REHAIRING A BOW OF THE VIOLIN FAMILY

By Lars Kirmser
TOOL REQUIREMENTS: •KIRMSER BOW REHAIRING JIG (Plans available) •HAIR GAUGE •POINTED AWL •WEDGE DRIVER •5 mm MORTISE CHISEL •18 mm STRAIGHT CHISEL •PUTTY KNIFE (1" Blade) •TABLESPOON •SLIP-JOINT PLIER •SMALL DIAGONAL PLIER •SCISSORS •FINE-TOOTHED COMB (i.e. Metal Dog-Grooming Comb) •ALCOHOL LAMP •HARDWOOD CUTTING BLOCK (4" X 4") •SMALL RAT-TAIL FILE •WEDGE DRESSING WHEEL ON ARBOR MATERIAL REQUIREMENTS: •GOOD QUALITY BOW HAIR (min. 31") •BOW WEDGE MATERIAL (Basswood) •DARK SHELLAC STICKS •* FINE (00) STEEL BINDING WIRE •* NO. 40 HEAVY COTTON THREAD •* WAXED DENTAL FLOSS •* #25 LINEN THREAD •CONTAINER OF FRESH WATER •ALIPHATIC RESIN GLUE (Carpenter's Yellow Glue) •POWDERED ROSIN •000 STEEL WOOL •BEE'S WAX •TUNG OIL * Any of these wrapping materials may be used (your preference) http://www.musictrader.com/bowrehairing.html Page | 1

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) •*REPLACING A MISSING OR DAMAGED LEATHER GRIP •RE-BUSHING A DAMAGED OR BADLY WORN FROG MORTISE (ON THE STICK) •REPAIRING A STICK WHICH HAS BEEN CRACKED AT THE FROG END •GRAFTING ON A REPLACEMENT FROG MORTISE SECTION TO THE STICK •*CLEANING AND RE-CUTTING (DRESSING-UP) THE FROG WEDGE MORTISE •REPAIRING A DAMAGED FROG (i. Following. •*CLEANING THE BOW STICK •*RE-CAMBERING THE BOW STICK •*STRAIGHTENING THE BOW STICK •REFINISHING THE BOW STICK •CLEANING AND RE-CUTTING (DRESSING-UP) THE TIP WEDGE MORTISE •REPAIRING A FRACTURED TIP WEDGE MORTISE •RE. This may be done with your mortise chisel or sharp awl. so that you may advise the client of possible additional charges. PRELIMINARY STEPS A. This will help to avoid damage to the frog. C. (Save the old hair and make brushes with it later!) B. ETC. . "SNIP" THE OLD HAIR OFF IN FRONT OF THE CUSTOMER This will assure the customer that you will. If the wedge does not want to come out easily. and the whole bow assembly is held firmly in your rehairing jig. you may have to carefully remove the old wedge one sliver at a time. replace the hair. Be very careful not to damage the mortise or change its dimensions! Occasionally the previous technician will have glued the wedges. REMOVE THE TIP WEDGE AND REMAINING HAIR Carefully pry the old wedge up from the back-side of the wedge mortise. It is at this time that you must determine any and all conditions that must be corrected prior to the rehairing process. is a list of some of the problems that may have to be corrected before you proceed with the rehairing of the bow. SILVER) TIP •REPAIRING A FRACTURED TIP •GRAFTING A TIP WHICH HAS BEEN COMPLETELY SEPARATED FROM THE STICK •REPAIRING A FRACTURED STICK •REPAIRING A STICK WHICH HAS BEEN BROKEN IN TWO •*REPLACING A MISSING OR DAMAGED WRAPPING (WIRE. in fact. WHALEBONE.BUSHING A BADLY WORN OR DAMAGED TIP WEDGE MORTISE •*THE REPLACEMENT OF A MISSING OR BROKEN IVORY (BONE. DISASSEMBLE THE FROG This process should be performed while the frog remains firmly clamped. CRACKS ALONG THE SLIDE RAILS) •REPLACING A DAMAGED OR BADLY WORN PEARL SLIDE •*REPLACING OR REFITTING THE BRASS EYELET •REPLACING OR REFITTING THE FERRULE •REPLACING A SCREW AND/OR SCREW BUTTON •REPLACING A FROG HEAL •REPLACING A FROG LINER •REPLACING A PEARL INLAY (EYE) * Repairs Commonly Required Page | 3 II. in which case you should be careful not to damage the tip or mortise while removing the dried glue and wedge chards. TINSEL. INITIAL INSPECTION It is very important that you evaluate the precise state of the bow at the time the customer presents it to you for rehairing (or repairing).e.I.

DO NOT use alcohol on varnished surfaces. missing? D. until it may be easily removed. PERFORM ALL NECESSARY REPAIRS AND ADJUSTMENTS •*CLEANING THE BOW STICK •*RECAMBERING THE BOW STICK •*STRAIGHTENING THE BOW STICK •REFINISHING THE BOW STICK •CLEANING AND RE-CUTTING (DRESSING-UP) THE TIP WEDGE MORTISE •REPAIRING A FRACTURED TIP WEDGE MORTISE •RE-BUSHING A BADLY WORN OR DAMAGED TIP WEDGE MORTISE •*THE REPLACEMENT OF A MISSING OR BROKEN IVORY (BONE.Carefully remove the ferrule with your ferrule-removing plier. other exotic hardwoods. that I have shaped each jaw to fit perfectly around each side of the ferrule. so be very careful to avoid removing any of the frog material (traditionally ebony. The thin ferrule wedge is often glued when installed. Remove the frog wedge by lifting up the remaining hair and carefully prying the leading edge of the wedge out with your mortise chisel or sharp awl. unless. of course. as you may permanently damage the tongue of the frog. If the frog ferrule is blemished. if you have it in stock. You may then proceed to firmly push the pearl slide out with your thumb. and the end of the slide channel (heal). Remove the stick from the rehairing jig. Remove the pearl slide by first gently tapping the slide on its front edge with your small nylon faced hammer. CLEAN THE STICK AND ALL PARTS Use an appropriate varnish cleaner (i. xylene). on student bows (nickel ferrules) it makes more sense to just replace the part. bent. If the ferrule will not come off with reasonable force. by lifting the remaining hair and then carefully paring the wedge material away with your violin knife. if the wedge does not come up easily. I polish each face to be absolutely smooth. however. and buff it lightly with white compound. Do not force the ferrule too much. as this may cause the pearl to become jarred loose or to chip. un-tracked? •Is the pearl-eye chipped. SILVER) TIP •REPAIRING A FRACTURED TIP •GRAFTING A TIP WHICH HAS BEEN COMPLETELY SEPARATED FROM THE STICK . Once the ferrule is free. you may have to remove it sliver-by-sliver. remove the ferrule wedge. or corroded? •Is the button screw in good condition? •Is the metal heal (if present) unglued. tortoise shell). you will then have to carefully cut-away the ferrule wedge with a small chisel or awl. you may burnish out any visible plier marks or scratches. you wish to remove the entire finish. Check the overall condition of the frog and all of its parts: •Is the ferrule distorted or marred-up? •Are the frog's slide rails or the liner cracked? •Is the brass eyelet stripped or showing excessive wear? •Is the liner loose. After you grasp the ferrule with the plier. III. ivory. If you are still unable to push the slide off with thumb pressure alone. I use a converted 6" channel-lock plier. Again. Do not hit the slide too hard with your hammer.e. then warm the frog a bit with a heat gun (dry flameless heat) being careful not to overdo it. Remove the frog from the stick. gently 'walk' it off the frog tongue by gently 'wobbling' it back-and-forth. you may use the sharp flat edge of a mortise chisel by carefully wedging it between the back edge of the pearl slide. After the jaws are shaped to perfectly match the outline of each side of the ferrule. If the pearl slide still refuses to slide out. Again. being careful not to damage the mortise or change its dimensions. so that it doesn't scratch or damage the ferrule. avoid putting plier marks on the side of the ferrule. You are then usually able to get your thumb nail in-between the slide and heal to work the pearl slide out. and rarely.

There can be no short cuts here. and work it back-and-forth. With the partially assembled bow firmly in place in the bow jig. they will likely split-out the frog or tip. TINSEL. which would indicate a badly worn slide mortise (on inexpensive plastic bows. if they are too under-sized. re-fabricate a new slide or ferrule if necessary. you will have to make new wedges.•REPAIRING A FRACTURED STICK •REPAIRING A STICK WHICH HAS BEEN BROKEN IN TWO •*REPLACING A MISSING OR DAMAGED WRAPPING (WIRE. (See illustrations) Validate the fit of the pearl slide and the ferrule. There should be a minimum of side-to-side wobble. like pieces of a puzzle! I never reuse the old wedges as they are generally spent after each use.e. they will fail to hold the hair sufficiently. If you have dressed the mortises.) •*REPLACING A MISSING OR DAMAGED LEATHER GRIP •RE-BUSHING A DAMAGED OR BADLY WORN FROG MORTISE (ON THE STICK) •REPAIRING A STICK WHICH HAS BEEN CRACKED AT THE FROG END •GRAFTING ON A REPLACEMENT FROG MORTISE SECTION TO THE STICK •*CLEANING AND RE-CUTTING (DRESSING-UP) THE FROG WEDGE MORTISE •REPAIRING A DAMAGED FROG (i. Make sure that the assembled frog slides back and forth on the stick smoothly and easily. Refer to the graphic showing the correct shapes for each mortise. These wedges MUST fit their respective mortises exactly. PLACE THE BOW (WITH FROG ATTACHED) INTO YOUR REHAIRING JIG Lubricate the frog liner with a small amount of paraffin. because if the wedges are over-sized. Lubricate the slide with paraffin. . this consideration is mute). Fabricate the tip and frog wedges with precision. Adjust the frog's relative position is such that after the screw comes into contact with the eyelet. make 5 or 6 complete turns to fully stabilize the frog on the stick. THE REHAIR PROCESS A. CRACKS ALONG THE SLIDE RAILS) •REPLACING A DAMAGED OR BADLY WORN PEARL SLIDE •*REPLACING OR REFITTING THE BRASS EYELET •REPLACING OR REFITTING THE FERRULE •REPLACING A SCREW AND/OR SCREW BUTTON •REPLACING A FROG HEAL •REPLACING A FROG LINER •REPLACING A PEARL INLAY (EYE) * Repairs Commonly Required Page | 5 IV. ETC. carefully clean and "dress" the tip wedge mortise and the frog wedge mortise at this time. WHALEBONE.

Proceed by trimming-off the bundle of hairs as close to the top of the bulk tail as is possible. Cello bows approximately 200 hairs. If you end up with too many or too few hairs (for a specific bow) you will be able to adjust as is necessary later on. a 4/4 Violin bow will require approximately 150 hairs. 10 Strawberry St. Bass bow. B. #29 drill for the Cello.V. BULK I recommend that you purchase your bow hair in bulk. Now. with an end-nipper. If you ever do use a single coil. and some Cello and Dbl. and an occasional Cello bow. Secure the wrap before the shellac cools and hardens. Bass bows). wire. from a reputable wholesaler. Once the bundle is separated from the tail. #30 drill for the Viola slot. This will insure that the hairs are sufficiently bound together and will be less likely to pull out. and a #27 drill for the Dbl. BOW HAIR SPECIFICATIONS A. you secured it temporarily with wire or thread approximately 1" from the end nearest the top. This process consists of packing as many hairs as will fit into the violin hole on your gauge. Bass bows somewhere in the neighborhood of 225 hairs (there is a wide variation among Dbl. Philadelphia. then this darker end should be placed at the tip of the bow. While the shellac is still liquefied. The actual number of hairs which makeup a hank will depend upon the specific instrument bow type and size you will be rehairing. This may be accomplished by carefully fanning the hairs out so that you may saturate them with the molten shellac in your spoon (or putty knife) while holding over the alcohol lamp. If one end of your (white) hank is noticeably darker than the other.. When you make your Hair Gauge. SECURE THE HAIRS WITH YOUR CHOICE OF WRAPPING Note: Each type of wrapping material requires its own specific technique for holding the hair properly.. Viola bows around 175 hairs. When you first "pulled" the bow hank from the large tail. Inc. snip the extra hair off (beyond the wire wrap) to allow only 1 to 1 1/2 mm of hair to protrude beyond the wire. SELECT THE APPROPRIATE NUMBER OF HAIRS FOR THE BOW Use the violin hole on your hair gauge to pull your first dozen violin hanks. to secure this end permanently. we must saturate the end hairs with liquefied (hot) dark shellac. I buy my hair from Wagman . you will find that the relative sizes of the mortises will vary slightly from one specific bow to another. and Dbl. In addition. and the quality is often nearly as good as the premium white hair.). we will secure it permanently later on. In the shop we are able to use black hair only on Dbl. as most advanced violinists and violists strongly prefer the white hair only. and must be re-wrapped and prepared as follows: VI. temporarily secure the hank with a short length of iron binding wire and wrap into a neat coil for the time being. you will use a #33 drill for the violin slot. and the price/per is usually prohibitive. Bass bows. Generally. PA 19106 (800) 2295059. There are several companies which qualify. PREPARE THE HAIR HANK A. etc. secure the hairs firmly with your chosen wrapping material. They are rarely the correct size (number of hairs per hank). Next. linen thread.Grenamyer. Refer to your notes outlining the appropriate methods for using each material (i. be advised that the ends are only temporarily sealed with sealing wax. Avoid . waxed floss. Generally.e. I do not recommend that you buy hair in the single coil form. The cost of this black hair is very reasonable. Bass bows. Currently. I purchase 33" Black hair for student bows. Singe (burn) the ends of your freshly wrapped hank to form a slightly bulbous enlargement on the end.

Place a small dab of aliphatic resin (yellow carpenter's glue) on the flat side of the wedge facing the hair. the hair will work itself out later when the finished bow is drawn up to tension. (Note: The outside corners of the ferrule. and carefully packing the shellacked-hair into the mortise. such that the hair is forced up against the slide. (see illustration) VII. such that the correct side of the ferrule end up against the frog. Note that one side (the side that contacts the hair) will be flat. INSTALL THE HAIR INTO THE FROG MORTISE Pre-shape your frog wedge so that it will fit perfectly into its mortise. Secure the hair into the mortise with the wedge. evenly trimmed surface. The entire wrapping (wire plus "bulb") should be able Page | 7 to fit comfortably inside the mortise. Cause the shellacked-end to conform to the contours of the frog mortise by heating the brass wedge driver. carefully slip the pearl slide over the hair. the wedge will fill the entire space snugly. Draw the hank of hair through the ferrule. (see illustration) Draw the hair into a ribbon and pull it as you lay it into its channel. and then press firmly into place such that the hair is spread into an even ribbon between the flat side of the ferrule and the ferrule wedge. Pull the hair firmly as you drive the wedge in. causing it bulge out when push all the way in. Place the ferrule into position on the tongue and over the ribbon of hair. that is those facing away from the frog. are usually slightly rounded). and do not allow the hair to slip back into the frog. Prior to placing it into position on the frog. Also. this means that the wrapping plus the thickness of the hair (as it turns upwards) will fit comfortably into the length of the mortise. be careful not to let any hairs slip around the sides of the wedge. Flatten the bulbous shellacked-end slightly with the warmed jaws of your flat nosed plier to reduce the overall thickness of the wrap. trim its length with an X-Acto saw so that you end up with a flat. The fit should not be overly snug. the wedge should fill the entire ferrule cavity. When pressed in fully. the top surface of the wedge should be level with the adjacent edges of the frog mortise (with the hair confined to the back of the wedge).getting the wire overly hot. . the other side will reflect the angel of the frog's tongue. Pre-shape your ferrule wedge so that it will fit snugly into place. Do not get the driver so hot that it will singe the hairs. when fully pressed into position. If this does happen. and be careful not to burn the hairs behind the wire wrapping.

. This may be accomplished by heating up shellac in a spoon over your alcohol lamp. There should be no evidence of a bulge. INSTALL THE HAIR INTO THE TIP A. . I will place a dull single edge razor blade between the violin knife and the hair to avoid losing hairs. Grasp the frog firmly and test the hair by trying to pull the hair out of the frog (use significant force) this will test the "holding power" of your new wedge. the top surface of the wedge should be level with the adjacent edges of the bow tip. beyond the edge of the mortise (see illus. as it is better to discover any weakness in your handiwork now. and working it well into the bulb. The ferrule wedge is the first line of defense against the hair pulling loose. avoid using cyano-acrilate adhesives. Try to avoid breaking hairs off during this process. If too much wood remains after pressing fully in the mortise. you may trim the excess by paring it away with your violin knife (don't cut any of the hairs!). excess water will be removed during this step. COMB THE HAIR AND SECURE WITH THE WRAPPING Comb the wet hair into an even ribbon by squeezing firmly between your thumb and fore finger. COMB THE HAIR AND TIE IT OFF A. Press in the tip wedge. rather than later.pull hard. . PREPARE THE WRAPPED HANK Trim and singe the end of the hank identically as before. Tie off the hair beyond the edge of the mortise. Hold the hair firmly at this point so that it doesn't shift in the tie-off. Make every effort to get the hairs running exactly straight-and-even prior to clamping the ribbon in place with your securing clamp. Apply the hot shellac so that it penetrates well into the end of the tie-off . UNCLAMP THE FROG FROM THE JIG AND REMOVE IT FROM THE JIG At this point you have to be very careful to keep the ribbon of hair flat and correctly referenced with respect to the tip mortise (as you remove the frog and place it off to the side in preparation to press the hair into the tip mortise). IX. B. . and dipping the end of the hair into the pool of liquid shellac. When fully pressed in. You can use your fingers to squeeze the hairs into a flat ribbon --. Be sure that the frog is pushed completely forward in its mortise while secure in the rehairing jig.You may find it helpful to rest the heal of the frog on the edge of your bench as you drive the ferrule wedge firmly into place with a pre-shaped screwdriver blade. Place a small drop or two of liquid shellac at the tie off point. VIII. The tie-off point is exactly one length of the mortise. REPLACE THE FROG BACK ONTO THE STICK AND SECURE IT INTO THE JIG Adjust the frog's position (relative to the stick) so that after the screw comes into contact with the eyelet. Unclamp the hair and trim off the excess (again. and the hair should be drawn over the wedge such that it completely covers the wedge. make 3 or 4 complete turns to allow for the adjustment of the new hair after it shrinks overnight from drying. Flatten the bulbous end (only slightly) with the warmed jaws of your flat nosed plier. 1 to 1 1/2 mm beyond the wrapping. D. PLACE THE HAIR (ONLY) IN A JAR OF WATER FOR A MINUTE OR TWO You must remove the frog from the stick and coil the hair into the jar of water and hook the frog over the edge of the jar (allow 1" between the frog and the water so the moisture won't wick-up into the frog ferrule wedge). I can't stress the importance of the "snug factor " here. so don't overdo the pulling.). .pulling too hard at this point will result in making the hairs too short (after drying) and generally uneven in tension. C.

E. Never pull the hairs out. THE HAIR SHOULD BE VERY SECURE AT THE TIP AND AT THE FROG. or worse yet. ALL HAIRS ARE EVEN AND RUN A STRAIGHT LINE FROM FROG TO TIP. your hair is not drawing evenly. the hair should not be tight. Prior to drying. There should be equal tension on all the hairs across the ribbon of hair. D. it should "rise" slowly off the stick to form an even flat ribbon. You may check for this by first bringing the bow up to tension. F. CHECK THE HAIR FOR SIDE-TO-SIDE MOVEMENT AT THE FERRULE WEDGE The ferrule wedge must fill the entire space between the hair and the ferrule.Proceed by placing the frog back on the stick. CHECK THE HAIR RIBBON WHEN THE SCREW IS FULLY LOOSENED When you loosen the hair fully. as it will shorten considerably as it drys. . go at it slowly until you feel comfortable with this step. such that the hairs run in an exact even ribbon from tip to frog. indicating that the hair has dislodged from its' wedge inside the frog. MAKE FINAL ADJUSTMENTS A. then grasping the hair in front of the ferrule and try to physically move it back-and-forth in the ferrule. . nor should it be so tight that you can not fully remove the tension on the bow. If the sides of the ribbon come up to tension before its' center becomes taught. Loosen-up the hair (back off the screw) and allow it to dry thoroughly over night. XI. C. Remove any hairs which are exceptionally long or have broken off. This can be determined by bringing the bow up to tension and drawing you thumb across the ribbon. The ribbon should cover the tip wedge fully. . If you do not allow sufficiently for this shrinkage. BRING THE TENSION OF THE HAIR UP TO PLAYING STRENGTH As you slowly tighten the hair. snip the hairs off at either end. A delicate balance must be met here. It should not be so loose that it falls limply around the stick. You may establish the ribbon's alignment by running a medium comb through the hair. causing them to break easily as the bow is drawn across the strings. DRAW UP ANY LOOSE HAIRS (STRAGGLERS) WITH THE HOT AIR GUN At this point you should not have more than 6 or 7 "danglers". as this will loosen the bundle inside the frog and tip. checking for an even resistance across the hair. it will probably result in a popped-loose hank. Be very careful not to overheat the hairs as this will make them very brittle. If either of these conditions. Don't hold the hair too close to the hot air. The ribbon should be evenly distributed beneath the frog ferrule with none of the hairs slipping around the sides of the ferrule wedge. then again. then your hair is uneven. or variations are allowed to persist. If the center becomes taught before either side. Instead. CHECK THE PEARL SLIDE There should be no evidence of a "bulge" at the pearl slide. . then the bow stick will likely begin to warp over time. or has slipped. the hair should just begin to show evidence of a loose bundle. FINAL INSPECTION A. and reinforced with aliphatic resin (carpenter's glue). a snapped-off tip! Page | 9 X. B. it should be secured tightly. You will shrink these stragglers by running the hair carefully over a hot air gun (flameless heat) until they draw up evenly with the rest of the ribbon. Movement generally suggests that the ferrule wedge is too loose.

San Mateo.Balthasar Planta Zurich A LUTHIER'S SCRAPBOOK --. Seattle 1977 HOW TO REHAIR BOWS --. New York 1966 HOW TO MAKE A VIOLIN BOW --. WIPE THE BOW . You may improve a sluggish frog somewhat by applying some cork grease (or other paste lubricant) to the threads of the screw and the frog liner.Harry S. McKinney University Press Fresno.Ed Heron . Wake Published by the author 1980 BOW MAKING . the frog will not adjust smoothly. C.John Alfred Bolander Published by Boyd Poulsen.Harry S. Work the rosin into the hairs and follow this step by applying a cake of rosin in the manner that is in common use by the player. even these less expensive bows may be adjusted to be fairly secure.Frank V. If this adjustment is out of alignment.G.Alberto Bachmann Da Capo Press.Wm.Ealing Strings London 1975 SOME NOTES ON THE REHAIRING OF BOWS --. CHECK THE FROG FOR ADJUSTMENT Make sure that the screw-to-eyelet alignment is in adjustment.CLEAN AND SHIP IT! BIBLIOGRAPHY AMATEUR FIDDLE MAKERS Q AND A ---Harry S. Wake Published by the author at San Diego. I. Wake Published by the author at San Diego 1975 VIOLIN MAKING AS IT WAS AND IS --. Henderson Murray Publishing Co. This is a mute issue on the inexpensive plastic bows. there should be an absence of side-to-side wobble of the frog on a superior bow. CA 1970 HOW TO SELECT A BOW FOR VIOLIN FAMILY INSTRUMENTS --.John Alfred Bolander Booklet BOWS AND BOW MAKERS --. Limited Edition 1972 AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE VIOLIN --. CA 1979 THE RETFORD CENTENARY EXHIBITION --. however. CA 1981 VIOLIN BOW REHAIR AND REPAIR --. When adjusted correctly. back and forth when tightening and loosening.1000 BOWS AND A TRIBUTE --.J. Novello & Co. P.Allen Ward Lock Ltd. Retford --.Max Moller Reprint: Violins & Violinist 1959 VIOLIN BOW MAKING --. H. London 1885 . TREAT THE BOW HAIR WITH POWDERED ROSIN This is normally done by drawing the bow up to tension and dusting the hair with some powered rosin (in a long trough).Pub.