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Bow Wrapping, Whalebone style

Jeff White

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5 hours ago, Ed Shillitoe said:

...does your winding jig have a pawl or some device to stop it slipping backward?  And what kind of super glue do you use?  I find this to be a lot trickier than using silver or thread windings, and most glues hardly hold the plastic at all..

My winding fixture does not have a spindle lock.  As I said, it's a bit crude, so there is some friction where the spindle passes through the wooden block, and that keeps it from rotating to some extent.  But whenever I apply tension to whatever I'm winding on a bow (plastic strips, tinsel, wire, etc) I am always holding or turning the spindle with one hand to resist the tension.

On this wrapping I used Aron Alpha brand glue.  I have also used Zap.  I don't think the brand makes any difference, but I always use the thin viscosity so that I can apply glue to the outside of the wrapping and it will wick in.

I have trouble with the glue not holding the plastic strips, too.  The glue adhered to these strips better than it does to some other types of plastic, but it doesn't adhere terribly well to any of them.  With the strips that don't adhere as well as these it's a struggle to get the thumb leather glued on at the same time that the strips are peeling off.  The leather, once it's on, holds the frog end of the wrapping better than the glue.

The one type of plastic strips that I have found that the glue adheres well to is the classy expensive English stuff that Jeffrey referred to.  The adhesion is helpful in gluing the strips to the bow, but it's also a problem because the glue makes a mess when it sticks to the outsides of the strips where it's visible.  I've never tried putting paper under it as he describes.

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5 hours ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

I used use a piece of my stationary at "the firm".  It was beige-ish.  The idea is to get the reflection to mimic the brownish-white natural whalebone had AND to prevent the plastic from gripping into the finish of the stick (the semi transparency makes it look blotchy when it sticks... almost like liquid is stuck under the wrap).  Make sense?

Nope, looks like I'll have to come out there and have you show me in person:D

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Brad, you can also "cheat" and put a piece of double sided tape under there, or add a little bit of powdered rosin to increase the friction as well. 

I am curious about the leather you mentioned. I have seen solid leather windings that are either essentially a very long thumb leather on it's own, or that with a thumb leather on top, but never something using leather in a similar fashion to the whale bone. Suede side in or out? Do you have any photos of those? What does it feel like to the player? I'm imagining it being fairly "grippy" under the first finger, which some players would really enjoy, others not so much.

Thank you for taking the time to take the photos and write it out. I remember making a post explaining how to measure a balance point to someone who was concerned about a bow being tip heavy, and having a bow in one hand and a camera/phone is awkward at best.

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The single piece of leather that I mentioned is about 70 to 80 millimeters long and, as you describe it, "essentially a very long thumb leather on it's own."  Here's one of these that I did:

P1040818 (2).JPG

  I have also seen grips consisting of a piece of leather something like this with a normal-sized thumb leather glued over it next to the frog.  Here's one that I did not do:

P1040819 (2).JPG

I don't do this type because all the leather I have is too thick.  The double thickness of it at the thumb would be too much.  If I run across some very thin leather I probably will do some like this.

Here's one that I did with a single narrow strip and a thumb leather:

P1040820 (2).JPG

The strip is some sort of imitation leather lacing that I found a spool of at the flea market.

As far as what these feel like to players, I'm sure that different players will have different opinions on the feel of different types of grips.  Since these are cheap bows, they will mostly be used by unsophisticated players who have not yet developed their own opinions and prejudices about what a bow grip should feel like.

I want everyone to understand that I do not consider any of the grips I have shown in this thread to be appropriate for fine bows.  They are the result of me goofing around with various materials that I have scrounged to come up with a variety of looks.


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Thanks again. The first two are exactly what I was describing, and what I have seen before. The majority of the first type I have seen on German bass bows, where they were added for a bit of weight, and often to cover the transition from round to octagonal at the frog end, which I know some players and makers alike do not like the look of. I personally prefer German bows without a winding (as a player) and think that transition can be quite nice depending on the execution of it.

As you mentioned, the second I have seen primarily on student bows. It can be done quite quickly, is very durable, and unless you have a student picking at the overlap and pulling the leather off, it should last for a very long time. I have seen it with quite thin leather like the one pictured, but also with the same thickness of leather that one might use on a thumb leather with proponents of it postulating that beginners, particularly less dexterous children, benefit from having something a little thicker in the hand. That is one of the same benefits often mentioned in regards to whalebone, but it is also one of the reasons a lot of people don't like it. 

As for the third I have not seen it at all, and was curious as to how it looks and feels. There are a lot of really interesting things that can be done with windings, and occasionally it seems that we are wrapped up in tradition. While using something historically appropriate in restorations/repairs particularly on pedigree/fine bows is the right thing to do, I do not see an issue with being more creative with modern making, or student bows.

I know that many modern makers are concerned with selling bows and that straying too far from tradition can sometimes shrink your potential market, but an interesting winding is a low pressure/risk way to do something innovative that can be "fixed" if so desired by a player/buyer, where a radical new head/frog model is not such an easy switch. 


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I just skimmed through all of the comments so hope I'm not repeating something already said.

I was taught (by Lynn Hannings) to do faux whalebone largely the same as a silk wrap. Which means both ends are pulled under, not just the beginning. I use a dot of CA at each end as insurance but it's really the tension of the wrap that holds it together.

If you haven't done silk, the way to end the wrap is to lay a loop of thread underneath the last half dozen or so turns, slip the end of the wrap through the loop and then pull it all through underneath the wrap so that the winding exits with the loop. Then just trim flush.

A quick and dirty drawing done with a mouse:Pull End Through.jpg

When doing this with whalebone, you terminate the white strip after entering the leather area, burying its end under several turns of the black, Then finish with the black alone to the end so you only have the one strip to pull under.

It's easy with silk, tricky with whalebone, but it gets rid of your problem of trying to stabilize the wrap until the leather is in place. Though in reality you could just tape the end and leather over it, especially if you want some padding to lose some of the ripple feeling under thin lizard skin.

If you do the pull under, the whalebone needs to not just taper but be sliced into a thin ribbon for maybe a half inch after the end of the winding so it can flex easily, but thick enough not to be severed by the thread. It's also a good idea to roughen the entire length of the underside of the wrap material with sandpaper so it won't be so slick. Plus doing a shoeshine with the strip over the edge of your bench to make it more supple.

If the pic's too primitive, let me know and I'll try to make it clearer.




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I have usually done/seen about four turns around of black before adding the lighter colour. That would work out to just under half of what is in your photo, and would look "normal" from what I have encountered. Another thing to consider is that although the whalebone is significantly thicker than silver or silk, usually you want to put a layer or two of something over the whalebone under the thumb leather such as masking/painter's tape or newspaper, so the player does not see and feel the ripples/valleys of the whalebone. 

Otherwise, it looks great. I haven't done one in a while, and it's making me feel like I should give one a go. 

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