Help! My bowhair has contracted??!!

April 21, 2018, 1:01 AM · I can't loosen my bow hair because the frog has already reached the leather part of the bow and it won't go any further. If I try the screw becomes loose. What should I do? Is it because of summer? The weather forecast did say there was going to be one week long heat wave in my country. Should I put my bow in a cooler environment for a while and wait. Will my bow loose its curve? My hands are trembling as I type this. I can't go to a luthier because there aren't any in my city and I don't have time to find one anyway. Please help!
Is this serious?!!

Replies (18)

April 21, 2018, 1:27 AM · It's not temperature that causes bow hair (and your own hair on your head) to contract. It's low relative humidity (RH). You say that it's hot where you are, which suggests that you might be running the air conditioner, and that will lower the indoor humidity. Try taking the bow outside. It should respond very quickly to the higher outside humidity, like in a few minutes. If the humidity is low, your instrument is at risk too, because wood contracts with low RH. The solution is to get a humidifier for inside your case, which will protect the instrument while it's in there.
Edited: April 21, 2018, 1:30 AM · Drier air will cause hair to shrink. See how it behaves in the bathroom with the shower running.

Depending on your expectations for summer, a seasonal rehair might be necessary. Are you in the desert?

April 21, 2018, 1:54 AM · Don't be afraid to loosen the screw, pull it out and take the frog off and have a look. Standard procedure for players.
April 21, 2018, 2:04 AM · Thank you so much everyone. I realize that I seem hysterically panicky. Not that I wasn't. XD
I'll be sure try all of your solutions in the future. For now I've found that if I keep my hair tightened for a few minutes and loosen it the hair looses tension.
Thank you so much for replying. I'm so glad to have found this forum. ^·^
April 21, 2018, 8:59 AM · Violetta. It is something to be aware of.

When I lived in the Mojave high desert of California I did actually see a bow break because of the contraction of hair due to the very dry air-conditioning effects. People might humidify their homes against outdoor relative humidity as low as 5%. Then when they got to the air-conditioned rehearsal hall their hair was still thus conditioned, but during rehearsal the contained moisture would evaporate, tightening the hair more and more until……..X-POW!

I always double check my bow hair's tightness after about 30 minutes when I am playing away from home.

April 21, 2018, 10:02 AM · If there is no luthier in Violetta's city, perhaps a Fedex to a shop in the desert would be helpful. A place that deals with dry air all the time will be able to set the length for low humidity. (You wouldn't want a shop in Manila or Miami to try to get that right.)
Any good candidates? Robertson?
April 21, 2018, 1:44 PM · My cheap violin came with 2 wooden bows. I'm currently living in one of the driest places on Earth. When they arrived they seemed fine but now after being here for a couple months and with summer turning to winter, meaning even less humidity, they are both so tight even with the screw fully loose that there is no bend in the bow and a huge gap between the hair and the stick.

It sounds like getting a new bow maybe isn't an option for you, but I bought this one:
and it seems to be handling the extreme dryness a little bit better. Though my conditions might be different - my bow is basically NEVER exposed to really any humidity.

April 21, 2018, 3:04 PM · It's not so much the stick, as the hair being the correct length. Although I'd guess that carbon fiber is a little less responsive to weather than pernambuco would be.
April 21, 2018, 3:54 PM · I would imagine also the amount of adjustment available has something to do with it? Like how far the frog can actually move?
April 22, 2018, 12:01 AM · Good bow re-hairers take into account the season and the climate and leave enough slack so that this problem will not occur. You have cheap bows that have not been made or set up by experts so there will always be problems.
April 23, 2018, 10:41 AM · Try a carbon fiber bow.
April 23, 2018, 1:52 PM · Ella - the hair will change length with humidity regardless of the stick material.
April 23, 2018, 3:23 PM · Peter, while it is true that a"good bow re-hairer" will take account of seasonal changes, the United states has such varied climate conditions, that bows that have been haired in the tropics may be used in the desert - and vice versa.

I had some problems with that sort of thing with bows I purchased from SHAR (Michigan) that I used in the California high desert. For a while I did send my bows from the desert off to Oklahoma for re-hairing but I specified my different climatic requirement.

April 23, 2018, 10:36 PM · Andrew, yes here in the UK I suppose mostly we have less variation unless you are in northern Scotland. I once worked in southern Scotland and had no problems. I imagine the US is entirely different.
April 24, 2018, 7:18 AM · Apply moisture from a damp, clean sponge to the hair. It will allow it to loosen.
April 24, 2018, 11:01 AM · Bo, thanks for telling me. Didn't realize that.
April 25, 2018, 9:04 AM · An interesting fact concerning humidity and hair:

Some of the finest, most precise analog hygrometers use a hair (human, as I understand it) as the central changeable component for the measurement.

April 25, 2018, 2:06 PM · Wow.
Semi-related story:
As I mentioned above, my cheap violin came with two cheap bows. (I'm currently living in Antarctica so I didn't want to bring a costly instrument down here where it would surely be destroyed) and I ordered a 3rd cheap bow which still seems a lot nicer than the two cheap ones that came with the violin. Well, I haven't been using the two crappy ones at all but I wanted to try playing with an unrosined bow so I got one out and was shocked to see that the hair had contracted to the point that the bow was basically totally straight and this was with the screw as loose as it can go.
Last night I decided to take one of the crappy bows to my room so I could do finger strengthening exercises with it. I run a humidifier in my room. I was equally shocked to wake up and see that the hair was TOTALLY loose and draping down so it could touch the stick of the bow. I wish I had taken photos. It's hard to believe it was the same pieces of hair.

And even with my humidifier, I know my room is quite dry, so apparently it doesn't take much!

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