How to know when my bow hairs need to be rehaired?

March 17, 2019, 10:21 AM · When/how often should a bow be rehaired?

Replies (9)

March 17, 2019, 10:50 AM · When you start raising your shoulder and pressing your bow with the force of a hydraulic press and are still unable to get a strong sound. Or when the hair stretches out and looks really janky.
Edited: March 17, 2019, 11:40 AM · For sure when you have broken enough hairs that you can tell at a glance that your bow has had a hair cut - or when you have you have lost enough hair from one side that the stick bends when you tighten the hair.

If you are not producing the sound you think you did previously you might need to have the hair replaced, but my first inclination is to think the hair is gummed up with too much rosin melted and re-solidified rosin. What I do in that case is clean my bow hair.

1st approach to cleaning bow hair is to rub it with a microfiber cloth - if you can.

If the the strings fail to respond as desired and/or the sound still sucks I go to the

2nd approach - deep clean the hair.

1st approach to deep cleaning - I DON'T DO THIS ONE, but I have done it twice - use detergent and water - and I have a colleague who had it done - his mother did it for him when he was young although I'm sure that when he was young - 75 years ago - it was soap and water. I consider this hazardous because if water gets into the tip or frog the blocks could expand and destroy the bow. In any event the frog should be removed from the stick to do this and the hair only immersed in the cleaning liquid, carefully isolating tip and frog - I used plastic wrap on them to assure no moisture could get in. Rinse the hair enough to remove all detergent and allow to dry thoroughly before reinstalling the frog on the bow.

WHAT I DO is clean my bow hair with alcohol I've used propanol and ethanol rubbing alcohols (that have 30% water in them) and I have used pure, potable alcohol (which is expensive because of the federal taz on it). I found no difference in the results. What I have done for the past 10 years (or longer) is use the alcohol pads sold in drug stores for cleaning skin before injections. Use as follows:

1. Tighten the hair enough so it is not sagging.
2. Fold an alcohol pad around the hair ribbon and clean from one end to the other.
3. Immediately dry the hair ribbon with a clean, dry white cotton cloth (like a diaper material) using it the same way you used the alcohol pad.
4. Repeat step 2 with the other side of the same alcohol pad.
5. Repeat step 3.
6. Repeat steps 2 through 4 with three more alcohol pads.

By this time the (having cleaned and dried the hair 8 times) the cotton cloth should no longer be stained by rosin residue from the final swipe of the hair. This does not mean that all the old rosin is off the hair - but probably enough.

Allow the hair to dry enough so that it no longer feels cold when touched to the back of your hand. Rosin the bow normally.

If you are still not happy with your bow - have it rehaired.

I started doing this 25 or 30 years ago and am still happy with the results.

The results are even better since I got digital hearing aids.
(Is that a joke? or just a consideration when things stop sounding right!)

Edited: March 17, 2019, 12:59 PM · When following Andrews recipe, make sure the alcohol will not touch the stick, it might damage the polish. Before doing so, use a dry tooth brush to remove the mobile rosin parts.

I also do exactly the same when switching to a different brand of rosin.

Edited: March 17, 2019, 3:44 PM · If you look at your bow hair and there is none, It's time to rehair :)


(But not, at the same time)

In all seriousness, if your bow has lost around 1/4 of the hair or more, It'd be a good idea to rehair your bow. Aside from how much hair is still intact, if you realize you're putting more pressure into the bow than usual to get a desired sound from the instrument, that probably means that your bow is due for a rehairing.

Hope this helps!

March 17, 2019, 6:33 PM · I do not worry about it. I just follow my luthier's recommendation which is to repair about once every 120 hours of playing (same for strings). For me, this means once every six months. I have never had a problem with my bow hair following this protocol.
Edited: March 17, 2019, 6:59 PM · 120 hours is too short an interval. That's really wasteful.
Hair will be fine for double that.
Saying that you never had any problems with the hair replacing it so often is like saying you never find a dirty shirt in your closet, washing your whole wardrobe every day.
March 17, 2019, 8:03 PM · "120 hours is too short an interval. That's really wasteful.
Hair will be fine for double that."

From one arbitrary interval to another. The original question is a good one -- how do you know when?

If you've not lost a significant amount of hair, then I would say you know it's time when a good deep cleaning and fresh rosining does not revive your bow. I can deep-clean my bow hair repeatedly with alcohol (I use the dip method, with denatured alcohol, there are videos on YouTube to show you how but Andrew's method should work fine too) several times and it comes back nice and fresh and plays well.

March 17, 2019, 9:18 PM · Well, we can clearly see that after 120 hours of use, the hair is still fine.
On the other hand, after 240 hours, it becomes clear that the hair has lost something or another because we can't get a good sound.
March 18, 2019, 3:27 AM · Alternative answer: I have several bows. It's time to re hair when you compare your bow with a recently haired one and you feel that the grip has significantly lost.

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