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Rehairing


cellocelloareyouthere
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Hello,

 

I have been an avid Cello player for almost 10 years now and i am getting to the stage where i am becoming curious as to how my playing is effected by the instrument i use. I have always had my bow rehaired at my local luthier, but now i am trying to play around with it myself with a few old bows i have lying around from my early days. 

Anyway, i have been trying to use some different strands of hairs, synthetic and natural, and this weekend i am going up to my friend's ranch in B.C and i thought it is a great opportunity to cut some hair from one of his own horse's tails. (He has so far agreed to this!). I tried to do a little research on the internet about how i can prepare it so i can use it the next time i want to tinker with my bow, however the advice has often been vague (and largely relevant to preparing it to make jewellery). Otherwise the one or two places i have bought hair from before haven't really told me so much apart from it is washed before it comes into their warehouse.

 

So far, what i have is that i must cut the hair close to the tail bone, and cut it from the underside so it doesn't look so obvious that the horse has had its tail cut. Then, the section i cut should be one with the longest hairs as possible. Once i have these strands of hair, i need to wash them in a detergent or soap that isn't scented (Not sure about conditioner? Should i use that too?). Then i need to brush it several times to identify the imperfect hairs (too long/short, knotted, twisted, curled, split ended etc). Finally, i need to even up the ends, cut them all to the perfectly same size, then use a measuring device to get my required thickness of hair. Then i can start to use this "hank" (spelling?) for rehairing my bow.

 

If anyone can shed a little bit more advice on this, then that would be great. I understand "redressing" is a practiced art, but I at least want to give it a go.

 

Thanks,

Luke

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Before you get to cutting, length is going to be your biggest concern. Most bow hair is sold around 32" in length, although you can get it longer and shorter from different sources. Cello bows are a little shorter than violin bows but especially when you are starting out, having a slightly longer "tail" beyond the length you intend to cut the hair to can be very helpful. I have not cut hair directly from a horse before, so I am not sure how difficult/easy it is to find hair that is long enough. 

 

From there it is washed and sorted. You want to avoid scented detergents/shampoos, and anything that would leave anything behind. Some shampoos and conditioners have oils and even silicone in them now to "create a healthy looking shine" which you don't want anywhere near your bow. Remove damaged/short hair so that what you are left with is all long enough for your rehair. If you have more than one hank, (yes you have the correct spelling, and "hank" is used to describe the amount of hair needed for one bow. A violin hank is much smaller than a bass hank, and different makers sometimes use more/less hair than others) then you want to bundle and tie off the end so it is easier to work with. While making sure the hair is long enough is important, at that stage you do not need to perfectly align and cut to length. You will be cutting the hair after you tie the knot in either end as part of the rehair so as long as the hair is long enough to reach from knot to knot, pretty close is fine and evening up the ends followed by cutting to perfectly the same size is not necessary. That would be expected if you were selling a bundle of hair to another maker, but for your own personal use it does not need to be an exact science. 

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Hello,

 

I have been an avid Cello player for almost 10 years now and i am getting to the stage where i am becoming curious as to how my playing is effected by the instrument i use. I have always had my bow rehaired at my local luthier, but now i am trying to play around with it myself with a few old bows i have lying around from my early days. 

Anyway, i have been trying to use some different strands of hairs, synthetic and natural, and this weekend i am going up to my friend's ranch in B.C and i thought it is a great opportunity to cut some hair from one of his own horse's tails. (He has so far agreed to this!). I tried to do a little research on the internet about how i can prepare it so i can use it the next time i want to tinker with my bow, however the advice has often been vague (and largely relevant to preparing it to make jewellery). Otherwise the one or two places i have bought hair from before haven't really told me so much apart from it is washed before it comes into their warehouse.

 

So far, what i have is that i must cut the hair close to the tail bone, and cut it from the underside so it doesn't look so obvious that the horse has had its tail cut. Then, the section i cut should be one with the longest hairs as possible. Once i have these strands of hair, i need to wash them in a detergent or soap that isn't scented (Not sure about conditioner? Should i use that too?). Then i need to brush it several times to identify the imperfect hairs (too long/short, knotted, twisted, curled, split ended etc). Finally, i need to even up the ends, cut them all to the perfectly same size, then use a measuring device to get my required thickness of hair. Then i can start to use this "hank" (spelling?) for rehairing my bow.

 

If anyone can shed a little bit more advice on this, then that would be great. I understand "redressing" is a practiced art, but I at least want to give it a go.

 

Thanks,

Luke

Good way to get kicked severely by a 1500-lb animal. 

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Unlikely. Unless your horse handling skills suck.

 

I've been tempted to try...just putting together a hank for fun...don't know if anyone has tails long enough though.  And I wouldn't have a white ribbon either...it would have to be mixed colours...

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Come on guys, my six year old could do it and she's city folk.

 

Some of the best bass bow hair I have used is a unprocessed rainbow mix that smell straight from the farm.  Even had a few cello players ask for it and like.  Make sure you keep the root and taper ends all in the same direction and tie a tight knot real close to the root end.  As for cleaning I would try something that is very gentle and can be washed out completely such as Ivory soap.

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I have rehaired several bows with hair from the musicians' own horses ( black & Brown)... but they have cut the hair... not something I would want to do, not so much because of the horses reaction, but in case I mess up and the nice bushy tail becomes  a lopsided embarassment!. I just say to the owner I need about 200 strands at least 32 " long.... they all know how big a hank is because that's what they have in their bow.

 What they do is tie off a bunch with string under the tail that seems long enough... it gets me a lot more hair than needed, mostly too short.  I take this large "hank" measure 32" from the tied butt end and tie it off tight. Untie the original tie and the short hairs will all pull out leaving the rest as a hank tied at the other end. 

As for washing, I use a cheap baby shampoo, as that will have the least harmful effect on the hair. Wash 3 times, rinse with a solution of 5 ml glycerine to 340 ml soft water... after that run the hairs a few at a time between your fingers & thumb and sort out the hairs that are kinky or coarse then it's rehair as usual. Never had any complaints.

BTW... I had heard that if you cut off a horses tail it will not grow back???... Not sure I believe that, but, what do I know about the rear end of a horse:)

.. A satisfying process... good luck, Mat

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I have recently been using stallion hair from a very good and well respected dresser.

I find that it is quite different to mare hair. It's white to the tip , much smoother , and less tapered. It's elastic and strong.

The difference in taper makes for a slightly fuller tip.

Myth? I don't know. I know that I trust my supplier and if he tells me it's stallion I believe that it is.

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Hello everyone, thank you so much for all your great feedback, it is going to be an exciting experience for sure!

Re Fernando.f - I heard it was opposite, that actually stallions make stronger hair because they don't pee all over their tail, unlike the mares. However on the otherhand, i heard some people prefer hair from a mare because the urine stains actually help to grip to roisin better. I don't know if there is any fact in this, or if it is all just myth.

 

Re: Mat Roop - Thanks for the feedback, what does the glycerine do? Is the wash three times over just to make sure you get every little piece of dirt out of the tail etc?

When i look at buying hair from the internet, the hanks look like they are crimped at one end, and the bundles are tied together using a specific type of string. I understand the crimp as a tying mechanism, but does the string have to be exactly that type of string, or is that traditional? What is the reason behind that? Any other suggestions as to what else to use?

Also, I wont be going straight home after my visit, so i was thinking to keep the tail hair fresher, i could use my friends vacuum sealer. Several questions with this... has anyone tried this before? Also, if i roll up the hank to keep it in a small as space as possible, then do you think it will still be ok when i unroll it... or do you think it would retain its curliness and not be usable anymore? Again, i was thinking that if i can take enough, i will send one hank to a friend of mine who is also a Cello player. I was worried that if i roll it up (obviously not into a ball as this will just matt the whole thing together, but roll it up like a sleeping bag instead (if that makes sense)), then when it is unrolled later it might be too curly to use, or whether it would just bounce back. What do you guys think?

Thank you again for all your assistance in advance.

I really appreciate it.

Thanks,
Luke

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I have recently been using stallion hair from a very good and well respected dresser.

I find that it is quite different to mare hair. It's white to the tip , much smoother , and less tapered. It's elastic and strong.

The difference in taper makes for a slightly fuller tip.

Myth? I don't know. I know that I trust my supplier and if he tells me it's stallion I believe that it is.

The only difference between stallion and mare hair, can also use a gelding (stallion minus body parts) is due to urine getting mixed in with the hair. Even after cleaning you can never really get rid of the stains or smell. Yup, don't use mare hair! I grew up on a horse farm and it is fairly common to sell a tail from a white horse occasionally.

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BTW... I had heard that if you cut off a horses tail it will not grow back???... Not sure I believe that, but, what do I know about the rear end of a horse:)

A horse has a tail...and hair that grows from the tail.

If you actually cut/amputate the tail...that is called docking (a surgical procedure) or bobbing (remember the bob-tail nag?) the horse will have very short hair since you remove a large part of the tissue that grows the hair.  They did this with harness horses so that the tail wouldn't tangle in the equipment or otherwise cause issues. You rarely see this done anymore.  Nowadays most people who drive horses would take the time to braid the tail.  However...sometimes the term 'dock' is also used to just refer to a very short trim of the tail hair.

Hair grows back. But it grows back very slowly. Same as on people.  There is no problem in taking 200 hairs from a tail. There will still be more than enough left for the horse to use (fly swatter).  But yes - it would be nice if one didn't harvest all the hair from a single patch - and leave a bald spot...

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...When i look at buying hair from the internet, the hanks look like they are crimped at one end, and the bundles are tied together using a specific type of string. I understand the crimp as a tying mechanism, but does the string have to be exactly that type of string, or is that traditional? What is the reason behind that? Any other suggestions as to what else to use?...

 
Individual hanks offered for sale generally have one end fastened with a knotted thread wrapping.  Various types of thread can be used, but strong and thin is best.  The thread needs to be strong because it should be tied very tightly around the hair, and weak thread would break when it's pulled tight.  The thread should also be thin so that the knot around the hair is small.  For many years I have been happily using Coats and Clark brand upholstery thread that I buy at a fabric store.
 

...if i roll up the hank to keep it in a small as space as possible, then do you think it will still be ok when i unroll it... or do you think it would retain its curliness and not be usable anymore? Again, i was thinking that if i can take enough, i will send one hank to a friend of mine who is also a Cello player. I was worried that if i roll it up (obviously not into a ball as this will just matt the whole thing together, but roll it up like a sleeping bag instead (if that makes sense)), then when it is unrolled later it might be too curly to use, or whether it would just bounce back...

 

 

Bulk hair is normally shipped and stored straight.  After one end is tied off, individual hanks of hair can be coiled up without causing any problems.  The coil can be the same diameter as a coiled cello string.

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Hair grows back. But it grows back very slowly. Same as on people.  There is no problem in taking 200 hairs from a tail. There will still be more than enough left for the horse to use (fly swatter).  But yes - it would be nice if one didn't harvest all the hair from a single patch - and leave a bald spot...

I suppose it wouldn't be just, to give the horse an inferiority complex.

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Thankyou very much for the feedback. It is interesting you talk about buying hanks. If i buy some if my experiment doesnt work, then what do you suggest is something i look for? Are there certain things i should really be careful about? Such as how it is sent to me? I saw one guy hermatically seals his hair packaging when he sends it. If they send it in a straight packaging etc, so it reduces the risk of coils. When i looked for a hair source before so many pictures appeared of hanks of hair in ziplok bags, which i found a little strange... this was generally coiled, so thats why i thought maybe it was ok to coil it very finely.

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Just FTR, I would have to take issue with the terminology of "stallion" hair.

 

At least in thoroughbred racing circles, the term "stallion" is reserved for an ungelded (or "entire") horse, whose achievements on the track have earned him a future of uxorious bliss. A horse who has not yet attained such rank but still has his tackle intact  is referred to as a "colt"  until he reaches the age of 5, when (if still entire) he becomes simply a "horse" . If he has his tackle removed prior to that then he is a "gelding". A mare btw  does not become a mare until the age of 5.. Prior to that she is a "filly".

 

It may well be that the horses in Outer  Mongolia, where I am led to believe that the best hair comes from, do go through their lives without the unwanted attentions of a veterinary surgeon equipped with a sharp knife, and that they breed promiscuously, which would indeed mean that there are many "stallions" there, but I suspect that such is not in fact the case, and that the horses are  gelded as a matter of course, excepting  those reserved for breeding purposes. My suspicion is that the hair which is supplied for use in violin bows does in fact come almost exclusively from geldings, who would be more tractable and amenable to such treatment than a stallion would be. 

 

It has to be admitted however that having  your bow (allegedly)  rehaired with "stallion" hair does carry a certain element of macho charisma which would be absent were one to admit  that the bow had been rehaired with "gelding" hair...

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We bred horses.  Stallions are intact mature male horses.  Their accomplishments notwithstanding...

 

They are all called horses; colts, fillies, mares, stallions and geldings...

 

Must be some variation in the local jargon?

 

Now 'cows' for example...we often call them all 'cows' - even if it's obviously a mixed herd of cattle.

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I can only speak for the thoroughbred racing industry, in which I was involved  for many enjoyable years. These terms would also be the same for the thoroughbred industry in the US.

 

As I said, the term "stallion" is reserved, in thoroughbred breeding circles, for male horses who perform stud duties.  There have in fact been several instances in racing of entire horses who raced until an advanced age ... one such famous instance was a horse called Pheidippides, who was owned by Phil Bull, the legendary founder of the international racing publication "Timeform". At no point in his racing career, however, which lasted until he was 16 years old, was Pheidippides ever referred to by any knowledgeable scribe as a "stallion". He never  did become a stallion, even when his racing career was over. 

 

I am not disputing that in non-racing circles, the term "stallion" may well be carelessly applied to any full horse.. I am simply pointing out that it is a misnomer in the majority of cases, irrespective of how well-entrenched such colloquial usage may have become. 

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Despite all the horsing around I'm pretty sure the bulk of the hair we use comes from slaughter houses. It takes sorting through a heck of a lot of hair to come up with a pound of high quality bow hair. I have two grades which I use. One is billed as Canadian from Sowden and is rediculously expensive and worth every penny. The " regular" hair is about half as expensive but I have to cull about 10% of the hairs. It is still better than my competitors use but the pros appreciate the best grade.

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