Has this ever happened to you?

August 31, 2020, 9:12 AM · I hope not!

Replies (20)

August 31, 2020, 9:52 AM · Ooh. Check that condition report if buying at auction.
August 31, 2020, 10:07 AM · Chris can fix anything.
Edited: August 31, 2020, 10:12 AM · Actually if you look closely you can see the remnant of an old head spline. This head was repaired before. Its possible to be fixed again depending on some factors. This is what the repair looks like: https://adbowsllc.com/2019/02/13/headspline/
Edited: August 31, 2020, 11:30 AM · Yes, precisely that. The first spline repair quickly failed but a second attempt has survived (admittedly infrequent use) for 25 years
August 31, 2020, 12:01 PM · Well, it happened to one of my kids. But it also involved playing on a narrow staircase next to a wall, so I think the screw hitting the wall may have contributed. Luckily it was a rental.
August 31, 2020, 12:22 PM · It did not happen to me, but it happened to my F.N. Vorin bow over 20 years ago while being played by a violist almost next to me I had loaned it to for that orchestra rehearsal. Before that I had not known that the bow already had a 2-inch long longitudinal repair starting about 2 inches behind the head. One of our horn players did lutherie and offered to repair it. A simple gluing seems to have sufficed since the bow is still fine and I had trouble finding the splice when I looked at it (just now). It must have already been broken when my father bought it at least 65 years earlier - I don't know if he was aware of it.

But living in the desert 25 to 58 years ago I did see bows break in an air conditioned rehearsal hall. The humidity change from a home with evaporative cooling (>50% RH) and a refrigerated air conditioned room (possibly as low as 5%RH some days) was sufficient to shorten the hair enough to break some bow sticks. I could see the effect on my own bows in my case the next day after having loosened the hair before casing the bows enough to just touch the stick after the rehearsals. The next day the hair would be hanging below the stick.

August 31, 2020, 12:34 PM · I would consider that failure to be well outside the range of "normal", particularly since she is more of a sting tickler than a really hard player. Probably evidence of a prior poor repair.
Edited: August 31, 2020, 12:49 PM · I had a bow that was repaired by splicing on a new head about 2 inches back from the head -- imagine a long gradual angled cut such that the total area might have been a square centimeter or so, maybe even a little more. The work was done by Gus Banosky in Detroit, around 1976 maybe. That splice lasted 20 years and then I could see it was failing, but those were during the years when I was not playing and I probably was rather irresponsible about how I was storing my instrument and bow. Fortunately the violin itself was basically a VSO do it didn't matter.
August 31, 2020, 12:51 PM · "Chris can fix anything." LOL. Now we know who "Cotton Mather" really is.
August 31, 2020, 2:26 PM · This happened to one of my students when the public school teacher told him that his bow wasn't tightened enough. She told him that because it is a "bow" it has to look like a "bow" (as in archery) - despite my teachings he did as he was told and the head snapped off.

It goes without saying that the public school teacher is not a string player. Fortunately, it was not a "good" bow and I got his parents to replace it with fiberglass.

August 31, 2020, 4:32 PM · Now I've got that old song "It Could Happen To You" going through my head.

Here, with Sinatra ...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LP1ubu2dhA

Hide your bow from sight.
Lock your case at night ...

Oh God, that's fun.

August 31, 2020, 4:41 PM · I broke my bow as an 11 year old in string orchestra, I was then stuck with my nasty woolly 3/4 bow for a couple of months until we could afford a new bow...
August 31, 2020, 9:32 PM · Andrew Victor, funny you mention it: as I may have mentioned before, I know a current member of your old orchestra in Ridgecrest. She had a bow break at a rehearsal last fall, also shortly after arriving straight from a home with evaporative cooling.
August 31, 2020, 9:34 PM · I saw it happen 40 or 50 years ago.
September 3, 2020, 5:29 AM · Yes, it has! I was 14, practising the Bruch concerto. Which is very funny, because in German, "Bruch" means fracture.
Edited: September 3, 2020, 4:29 PM · BTW, someone still suffering from a severe NBAS flare here (Nice Bow Acquisition Syndrome).
I'm offered a very fine old German violin bow with a head spline. The spline is well done, and this stick is still a wonderful player. If not repaired, it might be valued around 10k (let's say 8-12k) in full retail. The offer is for less than 10% of that. It's tempting... Not that I'd need another bow... But it just plays that darn well!
But it's stories like that that make me doubt. Since this kind of failure is doomed to happen in a sensible moment, and for sure not during practice at home. Murphys law...
Edited: September 4, 2020, 2:41 AM · An anonymous bow valued at 10K? Presumably by the seller.

I'll never understand bows. Individually their value apparently lies in what they are rather than how well they play. What they are largely means who made them, and even "very fine" anonymous workmanship (that I wouldn't be able to distinguish from "pretty good") doesn't butter many parsnips. At the end of the day they're just a whittled stick. Then one snap and they're virtually worthless, no matter how well they still play.

Edited: September 4, 2020, 8:38 AM · Andrew remembers someone breaking their bow back in 1880 or so. :)
Edited: September 4, 2020, 5:40 PM · Steve, you're right in several ways. If it breaks, it's highly devalued even if repaired properly and brought back to its best playing abilities (which is possible with a head spline, but not so if the stick broke somewhere in the middle or upper half). And for market value, much more important than how it plays will be maker, provenance and collectability.

"Anonymous" work will rarely be valued in this price region, if it isn't attributed by one of the very few reputable experts in the field. And I didn't talk about an anonymous bow appraised by the seller. German bows in this league will usually have something to do with the names Bausch, Knopf, Pfretzschner, or the higher end Schmidt bows to add a contemporary maker.
Lesser bows were made in all periods, but due to a number of reasons access to highest quality pernambuco wood has become harder and harder in the last several decades. On the other hand, a good maker will be able to produce consistent quality and leave his personal handwriting not only in the outer appearance, but also in playing characteristics. Knowing a larger number of this makers bows, I have no reason to doubt that this one was the real thing, repaired or not - although I'm totally aware that 95% of all bows with a HR Pfretzschner stamp are fake.

But this would be material for another thread... Question is, rely on a repaired stick? I'm not a professional but only an enthusiast. I love how it reacts, and how it fits my violin soundwise. It's not absolutely necessary to have it since there are at least three bows in my "collection" that are of equivalent qualities, but this one adds some additional warmth and beauty and might become my favorite. For a small amount of money. But still not an easy decision - you'll never know when the repair will come loose... So I appreciate others opinions and experiences.

Edited: September 6, 2020, 2:21 AM · @George Wells, I also had a teacher who insisted that I should tighten my bow, maybe because he himself played with a baroque bow. He reckoned it would help produce a more confident tone. I did what he said, even though it went against all that my childhood teachers had taught me some 45 years ago. But I was now 60 and in great awe of my teacher, a charismatic young man.

Then one day I was practising and my bow snapped. As I was planning to take my fiddle on holiday the next day, we screamed up to our local music shop. The luthier sold me another cheap bow, but rebuked me very solemnly about what had happened - I did feel ashamed..

He told me that I should put my violin teacher in his place if he gave me such advice again - 'after all, he's young enough to be your son!'.

I well remember the shock when the bow broke - it was like a mini-explosion.


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