Removing Sharpie mark from bow...

November 2, 2021, 5:25 PM · Someone thought they were doing me a favor (don't ask) and placed a Sharpie mark on my expensive John Paul Corona bow. That's a hybrid bow - IS there a safe way to remove the mark? I'll need to sell it and that mark will certainly impact the selling price. It's a great bow for the price, at least for me it was.

I've read that isopropyl will remove it from wood veneer but I'm not about to try that without a bit of research.

Replies (40)

Edited: November 3, 2021, 12:09 AM · I find it unlikely that whatever your bow is finished with will be sensitive to isopropyl (which will take the sharpie off). But to check, put some alcohol on a cloth and rub under the slide or the butt where the tension screw sits, and see if any colour comes off.

You can also try wetting a towel with water and rubbing the sharpie away. If it didn't melt into the finish then it should come away, but again I don't think they would finish a CF bow with sensitive traditional finishes.

Edited: November 3, 2021, 6:30 AM · I have a cheap hybrid bow (I've got even cheaper wooden bows) and a Sharpie. I have marked it just to help you out! (I marked it where my finger usually goes, so I'm sure it will rub off one day). I'll get back to you in a while. Otoh, alcohol on violin varnish is bad, so I imagine alcohol on bow varnish won't be good.

Result: a bit of saliva on a fingertip got it off. Maybe I should have left it on for a day or two first.

November 3, 2021, 6:45 AM · LOL Gordon, and thanks Cotton! I'll try it - I looked on the Jon Paul website and they don't say what material comprises the surface of the Corona bow. The mark has been on there for over a year, I was afraid to do anything with it but it isn't in a location where my hand touches.

November 3, 2021, 7:42 PM · Apparently it's been on the bow too long for water to take it off, though a tiny bit did come off. At least I think so :-) I'll give JonPaul a call before I try the isopropyl route, though that likely will be fine.
November 3, 2021, 9:01 PM · Cringe
November 4, 2021, 2:54 AM · I don't really want to tell you what to do, Catherine, as I don't really know what you've been doing, and I don't want to patronise you, but it's not really the water, it's the friction that gets it off. Dampen your fingertip slightly and rub hard. If that's not what you've done already.
Edited: November 4, 2021, 8:57 AM · Ring ring ...
JonPaul customer service, how can I help you?
I wrote on my bow with a Sharpie pen.
You WHAT?
Yeah I know. But want to get the mark off now.
Have you tried saliva and elbow grease?
I was hoping for something more civilized. Some chemicals, maybe.
"Old-fashioned spit" was good enough for Heifetz!
(and the call continued from there)
November 4, 2021, 9:09 AM · Try rubbing repeatedly with your finger. Skin oil does wonders.
November 4, 2021, 1:08 PM · Lol Paul :) I will allow the full origin of this problem remain shrouded in mystery. Ya had to be there.

I did use a lot of friction and even (slightly) my fingernail. I will continue with the same effort less fingernail.

November 5, 2021, 1:14 PM · Catherine,
Serum is a good solvent for residues in test tubes, so you could try it on the bow. Maybe also milk or butter? Or yoghurt (you probably wouldn't have to bother about whether it's live or not)!
November 5, 2021, 1:30 PM · Maybe try hazelnut flavoured yoghurt - the ground nuts would act like an exfoliant.
November 5, 2021, 6:32 PM · "... she swallowed a spider to catch the fly ..."
November 5, 2021, 6:56 PM · If skin oil works, then perhaps olive oil or some purer substance would be better. Even soap is made from palm oil these days.
Edited: November 6, 2021, 10:24 AM · I have two suggestions:
(1) Gojo Mechanics Hand Cleaner (lanolin + some hydrocarbon). Available at auto stores such as Auto Zone/Advance Auto Parts or Amazon (14 oz tub, $9.00).

(2) Mona Lisa Odorless Paint Thinner. Available at artist supply stores such as Michales, 100% odorless mineral spirits.

I have tested both on several old (scrapped) bows which I adorned with a black Sharpie marker. The Sharpie marker is removed instantly. There was no damage to the finish whatsoever. Of course, as suggested above, you should test in an out-of-the-way location first, perhaps under the area where the frog sits. Apply a small amount on a piece of flannelette or microfiber cloth and wipe lightly.

My personal favorite, Gojo, which I have used many times, also removes rosin residue, even old, blackened deposits, on both bows and violins.

Edited: November 6, 2021, 6:47 PM · Lol Gordon and Paul :)

I'll try the GoJo next if pure friction and skin oil doesn't work - so far it hasn't.

Sharpies aren't allowed in the same room with my hammered dulcimer (which is opening nicely).

Edited: November 6, 2021, 7:59 PM · Peanut butter and toothpaste (one at a time) are suggested for removing marker stains from wood...just Googling...
November 6, 2021, 8:37 PM · I'm beginning to wonder if there is something in the finish to which it's bonded, but I've not given up.
November 7, 2021, 12:44 AM · I think hand sanitizer would remove the mark. Maybe nail polish remover would work too.
Edited: November 7, 2021, 12:49 AM · nail polish remover will definitely remove any varnish!!!
November 7, 2021, 11:13 AM · When someone uses permanent pen on a whiteboard we remove it with a non permanent pen. Write it over with the non permanent pen and wait for 20 seconds. Then whipe it of. Repeat it a couple of times (3 to 5 times usually)
The non permanent pen dissolves the permanent pen
November 7, 2021, 11:15 AM · But you really make me very curious about the story behind it :))
November 7, 2021, 3:01 PM · I am guessing it was Catherine's teacher?
Edited: November 8, 2021, 9:12 AM · There is a reason why alcohols such as isopropanol and ethanol come up in these kinds of conversations. They have the "OH" functional group, so they are the most "water-like" of the common organic solvents. As such, they are the least likely to soften (most) plastics, and remember that cured varnish is essentially a type of "natural" plastic. Also, these alcohols can be obtained easily in a purified form, so you know what you're getting, and that's a huge plus.

Solvents like acetone, toluene, dry-cleaning (chlorinated) solvents, cellosolves, esters, etc., have properties that enable the swelling and dissolving of plastics. Those are the ones to avoid for sure.

The problem with mysterious sources like "dry-erase markers" and "paint thinner" is that you really don't know what solvents are inside them unless you happen to have that arcane knowledge. Usually dry-erase markers contain alcohols, but which ones? The headache I get from teaching with white-boards tells me they're not just ethanol or isopropanol. I suspect there may be some 1-butanol, which I know gives me a headache.

And the other thing is that varnish, as a "natural plastic" of sorts, is also a very complex material, and you don't really know what that is either. It might contain leachable, plasticizing components, for example, that would be damaged or removed even by an alcohol, leaving your varnish very brittle, but about this I really don't know.

This is why people will say that isopropanol or ethanol, as far as organic solvents go, are your safest bet, but nothing -- not even water -- can be used with total impunity. There is a reason why people go to school for four years (or more) to study polymer science -- because it's complicated. Polymer physics is actually rather frightening -- I really could never quite get on that bus. I suspect the skill and knowledge of the luthier is somewhere on that spectrum too.

November 8, 2021, 8:38 AM · Paul's post is great but, as you say, the dye may have bonded with the varnish at this point. The best (only) remaining strategy may be to remove the stain with the finest Emory paper that you can find followed by touchup with the same varnish - if, that is, the manufacturer will supply it and also if it was originally applied just by passive painting.

Other than these - or perhaps instead of these - you may need a touch-up artist....

November 8, 2021, 9:10 AM · Elise's recommendation of a touch-up artist is very interesting. I realize a violin bow is not the same thing as a bedroom dresser, but years ago when I moved from Minneapolis to Evanston, I had to hire a mover to bring my furniture up from the street, and the dresser was damaged. I filled out a little form, and a week later a kindly older gentleman showed up at my apartment with a toolbox full of weird waxes and crayons and different kinds of putty and all kinds of things I had never seen before. He fixed it *perfectly*. I was amazed that such concealment was even possible. That was over 25 years ago and I still have the dresser, but I could not tell you now where the damage was. So if you need to know where to find a tradesman like that, my suggestion is to call the local mover, because they're probably hiring him/her with some regularity.
November 8, 2021, 11:07 AM · @Catherine, when the time comes for you to let go of your beloved violin, why don't you just sell everything as an "outfit" - the violin, case, the bow, the whole shebang in one price that would be equitable to you and the buyer? That way whatever condition your violin, bow, etc. is would be inconsequential because you're offering everything as a package. Jus my .02 cents
November 8, 2021, 5:29 PM · Ben, that's what I'm thinking but I've two bows. One is good and would be fine for a package but the second cost as much as my first violin. If I could get that mark off I think/hope I could get a decent price for it on it's own.
Edited: November 8, 2021, 6:19 PM · Does it need a rehair? Most rehair folks could easily clean that off.
November 9, 2021, 6:42 AM · Mark-I've not yet called them but am about ready to. It's about how to start that conversation (you have WHAT on your $800 BOW!?!).
Edited: November 9, 2021, 1:17 PM · Catherine, don't worry about that. All high-level professional makers know (or should know) that "stuff happens".

My most recent incident with "stuff happens" was when a major orchestra player was using an instrument-attached microphone during a pops concert, and the mic cord got fouled in someone's leg, causing the violin to drop to the floor.

Fortunately, although the mic cord was the cause of the drop, it was also short enough to interfere with the violin hitting the floor with the full acceleration of gravity from that height.

My instruments are rather inexpensive, compared to Strads, so I really can't expect them to be treated with the same care as a multi-million dollar instrument. The Paganini Guarneri, for instance, does not travel without the main conservator traveling with it, and a police escort.

Yes, it is painful for me when an instrument which I made is damaged, because I know how much effort went into making a pristine undamaged instrument, with a minimum of unintended maker damage. But the ability to get over that quickly is part and parcel of being a true professional. Were I not able to do that, I would probably have been sidelined into depression non-productiveness long ago.

November 9, 2021, 1:47 PM · ... DO tell us what happened!
Edited: November 9, 2021, 2:42 PM · Paul Prier, please post your responses here, rather than privately. It's not like the OP is the only person interested, and I can't see a need for privacy or product process protection when it comes to removing Sharpie marks from bows.

But I'm always willing to be further edumecated and changing my mind, should you be up to offering that. :-)

November 9, 2021, 4:48 PM · That's really cool, thank you! While I'm finally making progress with LOTS of friction I'll call to see if there is an easier way to get the remainder off.

The more serious "Sharpie attack" was to my 18th century violin where the shoulder rest hits. I've learned that both my varnish and the Sharpie are shellac based (my luthier was muttering under his breath). I'll try some friction on that as well, but anything more needed my luthier will need to address. I've read a light abrasive pad might do it but I don't want to ruin the finish further.

November 9, 2021, 5:00 PM · I DID call Paul and he kindly told me that he has had calls of far worse things happening to his bows. As the friction is finally starting to work he said it was best to continue it, as painful as it is.
Edited: November 9, 2021, 6:03 PM · AND I played Humoresque (actually an arrangement for the hammered dulcimer, not the Suzuki version) in celebration for my bow. Yes, on my violin.

No, I shouldn't have done that and there ARE...consequences (sigh)...but after 4 months the symptoms held off long enough for me to do a not-bad rendition of the piece basically until the last 2 lines) - and my intonation returned by the end of the first line :-)

November 9, 2021, 8:11 PM · May I respectfully suggest that if this was a teacher using a sharpie on a violin or a bow, that person should not under any circumstance be teaching anyone again, ever.
Edited: November 9, 2021, 8:34 PM · It was not my former teacher who did that. There is no longer any danger to any of my current or future instruments from that quarter.

November 9, 2021, 9:14 PM · The only proper use for a Sharpie on a musical instrument is to decorate a banjo head. Mine has stenciled roses and vines.
Edited: November 10, 2021, 4:34 AM · I do sometimes use Tippex to mark the 5th and/or 7th fret of my CG, though. Tippex comes off very easily with a fingernail.
Edited: November 10, 2021, 12:59 PM · Sounds fun Anne! Gordon, I had to look that one up, haven't heard of Tippex, at least not by that name :-)


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