Mutilating bows

May 31, 2011 at 12:44 AM ·

When bows are put into storage, why do some people insist on cutting the hair out of them?  Although I wouldn't normally buy a bow on the internet, the number of hairless bows which I see advertised for sale there is legion.  I appreciate that mutilating bows in this fashion may have something to do with preventing the hair from being eaten by bugs, but IMO one ought to weigh the possibility of hair-eating bugs against the certainty of the buyer having to pay to have the bow re-haired (which also lessens the likelihood and price of a sale).  If I weren't made of sterner stuff I'd describe the sight of all those mutilated bows as heartbreaking.

Replies (20)

May 31, 2011 at 12:46 AM ·

 Bow bugs.

May 31, 2011 at 01:13 AM ·

Also, if the hair contracts too much due to a fall in humidity, the bow may lose shape over time.

May 31, 2011 at 12:28 PM ·

Most of the hank had probably already broken or been eaten. A few hairs left attached, if the humidity decreases, can pull the bow out of straight. Sue  

May 31, 2011 at 02:04 PM ·

Mutilate bows? I have a student who can do that for you!

May 31, 2011 at 02:38 PM ·

It is best to leave the hair on the bow because it gives an indication of hair length when the bow is re-haired. People who cut the hair off might also have tried to take it out of the frog and some of the parts can get lost. But this is the bastion of the bow makers so tread carefully. 

May 31, 2011 at 03:35 PM ·

May 31, 2011 at 04:42 PM ·

I find this suspicious, too - especially with a bow at an auction. Just as with a violin at an auction with no strings or bridge, you can't try it, and it can hide to some extent whether it is warped at normal tension.

May 31, 2011 at 05:18 PM ·

@Bill; The word is 'indication', which means it makes it easier to judge.

It is helpful because the hair goes into the tip and the frog and it is easier to judge the extent to which it can insert. It is not just a question of measuring the distance between the tip and the frog and adding some slack. The length is critical for well a well haired bow. 

Now you can tell us of your experience in bow hair replacement. It should be very interesting. 


May 31, 2011 at 06:05 PM ·

May 31, 2011 at 06:59 PM ·


We are NOT talking about new bows, we are talking about bows that needs re-hairing. And I find it easier to have an indication on re-hairing, from personal experience. And if you have not heard about it, then it does not mean that it is invalid or that it does not make sense. With new bows it will obviously be a different story. Stupid.


May 31, 2011 at 07:33 PM ·

Once somebody gave me 2 cheap old bows. They were completely bald - or should I say "hairing impaired"! I took them to a trusted bowmaker and asked him if they were worth re-hairing. He said no. Still, they were not completely w.o. value - they made pretty good back scratchers!

May 31, 2011 at 07:48 PM ·

May 31, 2011 at 07:59 PM ·

There is a difference and it is not stupid. Stupid. 

May 31, 2011 at 08:00 PM ·

May 31, 2011 at 08:10 PM ·

May 31, 2011 at 08:22 PM ·

 Bill you are going on different tangents and I am not willing to further this stupid conversation.

I have to practice rather than spend my time on meaningless debates. If you want to cut the hair off your bows, by all means do it. The hair on my old bows will stay because I (not you) find it easier to re-hair then.


May 31, 2011 at 10:25 PM ·

I can identify with Raphael's posts.  Further to his first post, I once bought a hairless bow (not on ebay) which turned out to be in serious need of recambering; this was not immediately evident from the bald stick.  (Thank heavens, the bow, though from about 1870, was not expensive.) In answer to his second post, I am told that 'hairing-impaired' sticks which are not worth rehairing make excellent canes for growing raspberries and tomatoes once they are 'defrogged'.

June 1, 2011 at 12:27 AM ·

One time I was trying out some bows from an old collection (including a Bausch, a Nurnberger, and a couple Pfretzschners), all of which had hair; the hair on one of the Pfretzschners had contracted to the point that the bow was badly warped and I would've needed to get it recambered to see how it really played. I ended up buying the Nurnberger.

June 2, 2011 at 12:15 AM ·

Some years ago I read in the Strad that if bows are kept in the light except when being transported with any violin family instrument the bugs will leave the hair alone. This I have done for a good number of years and the hair does stay in tact. 

This may be a bit out of line with the discussion, but it may save those who simply hang their bows on a hook behind a door some money.

June 4, 2011 at 03:14 AM ·

Mutilated bows?

Then it seems that David Oistrakh was well ahead of his time... he used to cut bowhair to have a practice break on the weekend (due to sabbat day where stores were closed...)

But he was about 5 years old...  : )  Fast ennough, mom found an efficient punishment!


It's maybe a little less cute for a grown up to sell a hairless bow though...  

For one thing, how can we try such a bow.  (a cautious buyer always try bows before purchasing them unless it's just to collect famous names and not for playing)

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