Opinion on purchasing a slightly cracked bow fixed by tight thread winding near the tip

Edited: September 17, 2018, 3:19 AM · Hi everyone, I’m new to Violinist.com. I’ve been playing violin for several years and recently going to upgrade my bow. I’m looking at a bow labeled ‘Charles Bailly’ from a local violin store, it plays well on my Collin Mezin. But on the stick, about an inch from the tip, there’s a ‘lift’ (I don’t know what does that mean but people from the store called it). They said it was fixed before, I tried to look it up and it seems that’s called a ‘tight thread winding’ to fix some kind of crack. They said if it’s not the repair, the bow would have cost >3 times the current price. I’ve taken some picture for the repair but not sure how to post it. So I’d like to ask if anyone can give some suggestions of whether a stick cracked before will be stable for future playing and if it’s worth buying it. The repair looks pretty sturdy to me now though (the winding is around 0.3-0.4 inch long). Thank you and I appreciate any comment!

Replies (52)

Edited: September 17, 2018, 3:29 AM · If you're 100% sure about the values and prices, I'd guess there's some better way to repair it later - a liquid superglue might be absorbed into the crack by capillary action. It might depend on the absolute prices. I mean if you were getting a £900 bow for £300, it might be a bargain, but if you were getting a £3,000 bow for £1,000, I might be more inclined towards buying a bow in better condition.
I'm a beginner, what do I know?
September 17, 2018, 4:33 AM · I have a bow tip with superglue; it has held for 40 years, but I would not use it in concerts, as the continual flexing and vibration worry me.
September 17, 2018, 4:34 AM · I would say it would be VERY difficult to resell or trade up on the bow at a later time, unless it was to a very knowledgeable person (or very unknowledgeable person), and you got a VERY good price on it.

I'm a beginner too, but I'm going by what my reaction would be to being offered such a bow.

September 17, 2018, 9:10 AM · The relevant comparison is how does this bow perform doing advanced bowing, e.g., flying up-bow staccato versus other bows at the same price. If you can't judge advanced bowing, get your teacher to evaluate its performance versus others at the same price that you are considering. If it performs well and you are willing to use it pretty much forever, you may have found a terrific bargain.
Edited: September 17, 2018, 10:38 AM · I don’t have a problem with a well repaired bow. The trouble is there are very few in the business who can properly repair a bow. The good news as Adrian pointed out is that adhesives are getting significantly better and some bowmakers are now using Krazy Glue or other tight bond glues such as Gorilla Glue (which incidentally is also the name of the most potent grade of marijuana according to my girlfriend) can make a repair hold for 50+ years. So you can get a great bargain on a repaired bow and essentially get the same response if it is well repaired.

I know Augustine Hadelich’s favorite bow that he uses for concerts is a repaired Simon bow which the previous owner snapped at the tip. A former Concertmaster of the NY Philharmonic dropped his Tubbs bow at a masterclass and broke the head but had it fixed by this same gentleman in NY who also repaired Mr. Hadelich’s bow and continues to use it as his primary bow. His repairs never come undone.

Edited: September 17, 2018, 9:59 AM · No. Find a good bow that has no repairs for the same price. There is no reason to buy a bow that has that kind of repair. That crack is in the worst possible place, and you don't know how bad it actually is under the repair.

Even if the bow was once worth 3X the price, it is still no bargain now with a repair like that.

If that repair ever fails completely, the bow will essentially be worthless.

Edited: September 17, 2018, 10:15 AM · Even a well repaired crack near the tip is rather minus 80-90% than minus 66,6%. Insurance companies accept this as total damage. It's no bargain.
September 17, 2018, 10:17 AM · If you really, really like it, and if it's only a few hundred bucks, then go got it. Otherwise there has to be a lot of room for negotiations. If you really want it, take your time. It will not sell easily for this price.
September 17, 2018, 10:21 AM · The bow is considered totaled. I mean if you get it for $200 or less (cost of the repair + value of frog and button), the repair will hold maybe forever. I just repaired a nice bow like that this past weekend. As previously mentioned, you will not be able to trade it or have a real difficult time selling it in the future. Unless the shop you are purchasing it from will offer full trade in the future (get it in writing) I wouldn't buy it. There are enough bows out there that you will be able to find one that you like!
Edited: September 17, 2018, 10:53 AM · First question: Is it really a bow made by Charles Bailly?
If it is, some of his bows have sold at auction for around $5,000 for quite some time. I'd say the average winning auction bids have been 1/2 to 2/3 that amount.

2nd question - what is the condition of the frog (original frogs in decent condition count for more value in old bows than makes sense to me)?

That thread winding is a common repair for fairly short diagonal breaks near the tip. A violinist colleague of mine has had a Lamy with such a repair for about 70 years - still holds together.

I have a F.N. Voirin with a fairly long diagonal break a few inches from the tip that was held together by a simple glue repair (either in NYC or previously in Europe - no thread winding) for at least 60 - 70 years. It broke there again about 20 years ago (when I let a violist use it in an orchestra rehearsal) and was professionally repaired the same way again - and is still in one piece.

I'd say if this bow can "shine" in tests that put it through all the virtuoso paces and you can get it for $1,000 - give or take - it is worth considering - but only if it is an authentic Charles Bailly.

September 17, 2018, 12:03 PM · "That thread winding is a common repair for fairly short diagonal breaks near the tip." - Exactly those are the breaks most difficult to repair endurably and most likely to break again. And if it should be a stable repair then not by simply gluing it but only with the help of a dowel. It's the longer diagonal breaks which have a higher chance if lasting, since the same amount of tear and pressure is distributed to a much larger glued surface. Just try at home with a toothpick...
Edited: September 17, 2018, 1:59 PM · Thank you very much for all you guys replies! Every comment is helpful!

So the policy of the workshop selling that bow is they'll allow 100% trade in (minus rehairing and maintenance) given I buy the next one costing at least 1.5x more. But yes, I'm concerning if the repair will actually fall apart after I use it for a while..
I've posted two pictures showing the repair on flickr:

So Andrew, how can I know the bow is authentic? I think the luthier is reliable, they claim it's Charles Bailly, but I don't think they have a certificate. I can see faintly the engrave at the stick above the frog with the name "Charles Bailly" (but the middle part of the name is kind of worn off). The bow is priced $2500. It'll be my only bow if I decided to get it as I'll trade in my current one that I bought from them.

Edited: September 17, 2018, 1:28 PM · If you really like this bow I would try to negotiate a better price.

And welcome Mabel!

September 17, 2018, 2:39 PM · And a better trade up policy. They are trying to unload something on you, with hopes of never seeing it again. So, for THIS BOW, if anything ever happens to it regarding that break, they will credit full price against a similarly priced bow. Not make you jump your budget by another 50% in order to take advantage of the coverage.
September 17, 2018, 3:12 PM · It IS a short diagonal break, and it's horribly fixed. Do not even touch this bow, not even for 1k and not even for 600. You will not be happy with it, and before you will have the chance to trade it in, it will be damaged again, and you will also have to carry the costs for a proper repair.
September 17, 2018, 3:14 PM · You can very well see the crack on the first picture, and you can see that the the two ends of the stick do not even allign properly. With a proper repair the crack would almost be invisible.
Edited: September 17, 2018, 3:33 PM · I agree with Nuuska. It looks like a very shoddy repair to put it mildly. It’s what they call in the automobile world a ‘lemon.’ You can find a good professional quality bow for under $3,000 such as one of the Hill workshop bows that hasn’t been damaged and horribly repaired like this one.
Edited: September 17, 2018, 3:46 PM · I see.
David, in fact I haven't asked them are they willing to take it back if the repair turns out to be unstable, and they never push me to buy this one..but I see your point, it's good to consider that.
Nuuska, I just found the visible crack as in the picture yesterday night, even tho I've tried the bow 3 times over a 2-month period! Now I know it's not properly repaired!
Nate, I'm in San Francisco. And I'm only trying from 2 stores (found and going to a third one this week), it's kind of exhausting as I'm not experienced and my teacher is not able to help..I want this to be over soon!
September 17, 2018, 3:53 PM · For 3k you can have an extraordinary good contemporary bow from a great contemporary maker, like Klaus Grünke (maker of the best of my bows). You can get one of the best Nürnberger. Herrmann. An upper midlevel Pfretzschmer. And many others. Only some german suggestions, and there will be many others. Two or even three of the best brazilian bows.
September 17, 2018, 4:00 PM · If you're not experienced, get a more than decent contemporary brazilian bow for 500 to 700, be happy with it and learn. In the meantime, try any bows that come in your way. And if one day you'll meet "your bow", you'll have a good backup.
September 17, 2018, 4:00 PM · Yeah I was hoping for a Nürnberger but they cost more than $3.2k in the local workshop. I guess prices are just a little crazy in SF.
Edited: September 17, 2018, 4:16 PM · Buy it in Vienna, Munich or somewhere else in the german speaking world, and you'll find a perfect one for 2,5 to 3k. Sometimes for more, but not necessarily.

Maybel, if you're not experienced you should not spend so much money on a bow. You'll get anything you'll need for much less. Otherwise chances are they'll have you for breakfast...

September 17, 2018, 4:16 PM · Also the tip plate is cracked in the photo.
September 17, 2018, 4:25 PM · That's right!!! Didn't noticed that!
September 17, 2018, 4:28 PM · Which does not make anything better. If this bow is an absolute beater, then you may offer 400 for the bow and spend whatever it takes (200-300?) for a proper repair when the crack will be to open again. You'll eventually still have to invest more than it's proper retail value (which might be around 400-800 if the repair is well done, following the numbers Andrew Victor had given us), but may win a great bow. If it's a beater...
Edited: September 17, 2018, 4:32 PM · If it is an original Bailly, the tip plate is ivory and no longer permitted to travel across international boundaries. I've had tip plates replaced for $30 or less (SF prices) but not with ivory.

The thread repair looks like that on my friend's Lamy.

September 17, 2018, 4:36 PM · Have you been to Roland Feller?
Edited: September 17, 2018, 4:48 PM · This bow is from Roland Feller's workshop. I've been mainly trying the ones from them. I got my current one from them too 3 years ago. It's a German bow. David, do you know other reliable violin shops in SF or nearby that I can try their bows? I've just contacted "Cremona SF" in downtown for the first time. No idea if they're good to not.

Edited: September 17, 2018, 4:53 PM · What's wrong with your current bow? Or, to put it differently, if you want to avoid traveling, or want to make use of your shop's trade in policy, then allow yourself a bit of time and see what will come in next. I'm sure Mr. Feller will be happy to let you know when new bows will arrive, especially if he's got an idea what you are looking for.
September 17, 2018, 4:52 PM · There are so many good modern bows by makers in the $2500-$5000 range, there's no point getting something with damage unless it plays so darned well it blows everything away, and even then you still have something extremely difficult to sell in the future.

I second the recommendation for Klaus Grunke, and I'd also recommend checking out Manoel Francisco, A. Carvalho (Arcos Brasil), and this fun bowmaker John Greenwood up in the San Francisco bay area.

September 17, 2018, 4:59 PM · Unfortunately the Greenwood start at 4.8k - but they are beautiful indeed!
September 17, 2018, 5:05 PM · Nuuska, you're right. My current bow doesn't have a big problem, I just feel it's too bouncy sometimes and want to get a smoother one. My teacher also says my bow and violin is not a very good combination for sound production. But now I think I need more time to try more..

Gene, thanks for the violin shop suggestions, I'll check them out.

September 17, 2018, 5:07 PM · Oh 4.8k it's way outside my price range
September 17, 2018, 5:19 PM · Ifshin tends to be overpriced. But, you could still check them out. I’ve heard good things about joan balter in Berkeley, but haven’t gotten over there yet. Feller, from my experience, is a decent guy. Makes sense he is not trying to railroad you.

You could talk to my current luthier, Jeff Sahs, but he’s in Sacto. He’s another decent guy too. I just don’t know his instruments yet. Only had him do work for me, of which I am satisfied.

September 17, 2018, 5:29 PM · I've asked Ifshin before, they say they won't accept any trade-in, but only consignment.. so i don't think it's financially feasible for me..
But I did try bows 3 years ago from Joan Balter through my previous teacher in Berkeley. It may actually be a good idea if her shop opens on Saturday! Thanks for the suggestion David, but Sacramento is a bit far.
September 17, 2018, 5:46 PM · I don't see a problem in principal with buying a repaired bow if it's the right price. I know a few people here and there who have bows that they never would have been able to afford otherwise. It just depends. A well-repaired tip may have little effect on the playability now or in the future. Sure, it will lower the resale price. But so what? If it does what you need, theoretically you're going to keep it and not just turn around and flip it. When you find a good bow, you keep it unless you're one of those neurotic types that's consonantly buying and selling equipment. And since you got it for cheap, you don't lose much.

Superglue is extremely strong, and it's likely the wood around the glue will fail before the glue bond itself ever does. I find it hard to believe anyone uses Gorilla glue. When I've used it to bond wood, it expands while drying in a really weird way, seeping out of the joint like foamy amoeba. I'd much rather use either CA, Tightbond, or hot hide glue to repair wood.

I'd just say to consider the bow but have other luthiers or bow makers have a look. Do your homework.

September 17, 2018, 8:04 PM · Thanks guys for all your inputs! I think I’ve a much better idea of what I’m looking at and the things to consider before making the decision!
September 17, 2018, 9:57 PM · Are you sure that it isn't a Charles Bazin?

The wrap looks typical for that sort of repair. I have a nice English bow that Paul Siefried wrapped for me in a very similar way. He also wrapped a Bazin cello bow that had the same malady.

The depreciation for a lift is much less than that of a break. Great to purchase, almost impossible to sell.
So, if you love the bow and don't have any illusions about it being some sort of investment, go for it! Just pay the right price for it.

I have the pleasure of playing a Dodd and a Tubbs that are wrapped that I could never afford otherwise.

Edited: September 17, 2018, 11:40 PM · Although the name engraved on the stick isn’t very clear (I honestly can’t read ‘Charles Bailly’ if the luthier didn’t tell me, and I believe he’s a reliable person), I can tell it’s not Bazin.

So how does a ‘lift’ different from a regular fix of a crack? Now I’m a little paranoid of breaking the stick while I play..

One of the bows that I tried was labeled ‘Dodd’, it’s indeed one of the two bows that I’m deciding. It’s a copy for sure. I don’t know the actual maker but it’s $800 cheaper and plays pretty well too. If it’s not the price, it’s really confusing for me to know if a label means the maker or a copy!

September 18, 2018, 4:41 AM · "It IS a short diagonal break, and it's horribly fixed. Do not even touch this bow, not even for 1k and not even for 600. You will not be happy with it, and before you will have the chance to trade it in, it will be damaged again, and you will also have to carry the costs for a proper repair.
You can very well see the crack on the first picture, and you can see that the the two ends of the stick do not even allign properly. With a proper repair the crack would almost be invisible."

Nuuska, what you're seeing in the photo may not be the break in the stick, but the end of the thread being pulled back under the wrapping to secure it. I wouldn't know which without examining the bow more closely

Edited: September 18, 2018, 8:47 AM · Certainly Feller is well thought of. I only visited him once - probably over 35 years ago. (Ifshin is much more convenient for me to get to and he has his very own gated private parking lot.)

You can figure anything being sold by a shop was either bought by the dealer for half (or less) than his selling price - or is a consignment. I would offer $1,500 -- unless the bow is so incredible that it would make a major improvement to my playing - and I could afford it. But that would mean no trade in!

Edited: September 18, 2018, 7:49 PM · As an update, I just returned the bow to them and the journey of bow searching continues!
Edited: September 19, 2018, 10:47 AM · I had a bow that I broke as a boy, diagonal break near the tip, and it was fixed by a luthier in Detroit. He cut a very along diagonal so that the adhesive surface area would be large, maybe as much as a square centimeter. Finally the adhesive came undone again, but it took 25 years. I was not terribly disappointed because I never really liked that bow from the get-go. It was bought to replace another bow that played really well, a Pfretzscher with a cracked frog (which eventually fell to pieces and the luthier declared it a lost cause). The luthier's name was Gus Banosky (East Detroit). He was elderly then, so I'm sure he's long dead now. My go-to person these days for bow restoration would be Josh Henry.
September 19, 2018, 11:18 AM · I looked online and found this page about a bow "lift".


As I thought, a lift is the beginning of a crack, and a thread wrap is apparently a standard method of fixing it. He goes on to say that the bow has basically no value anymore, except that of the frog and button. Price seems high based on that.

September 19, 2018, 5:27 PM · Royce, thanks for the very educational piece of information!
September 21, 2018, 4:06 PM · Royce, I can only agree totally with that.

David, that's an interesting point, and a photo can never replace a look at the real thing. But if you zoom into the first photo, then you can easily see that the line we are talking about isn't straight at all, like the pulled back thread end definitely had to be, but irregularly jagged - just that kind of how one would expect when breaking a wooden stick...

Edited: September 22, 2018, 4:59 AM · Over-wrapped thread ends aren't always straight, particularly when the over-wrap is at the starting end of the winding. Again, I wouldn't know for sure without having a better look at it, but that's still what I think I'm seeing there.
Edited: September 22, 2018, 4:54 PM · From the time when I earned my living by fixing and setting up fishing rods I did something similar to this maybe a few thousand times. My expertise in bow repairs is neglectible, but as long as we are talking windings, I do know relatively well what we're talking about. No matter the material (monofilament/braided, synthetic/cotton/silk/metal wire), the overwrapped starting ends as well as the pulled through endings of the thread may not always have been totally straight. But if not, they ran in a smoothly bent line, and not jagged like a seismographic curve. Especially monofilament material like it was used here, tends to be stiffer than the braided polyfilament and it is tricky to fold it into a firm like that. Same applies to the surgical sutures I'm working with nowadays - when a ligature with a braided suture will keep reliably tight if secured with a quadruple knot, one will need twice as much knots to achieve the same security level with monofilament material, for the same reason.

That's why I dont believe it's the thread we're looking at. Monofilaments simply do not behave this way... Cracking wood does.

Edited: September 22, 2018, 5:57 PM · Nuuska, I'm doubting that it's monofilament, since the thread is not clear everywhere. I'd be more inclined to think that it's multifilament thread, which has been saturated with something like superglue or varnish, rendering most of it (but not all of it) transparent.

No, the end of a wrapping is not always pulled underneath. At the beginning of the winding, it can start out underneath, with the overwrapping pulling it into a jagged line.

One of the reasons muslti-filament, or organic-based threads can be preferred is that they can be more resistant to slipping, as you have noticed on your sutures. They also provide a much larger glue surface area.

Edited: September 23, 2018, 3:00 AM · Okay David, you got your point. One had to have a closer look...

I wish you a pleasant trip to Paris! Enjoy the Strads...

September 30, 2018, 4:18 PM · I second Joan Balter. I bought my last two bows from her and I trust her. She knows her stuff.
Edited: October 1, 2018, 12:23 AM · Cremona SF is a wonderful shop. The new website is: http://www.cremonafineviolins.com/

Sadly, Nash Mondragon passed away back in March of 2015. His former apprentice Jose Cruz, an expert restorer, now runs the shop. I used to visit them a lot back in the early 2000's when I was in the bay area more regularly. It's still located upstairs in a nondescript section of buildings on Market Street. There's plenty of street parking nearby.

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