Working on cheap bows

Edited: June 22, 2019, 4:10 PM · So, I'm planning to do rehairs for my orchestra to make some money on the side. My own bows have been looking good lately and I figure it's about time for me to start working on other peoples bows.

One of the violinists asked me to rehair one of his bows. He had his own hair, too, and since it's my first "commercial" rehair I offered to do it for free. Dear god, though, this bow is a piece of s***.

First, the ENTIRE THING was CAKED IN GLUE. Took me an hour just to gouge out all the wedges and remove the old hair. Then of course all the mortices were both way too deep and way too narrow and nothing quite fits and yadda yadda yadda. Also, the "Siberian" hair was super brittle and reeked of cigarettes, not to mention there was only about two thirds of how much the stick needs in the package.

Anyways. I did the best I could, and it turned out just... fine. I'm not quite proud of how it looks, but given the materials it's about as good as it can get without using glue to hold things in place (the tip mortice was too small, so the hair was glued onto the ivory to make it look like a fuller ribbon...). Even if it's a cheap piece of utter c***, I don't want to curse the next poor soul tasked with taking it apart with removing as much adhesive as I had to.

I did consider reshaping everything to make it more standard (and literally just about everything would have had to be modified) but I'm so done with that bow I don't think it's worth the added time to do all that.

What's your guys' policy for working on cheap stuff? If someone shows up with a completely unworkable bow and hair, do you turn it down and recommend they get something better, or bite the bullet and try your best to fix it?

Replies (8)

Edited: June 22, 2019, 6:02 PM · Welcome to the violin repair world!

I've been doing this long enough to be able to sort and screen the bows. We don't do rehairs on the cheap bows that are glued together, and you will only find out which bows meet that criteria with experience.
Round mortices=fee to re-cut the mortice. Glued in slides=on a cheap bow, go to the box of frogs, especially on half-mounted bows, and charge for the frog.

A rehair in my shop is $75. If the bow is less than a $75 bow, then we suggest replacing it. Fiberglass, the same. Glasser, the same. Some CF bows are a pain to rehair, and sometimes you do have to re-cut the mortice, incuring a charge. My bow maker/rehair person(who is a AFV&BM member) always says, "Worst first", meaning that she will do the worst quality bows first since the higher quality bows are easier to rehair.

Bottom line: with cheap bows you will end up recutting the mortices to make them work, you will occasionally damage them, piss off the owner, and it just isn't worth it. A colleague recently tried to recamber a Chinese pernambuco bow worth about $300. It broke. It had a poly finish on it that bubbled, and the poor experience for the customer made it all worse. Just say no to the cheap ones.

When a Chinese vendor comes into the shop with bows that I like the look and feel of, I purchase a couple, cut the hair out, and give them to my bow tech to rehair. If she doesn't cuss, complain, and charge me for recutting the mortices, I purchase more. If she complains vociferously, I don't buy any more of from that vendor.

p.s. Glue on the spread wedge only. No where else in the course of a rehair.

June 22, 2019, 6:19 PM · I'm not into bow rehairing, but I feel your pain about "is it worth it"?
I do repair many kind of things, mostly electronics, and many times I spend like 3 hours or more repairing a $20 device. I can't ask for $20, not even $15... but I still take the job to do it in my free time, I enjoy the act of giving life again to something that was dead.

What normally happens is what normally happens everywhere, in every repair shop: you ask for a repair, and you will be told "the repair is gonna cost more than the new object". So, you will be rejected, or more accurately, you will reject the reparation due to its price.

Edited: June 22, 2019, 7:04 PM · Paul,

That is true, but is seems that some of these bow were constructed with one-way sorts of techniques that indicate that the maker never intended for them to be rehaired. I like to do good deeds as well, but I do need to balance that with making a living. Asking someone to pay 75 for a rehair, 15 to recut the mortices, and having to do visual damage to the bow to extract a glued in pearl slide on a bow that cost 50 bucks doesn't seem fair. The bows that i sell that are $100 and above are rehairable. Less than that price, they are not.
And you are not incorrect. One day, it will cost more to fix my heart problems and musculoskeletal issues than I am worth. Then, I will be discarded as unrepairable at a reasonable cost.

June 22, 2019, 7:27 PM · Duane, that is really sad. Why would you say something like that?
Objects have a price, people don't. Don't think that way.
June 22, 2019, 7:46 PM · I am a Nurse as well as a violin maker. People have prices as well, have a look at drug prices. Pres. Carter, Bless Him, gets a medication that costs more than I make a year each month. I would simply die if I needed that.

Now: Back to bows. Cotton, where are you?

June 22, 2019, 8:29 PM · Err

Southern Ontario at the moment.

June 23, 2019, 4:16 AM · One of my favourite viola bows (from Yitamusic) cost about the same as a rehair, so I know what to do when it needs one. I just hope CF is recyclable, but so far it looks like I'll be recycled first.
June 23, 2019, 9:07 AM · More or less what Duane said, though I should add that if you’re getting into this in a semi-professional way, you should have a plan in place for if/when something goes wrong or breaks during a customer’s rehair.

Do you plan on acquiring bench insurance?


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