Violin bow hair

December 11, 2017, 12:24 PM · The rosin on my bow does not stay on as long as it used to. Last year new Mongolian hair was put on and I have about 400 hours on the bow. It used to last about 5 days after practicing 11/2 hours a day average. Now it lasts about 3-4 hours. I understand that the hair wears very slowly. I have written about my bow before but not as specific as this. What I mean is that the bow starts slipping. I clean the hair monthly with a toothbrush then I apply the usual amount that I have done for 70 years so I think I pretty well know how much to put on!. Any suggestions or scientific answers are appreciated

Replies (13)

December 14, 2017, 3:29 PM · Is it something that just changed as the seasons did, or is it a more ongoing problem? I'm by no means an expert, so please let me know if I am wrong, and don't take this as your only opinion.
Edited: December 15, 2017, 4:30 AM · The most common cause of bow hair deterioration such as you have described is contamination, not actual wear.

That sounds preposterous, until one considers the contamination film which accumulates on windows in a very short time, where it's easier to see, and will leave a noticeable residue on a cleaning cloth. This will be much higher in environments where food is fried, etc.

Some have reported good results from cleaning the hair in various ways, but most of the pro players I come in contact with just have the hair replaced regularly.

Edited: December 14, 2017, 7:59 PM · You can have your bow rehaired if you have someone nearby who knows how to do it and you can afford it. Otherwise there have been plenty of threads on about cleaning your bow hair with alcohol. That's what I do and it works just fine. You just need to be careful and clever enough to keep the alcohol off of the other parts of the bow. Moreover is it really too much trouble to take a few swipes of rosin every day?
December 14, 2017, 9:33 PM ·
December 15, 2017, 2:45 AM · Paul, you recommend alcohol when that has been discredited by many professional luthiers, warm soapy water is the best thing to clean bow hair with.
December 15, 2017, 12:03 PM · So the people who sell bow rehair don't want us to clean the hair. Surprise! :-)
Alcohol is very efficient att dissolving rosin and that is what I do. We went through this discussion recently just use the search function and you will find descriptions of various methods.
Edited: December 15, 2017, 1:48 PM · Lyndon, whenever I have seen advice against alcohol, it is because of the risk involved in getting alcohol on the other parts of the bow. This reason does not concern me because I consider it to be negligible. Is there another reason?
December 15, 2017, 5:13 PM · Strangely enough, my father didn't mention cleaning the hair in his "String Teaching on a Shoestring" (London, Bosworth, 1971), but I do remember disassembled bows with washed hair stretched out to dry in his office/"storeroom". I'm sure he used soap and warm water (he wouldn't have used something as expensive as alcohol).
December 15, 2017, 11:42 PM · As I told you in the other thread, paul, alcohol melts the rosin and spreads it out all over the hairs, that's why it doesn't remove all the rosin like soapy water does.
December 16, 2017, 1:57 AM · A few weeks back I cleaned my bow hair because I started to get symptoms like the OP: more slipping and re-rosining was getting less effective. And the discolored patch near the frog was getting more and mote unsightly.

I immersed the hairs into 85% ethanol (denatured: cheap and available in every supermarket over here) and massaged the immersed hairs. After drying, there was no stickiness and the bow pulled barely any sound from the strings. Clean enough for me.

Note: this was with an inexpensive carbon-fiber bow. I found it difficult to prevent all contact between stick and alcohol. Not recommended for varnished wooden sticks unless you completely seal the stick. The safer alcohol method, rubbing the hairs with alcohol-moistened pads, I can't comment on.

The soapy-water method is not risk-free either: the water can get into the wooden bit at the frog and make the wood expand and damage things.

Edited: December 16, 2017, 7:15 AM · I've been cleaning bow hair with alcohol pads for decades. They don't drip and you can use each side separately - so with 4 pads I get 8 swipes. I use a clean, dry white cotton cloth to wipe off the dissolved rosin immediately after each swipe with the pads. I do not clean the hair down to "silence;" I'm satisfied to remove all trace of skin oil from the hair near the frog - but I stop using the pads when a yellow stain no longer shows on the cotton cloth - it usually takes 8 swipes.
December 20, 2017, 6:10 AM · Lyndon, but the fact is that my bow hair feels extremely clean and silky after doing it -- my way. Although I respect Andrew's experience, and the convenience of his method, I have found that "prep pads" do leave a slight film. Now, that might not even matter, but I disconnect the frog and dip the hair through a bowl of denatured alcohol. Thereby I am using about a cup of alcohol whereas four prep pads would probably not even reach a teaspoon. Remember that "the solution to pollution is dilution." Moreover prep pads are 30% water. Of course I explained all of this to you before, and likely I will have to do so again. That's okay ... as a college professor I'm accustomed to teaching people the same thing a few times until they get it, depending on their individual perspicacity, of course.
December 20, 2017, 7:01 AM · yes but you're getting alcohol on the stick, one of the main reasons not to use alcohol.

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