aside the whole issue of whether or not there's such a thing as a "top shelf Berg bow," it's highly unlikely Mr. Laredo would be so naive as to take such a piece into an "up-market shop" for rehair, let alone admit owning it.  A world-famous violinist with $$$ in the bank is unlikely to play on a "synthetic" bow of any brand.   That's the thing about anecdotes: they may or may not hold up to scrutiny, but then our human nature seems to lean to accepting anecdote as fact because it makes fun cocktail talk.  

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Leaving aside the whole issue of whether or not there's such a thing as a "top shelf Berg bow," it's highly unlikely Mr. Laredo would be so naive as to take such a piece into an "up-market shop" for rehair, let alone admit owning it.  A world-famous violinist with $$$ in the bank is unlikely to play on a "synthetic" bow of any brand.   That's the thing about anecdotes: they may or may not hold up to scrutiny, but then our human nature seems to lean to accepting anecdote as fact because it makes fun cocktail talk.  

LOL I've rehaired lots of bows, but nowadays, when even my junker shop trial bows need rehairing, I'll most likely send them to some of the best in the business,.

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Bows can be damaged and lose a great deal of their value very quickly, If a head is broken off, 70% of the value is gone.

When a player chooses someone to work on their bows, they are not only making a choice based on the quality of the work, but also based on the unlikelihood of any surprises happening.

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And just as an afterthought:  last summer I called my rehair-er, to alert him I was going to send him my bow during my down time.  His response was "I'm not going to rehair bows this summer.  There's so much work, I'll never have any time to make my own bows!"

 

The takeaway is that the famous guys with reputations are overwhelmed with work.  In addition to all the caveats so far mentioned, I suspect it's also a fact that the guys who purchase the most hair probably get first choice in terms of quality.  I'm reliably informed that an excellent bowmaker (again, with excellent reputations), can make a handsome living, if they're willing to sit at a bench all day long, doing basically the same thing.

 

I have no idea how long it takes to rehair a bow in a professional manner.  Is it possible to do six in a day's work?  What's 6 X $65?

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I admit it, I'm cheap.  Actually, not cheap, but only possess limited funds.  Sixty five bucks is a lot of money to me so if I can learn to do it myself, I will.  I have about a dozen bows that I have invested perhaps fifty bucks in the whole lot.  Besides, it's something new to learn and learning is something I have devoted my life to.  Many years ago, I decided to learn to be a jeweler.  That was before the internet so books were the only way.  You know what?  I became a damned good jeweler, making my own wax molds and casting them as well as cutting opals.  I quit that because I decided to build a house, by myself.  It took two years of nights and weekends but I got it done.  Now I've decided to build violins.  Nine months in and I've finished one, have three more in the works and a couple of sets of tonewood in the wings.  "Can't" isn't in my vocabulary.

 

I don't mean to be nasty or contrary in the least little bit and I deeply respect those here who do this but this is who I am.  Thanks to all that have helped me.  Dan.

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I admit it, I'm cheap.  Actually, not cheap, but only possess limited funds.  Sixty five bucks is a lot of money to me so if I can learn to do it myself, I will.  I have about a dozen bows that I have invested perhaps fifty bucks in the whole lot.  Besides, it's something new to learn and learning is something I have devoted my life to.  Many years ago, I decided to learn to be a jeweler.  That was before the internet so books were the only way.  You know what?  I became a damned good jeweler, making my own wax molds and casting them as well as cutting opals.  I quit that because I decided to build a house, by myself.  It took two years of nights and weekends but I got it done.  Now I've decided to build violins.  Nine months in and I've finished one, have three more in the works and a couple of sets of tonewood in the wings.  "Can't" isn't in my vocabulary.

 

I don't mean to be nasty or contrary in the least little bit and I deeply respect those here who do this but this is who I am.  Thanks to all that have helped me.  Dan.

Did you make any bow clamps yet?

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I admit it, I'm cheap.  Actually, not cheap, but only possess limited funds.  Sixty five bucks is a lot of money to me so if I can learn to do it myself, I will.  I have about a dozen bows that I have invested perhaps fifty bucks in the whole lot.  Besides, it's something new to learn and learning is something I have devoted my life to.  Many years ago, I decided to learn to be a jeweler.  That was before the internet so books were the only way.  You know what?  I became a damned good jeweler, making my own wax molds and casting them as well as cutting opals.  I quit that because I decided to build a house, by myself.  It took two years of nights and weekends but I got it done.  Now I've decided to build violins.  Nine months in and I've finished one, have three more in the works and a couple of sets of tonewood in the wings.  "Can't" isn't in my vocabulary.

 

I don't mean to be nasty or contrary in the least little bit and I deeply respect those here who do this but this is who I am.  Thanks to all that have helped me.  Dan.

I think your best bet then is to just get a cheap tail of hair, maybe 125 bucks worth and the Wake book on bow rehair and repair for 40 bucks or whatever it is and have at it. If you stick to the bows that you have that are under 50 bucks like you said, then most won't have a problem ethically with that. If you started working on Pecattes, people will take issue, but it doesn't sound like that is what you are doing so it doesn't matter. There are lots of people on here willing to dole out advice so you can probably ask questions if you get stuck. Report back, I'd be curious to how it works out. Good luck.
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Uncle Duke, I have no idea what bow clamps are.  I have a jig for rehairing.  Is this the same thing?  Matthew, thanks for the encouragement.  I have no idea how long I'll be around but, when I die, I hope to have a tool in my hands.

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And just as an afterthought:  last summer I called my rehair-er, to alert him I was going to send him my bow during my down time.  His response was "I'm not going to rehair bows this summer.  There's so much work, I'll never have any time to make my own bows!"

 

The takeaway is that the famous guys with reputations are overwhelmed with work.  In addition to all the caveats so far mentioned, I suspect it's also a fact that the guys who purchase the most hair probably get first choice in terms of quality.  I'm reliably informed that an excellent bowmaker (again, with excellent reputations), can make a handsome living, if they're willing to sit at a bench all day long, doing basically the same thing.

 

I have no idea how long it takes to rehair a bow in a professional manner.  Is it possible to do six in a day's work?  What's 6 X $65?

A good rehairer who does it every day can easily do 12 in a day. I've heard of one guy in NY who can do a bow in 6 minutes but I haven't seen that.

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Here are two fairly good videos on bow rehairing.

 

Bogen Behaaren

The process isn't explained but he video tapes the steps fairly well.

 

Daniel Olsen

Explains the main details of the process, but doesnt explain wedge making. Pretty good person too.

 

How to make a spreader wedge

 

http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/324624-bow-spreader-wedge/

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Uncle Duke, I have no idea what bow clamps are.  I have a jig for rehairing.  Is this the same thing?  Matthew, thanks for the encouragement.  I have no idea how long I'll be around but, when I die, I hope to have a tool in my hands.

Not the same but yes one of them.

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How does one rehair a bow with wedges glued in with apparently superglue? I tried to rehair one such bow (it came with a cheapo Chinese violin outfit that my daugher uses)...

 

Since a bow only has only one wedge, I assume you mean the plugs, not the wedges.  Whatever you call them, you need to dig them out with a small chisel. They will come out in small pieces, so you will need to make new ones and then proceed with a normal rehair.

 

If these are the typical plugs that I see in cheap Chinese bows, they are hard to get out more because they are installed with the grain vertical than because they are glued in.

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Leaving aside the whole issue of whether or not there's such a thing as a "top shelf Berg bow," it's highly unlikely Mr. Laredo would be so naive as to take such a piece into an "up-market shop" for rehair, let alone admit owning it.  A world-famous violinist with $$$ in the bank is unlikely to play on a "synthetic" bow of any brand.   That's the thing about anecdotes: they may or may not hold up to scrutiny, but then our human nature seems to lean to accepting anecdote as fact because it makes fun cocktail talk.  

Someone claiming to be Jaime Laredo left a couple of glowing endorsements on the Berg bow website. Maybe he forgot to let you know.

 

Linky

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How does one rehair a bow with wedges glued in with apparently superglue? I tried to rehair one such bow (it came with a cheapo Chinese violin outfit that my daugher uses) and gave up. Instead I ordered a $20 bow.

 

Very cheap bows are not worth the effort, nor are they worth; even the price or the cost of a rehair.

 

The way I deal with such crap, is to offer them (the customer that is) a new bow, for about the cost of a rehair.

By the way, I always let them know that the bow they have is really crap, and the one they are buying (from me) is also crap.

Of course, I word what I say very gracefully - but they must know that when they are dealing with the cheapest stuff available, that's exactly what they have.

 

There's simply no way of dealing with crap as if it is anything else...

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