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Rehairing Bows


Shunyata
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Just my two cents. I did an online course. However,  learning online is limiting.  I really think in-person demonstrations and repetitious exercises are best. I’ve been practicing rehairing for about a year and still don’t know if I am doing it properly because there is no one to mirror. Also, a lot can go wrong when rehairing. I chipped the frog of my best bow.   I’m sure some people do great with online instruction, but at some point you’ll want a pro to give you feedback.  I learned a lot from Gilles Nehr’s YouTube channel on rehairing a bow.  He has an excellent reputation.

 

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I couldn't comment on any videos without seeing them.  I have seen some that were obviously made by very competent rehairers, but I don't know if I could have learned how to do it just by watching them.  As Destino79 says, in-person demonstration and supervision are best.  Under this format I learned to do reasonable rehairs in a week-long class.  Before taking the class, I tried for years to learn on my own from a book without success.

There are many small steps that need to be done correctly for a good result.  It's complicated even when everything goes smoothly, but often there are obstacles that need to be overcome:  What if the ferrule won't come off, or the pearl slide separates from its liner, or the frog mortise is the wrong size/shape, or the screw is mis-aligned, or the frog rail is cracked, etc.  It took me years to figure out how to deal with all this stuff.

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I watched several different vids. Botched my first attempt, did reasonably well the 2nd try and the 3rd try on a second bow was a little better, still.  I haven't needed to do another bow yet, but I feel less trepidatious and somewhat more confident.  "Practice makes perfect"

Not having a Jig/Holder made it a little more difficult, but I managed with a Multipurpose Vise.

Harry Wake's book "Violin Bow Rehair and Repair" suggested copper wire, so I used that for the tie-offs

 

61163_W3.jpg

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I started 30 years ago and I've learned on my own and have developed a system that gives superior results... Every time!

Someday I'll write the how to book, but for now a few points to get you thinking...

1- buy the best hair there is ... I pay over $500/500gm plus shipping... cheap hair can be found for well under $100/500gm. The hair needs to be stallion; Siberian (whether it is actually Siberian is debatable, but it does reflect a certain quality); 32" (for violin); unbleached;  

2-I use Coats extra strong 100%nylon upholstery thread for tying the knot... I gave up on the wire suggested in the  H Wake book

3- Comb the hank to perfection before you tie the last knot

4-Use the Constrictor knot for tying...you can pull it real tight and it stays put. Key is "tight"  then melt the ends of the thread to seal it to the knot... never had a knot let go.

https://www.animatedknots.com/constrictor-knot-rope-end-method

5- Stretch the hair

6... If you end up with a few loose hairs, do not use a flame... I invert a dry clothes iron at the highest setting and lower the loose hair onto the iron ... the heat will shrink it and it pops into place. The problem with a flame is that you end up shrinking not only the loose hairs but also the tight ones.

... enough for now!.... good luck, Mat

Ps... be careful of grain orientation of the plugs!

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If you can have someone teach you in person, I would highly recommend it. Many years ago, I did a week long workshop with Lynn Hannings at UNH (Here's this years: https://training.unh.edu/course/bow-rehairing-1 ) You will learn a LOT more than just rehairing! During the week that I was there, I probably did about 15-20 rehairs (some good, some not so good), all supervised and critiqued, learned how to prep the bow for rehair, and a lot of other stuff.

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Thank you all.  I will get the Wake book and some high quality materials and see how it goes.

I am hours from a good luthier so learning to hair is a practical move for me. 

I figure if I can self learn to make good quality violins (with much help from this group) I should be able to learn to hair a bow.  I also learned that bad advice or bad thinking will lead you down bad paths.  So thank you again for your kind pointers.

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As others have mentioned, learning from someone who knows what they are doing in person is by far the best.  There are so many potential obstacles and tricks to doing it well.

One thing that I’ll disagree with Mat on is the quality of the hair.  Using the best one can find once you know what you’re doing certainly makes sense, but I don’t think it does when you’re learning, and likely throwing a lot out in the process.

Likewise, learn and practice on cheap bows.  There are lots of ways to cause damage while putting hair in a bow…. The lower quality bows may present more challenges, but you’ll lean from them.

It’s not an easy task to master!

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re the quality of hair...I'll agree with Mark in one way, but not another way...

If you use cheap hair it can be thin, brittle, ungiving and difficult to manage... making the rehair a more difficult job, and one is more likely to give up.  But... if can can learn to do a good rehair with poor hair, you can surely do a great job with great hair. 

On a per bow basis good hair will cost in the order of $8 in bulk cheap hair about $1... but the rehair job costs about $60... so relatively I have never compromised on quality. 

On the other hand, buy the best materials, best tools... you will pay more but your experience will be that much more successful and rewarding.

I get a lot of compliments on my rehairs and one of the best I got was...

" wow!... that bow almost plays by itself now!" ... and I think that has a lot to do with the hair quality.

Good luck!... Mat

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5 hours ago, Shunyata said:

Thank you all.  I will get the Wake book and some high quality materials and see how it goes.

I am hours from a good luthier so learning to hair is a practical move for me. 

I figure if I can self learn to make good quality violins (with much help from this group) I should be able to learn to hair a bow.  I also learned that bad advice or bad thinking will lead you down bad paths.  So thank you again for your kind pointers.

Best of lucks in getting the appropriate materials for your studies and discovering this necessity.

Getting the Wake book as a historic reference is a good idea, but moderate ( pick and choose ) the suggestions that are offered. More Modern methods might be better for some bows. The more bows one works on, please pay attention to the previous work of others.

Regionally, there might be ( are ) habits. There are levels of expertise offered by instructors from Maestro Hannings here in the US and Maestro G Nehr on utube. These are generous offerings. Maestro Hannings likely has taught a generation of rehair- ers in the US and am truly grateful. Not only has she help in standardizing techniques but in the understanding of how one might approach this work. She has been involved at many levels of the industry and should be applauded for the wisdom and instruction and patience. I have been in an argument with her and she is open minded and thoughtful and tough. Did I mention tough? Maestro G Nehr's online instruction is solid in my mind as I tend to follow his methods and that of Maestro Hennings. But either, I am sure, will offer exceptions and expertise beyond a short opportunity to instruct either online or in a week long class. I can almost travel anywhere in the US and locate the expertise of a reliable rehair within a several hour's drive now, which was not true 30 years ago.

Fitting the various wedges in place requires a developed eye. They are the smallest bits that might require precision cutting, shaping, and patience. Frankly, I have played and rehaired bows that were completed by excellent technicians and one sees the elegance of some interesting ( and thoughtful ) approaches. Since the process mostly does not require gluing, there is opportunity for experimentation. As long there is a pick ( or another tool ) strong enough to remove the wedges easily, the fit can be worked on.

I learned rehairs with horrible brittle hair. The shop owner blunty offered that there was a tremendous amounts to learn and experience before getting the better hair. After about two dozen attempts, he offered middling quality hair. I was never fast, but the rehairs are ok. 

The difficulty ( in my case ) came from the chiseling of the actual wood due to its size. The pieces are so small, that they do not like to be managed or controlled. My fingers are I have spent a total of hours looking for pieces that flown across the room during an attempt at a clean cut. Suggestion: sweep the workspace before attempting serious work on bows, as I tend to do mine in bunches. Any debris makes it difficult to look for a small chip of wood, at least for my eyes.

Learning how to fit the plugs, wedges takes time, and pre- fittings worked for me, and might be the best way to learn how to maximize the bow's abilities.

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I like the concept of the constrictor knot suggested by Mat - I will try it next time, as well as some quality nylon upholstery thread.

Oh - the ubiquitous Popsicle Stick is great flat wedge material. I save 'em to use as stirring sticks, sanding sticks and divers wood repairs.

Also - I like the Igarashi Nylon Faced Pliers for pulling off the ferrule 

https://www.amazon.com/PH-200-Non-marring-Plastic-Touch-Pliers/dp/B000ALF5EK/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3PX5AHAFOQC82&keywords=japanese+nylon+pliers&qid=1650135518&sprefix=japanese+nylon+pliers%2Caps%2C169&sr=8-1

 

 

 

 

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This discussion has been great!!! I have ordered the Wake book, some materials from International Violin and a set of the nylon face pliers. (I have needed something like that anyway!)

I will start watching videos and come back with any questions.

I think the constrictor knot is the "whip" knot I learned 45 years ago as a Cub Scout.  :-)

 

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After wetting...

If it's a warm day, I set the bow outside to dry. If it's evening or cold, I use a hair dryer on medium or low. I cover the stick with a cloth and run the Hair Dryer up and down.

Another recently stumbled upon tip; Cakes of Rosin that are wallowed out in the middle can be warmed and melted using a 150W Incandescent Lamp set close to the rosin in 30-45 minutes. The rosin melts and flattens out. Be sure to tape across the ends of the holder to prevent the rosin from running out  ;)

d-addario-natural-rosin-light-vr200-5.gi

 

 

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6 minutes ago, Shunyata said:

When I lived in the city, the luthier I went to wetted the hair in some way... and wouldn't let you pick up your bow until the hair was dry.

I will be interested to see if this is covered in the videos.

I wet the hair after  the hair is in the bow and already tightened. Wetting the hair and then tightening the bow can result in breaking the stick..

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On 4/16/2022 at 2:59 PM, Rico Suave said:

....Also - I like the Igarashi Nylon Faced Pliers for pulling off the ferrule ...

I just use a pair of channel lock pliers with a heavy pad of leather glued to each side of the jaw

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An issue i have pondered... as in the Nehr videos above, the hair is well wetted before tying the second knot.

Problem as I see it is that hair shrinks when drying, but the knot string does not because it is synthetic. So once the hair in the knot is dry... won't the knot be just a bit less tight?? ... as opposed to tying the knot dry.

 

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20 minutes ago, Mat Roop said:

Problem as I see it is that hair shrinks when drying, but the knot string does not because it is synthetic.

BTW it is natural hair not synthetic,

the second part of the video at 05:40 minuets 
you can see very clearly the difference of the hair in both ends, at the lower side it is brownish instead of the upper side of the horse tail .
https://youtu.be/aU4v0YvXD4s?t=340
 


  

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1 hour ago, Mat Roop said:

An issue i have pondered... as in the Nehr videos above, the hair is well wetted before tying the second knot.

Problem as I see it is that hair shrinks when drying, but the knot string does not because it is synthetic. So once the hair in the knot is dry... won't the knot be just a bit less tight?? ... as opposed to tying the knot dry.

 

That’s a fair point and concern.  I have however done 100s of rehairs that way, tip first, and don’t recall ever having a problem with the second knot slipping.

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9 hours ago, Mark Norfleet said:

That’s a fair point and concern.  I have however done 100s of rehairs that way, tip first, and don’t recall ever having a problem with the second knot slipping.

Mark,

I also do tip first although I have to admit there is a logic to the idea that combing from wider to narrower might be better.

However I rehair dry and short, finish the bow including ferrule wedge so that it looks good as is, then wet the hair without getting water in the plug mortise or inside the frog. That allows the hairs to even up the tension and stretch some so that the hair is now normal tightness when the bow is loosened. When rehairing with wet hair how do you get the length exactly right? Does it always shrink a consistent amount? How much do you tighten the wet hair to get it to stretch without risking the hair shrinking enough to damage the bow?

Not that I plan to change my procedure at this point but just interested.

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18 minutes ago, nathan slobodkin said:

When rehairing with wet hair how do you get the length exactly right? Does it always shrink a consistent amount? How much do you tighten the wet hair to get it to stretch without risking the hair shrinking enough to damage the bow?

I guess the basic answer is experience.  Yes, hair responds to humidity/water in a pretty consistent way and the only bows I ever had a problem with were a few super strong cello and bass bows that would really stretch the hair.  If I remember correctly, I'd put just a bit of tension on the hair and then set it on a rack to dry.  The wedge that spreads the hair at the ferrule would go in after it dried.  I did see a few bows done by folks I was training which got scary tight when the hair dried, but we never broke one that way, at least that I'm aware of...
All of that said, I've not rehaired a bow in 20 years, but did my share in that sizable shop, the name of which most seem reluctant to mention.

One advantage to setting the length when the hair was wet is that there was never any question about what the humidity level was.

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