TLC For Your Bow

Your violin bow is subject to all kinds of stresses, strains and wear and tear. The correct maintenance, repair and restoration work can help to keep it in top condition, keep it playing like it should and can help to prolong its life.

If your bow seems like it may not be playing at its best what sort of things should you be looking out for?

  • Hair worn out – problems with excessive wear on the bow hairs, bows need regular rehairing, for very active players this can be necessary in a matter of weeks.  Looked at under a microscope the hair has scales and it is these that hold the rosin, these fall off with use which is when you may find yourself over rosining your bow.  Our bow restorer individually selects every hair checking that they are clean, straight and free form imperfections.  Many players prefer a short re-hair (tight), this ensures that the frog stays close to the thumb grip when the hair is tensioned, many players feel more comfortable as their thumb position is maintained and the bow’s balance point is closer to the hand.  Some players like extra hair to the playing edge and occasionally we fit the hair band slightly around the edge of the ferrule to increase hair surface area on the playing side.
  • Your bow should have the correct camber (curve) and balance. If either of these is not how it should be it can affect your playing. Looking from above the bow towards the tip the bow should be straight.
  • The stick of your bow may be warped (to one side) and may need some straightening work. A bow which has lost significant hairs to the playing side can start to warp as the stick is effectively being pulled more to one side than the other, left too long this warping can set in place.
  • The Frog should be firmly in contact with the bow stick, any side movement can again lead to a misaligned hair-band and warping.  The back plate of the Frog shouldn’t be protruding / loose / misaligned. The ferrule is generally made from a flat section of silver which is bent to shape and soldered together, occasionally and especially if you have had a bad rehair or one where too much hair has been crammed into the frog this joint can begin to crack, the ferrule will gradually come apart and no longer hold the spreader wedge which spreads the hair in to the band that comes out of the ferrule.  The ebony above the underslide (the metal underneath the frog where the frog sits on the stick) can crack due to poorly fitting frogs or ones that have become loose, these cracks will mean that the fit of the frog on the stick gradually deteriorates; also this can affect the value of your bow.
  • There shouldn’t be any issues with the eyelets and screw e.g. worn screw holes and stripped eyelets inside the Frog. You may need to have your eyelets replaced. The screw mechanism should work easily when tensioning and releasing the hair.  The hole where the screw runs is an area that can be subject to wear and tear; commonly it’s the hole in the end of the stick which suffers most.  Excessive wear here leads to an enlarged hole where the screw no longer fits snugly; the result is the frog can start to lift from the stick leading to mis-aligned hair band and generally poor playing quality.  This can be bushed (filled) with new Pernambuco wood and the nipple recreated so that the adjuster is seated and runs well.  We often see adjusters where the screw has been fitted off centre, this also leads to excessive wear and should be corrected.
  • Problems loosening or tightening your bow.  Have you taken account of how humidity can affect your bow hair length?  Sunlight/heat shrinks the bow hair, high humidity lengthens the hair, this may have led to over-tightening of the screw and other stresses being put on the bow.  If you don’t loosen the hairs on you bow before you put it away you may also have not have been giving your bow the chance to relax properly, stretching the hair and stick.  These kinds of issues may have contributed to e.g. problems with the eyelets and screw holes.  Never touch the playing surface of the hair as any grease from your hand will render the affected area with less grip or worse still – Silent!
  • The thumb grip and lapping on your bow may feel and look as though it needs replacing.  Different types of leather can enhance grip e.g. lizard leather.  Some cellists like a small flap to be incorporated into the thumb leather where their thumb sits; sometimes this is done to reduce sharp edges on a frog and other times to create a ‘spongy’ feel for the thumb to dig into.  We can also fit very thin leather to protect your bows name brand.

Keeping an eye out for any sudden changes in how your bow looks, feels, and handles can mean that issues are caught early and things don’t get any worse.

If you’re experiencing problems with your bow or if you have any questions please contact us and we will be happy to advise and / or give your bow the TLC it deserves.

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