Reparing a broken bow

Edited: June 8, 2019, 4:30 PM · I have a question to the violinmakers, bowmakers and especially those who are specialized in restauration:

My quite valuable violin bow broke last year on the way back to me in an ups parcel, that wasn't very secure. I already got a new bow from the original maker, where it was for service, before it broke.
He said he could make me a bow with the same attributes and I trusted him.
Now I miss my old bow in terms of playing characteristics. I still have the old and broken bow stick at home, without hair and frog and everything (mounted to the new bow).
I wanted to ask if a damage in the middle of the stick is restorable and if to what degree. Since most of the stick is intact and the middle of the bow usually not under the most pressure, I think it must be possible. Despite the fact, that my bow maker said it was not repairable, I want now more opinions, because I feel, that I can't trust that man anymore after he couldn't package my bow right and couldn't make me a good new one.
With the new bow I have issues with the response and also playing characteristics that I am not used to and was never looking for in a bow. The new bow feels also much more wobbly in some places and needs to be tightened quite much not to have some bad effects. After that the hair gets hard. With my old bow I could play a lot with the tension regarding the music I play or the weather I was in.
Any answer is appreciated. Maybe anyone who had a similar accident? Btw. I will not name the maker... yet, but some people might have read in the past from my old bow, because I praised it so much. I just want to tell it is in the 5k range and a very good quality stick and I just can't accept that this stick just rots away now.

Replies (23)

Edited: June 8, 2019, 5:11 PM · I snapped a bow once. Several times in multiple places, in fact, and I fixed each break simply by applying instant glue and wrapping it with string (which was later removed ofc). Not a difficult repair, and the bow lost very little flexibility—if any.

Before you crucify me, it was a cruddy cheapo I was using to find the bending limits of pernambuco.

June 8, 2019, 5:33 PM · Simon, I have no answer to your problem. But on Facebook there is a group called Les Archets. I've seen some fantastic repairs posted there, and I'm sure if you posted a couple of pictures there, you'd ged the information you are asking for.
I do understand why you're hanging your hope on a stick that served you that well. But keep in mind that the value of your broken stick will be only a fraction of what you paid for it, and that any repair cost eventually will exceed the residual value. And well, you live in Germany. There are not few great bowmakers out there who would be happy to sell you a bow as fine as your old one, for much less than 5k... No name dropping.
Good luck, and all the best.
June 8, 2019, 5:54 PM · Simon, can you post a photo of the break? Some are more easily repairable than others.
Edited: June 8, 2019, 10:46 PM · It was quite a shock around 1997 when the F.N. Voirin violin bow I inherited in 1954 spit diagonally 3 to 5 inches from the tip a few minutes after I had loaned it to a very vigorous viola player in orchestra. I had it repaired and the repairer could spot that this was not the first time that that separation of the bow into two parts had occurred (so no one was sued). He repaired the bow the same way it had been before(just glued along the 2-inch break) and I still could not spot the break - no change in the way it plays.

A violinist friend has a Lamy bow that had been professionally repaired with the string winding "thingy"before he ever got it 70 years ago. It still has the string!

I had a H. R. Pfretzschner violin bow that broke (on me) in the "hatchet" of the tip. Unaware of its potential value I repaired the broken hatchet with fiberglass tape and epoxy. No change in sound or playability ---but it would be worth more if I had had a pro do it. It is now my granddaughter's best bow.

Edited: June 9, 2019, 2:55 AM · If it’s a clean break, I don’t see why it can’t be salvaged. The adhesives today that some bow makers use to fix breaks are better than what was around 40-50 years ago. There’s Gorilla Glue and Krazy Glue which I know can seal a break like it never happened - if the repairer knows what he/she is doing. I know a pretty top violin soloist who plays on a Pierre Simon bow that had a break at the tip. I also know the gentleman who repaired it. He’s kind of a reconstructive specialist for bows in New York. People from all over the world bring broken bows to him. He uses tight bond glue and claims that none of his repairs have come undone.
Edited: June 8, 2019, 9:45 PM · Thank you all for the answers, here are two quick pictures: photos
I just wanted to say, that I am really not concerned about the value loss. I mean right now the stick has literally zero value for me. I just want that bow back to play with it. But I don't know if it is possible.
I basically also have a similar valued bow given by the bow maker with certificate and all, it just doesn't handle that well.
And yeah there might be other good bows out there for that money but playing a bow for 10 years and knowing it in and out can't be replaced so easily. I tried it and gave other bows including the new one a chance. I will even do a rehair to see if I can fix some of the response issues with that, but in the end I didn't get that feeling back, that I play with "my" bow and i basically have to adjust my technique to the new bow.
It is good to hear, that there might be people who can save the stick to make it playable again. If anyone has an address in Germany, let me know!
If only I would have an address to go to I already would have gone there. But there are no specialists close by as far as I could find.
I wonder, why the bow maker without even looking did know that the bow wasn't repairable and instantly wanted to make a new one for me instead. In combination with the bad packaging I find that very fishy to say the least. But I had to go with that otherwise I wouldn't have any bow other than some mediocre sticks colleagues rented me for that time. And I kind of hoped, the new bow would be as good as the old one. Maybe the new bow would be even better for someone else also, but for me it is too different to what I got used to over the years.
And people talk often about handling regarding bows. What I miss the most is the sound of my old bow! Sustained, clear but not too fuzzy.
June 8, 2019, 10:25 PM · I have repaired a bow with a crack like that. It's still in use to this day. There is no value left in the bow but it would be worth a shot. Visit my website at www.adbowsllc.com to learn more about my shop, but also check out the facebook groups that were mentioned. A lot of us bow makers post photos of our repairs.
Edited: June 8, 2019, 10:44 PM · That's pretty much the angle of the break in my Voirin bow, but mine broke cleanly all the way through and closer to the tip.

It was probably broken when my father bought it (maybe a little before I was born). I remember hearing he paid $125 for the Voirin bow, an R. Weichold-Dresden bow and a Stefano Scarampella violin. Those were the days - if you had a job!

June 9, 2019, 12:09 AM · If the bow was replaced by the original maker, could you see if he has a stick your would like more? In some ways this is like a commission, where Version 1.0 didn’t quite do it for you. Not an uncommon problem with bows, especially.
June 9, 2019, 4:23 AM · Simon, from the photo, the break looks long enough to be repairable. In Germany, you might check with Klaus Grunke in Langensendelbach.
Edited: June 9, 2019, 7:03 AM · That sounds like good news. I mean one thing that concerns me is that the break is not 100% clean and splits a little like being squashed. Thank you for mentioning a name David. I heard his name a lot before. I will take that into consideration.
@Stephen: Yes and no. I asked the maker beforehand if it was possible to chose from different sticks and he said, he has no bows to choose from and that he will make me an exact copy... In that moment I also hesitated, because I know to make an exact copy with a living material like wood is not possible. But in the end I had no other option to get my hands on a decent bow in a reasonable time. I didn't expect the copy to be so much off the mark as well. I may ask him again, but who fails you so hard once (or twice if you include the bad packaging that lead to the breaking of my original stick) will probably do that again. I am really not into waiting for him to make me another bow that will be good for me maybe and maybe not. Also the communication with the maker was terrible and ate a lot of my time.
@Anthony: I checked out your page and I would love to consult you, but I really prefer a local solution for now. As I see it, you are half way around the globe :(
Edited: June 9, 2019, 1:02 PM · Simon, since David named him - another vote for Klaus Grünke. I've got no idea how far he is into restauration, but he's a top notch expert in German bows in general, and he makes marvelous bows for a most reasonable price. Another option would be Daniel Schmidt in Dresden, son of C. Hans-Karl Schmidt.
If the repair job would not bring the result you're hoping for, you should see Thomas Gerbeth in Vienna. He has a very scientific approach to making bench copies that do not only look like, but also play like the originals, and you would not be the first one to be puzzled about the result. If he gets hold on your - even broken or repaired - stick and knows what you want, then any bet that he'll get it done.
Just my personal top three from my list, and I guess there will be others I don't know about. It's a really great time for contemporary bow shopping, so many excellent makers around...!
June 9, 2019, 1:12 PM · Mr. Gerbeth is also a dedicated repairer and restorer, BTW.
June 9, 2019, 1:38 PM · If Klaus Grunke is not himself a top-notch repair specialist, I'll bet he knows who is, and would be willing to pass that along. Super high-integrity guy, in my experience.
June 9, 2019, 3:13 PM · Quite repairable. The only problem is that no adjustments to the camber can be done ever again. No straightening, no alterations.

So,one single opportunity to glue it back correctly. It will probably play just as it did if all goes well, so choose your restorer carefully.

Edited: June 9, 2019, 4:26 PM · I think this break is basically impossible to screw up unless the repairer is a serious klutz. If it were my bow, I would just glue it back myself. There's really not much risk.

Since the break is so long, though, it will be stiffer in that spot.

June 9, 2019, 5:00 PM · Cotton: If, as Simon has surmised, the break is not 100% clean and splits a little like being squashed, it will be anything but easy to repair, unless one is satisfied with a real hack job.
June 9, 2019, 5:25 PM · David, as usual I agree with all you said.
Edited: June 9, 2019, 7:26 PM · I really thank you for dropping some names. I have to exclude one though.
I kind of know that all of the names mentioned are mainly into building bows and are reputable makers, but if Grünke is a person of integrity and could name me someone to do a better job for a restauration, that sounds like a good suggestion. I wish there would be someone in my area. Maybe Grünke could actually name me one.
But thank you all for giving me hope regarding my old bow. I was literally in tears when I saw my bow broken. Everything since then seems like a bad dream and struggle regarding a good bow. I always thought my violin I some time probably want to change, but my bow I thought I could play forever.
I waited half a year for the maker to give me a new one, which arrived 5 days after an important concert I told him about (what initially was the reason to send him the bow in the first place, to have it in good condition and rehaired for the concert) But it wasn't even a similar stick to my old one. I just today played it and compared to another bow I have and regarding the response the bow is just terrible, sounds thin and closed. Do you guys think a new rehair is worth it? the new bow looks fantastic and is very well made. Just there is no magic in it like in my old one.
June 9, 2019, 8:27 PM · Duane Lasley said, "Quite repairable. The only problem is that no adjustments to the camber can be done ever again."

I'm wondering if a bow repaired in this way could be temporarily reinforced, perhaps with a wire wrap, while it's being heated for recambering. Or would the heat degrade the glue joint anyway. I'm guessing the answer is still no, but I was just wondering.

June 9, 2019, 9:49 PM · If it were my bow and I did not mind losing all the monetary value of the bow, I would consider a carbon fiber bow-quality sleeve to replace the damaged region near the center of the stick.

First I might consider one of the glue-infusion ideas put forward above, but if the bow lost too much of the qualities I cherished I would contact Bernd Müsing at ARCUS and get his thoughts on my CF sleeve idea.

June 9, 2019, 9:50 PM · Even epoxy becomes thermoplastic at the temperatures required for altering the curve.

Cotton, you are quite simply wrong.Anything but simple,not straightforward,but quite doable for a professional.

June 10, 2019, 7:21 AM · Simon, since I had very good experiences with all three I'm really curious about whom you exclude, but I understand why you don't want to name him in public. Could you send me a PM eventually?


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