Wood Butcher

Rehair turning stick?

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While I can make violins, I've not tried rehairing bows before. I have read up, and watched some videos to familiarise myself with the process, but some details I've heard of still elude me, namely the turning stick.

I first heard of this in relation to people from the Hill workshop, but I have never seen what it actually looks like. Recently someone on Maestronet posted a picture of a spiked stick they used when rehairing, which to me looked like something you'd use to torture a caterpillar. I couldn't understand it's function.

I have several factory made brazil wood nickel mounted bows from the 1980's to practice on, so no great loss if it all goes a bit awry. I've practiced cutting the wedges, tying the knots, a lapping & thumb grips so far. I've bought some medium quality hair, which hopefully will be good enough to use for playing, if I make an ok job of the rehair.
What is the best way to judge how much hair the stick can take? I know that some bows can play badly if too much hair is used, but what is a good starting point, weighing the hair, or counting it out? Some of the bows still have hair in, so I can use this as a guide, but others have no hair left at all.
Are those little horn combs necessary, or is a cheap plastic comb ok?

If anyone has a picture of a turning stick, one in action, or knows of a video showing the use of one, I'd be much obliged.

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The stick you mentioned  (caterpillar torturing tool) is mine.

If you think of how the ribbon of hair must bend around the head wedge, you'll realise that if each hair is to be at the same tension, the outer hairs must be longer. They have further to go. 

The hair at the centre of the ribbon, and next to the tip face is the shortest. The hair on the playing surface a little longer, and the hairs must be longer and longer till at the edges of the ribbon they will be longest.

The turning stick imitates the head wedge. Before you tighten the knot, you hold the hair firmly on the face of the stick, and bend it around. The hair slips slightly in the knot, each hair taking the correct length for its position in the bow. Then the knot is tightened and tied. The turning stick also allows you to make the playing side a whisker tighter, by just pushing the knot a tiny bit to the side.

I put a comb of pins in my turning stick to spread the ribbon accurately, with the hairs in their correct positions, to the width of the mortice, because especially on wide ribbons, I sometimes found the outside hairs a bit tighter than the central ones.

Many bow rehairers soak the hair in water, softening it, and rely on it's shrinking back to the correct length. This can work reasonably well, but too often the hair must be passed through a flame to tighten stragglers up. I prefer to dampen the hair just a moment before I make the head knot. This makes the hair much easier to handle, and it does tighten up a little as it dries. Done well, there's no need to 'flame' hair. It sits well without any further adjustment.

Hope this explains it.

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As long as you're looking at Lynn's site you might want to nab one of these puppies:

59eaef420c60f_CombPhoto.jpg.c08e6f7a07291f10d2ad2b19b27e83b9.jpg

They're basically repurposed pet flea combs with the handles cut off. I'm not really clear how horn combs came to have such an almost mythic appeal for rehairing, but I have one and never do use it. The teeth on the pet combs are round and rigid, evenly spaced, easily cleaned (alcohol) and durable. There's also a bonus to their design.One method of working is to spread the hair in the comb just slightly wider than the ferrule and then use the comb itself to push the spreader wedge home. The straight rigid back of the pet comb seems tailor made for that technique. BTW the above pic I would call a medium spacing of the teeth. They come finer and coarser. The fine teeth can be useful but you'll probably find the pictured comb the one you reach for most often..

Counting hairs, weighing hairs...you can. A gauge is quicker and easier. It's just a slot (usually 1 mm wide) cut in a wood or metal stick with calibrations marked along its length.I have one by Herdim I like (though I wish it were a bit more rigid). It has a mm scale next to the slot.There are two ways you can use it. If I'm doing a bass bow, which I'm most familiar with, I'll use the gauge to measure the inside width of the ferrule and then spread the hair in the slot to that width, pressing the hair between thumb and index finger, adding or subtracting hair until the ribbon feels right. Then add just a little bit more, depending on the quality of the hair, to account for rejects I'm going to pull out as I comb and inspect the hank. After culling, I'll usually do a second check with the gauge to be sure.

With the other strings that I'm not so intimate with, I use the second method. In the workshops we were given "ideal" hanks of hair for violin, viola, cello. It was a simple matter of jamming those sample hanks into the slot of my gauge and seeing where each measured out to. I think they were 8, 8.5 and 12mm respectively in my 1mm wide slot. So that's a starting point. You can adjust from there. If you buy your gauge from Lynn it will simply have 4 marks on it, one for each instrument.Or you can easily make your own. The same for the turning stick. But I think when you're just starting out it's better to let someone else deal with the tool making and you concentrate on learning to use them.

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Thank you all for the helpful advice, especially Connor for such a detailed explanation and pictures.

FiddleDoug, that is the first one I have seen, so thanks for your link.

Bengreen, thanks for showing your comb, I had not thought a steel comb would safe on the hair, but I know exactly the kind you mean, where the teeth are actually round pins. I will look into one of these.
Your advice about the hair amount and the gauge is useful, so I will make a simple one from 1.5mm plywood to test this out.

Jerry, I had planned to do the frog first, but I don't know if there is a best end to start from. It just seems that there is a lot more going on at the frog end, and I'd like to have that all together before tying the second knot. Is it a good idea to have the frog at the very start of the mortice, or to move it back a few turns first, before working out the position for the knot at the head (if you do it this way round)?

Connor, thank you so much. Looking at the photos, I now understand the purpose of the turning stick, it's clear in the second picture, when the hair is straightened, just how much of a difference in length there is. Without seeing that, I would never have worked it out myself.

 

 

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Lynn Hannings teaches tip to frog rehairing. I use both the turning/spreading stick, and the steel comb. I can see a couple of advantages of tip to frog. One is that you can have the hair reasonably tight when you spread the hair (over the round part of the turning/spreading stick) to fit the frog ferrule wedge in.

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5 hours ago, Conor Russell said:

Rehairing a bow. 

Here's how much the hairs differ in length.

 

Thanks much for the great illustrations and explanations, Conor.  I'm glad to see that you survived the hurricane (and the Guinness) in good order. 

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W.B.,

Head to frog rehairing allows for more wiggle room if you do not nail the tension and relative tension right off the bat, but frog to head is easier to nail the parameters the first time.  If you plan on doing quite a few, head to frog gives you more control over the minutiae.

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Jerry, thanks for the advice. As I have a few bows almost ready to begin, I will try both ways and see how it goes. I'm sure I'll find it tricky either way to begin with, but like many things, it's best to try and do it the right way from the start.

When I get going, I will post some pictures of my progress.

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1 hour ago, Wood Butcher said:

Jerry, thanks for the advice. As I have a few bows almost ready to begin, I will try both ways and see how it goes. I'm sure I'll find it tricky either way to begin with, but like many things, it's best to try and do it the right way from the start.

When I get going, I will post some pictures of my progress.

Good luck, and give it time.  It will take hundreds to be competent and thousands to get proficient.

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