Bow Rehairs

September 15, 2021, 9:41 PM · So to start, I have just gotten a new violin bow about 6 months ago. I decided to rehair it about 3 months ago in preparation for an audition. The audition went well, but the bow lost about half of its bow hair the following month. I decided I needed to go somewhere else for a rehair, and my school teacher referred a freelance violinist in the area that did rehairs. The rehair was surprisingly cheap(40$ USD), and it only lasted about 2 months before losing half of its hair. I’m fairly certain the rehair was of poor quality, and now am looking for places to rehair my bow that will last longer than 2 months. Do any of ya’ll know anyone who rehairs bows around Memphis, TN, or a good place to ship my bow to rehair?

Replies (37)

September 16, 2021, 2:41 AM · You might have bow mites.

September 16, 2021, 7:35 AM · Ship your bow to Joshua Henry.
Edited: September 16, 2021, 8:19 AM · It doesn't sound right that this has happened repeatedly, I would think you might have the mites that David mentioned or carpet beetles. I think that you would be hard put to find hair that was as poor quality as described. I once got a violin that had been stored in the back of a closet on the floor (the worst place) and both bows had been eaten up by carpet beetles. The case needed to be thrown away. I would suggest discarding your case too.
Edited: September 16, 2021, 8:44 AM · Either that or you are squeezing the hair between the stick and the string when you play.

Don't ship your bow off somewhwre for an overpriced rehair... any moderately experienced rehairer will do this moderately simple job just fine.

Edited: September 16, 2021, 11:26 AM · For pests, dry ice is often a useful decontaminant that doesn't leave toxic odors behind. Lots of carbon dioxide not only kills bugs, but larvae and maybe even their eggs. I've used this for clothes moths with some success. For a violin case, drop a few good scoops of crushed dry ice inside, put the whole case inside a few trash bags, and tie them closed but not sealed airtight. You don't want to be locking the case with all that gas being produced; it might explode. Three or four days of this should get most of the problem.

Follow up with a vacuuming and some direct exposure to sunlight.

Of course, if it's a cheap case with a very plush lining that has had years of neglect, it might be time to look for an alternative.

Edited: September 16, 2021, 10:52 AM · For comparison, Landon, I've been playing the violin for 3 years, and none of my bows is anywhere near needing a rehair. In fact, the only time I've ever broken a hair, apart from the one or two that naturally come loose from a new bow, was when I forgot to put the violin blanket over the zip of my case before putting the bow down on it.

Hence the fear that you might have an insect problem. Or a bow-hold problem.

September 16, 2021, 11:21 AM · Cotton, not all moderately experienced rehairers are created equal.
September 16, 2021, 11:57 AM · Getting one of the best in the business to do a rehair often doesn't cost so much. I think Jerry Pasewicz still charges 75 bucks.
September 16, 2021, 1:41 PM · I agree with David and Ann that bow mites are a real possibility. You won't blow through bow hair that fast unless you're practicing Paganini No. 16 three hours a day at a very fast!! tempo while riding an exercise bike.
Edited: September 16, 2021, 4:21 PM · Stan, in my opinion, Jerry Pasewicz is one of the best in the business. I would ship even one of my cheapest bows to him for a quality rehair, even if it cost 150 bucks, because that's how much I've learned to appreciate the quality of a rehair, and how much difference it can make.

I have taught alongside Jerry at "continuing education" workshops for many years, most recently in Australia, and most of his time was spent trying to "raise the rehair bar". It really does matter that much. He's just really freaking good at rehairs, and lots of other stuff too.

September 17, 2021, 12:24 AM · Greetings,
I second what David is saying. I didn’t learn the difference between an expert rehairer and someone who just sticks hair in roughly evenly until I hit middle age and stumbled across one of the top guys in Japan. His questions about how many hairs they me straight away and then he went on to demonstarate/explain about how to dry out, stretch fit and all the rest of it at the highest level. Much of it went over my head but the end result was the difference between night and day.
In comparison, the moderately competent shops in Japan’s 3rd biggest city are all awful. MY current repair has gone back three times because they dont seem to know how to tighten the hair enough that I can get a decent clearance between hair and stick.
yes, I am pretty sure you have mites in your case.
Edited: September 17, 2021, 10:23 AM · I'm fairly sure I must have sprayed the inside of my case with moth repellant once upon a time. It was long term odorless, but if you use already cologne on your strings, you can splash some of that on the case fabric and then leave it to evaporate.
September 17, 2021, 10:24 AM · Cologne? I must have missed that one.
Edited: September 17, 2021, 12:02 PM · Cologne?? Do your strings have underarm odor??
September 17, 2021, 11:27 AM · Erin, No, his strings have a hot date tonight.
Edited: September 17, 2021, 2:28 PM · Almost 25 years ago I learned an important lesson about bow rehairs.
I had bought a violin CodaBow after reading an article about the new "composite" bows in my very first issue of STRINGS magazine (the July 1996 issue). That model of CODABOW was subsequently sold as the "Classic." CODA was one of three composite bows reviewed in the article. The other two were BERG and Rolland STACCATO, both of which I subsequently acquired (violin version only).

Anyhow, after a couple of years I felt the CODA needed a rehair and since my local music store (within 5 miles) had recently put a string repair guy in one of their back rooms I took it to him. When I picked up my rehaired CODA my first complaint was that the rehair looked skimpy compared to its original lushness of hair. He told me that he had used the proper amount of hair for a bow of that flexibility. When I got it home and rosined up he was proved correct. The bow had never played that well in every respect - sound and handling.

This was a lesson I have never forgotten and ever since I have judged my rehairs by it. About 4 years later I started a "laboratory research program" in which I jerry-rigged a simple method for measuring the stiffness of bow sticks and measured about 30+ violin, viola and cello bows I was able to get my hands on. I came up with a simple equation for relating the bow stiffness to the amount of hair that seemed to me to optimize the bow in terms of sound and handling. I found that most of my bows were over-haired and took the risk of trimming their hair to fit my equations. I had actually applied the equation to rehairs of my stiffest CF bows (ARCUS), although I had to pay extra for the added amount of hair the shop used. It seemed to work well for those bows as well as the ones I had trimmed.

I then got permission from Jay Ifshin to make such measurements on bows in his shop (30 minutes and one bridge away from my home). My son made and sent me a portable "jig" that I would be able take to Ifshin Violins for the measurements and wss all ready to go by September 10, 2001. Events early the next morning redirected my efforts 100% toward using bows only for making music. But I had already summarized my "research" thus far in a "Bow Calculator" EXCEL spreadsheet. It remained on the internet for about another 5 years until I retired from my consulting business and dropped by website.

September 17, 2021, 2:55 PM · Buri I hope your bow-rehair guy was okay after you stumbled across him. But I am curious -- was he wearing cologne?
Edited: September 17, 2021, 3:17 PM · I think it's nice to open a violin case and have the whiff of 4711 come out. It's nicer than fustiness.
September 17, 2021, 6:17 PM · 4711 is the best.
September 18, 2021, 2:10 AM · Tonight I have the pleasure to listen to Augustin Hadelich in Cologne (the home of 4711)
Edited: September 18, 2021, 5:42 AM · For those who are unaware, Eau de Cologne has alcohol in it, and many string players use 4711 for string cleaning. I wouldn't know where to buy isopropyl alcohol except for Amazon, I guess, whereas 4711 is, or used to be, ubiquitous (it's considered an old-fashioned perfume now, and I have to get mine from Amazon). But don't get any on your varnish.
Edited: September 18, 2021, 6:49 AM ·
A microfiber cloth will remove >90% of rosin from strings. Studies have shown that alcohol dissolves the rosin and the rosin then soaks into the strings and shortens string life.

Don't use alcohol (or Eau de Cologne) to clean rosin off of strings, just use a microfiber cloth.

I'd also add that a violin imbued with a scent such as a perfume can be a challenge to sell and the odor can be very difficult to remove.

September 18, 2021, 9:24 AM · Isopropyl alcohol 70% is called rubbing alcohol in the US. Drug stores have it in bottles. A more expensive alternative is alcohol prep wipes which have the same 70% and are individually wrapped.
September 18, 2021, 9:45 AM · There have been enough threads already on this site about cleaning your violin strings or your bow hair, whether it's okay to use alcohol or not. I use "prep wipes" for quick, everyday type jobs. When I want to run my bow hair through a bowl of solvent or give my strings a deep cleaning then I switch to ethanol (grain alcohol).

4711 is a classic fragrance that will outlive many of today's brands. Much like the music of Beethoven, which is of approximately the same general vintage.

September 18, 2021, 10:01 AM · Oh, that's what that is. I'd never heard it referenced by number.
September 18, 2021, 10:37 AM · Stephen, I gotta ask, how have you heard 4711 referenced, other than as 4711???
September 18, 2021, 10:46 AM · Just Eau de Cologne, or Cologne. The only regular user I know offhand is my father in law, who would have started before there were millions of alternatives to justify more detailed ID.
September 18, 2021, 12:50 PM · I still use 4711, since it has the older rich gals (whose husbands had millions of dollars in life insurance, but are now deceased), all over me like flies on chit. LOL
September 18, 2021, 2:32 PM · They're just hoping to move up on your waiting list.
September 18, 2021, 6:26 PM · First I gotta get a new wardrobe... It's not that far to Ann Arbor.
September 19, 2021, 5:59 AM · The wardrobe connects to Narnia, not Ann Arbor. It’s a common mistake…..
September 19, 2021, 8:36 AM · Heelarious!
September 19, 2021, 6:12 PM · The reason we say "4711" here in the US is because we can't pronounce Kolnisch Wasser. We don't even have the right key on our keyboard to type it properly. There is no oe.
September 20, 2021, 10:23 AM · Here is some quick background. I live in California. During the first COVID surge, our state shutdown anything that was not a drug store or a food store. The Luthier who rehairs my bow was forcefully closed thus temporarily put out of business. Many businesses in this area faced the same fate. Many businesses did not survive. It was very sad to see.

I digressed. Let's go back to the art of bow rehairing. I do not remember how long the shutdown lasted but my bow hair was worn out. For me this time comes about every 6 months and occurs when hairs break during a practice session and the necessity of rosining significantly increases in frequency. Finally, after the introduction of the vaccines as well as a drop in cases, my Luthier was allowed a limited reopening. Fortunately, he was able to keep his business alive.

I quickly called to arrange a rehair but found that he was backlogged for the next 2 months. I checked into some other Luthiers in the area. One said he does rehairs but I would need to drive to his place, call him from the parking lot, and he would meet me there and pick up my bow. My bow is in the $6,000.00 USD range. I was not eager to give this bow to someone I did not know and in a parking lot that I had never been before. I did not see this as a viable option. This set the stage for my quick entry into the art of bow rehairing.

Bow rehairing is a craft. My first lesson learned was how to lose half your bow hair by the second month. Now that I think about it that was actually my second lesson. The first lesson was how to lose all your bow rehair in the first 10 minutes of bow tightening.

There are many steps in the process of rehairing. One of the steps is to fuse each end of the horse hair together using a flame. The purpose of this is to make the entire quantity of hair into one unit so that when you tighten your bow the hairs all work uniformly together so that you end up with a plane of hair that touches in unison the string. The Youtube videos that I watched in order to gain my entry into this new art form made the fusing the hair step look like a piece of cake. It turns out that this is a very important step and not at all that easy. If you do it wrong, you lose all your hairs instantly or you lose several hairs a day until 2 months later, you have lost half your hairs. The step that the Youtube “masters” did not teach on their course to rehair enlightenment was the trick that made this step work. To do this fusing step right the hairs first must be dipped into powdered rosin. After this the hairs are then hit with the flame. The flame melts the hairs and rosin into a gooey ball of tree pitch and melted hair. After this is done your bow hair becomes one.

Landon, I suspect that the fusion of hair at the two ends was likely the weak link in your latest rehair and this is why half your hairs were gone within 2 months. The bug (mite) angle sounds like some have experienced it, however, one of the important steps for rehairing is washing the hair with soap and water and letting it dry before beginning the operation. Bugs survive water but once soap is added they drown. If this is the first time you experienced the loss of hair, it is likely your case is mite free. The purpose of the soap and water wash is to rid the hair of any residual oils.

Hope this helps.

Edited: September 20, 2021, 12:10 PM · Larry, the "bow mites" are most typically infesting the case, not the stock of new hair the rehair person has.

A GOOD rehair person can recognize damage from bow mites in a heartbeat, if the bow comes in with some of the broken hairs still attached, because the visual appearance of the break in hair which has been chewed through by bugs is different from hairs which break for other reasons, or which have pulled out of the winding at either end of the bow.

Had you been trained by someone really good, with the first steps observing how they did it, and subsequent steps having that person looking over your shoulder as you tried to assimilate and put that knowledge into practice, I would expect that things would have gone much more quickly and smoothly.

It's not unlike a totally self-taught violinist, versus one who was trained by Heifetz.

September 20, 2021, 4:32 PM · David is right, my damaged bows were examined for 1 second by the luthier who instantly said the case needed to be thrown away. I did so and got rid of both bows which were junk. New bow, new case, problem solved.
Edited: September 30, 2021, 5:22 PM · Anything to do with strings, bow rehair, rosin, etc., etc., I spend what's needed to get the best. For me, it's worth it to obtain the best possible voice from my instrument.

Find a reputable bow person, and if needed, ship the bow to him/her. I take my bows to a local person who only works on bows. He was recommended by the luthier from whom I purchased my violin. He gave me the choice of reharing the bow himself, or having his assistant rehair the bow at substantially less cost. I choice the former.

In the process, I also learned about the importance of having proper camber in a bow. (Bow curve.) He improved the camber in two of my bows, and it made a notable difference in how they play.

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