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On thumb leathers

January 15, 2008 at 1:57 AM

It’s another quirk of mine but I burn out thumb leathers like nobody’s business. Indeed, if I put my hand on a cow it would probably have worked it’s way through within a couple of hours. That’s why I never became the new James Herriot. The problem is slightly compounded by the usual very flimsy leather often used here in Japan. Getting a new leather put on once a month is expensive so I began looking round for an alternative solution. What I ended up using around the worn part of leather is the cloth sticky tape that is used to stick down the end of a bandage after it has been wrapped around an offending body part.
Reason I mention this is because of a major bugbear of mine. So often beginners have either no thumb leather or it positioned so badly they cannot possibly hold the bow. This unacceptable state of affairs is left by the teacher and the end result can often be the student giving up in frustration. I wonder how many times a high school teacher has had little or no success with his/her large classes of students because of this simple problem? Carrying a spool of the above mentioned tape might just be the job.
Interestingly the problem occurs in higher level players as well. Sometimes they have written into this site asking what they are doing wrong with their right hand thumb which is becoming more and more strained and the solution has simply been to get a decent thumb leather put on by a qualified luthier.

From Daniel Stone
Posted on January 15, 2008 at 3:27 AM
You could consider putting a short piece of latex surgical tubing over the leather? It works well for me and I've seen plenty of other people do it.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on January 15, 2008 at 3:39 AM
It's nice to know I'm not alone in the thumb leather carnage. I switched to kangaroo. It lasts longer and contributes to a nice spicatto.
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on January 15, 2008 at 4:05 AM
I blame Rolf Harris.
From Anne Horvath
Posted on January 15, 2008 at 4:18 AM
I wear out thumb leathers if I let the nail get too long. Before I had mine replaced a few weeks ago, I had to resort to using a festive piece of Duct Tape (in snazzy, "Holiday Silver") in order to cover the painful wire that was digging into my skin.

Who is Rolf Harris?

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on January 15, 2008 at 4:41 AM
as in the Aussie who sang
`Tie me kangaroo down sport.`
From Anne Horvath
Posted on January 15, 2008 at 5:02 AM
Oh, thanks. I sang that song in Elementary School, if memory serves. That, and "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree..." (Insert smiley face here).
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on January 15, 2008 at 5:40 AM
never graduated...
From Bethany Morris
Posted on January 15, 2008 at 1:36 PM
Have you ever tried those plastic pencil grips? They come in a variety of colors (even black) and they're dirt cheap. When you wear through one section, you can just rotate the grip.
From Ray Randall
Posted on January 15, 2008 at 2:41 PM
Der. Scholls pads for your thumb and on top for your pinkie work really-really well.
From Nathania M.
Posted on January 15, 2008 at 2:27 PM
Yes!! Thanks for blogging about this issue. I've been having these very problems for 11 months with my new pernambuco bow which has a thin leather(lizards skin I believe).
I really love all the other aspects of my wooden bow, but I have been struggling with my thumb pushing the padding up and therefore not being able to get a grip!
My bow grip was rather comfortable with my previous bow (thicker and cushier leather).
I plan to send it in for a new padding job soon. What type of leather should I ask for? I'm looking for one that's thick, more on the rough side and durable. And about that sticky tape, do you put it on before or after the leather damages?

Best Regards,

From Juergen L. Hemm
Posted on January 15, 2008 at 3:55 PM

the thick, comfy variety is goat leather, I think.

Bye, Jürgen

From Bill Busen
Posted on January 15, 2008 at 6:19 PM
You just take thumb leather and thtick it on?
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on January 15, 2008 at 10:26 PM
Nathania, I put the tape on after the leather has began to split. Just tell the shop exactly what you want. If necessary take a look at some of their bows to illustrate your point.
From Jon O'Brien
Posted on January 16, 2008 at 12:08 AM
I make craft projects out of kangaroo leather, plaited belts and so on. It would be perfect to put on a bow as it is so tough (very fine, strong grain).
From Nathania M.
Posted on January 16, 2008 at 12:08 AM
Thanks for the suggestions, Buri.
Unfortunately, though, I have to mail in my bow to my luthier and I won't get to look at the other bows:( (We need more violin shops down here!) In the meanwhile, I'm gonna give that cloth tape a try and see if it helps.:) Wished they had them in black instead of tan though.
From Mendy Smith
Posted on January 16, 2008 at 7:22 AM
I have more of a problem with the top of the bow vs. the leathers. If I do not keep my pinky fingernail well trimmed it cuts into the varnish on the top side.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on January 16, 2008 at 6:47 PM
For a while, my bow was nearly bound in leather, leather, leather, baby.

First of all, I like mine to be about two inches long, so that my index finger doesn't slip. On one bow (I have a relatively new bow and haven't done this, yet), luthier Barry Hou put leather around the frog as well, so that pretty much all my bow fingers rested on leather. Decadent, eh?

From Laurie Niles
Posted on January 16, 2008 at 6:52 PM
None of that keeps my thumb from chewing it up every six months, though!
From Gerry Branca
Posted on January 17, 2008 at 1:45 AM
As a Luthier I have found that a Synthetic Grip Wrap works wonders for my clientel, and it is not as expensive as Lizard or Goat. Violindoctor

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