Cleaning and rehairing your bow routinely will ensure that it lasts forever, but the process of a violin bow rehair is surprisingly delicate, requiring years of expertise. At Fegley Instruments & Bows, we specialize in hand making, repairing and rehairing violin, viola and cello bows for customers in Reading, PA, Philadelphia, Allentown, New York and the surrounding area.
All bows must eventually be rehaired, but the biggest challenge is that no two bows are exactly alike. Bows are strung with natural horse hair which has microscopic barbs. It’s these barbs that make the instrument resonate and come to life. The more you play, the faster the barbs wear down and lose their grab. Light-handed musicians may get longer life from the bow hair, but this can also depend on the quality of the hair.
How will you know when your bow needs rehairing? Here are some guidelines that may help:
- If the hair becomes too saturated with rosin, or you continually need more rosin to get the right grip, the bow should be rehaired or thoroughly cleaned. Rosin gradually opens up the microscopic barbs on the natural hair, causing them to lose elasticity, and the instrument’s tone will decline.
- Too many broken hairs on one side create uneven tension on the stick and may cause it to warp. Straightening a stick requires heating, which is always risky, so it’s best to have the bow rehaired before this happens.
- Hairs that always break in the middle of the bow signify be too much camber in the bow, and the hairs may grind between the stick and the string when you bear down on it. It’s important to find and instrument –and-bow combination that gives you the response you want without forcing the bow.
- If the bow hair gets too dirty, such as from oils from your skin, it may need to be rehaired. Keep water away from the ends of the hair and the wooden wedges that hold them in is critical, so most people should avoid trying to wash it themselves.
- If the humidity where you live changes drastically, hair length can cause problems. If too short, it can snap the head off of the bow. If too long, it can be dangerous to the end of the stick and the button. Many musicians have their violin bows rehaired in spring and fall.
In general, students and musicians who play occasionally may be able to wait a few years. Full-time violinists may need to have their bows rehaired every four to six months. If the bow seems to slip across rather than bite the strings, it may be time for a rehair.
With many years of instrument and bow making experience, Fegley’s Joe McDevitt is a talented luthier who can skillfully complete any violin bow rehair, repair or restoration. Rehairing includes installation of premium quality hair, as well as gentle cleaning of your stick, its metal parts, the frog and button screw. Over our 35-year history, we have rehaired and restored some of the world’s finest instruments and bows. Get in touch with us today if you feel like you just can’t coax the right amount of power and tone from your instrument.