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Brad Dorsey

Degraded Mother-of-Pearl in Frogs

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It is said that some players have corrosive perspiration that reacts with and degrades the mother-of-pearl slides in frogs.  And I occasionally receive a bow for rehairing that seems to confirm this.  The mother-of-pearl has lost its luster and is coated with a dull powdery residue of the reaction with the player's perspiration.  Pearl eyes are similarly affected.  Faced with this, I usually remove the slide from the frog and rub it with the finest grade of steel wool to remove the dullness and restore the luster.  In extreme cases, the mother-of-pearl has become significantly reduced in thickness or completely corroded away in some spots.

I am wondering if I am speeding the mother-of-pearl loss by removing the dull powder or if it would degrade just as fast without my help.  Given that this player is going to continue using this bow, it seems that there is no real solution.  I could replace the mother-of-pearl, but the replacement would corrode away just like the piece that I replaced.

What do other bow technicians here do about this?

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While I'm not a bow technician and this is not exactly the same problem, I had a frog with deeply set mother-of pearl that I suspect was the end result of sweat corrosion from the previous owner, and when I asked my bow expert about fixing this I was anticipating the mother-of-pearl would be replaced.  Instead she carefully put several coats of clear varnish over the eye and while this didn't completely flush things off, it made a big improvement visually, and this varnish has been fine for about 18 months but then I don't have corrosive sweat.  Nevertheless a coat or two of varnish might well offer protection to the mother-of-pearl against sweat.

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Have you tried Renaissance Wax? It was developed for use by the British Museum on their delicate items, and they use it on organic material like leather. I figured that if it was all right for leather it was probably okay for MOP as well, so I bought a small tin and tried it, feeling ever so glam and sophisticated as I did so. One of the reviewers said that it wouldn't leave a gloss finish on a non-glossy surface, but I noticed a deep, satisfying luster on both the pearl and the ebony I used it on. Yes, I went nuts and used it on frogs as well as slides.

You can buy it on Amazon, here:

http://www.businessinsider.com/84-lumber-releases-final-super-bowl-ad-about-a-mexican-journey-2017-2

If anybody knows of any reason why it shouldn't be used on bows, please let me know before I humiliate myself. I should add that it's a petroleum product, but then so is Vaseline.

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