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New Luthier Bowhair Diagnostic Question . . .

Posted by bj on Friday, August 22, 2008

Last time I had a lesson with Steve I asked him about a problem I was having with the Tabary bow. There seemed to be a screetchy spot followed by a dead spot. I had cleaned the bowhair by shampooing it a few times, but this screetchy spot and dead spot would always return after a couple days.
He asked me questions, looked at the bowhair and told me it didn't need new hair and that it was good quality horsehair and shouldn't be having a problem. He suggested the shampooing, using a more intense degreaser than I had been using, and also suggested I powder the rosin for the first re-rosin after a cleaning, and really getting it worked in. He also told me that the crappy Glasser bow had synthetic hair, which is the one that didn't have the problem. That makes sense now. It didn't then.
So I followed his advice.
I "powdered" some rosin, and used stickier rosin, the stuff I don't like since it gums up, thinking it would stick better, and got it really worked into the bow hair on the Tabary bow, especially on that problematic spot. It was fine for a whole day. The next day it was dead again. So I washed it and did it again. Same thing, good one day, and dead in only one spot the next. But the spot seemed to have moved a bit. Or did it? Hard to tell. And very weird. Powdered and rosined again, since the Stockdale does seem to prefer this lighter bow.
So while I was practicing the other day, the phone rang. My phone is right near my desk, and the practice mirror was still on the couch and turned toward me, since I planned to return to practice after my conversation. I put the fiddle and bow down in its usual spot on top of the credenza behind my office chair and I answered the phone. After awhile, while I was talking, I happened to glance in the mirror, and could see Briggsy the cat sprawled next to my fiddle and bow on the top of the credenza and happily cleaning the rosin off my bow hair with his raspy little tongue.
The vet said if Briggsy's still alive after all this time, not to worry.
And the cure is to store all my natural hair bows in the case from now on.
Of course, being almost as curious as my cat, I had to taste the dang rosin, since you'd think, based on how it smells, that it would have a fairly strong taste. I was surprised it has very little taste at all.
So of course I had to pass this info back to Steve, so that if ever one of his luthier clients or students has this problem in future, he can add the question, "Do you have a cat?" to his list of diagnostic questions to ask. And I'm sure it will make a great talking point at the next Luthier Convention.

11 comments on “New Luthier Bowhair Diagnostic Question . . .”

schoochie Says:
Friday, August 22, 2008 @4:19:21 PM

Don't you just love cats! So unpredictable! I'm quite sure Briggsy thought he was doing you a great service by cleaning your bowhair. Life is never dull with a cat in the house!

bj Says:
Friday, August 22, 2008 @4:33:40 PM

Well, that COULD be. But the "If you weren't the one who feeds me, I'd claw you to shreds for picking up that fiddle!" looks I get from him might indicate otherwise.

brya31 Says:
Friday, August 22, 2008 @5:31:03 PM

LOL! Bj someday you avatar has to have you and that poor cat sitting with the fiddle between you two!

bj Says:
Friday, August 22, 2008 @5:35:23 PM

Well, actually, if you look at my avatar, the cat is glaring at me and the fiddle IS between us, as he comtemplates using it as a scratching post. Or, worse, a litter pan.

FiddlerFaddler Says:
Friday, August 22, 2008 @8:35:53 PM

I hear that cats like the taste of antifreeze (ethylene glycol). Don't you go tasting that, ya hear?

Russell Sampson Says:
Friday, August 22, 2008 @9:39:25 PM

Cats hide make a good banjo( kahyilt)

bj Says:
Saturday, August 23, 2008 @6:47:40 AM

I have to wonder if it's a racial memory from the time when catgut was used for the strings.

The minute I put the fiddle down he is the most lovey lapcat I've ever been possessed by.

Dale Farmer Says:
Saturday, August 23, 2008 @7:10:01 PM

Great story. I dreamed last night that our cat ate my banjo neck that I just made the other day. They do do the strangest things...

PeachyPicker08 Says:
Sunday, August 24, 2008 @6:50:25 PM

Cats have a sixth sense. He knew you had a problem and was willing to help.

bj Says:
Sunday, August 24, 2008 @6:55:43 PM

ROFL! He's got a sixth sense all right! He knows exactly how to bedevil me!

fiddlepogo Says:
Sunday, August 24, 2008 @9:54:31 PM

LOL! Doesn't that just beat all!

I think what it is is that cats (or some cats, anyway)
are VERY intelligent, but have totally different
priorities and interests from human beings.

Our fascinating fiddles are just noisemakers to them.

And it has nothing to do with cat gut-
my cat hates the harmonica just as bad-
it's gotta be the treble.

Any animal that hunts birds and mice has to have a sense of hearing that's very sensitive to hearing high pitched squeaks and chirps.
But instead of these short little sounds,
fiddles/violins (and harmonicas) put out these continuous streams of high pitched sound. Gotta be a serious circuit overload going on!

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