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Bow hair is tight


Dan2
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I'm looking for advice on a tight bow re-hair.  The bow was re-haired recently during rainy (humid) weather.  The bow hair was fine when I brought the bow home from the luthier,  however now (during dry and lower humidity conditions) it it quite tight and it is not possible to allow the bow wood to relax without removing the screw and releasing the frog from the bow.

Will the hair stretch over say the next few weeks as a result of being used?

Can the hair be wetted on the bow whilst it is under tension in order to cause the hair to lengthen permanently or will it just shrink back when it dries?

Thanks.

 

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You should be able to stretch the hair a bit.

1. Make it wet (don't soak the frog or the head).

2. Split the bunch in half - pass the two halves left and right past the bow stick and fix them somewhere around the middle behind the stick with a pencil or chopstick (perpendicular to the bow stick).

3. Set aside to dry.

4. Remove fixture. Voila.

If you can't make sense of 2. its not your fault but mine.

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Thanks Guido,

Thanks for the extra step of the photo too.

I take it that you tighten the hair with the screw once it is looped over the chopstick, and I guess the higher the tension the greater the chance of stretching it? 

I take it there is no issue with wetting the hair, in that it doesn't damage it in any way?  The hair has been rosined and played on for about a week.

Do you know if this procedure is sort of speeding up a stretching process that would happen with the ordinary use of the bow over say a 6-12 month period?

Thanks.

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The hair will not stretch appreciably from use in a few weeks.  Wetting the hair will not damage it unless you keep it wet so long that it rots, but it won't help either.  If you wet the hair under tension, it will shrink back to the same length when it dries.  The only solutions are to move to a more humid climate or to get the bow fixed.  Some rehairers leave extra hair in the frog that can be let out if necessary, so the bow might not have to be completely rehaired.  If the rehairer rehaired the bow in humid weather knowing that the air would soon dry out, the problem is his or her fault.

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11 minutes ago, Brad Dorsey said:

The hair will not stretch appreciably from use in a few weeks.  Wetting the hair will not damage it unless you keep it wet so long that it rots, but it won't help either.  If you wet the hair under tension, it will shrink back to the same length when it dries.  The only solutions are to move to a more humid climate or to get the bow fixed.  Some rehairers leave extra hair in the frog that can be let out if necessary, so the bow might not have to be completely rehaired.  If the rehairer rehaired the bow in humid weather knowing that the air would soon dry out, the problem is his or her fault.

Hi Brad, is there a quick fix for too long hair? I guess the only way is to redo a plug and shorten the hair a bit.

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If the hair is only a little bit too long, a very quick temporary fix can sometimes be made by putting a small object such as a short piece of match stick between the head of the bow and the hair right where it exits the head.

For a more permanent fix, hair that's too long can usually be shortened.  This entails removing the ferrule, the wedge, the pearl slide, the frog plug and the knotted hair from the frog.  Then the hair can be tied off shorter and cut shorter and everything can be put back in the frog.  This takes about 10 minutes if everything goes smoothly.  It could take 30 to 45 minutes if problems are encountered such as tight ferrule, stuck slide, improperly cut plug or mortise, etc.

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8 minutes ago, Craigers said:

Sometimes it's also possible to remove the plug in the head, tie the hair shorter and return the hair and plug. This avoids having to disassemble the frog but is not always possible because mortices in heads tend to be more shallow than those in the frog.

Thanks Craigers, in my case it's probably best to redo the frog part as the wedge has not kept the hair ribbon at full width, probably also lengthening the hair a bit

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On 10/25/2018 at 4:57 AM, Dan2 said:

I'm looking for advice on a tight bow re-hair.  The bow was re-haired recently during rainy (humid) weather.  The bow hair was fine when I brought the bow home from the luthier,  however now (during dry and lower humidity conditions) it it quite tight and it is not possible to allow the bow wood to relax without removing the screw and releasing the frog from the bow.

Will the hair stretch over say the next few weeks as a result of being used?

Can the hair be wetted on the bow whilst it is under tension in order to cause the hair to lengthen permanently or will it just shrink back when it dries?

Thanks.

 

The problem may be that you need to Increase the relative humidity.  If the hair is shrinking that much, the instrument is screaming for moisture as well.

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Thanks Brad and Jerry.

There is about a 5mm distance from the bow wood to the hair when the screw is fully unwound in the middle of the day and relative humidity about 37%.  I tried to upload a photo but couldn't get it to work.  Looking at it,  I estimate that it is probably only a couple of mm in extra length in the bow hair that would allow the wood to relax.  Perhaps the hair will stretch that far in a month or so?  Have others found that a similar tight re-hair will stretch out ok with use in a month or so?

First thing in the morning there was a little less of a gap as the humidity was and is usually higher then.  I took the bow into the bathroom as an experiment and ran the hot shower.  The water vapour in the air soon lengthened the hair enough.     It is a pernambuco Seifert viola bow.

 

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1 hour ago, Jwillis said:

I have a bow that seems to tightenup so bad I need to rehair every winter. I don’t get it. Other bows don’t do the same?  Last year the thing actually was all the way loosened and it was tight enough to play with.  

 

1 hour ago, Jwillis said:

Maybe part of the issue is the stick as well as the hair...

It is not the stick, otherwise houses would get feet taller every spring.  You need to increase the relative humidity; the bow is one thing, but the humidity changes you are describing are incredibly dangerous to your instrument....it is only a matter of time if this course continues.......(a little Halloween scare).

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1 hour ago, Wood Butcher said:

How will this help when summer comes?

For the health of the shaft(s), probably safest.  Also, if one accounts for the cold/dry, setting the hair length at this extreme makes the most sense, practically; otherwise, it’s just a guess.  I decided this very thing this last summer that I will be doing this in late January, early Feb.  Far better to have a bow too slack than too tight, unless you don’t care about warping. I’ve also had good luck with Salchow, regardless of the timing.

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On 10/26/2018 at 1:30 AM, Dan2 said:

Thanks Brad and Jerry.

There is about a 5mm distance from the bow wood to the hair when the screw is fully unwound in the middle of the day and relative humidity about 37%.  I tried to upload a photo but couldn't get it to work.  Looking at it,  I estimate that it is probably only a couple of mm in extra length in the bow hair that would allow the wood to relax.  Perhaps the hair will stretch that far in a month or so?  Have others found that a similar tight re-hair will stretch out ok with use in a month or so?

First thing in the morning there was a little less of a gap as the humidity was and is usually higher then.  I took the bow into the bathroom as an experiment and ran the hot shower.  The water vapour in the air soon lengthened the hair enough.     It is a pernambuco Seifert viola bow.

 

Bow hair expands and contracts extremely predictably with changes in relative humidity.  You can have the bow rehaire at any time of the year, and a competent rehairer can get the job done; however, that is not the point.  Large swings in relative humidity are dangerous, you are talking about the equivalent of what color electrical tape is best to put over the check engine light!

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1 minute ago, Jerry Pasewicz said:

Bow hair expands and contracts extremely predictably with changes in relative humidity.  You can have the bow rehaire at any time of the year, and a competent rehairer can get the job done; however, that is not the point.  Large swings in relative humidity are dangerous, you are talking about the equivalent of what color electrical tape is best to put over the check engine light!

I like your simile... I’d say it’s more like the type of oil to use in your engine.  Say my car suggests 5w-40. The “40” is a given, but the viscosity “5” can be changed with expected climate.  However, most would agree that “0w” is the safest as it serves the best in cold climates while maintaining good function in warm/hot climates.  Why not go on the slightly slack side of this tension prediction?

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3 hours ago, Jwillis said:

I have a bow that seems to tightenup so bad I need to rehair every winter. I don’t get it. Other bows don’t do the same?  Last year the thing actually was all the way loosened and it was tight enough to play with.  

My guess is that the bow that becomes tight either has a weak stick, very little camber or both. Bows that have strong sticks and a lot of camber, while still effected by humidity changes, are much less likely to become overly tight when the humidity decreases. A good rehairer will take notice of these things when working on the bow and adjust accordingly. But like Jerry said, try to regulate the humidity for the health of your whole setup. 

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