Can luthiers rebalance the bow? (+bow recommendations!)

Edited: January 4, 2018, 6:11 AM · I've recently bought a new cheap bow, made by VingoBow, a Chinese bow seller, but it has bad balance. The balance point is almost 10 3/4 inches.

I was about to get a refund, and buy another bow, but it seems that there're not many options in $200 price range. So, I'm looking for an alternative rather than a refund, such as visiting a luthier to rebalance the bow. (FYI: I can visit a luthier in March.)

I wonder if luthiers can rebalance the bow by whittling its tip or replacing the button with a heavier one. OR could you recommend any other cheap and nice bows in $200 price range? Thank you!

EDIT: It turned out that this bow was not solid, nor stable after a couple of days of trial. I tested it with whole bows(forte), and it's been getting crooked which can be observed just at a glance. I'm quite confused about having spent money for nothing.

Replies (13)

Edited: December 29, 2017, 8:33 AM · Yes, a bow can be rebalanced.
Weights can be added inside the wedge space at either the tip or frog - I have had a 1.3 gram weight added inside the tip of one bow).
Also, heavy, or lighter wrap can be used adjacent to the thumb leather - I have had lighter wrap installed on one bow (faux whalebone replaced silver wire).
I have had a lighter screw installed on one bow (titanium replaced the steel)

These were inexpensive modifications. The addition of weights and the change of wrap (on different bows) each cost about $30(USA) - the luthier got to keep the silver wire. The titanium screw was sent to me by the bow maker (ARCUS).

Personally I like a slightly tip-heavy bow with the balance point 10 inches from the end of the screw cap and that is where my two best violin bows now balance. One of those came that way from its gold-medal-winning maker, the other was a late 19thC bow mentioned above that now has a faux whalebone wrap. Off-hand I would guess you need an additional 1 to 1.5 grams at the frog.

December 29, 2017, 7:02 AM · Hi Cat, If you are not happy with a cheap bow as it is I do not think it wise to put more money into it. You would be better off to save your money and then go to a shop(s) and test drive some in your price range on your own violin that you find of interest.
December 29, 2017, 7:54 AM · It sounds like your bow is tip heavy. I wonder where you're measuring from? And my experience with that seller is that their bows are often (always?) tip heavy. A simple and economical fix is to put lead tape, as sold for rebalancing golf clubs, under a replacement thumb leather. But then the question becomes how heavy is the bow now, and will it still be a practical weight after rebalancing?
Edited: December 29, 2017, 8:30 AM · Excellent suggestion from Mark!!!

My experiences from 3 bow rebalancings is that the sonic character of the bows is not changed by the rebalancing. Also, a 1 - 3% change in bow weight is difficult (for me impossible) to detect without a gram-weight scale, but a 1-gram rebalance at tip or frog is very easy to detect in both the feel of the bow and its playability. Average violin-bow weight including hair is 60 grams (viola:70g; cello:80g) variations from the average of 5% are not uncommon.

You can experiment by taping a coin to one side of your frog. A dime weighs 2.3 grams, a penny weighs 2.5 grams. Tape one to your frog and re-measure your balance point, then interpolate the weight change you will need in proportion to the distance the balance point has changed. [This method is much easier than doing a center-of-mass shift (i.e., center-of-gravity) calculation if you know the mass and length of your bow.]

A $200 bow that you like should not be dismissed out of hand. I had a cello student who finally bought his own cello but wanted to keep the bow that came with his rental cello - because I thought it would do everything he would need and I told him he should. The dealer let him buy it for $140 (many dealers would not have). My "best" viola bow cost me $375 on ebay - it is also the least expensive of my 4 viola bows (by multiples of 2x to 4x).

Edited: December 29, 2017, 10:10 AM · Andrew, unless the penny was minted pre-1982! Then it would weigh ~3.1 grams.

Okay, so I do all this weight manipulation, where exactly on the bow is the ideal bounce point? This is interesting to me because I'm still not happy with both of my bows. And if such a minor fix can make a drastic lead tape okay?

Edited: December 29, 2017, 11:51 AM · I think lead tape is a grand idea - but doing a pro-quality thumb-leather install even without the lead tape under it is not that easy or straightforward.

As I said, I like the balance point 10 inches from the end of the bow screw cap.

I presume you mean the "bounce point" for sautille. The "bounce point" depends on the bow taper, camber and the player and where the bow is held. The bounce point for spiccato will vary with what you want it to sound like and the speed of the notes. A saltato (saltando) stroke is done in one direction in the upper half of the bow, but exactly where depends on the speed of the notes. A brushed (spiccato) stroke is done in the lower half of the bow.

December 29, 2017, 11:03 AM · Doesnt that also depend on the elasticity of the bow or is the balance point a fixed ideal place irrespective of other factors?
Edited: December 29, 2017, 12:30 PM · I have two bows purchased from but not branded "vingobow" (coincidentally), both considerably more expensive than the op's, that were both tip heavy. In both cases I had about 2gm of lead tape placed under new thumb leathers (2gm because that's what it took to get the balance point to 185mm from the frog in its relaxed position, which is a standard measurement for violin bows - viola and cello are different), and though the bows are that much heavier, they both actually feel lighter in play because of the better balance. They were both significantly improved by this.

There's a bow maker in Southern California named Lynn Armour Hannings who advocates for the golf club lead tape technique at her training seminars. It's an accepted industry practice. I'm not suggesting that it's a diy thing. Take it to your luthier.

December 29, 2017, 12:44 PM · Andrew, I was unclear and meant balance (center of mass) rather than bounce point and missed your favoring of ten inches in the earlier post.

From what I'm getting, I should aim for a balance point ten inches from the end of the screw cap, which should be close to a 185mm (7.28 inches) displacement from the near side of the frog.

Hmmm, as I roughly measure now my two bows, both actually had the ten inches but one was only 7.0 inches to the frog and the other 7.25. So pretty close, the one I consider my more responsive bow had the 7.0 inches.

I guess I'll just have to play around with the weights and see if the response improves while the tone stays the same or gets better. If there is any positive difference I'll have a good reason to go to the luthier and a good idea of what I want.

Thank you Andrew and Mark! I am hopeful.

December 29, 2017, 11:10 PM · I don't pay anyone to do anything to my violins nor my bows. I bought several books and learned for myself. Of course a bow can be rebalanced. An airplane propeller can be rebalanced so why not a bow??

You can download lots of old violin books here for free.

December 30, 2017, 2:26 AM · Hi Mark, maybe lead tape is not well known yet, but I think it will go more than enough with 150-dollar bow. I’ll take both my bow and lead tape when visiting a luthier. Thanks for a great idea!
December 30, 2017, 11:11 AM · If you can afford ~500.00 for a bow, I'd return it and get a coda bow diamond SX, or NX if you want something less.
January 2, 2018, 5:49 AM · Hi Arnie, yes I regret not to have bought a coda bow. (Remark: the edited part)

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