What the heck did the archetier do to my bow?

December 29, 2017, 9:20 AM · For several years, I've been going to a well respected bow maker for rehairs every six months or so. Two rehairs ago, he asked me if I was interested in upgrading my bow. (I'm not- it's an amazing bow). After the rehair, the bow felt slightly off, but I wrote it of as just me.

A couple of weeks ago, he was to do a rehair and replace the leather grip. The bow is now unplayable. Instead of cutting the leather, he used the tube grip, which is hard plastic, too rough, and too thick. There's also a weak spot in the middle of the bow that was never there before.

Obviously, I'll never take it back to him, which is problematic, because the next closest luthier is 5 hours away. I'm wondering, though, if he could have done something permanent to ruin the bow in order to get me to buy a new one. I'm also not even sure if I ought to leave a negative online review, because I don't know if this was done on purpose. With the exception of the past two times, I've been satisfied with his work.

What do I look for on my bow and what should I do about it?

Replies (23)

December 29, 2017, 10:30 AM · Did he ask you about putting on a different type of grip? Grip weight changes the bow, not just the feel under the finger. I would not have accepted that work, and I think it's an unacceptable way to change a customer's bow without advance permission.
December 29, 2017, 10:34 AM · Is it possible he recambered the bow?
December 29, 2017, 7:13 PM · Lydia- No. He. Did. Not. I'm now worried that if I take it back and demand that he fix it, he could do something worse. I'm okay with cutting ties and driving 5 hours to Atlanta and 5 hours back. Maybe the grip is throwing off the weight. Or maybe the length of the hair. It seems a bit shorter, but again, it's all just off enough that I can't tell exactly what's different. But it definitely is different.

Andrew: Is there a way you can tell if it was recambered? He only had it for a couple of hours, so I think not long enough.

December 29, 2017, 7:39 PM · You can ship a bow in a well capped length of PVC tubing.

If he charged you less than $150 probably didn't recamber.

Edited: December 29, 2017, 8:39 PM · Not certain what you mean by “Instead of cutting the leather, he used the tube grip, which is hard plastic“. Do you mean something like a glueless plastic grip? I wouldn’t be impressed it my luthier did that.

I think though that you should mention your concerns so you can at least get his side of the story. He should offer to redo the grip properly if he didn’t ask for your preference and you didn't specify one either. A change in the balance perhaps is throwing you off. Shorter or longer hair would definitely change the balance. Do you know exactly where your bounce point used to be? Doubt that he took the risk to re-camber the bow if you didn’t ask for it; it’s a pretty delicate procedure that is not for the faint heart.

December 29, 2017, 8:38 PM · Roger- the bow grip is actually a strip of leather that is wound around the stick and glued. I tried it once on a toss away bow, and I can testify that it's a royal pain to do. There is a type of grip that's just a tube that can be slid onto the stick and glued in place in 5 seconds. That's what he did.

I don't think he would have had the time to recamber the bow. My concern is that in his very obvious efforts to sell me a new bow, he might have done something to MY bow that permanently changed it.

What else could one do to a bow that would have such a profound effect on it?

Edited: December 29, 2017, 8:54 PM · Yikes.. I would not be happy with a cheap plastic job, not very professional IMO. Maybe he hired some low waged staff to do the work instead of him. I’d asked him point blank “what did you do, my bow doesn’t perform as it did before” and see what he has to say. I can’t think of anything other than a change of the balance point, which can be fixed. Could he possibly have mixed up your bow stick with another one? Did you check the stamp? Silly question, but it could happen I suppose if he’s batching up his bow repairs.
December 29, 2017, 9:01 PM · Julie,

I'm not sure where you got your bad experience of the rehair and re-grip but I noticed you said drive 5 hours to Atlanta. I'm near Atlanta and can recommend you some great shops if you do have to come all this way!

December 30, 2017, 12:16 AM · Can it be not your bow? Can he give another one by mistake? (Shorter, different grip, sounds, fillings... )
December 30, 2017, 1:46 AM · If you are not satisfied with the job you should definitely voice your concerns. But do it in a calm and composed manner. Give them the benefit of doubt.
If your bow is effectively 'ruined' now compared to what it was before, it's not like you have more to lose by going back and saying you're not happy with it. If they are jerks and intentionally screw things up more, then that's grounds for complaint and some negative reviews, sure, but give them the chance to fix it (or dig their own grave). Good luthiers will normally value a customer's satisfaction so long as the customer isn't unreasonable.
Edited: December 30, 2017, 3:46 AM · How does it play differently? As of bow balance, the sound it draws , or the bow response?

Recambering the bow, will likely make a bow quite different and is quite obvious to sensitive hands.

FYI, the amount of hair (too much or too little), or the quality of hair would make some difference too.

Length of the hair might also change the balancing point slightly, if it’s slightly longer or shorter than original. But not sure how it will change it that much, at least not to my hand :)

Edited: December 30, 2017, 5:48 AM · It's worth asking them in detail what they did to your bow.

Since a competent luthier is not likely to change without asking for permission, something fishy was likely to have happened (bows got mixed up, done by an apprentice, confusion, etc.).

By all means insist on getting an honest answer whether the bow can be fixed/undone. Let them know they would lose you as their long-time customer and other possible references if they couldn't sort things out. They may be dishonest about what happened, but it's in their best interest to fix your bow. Don't make a scene as it's not likely to work in your favor.

IMO your suspicion of deliberate sabotage, though having a non-zero chance, was unlikely. I genuinely wonder how much likely it is for a service owner (not employee) to take your money and DELIBERATELY destroy you at the same time? You wrote the luthier is well respected. Business ethics aside, it doesn't make much business sense for a rational business owner to engage in such unscrupulous practice - loyal customers like you are their lifeline! Businesses that do harm their customers for short term benefits probably wouldn't survive for long.

P/S You still have good reasons to write a negative review even if this was not intentional, and attempts to fix the bow was not successful.

December 30, 2017, 11:01 AM · Thanks for the feedback all! I really think Lydia's suggestion about the grip could be the culprit. I can't really use my thumb in the same way with this grip, and I think it's throwing off the transition in the middle from the lower to upper half.

Yes, I'm 100% sure it's my bow- I've had it for ten years now ;-)

Will, Given how hard he pushed me to buy a new bow from him the two times I went in, I can't help but think that he could have done some things to make the bow less than what it ought to be. I haven't decided what to do about the online review though. I know how damaging those are, and I won't write a negative review unless I've really thought through it.

Fox, I don't think I'm going to go back to him. I don't think that I should give people a second chance to do a bad job. He should have done it properly in the first place.

Charles, I had Stephanie do some work on my violin a few years ago and was really pleased with it. Would you recommend her for the bow? Or any other recs; I'll gladly give them a go.

Thanks all!

December 30, 2017, 7:31 PM · Julie,

Stephanie Voss? I haven't had her do any work on any of my bows, though I have had her do work on my previous violin as well as she does a ton of work on my colleagues' violas. Always loved her work. I do have one colleague who refuses to go anywhere else for a bow repair other than Voss, so if that's any indication, take it for what it's worth. Atlanta Violins does great rehairs and I've only gotten one from Ron Sachs but they've been nice as well (AV is just closer to me so I tend to head that way). I'm not sure if you've ever met with Pablo Alfaro, but he and Stephanie Voss both studied under Gengaki, and both went off to start their own shops. If you ever get a chance to visit Mr. Alfaro, you will not be let down. He's the guy who the Atlanta Symphony players visit the most. He's relatively pricey, but well worth it, if you ever get the chance to see him. Nowadays he's the only man I go to for any violin-related work.

Edited: December 30, 2017, 10:53 PM · Maybe talk to him to make up your mind whether what he did was deliberate or not(so you can give a fair evaluation as a review). It doesnt sound like youve approached him about your suspicions. I think you deserve and he owes you an explanation. Perhaps he had something else in mind not sabotaging your bow. And if he wanted to purposefully sabotage your bow, thats not just unprofessional, its malicious. Would he not suspect that you were into his motives (ie to push you to buy from him)?
In either way, to be fair to you (and possibly him) I think you should ask for an explanation of what exactly he did to the bow and why (btw this is coming from someone who doesnt like confrontations).
December 31, 2017, 7:06 AM · Buy a book and do your own rehairs and bow repairs. It doesn't take a genius to do it.
December 31, 2017, 7:13 AM · Instead of driving 5 hours each way to/from Atlanta, I agree with Paul, bows are easy to ship securely. Search here for netrehair.com - Jerry's one of the best in the business, and possibly in your same region. Request a phone consultation when you set up the appointment. We're fortunate to have them as our local shop.
December 31, 2017, 7:14 AM · Julie O'Conner anyone who would sabotage a violin or a bow is a very sick person. That goes for any work of art.
Edited: December 31, 2017, 10:50 AM · "Buy a book and do your own rehairs and bow repairs. It doesn't take a genius to do it."

That depends on how well you want things to turn out.

December 31, 2017, 1:56 PM · Charles, thanks! I'll probably go with Stephanie Voss, but I'm really intrigued by Alfaro.

Paul and Stan, I don't think I would want to ship a bow- there are too many temperature and humidity changes between me and them.

David, I'm pretty sure I can figure out how to rehair a bow, thanks. I mean, I do my own hair every single day. And it looks great. On an unrelated note, look for my future post- 'what caused my bow to warp?'

Edited: December 31, 2017, 5:25 PM · I wouldn't question whether or not your own head hair looks great. It may or may not, but no pictures have been furnished so far, enabling anyone to make an independent determination. It might also be fair to ask how well it does at playing spiccato. ;-)

On a more serious note, I'd expect either Stephanie Voss or Pablo Alfaro to be darned good, based on my interactions with them.

Netrehair is also a valuable resource. I agree with Stan Yates that Jerry is one of the best in the business. They've got the shipping thing worked out quite well, sufficiently that I wouldn't consider it to be a as much of a concern as trusting your violin or bow to some poorly-trained local hack.

December 31, 2017, 4:55 PM · Buy a book and do your own ureteroscopic laser lithotripsy.
December 31, 2017, 4:56 PM · David, I'm sure she looks neat and great with her hair :). After all, IMO surviving professionals (teaching kids, freelance, orchestral, etc) almost always present themselves well in this profession.

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