And they said it could not be done!

Edited: August 4, 2018, 8:21 PM · Well, I got my bow jig-o-matic working, I set aside two hours in the afternoon, and I did it. A perfect rehair. The balance is exactly where it should be and just the right amount of hair is on my bow. No professional training required.


This isn't to spit in the face of you luthier folks. I know you can do it better and faster. I'm just saying with good carpentry skills, a decent set of tools, practise, and a whooole lot of patience, anyone can do a real good rehair on their own. And it's really condescending when you tell people that rehairing a bow is as difficult as playing the violin. It's not. Considering that a very much OK rehair took me 5 attempts and getting a very much OK sound took me a year of hard work, I'd say one is easier than the other.

Replies (38)

Edited: August 4, 2018, 8:28 PM · There's a protocol in this trade that however good you think you are at this, you don't work on artist maker instruments and bows until artist grade peers approve of and acknowledge your skills. There's a trail of tears through history of great instruments and bows that were seriously damaged by repairers who wrote their own credentials. Sorry, but you do come off as arrogant.
August 4, 2018, 8:29 PM · Who said that rehairing the bow is as difficult as playing the violin?
Edited: August 4, 2018, 9:08 PM · Mark,

I acknowledged that in my post. I'm doing this for myself and not taking anyone's money for it.


I've asked a lot of luthiers online about rehairs. None of them even spared a second to give me any help. In fact, they were pretty rude about it, and, yes, one did say it was just as difficult. They all said I wouldn't be able complete a rehair without seeking help from a master.

Edited: August 4, 2018, 9:38 PM · Looks nice!
How does it play?
What mass of hair did you install?
August 4, 2018, 10:28 PM · I guess he won't be asking for advice HERE any more.
August 5, 2018, 5:47 AM · I know two players that rehair their own bow but it is not a job I would want to attempt. Even though j woukd label myself as being thrifty I would rather pay someone to do it well, and have read from bowmakers that it is important to do a lot of rehairs to be really proficient at the task. I watched one of my bows getting rehaired once and it looked to me like an easy way to cause sone serious damage with the slip of a tool.
August 5, 2018, 7:54 AM · There is more to a perfect rehair than correct amount of hair and balance. You may find some of the blog posts on my website interesting and helpful: I try to educate players to some of what goes on behind the scenes. I would say executing a rehair is not very hard, but to do it very well takes a lot of practice, experience, and guidance. There are a few places to learn, with George Rubino and Lynn Hannings at the University of New Hampshire and Rodney Mohr in Ohio. They are interested in helping people learn. Good rehairs are a way for a shop to build clientele, so I'm not surprised people wouldn't help, we also don't want to see people ruin bows. Unfortunately, even "trained" people who have done rehairs and other bow work for years have damaged bows.
August 5, 2018, 10:03 AM · Just like anything, the old adage "easy to learn, lifetime to master" applies. And these skills don't seem easy to me to begin with.

Similar to soundposts-why pay to a luthier to adjust them when you can watch a video/guide and do it yourself? Expertise and peace of mind.

I have seen "default/good" rehairs done by seasoned repairers that fell short of a professional standard. Imagine you are to perform a recital and all the bow hair separates itself from the bow from a not-so-good rehair? A teacher of mine many years ago was demonstrating something and all the hair suddenly gave out-I remember she saying "I will never use him again". That wasn't a bow expert who did the work, but someone who did rehairs regularly. So yes, we can do almost anything imaginable, for better or worse, but I prefer true experts do an expert job on my instrument (NYC provides for pricey, expert rehairs and they are not THAT expensive.)

Soundpost adjustments, gluing seams or anything on the violin, adding new fittings, new bridges, all go to true experts for me. I will save myself a headache and even money by letting someone who does it for an honest living do it much better and with less hassle. They deserve to be paid, especially when it's a good job.

I play the violin, a hard to learn, lifetime to master musical instrument. Don't need to prove to myself that I can do everything else-even if I could-for its own sake.

You could argue you can be your own hairdresser/stylist as well. See my point?

An exception to this would be; you have a scammer bow rehair person in town who botches jobs, have no convenient way of shipping out your bow for rehairs, and prefer to learn and do it yourself "the right way". Better to have an actually usable bow than a bad rehair from an irresponsible bow rehair "technician".

Edited: August 5, 2018, 10:49 AM · "You could argue you can be your own hairdresser/stylist as well. See my point?" Er, yes I do when I look in the mirror. But I don't need rehairing by a professional, not yet anyway.
August 5, 2018, 11:41 AM · I feel like no one read the OP's actual post where it's clearly acknowledged "This isn't to spit in the face of you luthier folks. I know you can do it better and faster. I'm just saying with good carpentry skills, a decent set of tools, practise, and a whooole lot of patience, anyone can do a real good rehair on their own."

OP did not say, doing the perfect rehair is possible with 10 minutes of time, or that everyone should just rehair their own bows. OP is simply stating that they were able to accomplish it by themselves, that the job was decent, and they disagree with the way they were treating in regards to asking for information about how to go about doing it by themselves.

Congratulations OP. It's awesome to see that you were able to do a decent rehair without the need of a professional!

Edited: August 5, 2018, 12:35 PM · Hi Charles, I actually DID read the OP's actual post, and I certainly didn't miss the part where he called his effort "a perfect rehair." Later in his post he downgraded that to "very much OK" but all we know is that he thinks it plays and sounds "very much OK."

Do-it-yourself is fine as long as it's also do-it-for-yourself. If he wrecks his bow, presumably he paid for it with his own money, so it's not really anyone else's problem.

Having said all that, I would actually have to agree with the OP that rehairing a bow doesn't seem like most challenging job facing the modern luthier. (We have these arguments all the time also about cleaning your own violin.) Furthermore, I have to say that I think most people could extend the lifetime of their bow hair much farther than one year just by cleaning it thoroughly once in a while. "Pros know" that bow hair needs to be replaced every [interval of your choice] but I've never heard a good explanation why.

August 5, 2018, 1:07 PM · Mr. Mathers, how wonderful that you are happy with your rehair, and can't see the difference between what you have done and what someone really top notch can do.

Next, can we see a bridge you have fit? (wink)

August 5, 2018, 3:40 PM · Yeah, I really don't think bow rehairs are immensely complicated. I have seen the training to do it and it's not something you spend a lifetime in order to learn to do competently.

David's right: it's time for level 2, bridge fitting!

August 5, 2018, 5:54 PM ·
August 5, 2018, 5:57 PM · It's easy. David showed us...
August 5, 2018, 6:33 PM · I think it's great that you were able to rehair your own bow! And you'll get even better and faster after you've done the process a few more times. Very inspiring! I may want to learn this some time in a few years myself.
Edited: August 5, 2018, 8:21 PM · Wow. That's a lot of responses for a silly post about my amateur rehair.

It plays, to my ear, just as good as when I bought it from my teacher. All my gear is my teacher's daughter's old stuff. Feels weird. Like dating your best friend's sister.
Anyways. That said, the bow did have old hair on it when I got it, so who knows.
I did not weigh it.

Mr Burgess:
Actually, the bridge on my violin is also my own work right now. It's my second ever. I've been dying to have another go for months but I don't have any more blanks. The action on the G is a little low for guts (although it was fine for synthetics!!!) And the feet aren't quite perfect. But it works.

Edited: August 5, 2018, 8:51 PM · Wow. In that case you're ready for Luthier Suzuki Book 3. Take off the top and fit yourself a new bass bar. Or jump to Book 7 and regrade it.
Edited: August 5, 2018, 10:04 PM · "how wonderful that you are happy with your rehair, and can't see the difference between what you have done and what someone really top notch can do."

This was more or less my reaction. I've also had numerous conversations with church members who can't tell the difference between my playing and that of (insert reasonably talented amateur). Doesn't mean there isn't a big difference between our levels of playing; it just means that the church members do not have the musical acuity to hear it.

As long as the OP sticks to his own equipment, I suppose there's no harm in it, but I've seen bows devalued by careless work by even supposedly qualified luthiers. And the devaluation would not be visible to the untrained eye.

August 6, 2018, 1:24 AM · Come on David, show us a "manly" way to rehair a bow! The comments on your bridge video suggest that quite a few viewers may have been tempted to try it for themselves.
Edited: August 6, 2018, 6:54 AM · Want to know something dead easy? Home wiring. I was DIY enough to wire my own basement, but not stupid enough to do so without first getting a permit from the Town and a full inspection afterward. If CM wants to improve his skill he should take his newly-DIY-rehair to a good luthier and pay for a critique.
Edited: August 6, 2018, 7:41 AM · Just from the photo, I can tell him that some hairs are crossed, because the ribbon gets narrower as it leaves the tip, rather than getting progressively wider from tip to frog.

To do a good rehair, one must first understand some of the differences between a good rehair, and one which isn't so good.

Again, it's a little like learning to play well. ;-)

Edited: August 6, 2018, 7:56 AM · David, I've just placed a comment on your YT bridge-fitting (!) video, in reply to respondent Scott Wallace.
Edited: August 6, 2018, 10:55 AM · Maybe you and Scott would like this addendum too, if you haven't already seen it.

August 6, 2018, 11:18 AM · David, I can't say truthfully, "Now I've seen it all", but I must be getting close!

Btw, wouldn't Stradivari and his peers back in the 16/17th centuries have used sharkskin as a general abrasive?

August 6, 2018, 11:52 AM · We don't know. They certainly would have been capable of gluing sand or some other abrasive to a piece of paper or fabric...
August 6, 2018, 12:30 PM · "some hairs are crossed, because the ribbon gets narrower as it leaves the tip, rather than getting progressively wider from tip to frog"

Couldn't that be perspective distortion in the first photo?

Edited: August 6, 2018, 12:52 PM · Looking at both photos, and the shadow in the first photo, it doesn't look like it to me. Instead, it looks like the ribbon is narrowest about two thirds of the way from the frog to the tip, then flaring toward each end.
Edited: August 6, 2018, 2:08 PM · Maybe photography isn't as easy as it looks either.

You know what we learned as little kids in "social studies": Division of labor is the basis of civilization.

Edited: August 6, 2018, 4:05 PM · It's hard to be the master of every skill or craft.

Lots of superb violinists may not be great dancers or bow rehairers, but I'm willing to put those shortcomings aside, for now. ;-)

August 6, 2018, 5:52 PM · David, I'm glad you could even improve your bridge fitting technology. Moving the violin indeed is the more logic approach. And given a smooth and clean worktop, any varnish of quality should stand this little bit of stress. Congrats, and hats off to your genius!
August 7, 2018, 8:22 AM ·

I do most of the repair and maintenance of my vehicles. That doesn't make me good at repairing all vehicles, but I do get good, or even better at repairing my own vehicle models than some mechanics. So someone can get good at re-hairing their own bow or replacing and tuning their own bridge. This should be encouraged, but often we see the anti-DIY hypochondriacs with all caps screaming NOOOO!!!!!
DIYers get themselves into trouble when they don't follow building codes when working on their houses, or torques specs when working on their cars... or they don't educate themselves on the basic knowledge of the job.

Edited: August 7, 2018, 10:27 AM · I say “more power to Cotton!” My hat is off to anyone who has the dexterity and patience for this kind of work.

About 30 years ago, Charles, a mechanical engineer where I worked for almost 30 years decided, in his 40s, to learn to play violin. He started taking lessons from a teenage teenage violinist who had studied with the local Suzuki teacher. It did not take long for him to decide he was not going to be very good at it, so he decided to try making violins. He studied up on it, he went to workshops and his first product was not bad (he still has it) – he gave his 2nd one to his young violin teacher. And he kept on making them. I saw what he was doing and was a little skeptical, but when he brought his #11 to a rehearsal of our local community orchestra in 1990 and I heard one of the other violinists playing it in the hall during the break I knew I had to try it. And when I tried it I knew I had to have it! And after some months and a bit of competition it was mine! Once he had proved himself to me I asked him to repair my very damaged 1877 cello that required removing the top and repairing the ribs and fashioning completely new neck block – it’s now better than ever. As a mechanical engineer Charles has the knowledge and equipment to make and use all kinds of electronic and computer equipment for acoustical measurements related violin making.

While I lived in the same town I would “test” new violin’s Charles made. I would play them “in the white” in his shop and after they had been finished and were dry we would take them to his church and try them there for projection too. It is really interesting to play an instrument at those two times in its life.

Since then Charles has gone on to make and sell 101 instruments including 3 cellos and 11 violas – and 87 violins (well actually he is keeping this last one as well as his first - the others were all sold). I have bought 2 of his violins and one viola. I recall that Lydia liked #11, unfortunately for me, when I gave my granddaughter her choice of any of my violins as her own, that is the one she chose – so I had Charles make me another).

So, Charles’s hobby became a business before and after he retired from his engineering job and he has been the town’s luthier for some 30 years or more. This required him to learn to rehair bows – a job he has told me he found quite taxing (I gather it’s not a lot of fun for him). I had him rehair my bows while I still lived there, until 23 years ago – but we still stay in touch.

He has since made violin # 87.

August 7, 2018, 10:02 AM · Haha! I tried once, on a garbage bow two luthiers had told me wasn't worth working on (cost me less than the bow hair) failure (couldn't get the wedge to stay in with a flat ribbon of hair, though I also hadn't melted rosin properly on the hair which can't have helped) - so it's definitely harder than it looks on youtube, where it doesn't look all that easy.

I wouldn't dream of trying to rehair an even medium-quality bow (the chance of damaging the tiny amount of wood in the tip, for instance, which has clearly happened in the past to at least one of my bows), but I do wish I could learn how to do a functional job on junk bows (sometimes, such as this case, I pick up a bow super-cheap and just want to see how it sounds/plays to determine if it is worth putting more money into, especially if it obviously also needs something larger like a recamber).

Bows are fascinating - pretty sure they have as much impact on the experience of playing as the violin, and in theory they appear much simpler (ha).

August 7, 2018, 10:12 AM · I used to think "You don't know what a great re-hair is until you get a bad one (or vice-versa)"

But I suppose there is a scenario where you just don't know :-)

Edited: August 13, 2018, 6:18 AM · A violin friend whom I have not seen for a couple of years called me the other day to get me to watch the youtube videos of Daniel Olsen Chen. I found this one on bow rehairing fascinating:

Not that I plan to do it myself, but.....

August 13, 2018, 1:17 PM · "This was more or less my reaction. I've also had numerous conversations with church members who can't tell the difference between my playing and that of (insert reasonably talented amateur). Doesn't mean there isn't a big difference between our levels of playing; it just means that the church members do not have the musical acuity to hear it."

If the difference is only such that only trained persons can notice it, there different must be subtle.

If OP got something good enough for him, that's good. I would like to try to rehair some bows someday, but I have no spare bows at the moment.

August 13, 2018, 5:01 PM · The difference is not all that subtle for those who pay attention. Most people don't.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Violin Finder
Yamaha Violin Finder

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Metzler Violin Shop
Metzler Violin Shop

Juilliard: Starling-Delay Symposium on Violin Studies
Juilliard: Starling-Delay Symposium on Violin Studies

Gliga Violins
Gliga Violins

ARIA International Summer Academy

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Pluhar Violins

Potter Violins

Pro-Am Strings Ltd

Violin Lab

Violin Pros

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop