The bow hair on a violin bow usually consists of some 150 to 170 strands, so if individual hairs become loose or tear, there is no need to have the violin bow rehaired right away. This is a normal sign of wear and tear and has no effect whatsoever on the playing characteristics of the bow. It is, however, important not to pull such hairs out of the tip or frog; instead, just use a sharp knife or very sharp pair of scissors to cut the hair as short as possible. The hairs are secured at either end, and the mounting becomes loose if individual strands of hair are ripped out.
- How to Rehair a Violin Bow
- Rehairing A Violin Bow: A Complete DIY Guide
- What Does the Rehairing of a Bow Consist of?
- Things you Will Need
- Removing the Old Horse Hair
- Buying Horse Hair And Storing It
- Replacing the Horse Hair
- Cost to Rehair a Violin Bow
- Why do I Have to Rehair my Bow?
- What are the Risks When a Bow is Not Rehaired?
- How Often Should a Bow be Rehaired?
- How to Recognize When the Bow Hair is Worn?
- How to Maintain and Clean your Bow?
- FAQ for When to Rehair your Bow
- How often rehair a violin bow?
- How tighten the hair on a violin bow?
- How get broken hair off a violin bow?
- What tools are needed to rehair a violin bow?
- What is the cost of repairing a violin bow?
- What are the signs that indicate it’s time to rehair a violin bow?
- What materials are used for repairing a violin bow?
- What is the average lifespan of a violin bow?
- Do a violin bows have an expiration date?
How to Rehair a Violin Bow
If you own a violin, the time will come when you need to rehair your violin bow.
Like changing a string, this can seem like a daunting task. These bows are delicate and if you accidentally damage them, they can be costly to replace.
For that reason, many violinists opt to pay someone to rehair their bow. It’s easier and safer. If you can afford it, I highly recommend you hire a professional.
But doing it yourself is possible. As long as you know what you’re doing.
And by the time you get to the end of this article, you will know what you’re doing.
Beginning violinists and experienced instrumentalists alike often make the same mistakes. Luckily, they are easy to avoid if you follow the correct procedure.
My instructions will guide you through the rehairing process and ensure you do not do any irreversible harm to your bow.
Rehairing A Violin Bow: A Complete DIY Guide
Before we get to the rehairing instructions, let’s take a look at the tools you need to rehair your violin bow. Many are things you probably already have around the house.
What Does the Rehairing of a Bow Consist of?
The rehairing of a bow consists in replacing a worn strand of horsehair that has become ineffective for playing a bowed string instrument. Regardless of the value of your bow, rehairing is an important part of keeping it in perfect condition.
A bow consists of different elements including:
- The bow stick which is the wooden or carbon part that holds the bow hair.
- The bow hair which is composed of horsehair and will rub the strings of the violin.
If the horsehair of your bow is worn out, it will have to be rehaired. This operation consists of removing the used hair and replacing it with a new one. It must be performed by a bow maker or a luthier. If you don’t know who you should contact, ask your violin teacher or a violinist living near you. They must have had to rehair their bow and will know which professional you should contact.
Things you Will Need
- Horse hair (like this good, inexpensive pack on Amazon)
- Needle-nose pliers
- Sharp Scissors
- Gauge (this is a good one)
- Thin wire
- Wire cutters (like these)
- Hair clips or hair slides
Removing the Old Horse Hair
Obviously, before you can attach new hair to your bow, you need to first remove the old hair. To do this, simply take your scissors and cut the hair off, leaving a few inches at each end. These few inches will allow you to get leverage for the next step.
Now, use your needle-nose pliers to grip the very end of the few inches of remaining hair on the plug side of the bow. Roll the pliers into the hair, so that it wraps around them.
Keep rolling the hair onto the pliers, while pulling it from the plug. Some plugs release the hair much more easily than others. Either way, be careful not to damage the plug.
To remove the hair from the heel of the bow, loosen the screw at the back of the frog wedge first by twisting it to the left. This will loosen the ferrule.
You’ll probably need to spend some time rocking the ferrule back and forth before it loosens. Again, be patient. You don’t want to cause any damage to the wood.
When it is released, remove the small wooden wedge at the bottom and then use the same method with the pliers as you did on the plug side.
Buying Horse Hair And Storing It
When buying horse hair, the general rule is: the lighter the hair, the better. If you can afford it, get lighter hair.
To properly store the hair, make sure to gather it together neatly, so it doesn’t become tangled and unusable. An easy way to do this is using ordinary hair clips at the top, bottom and middle of the bunch of hair.
Replacing the Horse Hair
Use the gauge to measure how much of the horse hair you will need. It should be approximately the same width as the ferrule that you removed earlier.
Gather the hair that you cut off and clip it together using simple clips or hair slides, so that it stays together and doesn’t get tangled while you are working with it.
Use the wire to tie the hair closely together at each end. Use the glue to get the hair to stick together at the part where it is slightly protruding from where you tied it together with the wire. This will ensure that it fits neatly, without any hairs sticking out. Give the glue time to set.
Once the glue has set, insert the hair at the top of the plug (with the wooden wedge removed) using a thin stick or screwdriver to poke it in and get it in the correct position.
When you have the correct positioning, put the wooden wedge back in place, to ensure the hair stays where it should. You want the plug to be flush with the tip of the bow.
Before attaching the hair to the heel or frog side of the bow, remove the clips and use a small comb to comb out any tangles that may have appeared. You want the hair to form a thin ribbon shape as opposed to being bulky like a rope.
Once you’ve got it nice and combed, put the clips back to prevent any future entanglement. Tie the loose side of the hair off with wire and fuse the hairs together with glue, just like you did before with the other end.
Slip the hair through the ferrule. Remove the bow from the frog to give you a little bit of extra room to work with.
Place the hair into the small hole in the frog from the top down. Use the screw driver or stick to get it in the correct position, before putting the wooden wedge back in place.
Finally, slide the abalone back, keeping the hairs away from the rail.
When you have finished reattaching the last wedge, you can use apply light heat quickly along the hair, to get the strands to fuse together a bit for finer playing. Then use some rosin to prime the bow. Crush it and gently pat and rub it all along the hair.
That does it! You’ve successfully reahaired your bow and it’s ready to once again make beautiful music. Nice work!
Cost to Rehair a Violin Bow
If you do it yourself, the cost is your time, plus the cost of the replacement hair. You can easily find good bow hair for under $10 and even extremely high quality hair shouldn’t cost much more than $20.
If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can expect to pay a professional luthier around $50 to $80. This includes the cost of the horse hair and labor.
It is money well spent to ensure your valued instrument is taken care of. This is true even with cheaper bows, but especially is you have the best wood or the best carbon fiber violin bow money can buy.
Why do I Have to Rehair my Bow?
It is important to rehair your bow from time to time, since the quality of your bow hair has an influence on the sound that is generated. In fact, the wear and tear of the horsehair will affect the sound quality! If the horsehair of your bow is excessively worn, the quality of the sound will be affected!
In fact, the horsehair of a bow wears out over time, playing sessions and climatic conditions (oxidation). Like wood, horsehair changes depending on the weather conditions. They will lengthen or shorten depending on temperature and humidity. These multiple changes in the materials are likely to weaken them.
What are the Risks When a Bow is Not Rehaired?
If rehairing is not done, you risk damaging your bow or even your violin. Here’s what could happen:
- End up having a very poor sound quality
- Deforming the stick of your bow (permanent bending)
- Friction on the stick, which will weaken it
Of course, if your bow is not worth much, you may not have any problems with this. But if your bow costs a few thousand euros, it will inevitably have an impact on its price and future performance!
How Often Should a Bow be Rehaired?
The wear of the bow’s hair is very variable. Keep in mind that the hair always deteriorates: whether it is used regularly or kept in its case. Wear will depend on:
- the quality of the horsehair used on your bow hair
- the frequency with which you play
- the type of strings you use
- the type of playing you practice (the attack performed with the bow will be more or less accentuated depending on the musical repertoire being played)
- storage conditions (changes in temperature or humidity)
- the care you give to your bow and its hair
A professional violinist will have his/her bow rehaired every 4 to 6 months. If the violin is not your main profession, it is pointless to rehair your bow this often. As long as you don’t feel any particular difficulty when you use it, it’s still good! Rehair only when necessary.
How to Recognize When the Bow Hair is Worn?
After multiple playing sessions, the bow’s hair will deteriorate and break. In fact, breaking worn out horsehairs while playing is quite common.
Like strings, the hairs of your bow change over time. Keeping it locked in a case won’t protect it from the wear and tear! Horsehair oxidation is inevitable. Mites are also very fond of bow horsehair. They’ll snack on them and make them more brittle.
Here are some of the things that can help you identify a worn-out bow hair:
- The hair is blackened and looks greasy in some places. This dark shade is easily noticed. This is the result of a rosin and dirt accumulation that has adhered to the hair of the bow.
- The horsehairs all break one after the other. It’s because they’re already too worn out. Obviously, every time they will be used, they will break!
- You feel that you need to add an ever-increasing amount of rosin to make the hair stick to the strings. This means that as a result of rubbing on the strings, the horsehair has worn out and will no longer adhere.
- The hair is not tightening properly anymore, or it loosens during the playing session. It is pointless to insist; the hair is damaged. It must be replaced…
If any of these aspects are characteristic of your bow, it may be time to visit your bow maker.
How to Maintain and Clean your Bow?
The first rule to follow is to always loosen your bow after having played. You should never store it while leaving the hair tensed. Such an omission can damage the hair, which will stretch excessively and then break. Likewise, this can bend the bow stick and prevent you from practicing. A permanent bend in the bow is very difficult to repair, even by a professional…
The maintenance and cleaning of your bow will give your hair a longer life. It is advisable to dust the bow hair with a cloth after each use to remove any rosin residue.
Avoid touching the horsehair with your fingers! The perspiration of your hands acts as a glue that will fix rosin and dust residues, and create a black greasy mass. The bow stick must also be cleaned to remove any fingerprints.
There is no need to use any chemicals to clean your bow. Chemicals can alter the varnish of your bow and damage the hair. The use of a dry, soft and clean cloth is more than enough. Do not engage in any other type of maintenance unless you have previously consulted your luthier.
FAQ for When to Rehair your Bow
How often rehair a violin bow?
It mainly depends on how much you use your violin. If you play 4 or 5 hours every single day, you will likely need to rehair your bow 3 or 4 times a year. If you’re not quite that dedicated, replacing it once or twice a year is usually enough.
How tighten the hair on a violin bow?
There is a screw on the end of your violin bow. Turn this screw to tighten (or loosen) the hairs on your bow.
How get broken hair off a violin bow?
If you have a few loose or broken hairs, there is no need to replace all the hair entirely. You can just remove the offending hairs and continue playing with the bow.
If you have a loose hair, cut it at the loose part, which makes it the same as a broken hair. For broken hair, pull the hair(s) away from the rest of the bow and then cut it carefully at both ends. Cut close to the frog and the tip.
You do not want to pull the hair out. If you do that, the grip on the remaining hairs loosens a bit and it make it easier for more of them to become loose or to break. Always cut the hairs, leaving the ends still attached at the frog and the tip.
What tools are needed to rehair a violin bow?
There are four main tools that are needed to rehair a violin bow: rosin, hair, clamps and glue.
The rosin is applied to the hair at the end of the bow. The clamps are then used to hold the hair in place while it is glued.
What is the cost of repairing a violin bow?
A violin bow is a stringed musical instrument that is used to produce sound. It is similar to a violin, but it has a shorter neck and bow. Violin bows are generally made of wood and are usually strung with horsehair. The cost of repairing a violin bow will depend on the condition of the instrument, the quality of its materials, and the type of repair required.
The cost for repairing an average-quality violin bow can range from $20 to $40. A high-quality one can be as expensive as $250 or more depending on what needs to be repaired or replaced.
What are the signs that indicate it’s time to rehair a violin bow?
When a violin bow is not properly cared for, it can become dull and less responsive. The signs that indicate it’s time to rehair a violin bow are when the bow hair starts to fray or fall out.
What materials are used for repairing a violin bow?
Bows are made of wood, and are most commonly made from pernambuco or brazilwood. These woods are chosen for their flexibility and strength. They can be made of other materials, such as carbon fiber, fiberglass and plastic.
There are a variety of different glue types that can be used to repair a violin bow. These include animal glue, hide glue, and synthetic glues such as polyvinyl acetate emulsion (PVA).
What is the average lifespan of a violin bow?
There are many factors which can affect the lifespan of a violin bow. These factors include the type of wood, quality of the wood, and how often it’s used. The average lifespan of a violin bow is around 10-15 years.
Do a violin bows have an expiration date?
Some violin bows have an expiration date. This is generally a date that the bow was made, or a date when the bow has been played for a certain amount of time.
There are some violin bows that do not have an expiration date, but they are more expensive and more difficult to find than those with one.