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Jun 9, 2023 - 3:20:06 PM

jonboat

Canada

12 posts since 5/15/2023

I recently read a facebook post, about cleaning your bow, some of the people who posted said they clean their bow hair on a regular basis, with alcohol.

I have never heard of anyone cleaning bow hair before reading that post, I've been using the same bow for twenty-three years, and have never cleaned it, still works well, does anyone here clean bow hair?

Jun 9, 2023 - 5:15:32 PM
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3354 posts since 10/22/2007

I'm sorry but I clean my bow hair off, by playing it. I'm sure I'm doing it all wrong. And I'm sure we'll be informed of the errors in our ways.

Jun 9, 2023 - 5:34:07 PM
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2509 posts since 8/23/2008

In 50 years I never cleaned my bow hairs, and only ever re-haired them once just to see what the difference was, I couldn't tell.
Makes me suspect the luthier pulled a fast one, well it seems Heifetz couldn't tell either thats why he asked for a pair of scissors.

Jun 9, 2023 - 6:33:46 PM
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1462 posts since 3/1/2020

“Cleaning” bow hair tends to do a lot more harm than good and exposes the bow to a lot of unnecessary risk. Hair wears out over time with use and just needs to be replaced.

There are some fanatics that swear by all kinds of products like rubbing alcohol, denatured alcohol, alcohol prep pads, detergent, and toilet bowl cleaner. Those fanatics don’t tend to work on bows or play professionally, though.

For the health of your hair, keep your hands clean and don’t handle the hair to avoid getting oils onto it. Always loosen the hair before putting a bow away. Don’t over-apply rosin and wipe the stick off after playing to avoid rosin buildup.

Jun 10, 2023 - 7:36:11 AM
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2597 posts since 8/27/2008

I have never found a need to clean my bow hairs except every once in a long while I clean right next to the frog. I play thumb under style and over time a little bit of the end picks up oil and dirt from my skin. I use alcohol on a small corner of paper towel to clean just that area. My bow hair lasts and doesn't seem weakened by this at all.

Edited by - Brian Wood on 06/10/2023 07:37:53

Jun 11, 2023 - 3:56:58 AM
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102 posts since 4/11/2022

quote:
Originally posted by jonboat

I recently read a facebook post, about cleaning your bow, some of the people who posted said they clean their bow hair on a regular basis, with alcohol.

I have never heard of anyone cleaning bow hair before reading that post, I've been using the same bow for twenty-three years, and have never cleaned it, still works well, does anyone here clean bow hair?


Yes I do. Rosin is a dirt/ dust magnet. Especially if you leave the bow or fiddle out of the case. That includes the strings and the bow hair. And the dirt causes a whistling sound, or buzzing that I thought sure was from an open seam in my fiddle. 
         For the bow hair, I use turpentine on a (new, soft) toothbrush, followed by soap and water solution, then water rinse, and air dry. 
          For the strings, alcohol on a clean cotton rag is what I used when I still played, and it worked well enough but turpentine is the natural solvent for rosin. 
          I've never damaged any of the barbs on the hair, and after a good cleaning and fresh rosin the bow really bites into the strings, and removes the whistle, (as I said before). 
          

Jun 11, 2023 - 4:56:56 PM
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1462 posts since 3/1/2020

Playing wears the hair out over time and the scales on the hair (they’re not really barbs) lose their edges, making the strand smoother. The rosin gradually loses its ability to adhere, which is why the bow draws a weaker tone and sheds rosin too quickly. Cleaning the hair, even if done carefully, doesn’t renew the hair. It just removes the rosin that’s caked on.

A lot of people who advocate for cleaning are not actually cleaning the rosin off. Instead, the rosin gets partially dissolved and spread out over the hair. In the end the hair is sticky but not actually clean, and it just picks dirt and grime up faster. This is also why those who clean hair seem to have to do it a lot more often than you’d need to rehair a bow.

The ideas about the effectiveness of cleaning hair are myths of the same ilk as those about cleaning strings with solvents or cork. In both cases, there’s microscope photographic evidence available to illustrate what actually happens.

Jun 11, 2023 - 5:28:53 PM

102 posts since 4/11/2022

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

Playing wears the hair out over time and the scales on the hair (they’re not really barbs) lose their edges, making the strand smoother. The rosin gradually loses its ability to adhere, which is why the bow draws a weaker tone and sheds rosin too quickly. Cleaning the hair, even if done carefully, doesn’t renew the hair. It just removes the rosin that’s caked on.

A lot of people who advocate for cleaning are not actually cleaning the rosin off. Instead, the rosin gets partially dissolved and spread out over the hair. In the end the hair is sticky but not actually clean, and it just picks dirt and grime up faster. This is also why those who clean hair seem to have to do it a lot more often than you’d need to rehair a bow.

The ideas about the effectiveness of cleaning hair are myths of the same ilk as those about cleaning strings with solvents or cork. In both cases, there’s microscope photographic evidence available to illustrate what actually happens.


Don't knock it until you've tried it.

Jun 11, 2023 - 8:04:53 PM

gapbob

USA

899 posts since 4/20/2008

The only time I cleaned the hair of a bow is when I got some oil from food on it, then i carefully cleaned it off with alcohol—the bow went sliding over the strings with no sound at all when it reached the oily spot.

Jun 11, 2023 - 9:03:50 PM

1462 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by fiddler135
quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

Playing wears the hair out over time and the scales on the hair (they’re not really barbs) lose their edges, making the strand smoother. The rosin gradually loses its ability to adhere, which is why the bow draws a weaker tone and sheds rosin too quickly. Cleaning the hair, even if done carefully, doesn’t renew the hair. It just removes the rosin that’s caked on.

A lot of people who advocate for cleaning are not actually cleaning the rosin off. Instead, the rosin gets partially dissolved and spread out over the hair. In the end the hair is sticky but not actually clean, and it just picks dirt and grime up faster. This is also why those who clean hair seem to have to do it a lot more often than you’d need to rehair a bow.

The ideas about the effectiveness of cleaning hair are myths of the same ilk as those about cleaning strings with solvents or cork. In both cases, there’s microscope photographic evidence available to illustrate what actually happens.


Don't knock it until you've tried it.


Trying something that isn't a good idea is unnecessary if you understand the problems of doing it and can predict the results. For example, I don't need to put flour on the hair instead of rosin to know it's a bad idea.

That being said, I have tried cleaning hair with alcohol before when ordered to do so for a few school bows, mainly in cases where the hair was contaminated by oils in spots. Although it was possible to make the bows usable again, it wasn't a perfect solution, and the hair wasn't as good as it had been when fresh. I'm not comfortable with the idea of handing a bow back to a customer in a condition that is lesser than its normal playing condition, and in the time it would take to clean the hair and wait for it to dry I could put in new hair without having to sacrifice any integrity. Bow makers, restorers, and rehairers alike recommend against cleaning hair.

Even just using water on hair can really make a mess of it, as it can distort the hair tension and undo the careful work of the rehairer. Moisture can be drawn into the frog and head by capillary action quite easily and it can cause cracks. A good number of rehairers use fairly soft wood for the plugs and/or spread wedge, so that poses a greater threat due to the amount of moisture that can be absorbed.  

Jun 12, 2023 - 12:40:03 AM
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3615 posts since 9/13/2009
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quote:
Originally posted by jonboat

I recently read a facebook post, about cleaning your bow, some of the people who posted said they clean their bow hair on a regular basis, with alcohol.

I have never heard of anyone cleaning bow hair before reading that post, I've been using the same bow for twenty-three years, and have never cleaned it, still works well, does anyone here clean bow hair?


If bow is not holding rosin, it's likely dirt/oil and mixed with rosin left on the hair, forming a layer.

Dr. Norman Pickering did a bit of research in this matter... debunking that bowhair wears out some barbs/edges. 

"there are no barbs or hooks on bowhair to wear off despite what some musicians or teachers may tell you. it's smooth and shiny. Rosin breaks up into tiny particles with sharp edges. There's an ionic interchange between the collagen in the horsehair and the rosin resulting in a mutual attraction between these two complex molecules somewhat like static electricity."

"It is not necessary to rehair a bow until too many hairs have broken off. He knows of professional players who have used the same hair for 20 years. If the hair gets dirty, the bond between the horsehair and the rosin diminishes. You can then clean the hair to its initial condition and it's as good as new."
 

Other research has reinforced this. This is what I have found as well.

 fiddler135

Rosin is a dirt/ dust magnet. Especially if you leave the bow or fiddle out of the case. 

That too, again the electrostatic bond, I have a bow and fiddle out all the time... including my shop; as well play outside festivals, and around fires; back in the day, pubs and bars were pretty smoke filled. Can't recall the research on this, but points to cycle of over rosin actually attracts more of the particles (as well as humidity); and can leave residue of hardened caked up layers, with less of electrostatic bond (compared to clean hair); which wants to shed new rosin easier; thus repeating cycle of think need more rosin, leading to more residue.  

I've cleaned bow hair numerous times over last 40 years; not on any regular basis, but when it gets to point where simply not holding rosin well. I mostly notice down by frog, hair coming in contact with thumb. As above, found using rosin a little more sparingly, trying to avoid over rosin.

Don't knock it until you've tried it.

Essentially, if the hair isn't hold rosin, there is not a down side, nothing really to lose by trying to clean the hair; (obviously make sure protect the stick). 

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 06/12/2023 00:43:50

Jun 12, 2023 - 1:39:58 AM
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1462 posts since 3/1/2020

The bond of the rosin to the hair is not purely electrostatic, and this is precisely the reason why synthetic hair, which is much smoother under the microscope and must rely on an electrostatic bond for rosin to adhere, performs so poorly. The theory of barbs sticking out and catching the string on their own has been disproven, but the existence of scales is well-documented. Instead of the scales plucking the string to cause the slip-stick motion, they give the rosin particles surface area to adhere. After use the hair wears down and becomes smoother, reducing the available area for the rosin particles to adhere and reducing the friction of the bow on the string.

Oils and dirt can certainly contaminate the hair if a bow is mistreated, but with proper care this will not happen except in the area where the thumb often comes into contact with the hair.

Here are some examples of electron microscopy that illustrate the structure of the hair at various magnifications and the effect of playing:

tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1271/bbb.90622

beilstein-journals.org/bjnano/...cles/8/16

pandhbows.com/why-we-use-horse...our-bows/

Hair does wear out through use, and that’s not even accounting for the changes in structure that hair experiences as it ages. A bundle of hair that is just hanging up has a shelf life after which it will not be optimal for use structurally.

Jun 12, 2023 - 6:49:52 AM

GeorgeH

USA

29 posts since 2/23/2018

I think Rick is exactly right: treating bow hair with alcohol will dissolve the rosin particles and it will soak into the bow hair making the bow hair less able to pick-up and hold the hard rosin particles which are what makes the bow hair work. When you play your bow, these hard particles break and drop off, hence, your bow hair is actually self-cleaning. :-)

Un-rosined bow hair can't draw a sound; it is the hard particles of rosin entrained in the bow hair scales that actually "pluck" the string. When you rosin your bow, the scales on the hair break-off particle of rosin from the rosin cake and hold them in the hair. As you play, the large particles of rosin break into smaller particles that can embed more deeply into the bow hair as well as fall off into the air and onto your violin.

So, as you play, the rosin particles are breaking up and falling off the hair, hence the need to re-rosin. It is the ability to trap and hold rosin particles that makes a bow work well.

Dr. Norman Pickering (cited earlier by alaskafiddler)) is flat-out wrong. It appears from micrographs that the hair scales of fresh hair are barbed, and the scales become smoother through use. It isn't clear to me how fast this occurs. Does a freshly haired bow loose these barbs quickly or slowly? The visible relationship between the level of worn hair scales and sound quality has not been established, as far as I know.

Intuitively, it would make sense that barbed hair would pick-up and hold more rosin particles than smooth hair, which would make rosining less frequent, but it is hard to say if fresh barbed bow hair makes the bow sound better than after the bow has been played a while.

People often think that re-hairing is a simple operation like changing a string, but it is better thought of as a repair requiring a skilled and knowledgeable archetier to take care that it is done correctly. Seemingly simple things, like an incorrectly cut plug in the head that swells in humid weather, can destroy a bow. So if your bow is performing well, there are good reasons besides the expense not to have it re-haired unless absolutely necessary.

Since it cannot be said enough, clean rosin dust off your violin often. Rosin dust is acidic and will damage your violin varnish over time. It should be not a point of pride to have a thick layer of rosin dust under a bridge, it should be embarrassing. The longer it is there, the more damage it can do, and the harder it becomes to remove. Please carefully wipe the rosin off your violin and bow stick at least weekly.

For pictures, see the reference Rick cited:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1271/bbb.90622

Edited by - GeorgeH on 06/12/2023 06:52:23

Jun 13, 2023 - 3:42:39 AM

102 posts since 4/11/2022

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful
quote:
Originally posted by fiddler135
quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

Playing wears the hair out over time and the scales on the hair (they’re not really barbs) lose their edges, making the strand smoother. The rosin gradually loses its ability to adhere, which is why the bow draws a weaker tone and sheds rosin too quickly. Cleaning the hair, even if done carefully, doesn’t renew the hair. It just removes the rosin that’s caked on.

A lot of people who advocate for cleaning are not actually cleaning the rosin off. Instead, the rosin gets partially dissolved and spread out over the hair. In the end the hair is sticky but not actually clean, and it just picks dirt and grime up faster. This is also why those who clean hair seem to have to do it a lot more often than you’d need to rehair a bow.

The ideas about the effectiveness of cleaning hair are myths of the same ilk as those about cleaning strings with solvents or cork. In both cases, there’s microscope photographic evidence available to illustrate what actually happens.


Don't knock it until you've tried it.


Trying something that isn't a good idea is unnecessary if you understand the problems of doing it and can predict the results. For example, I don't need to put flour on the hair instead of rosin to know it's a bad idea.

That being said, I have tried cleaning hair with alcohol before when ordered to do so for a few school bows, mainly in cases where the hair was contaminated by oils in spots. Although it was possible to make the bows usable again, it wasn't a perfect solution, and the hair wasn't as good as it had been when fresh. I'm not comfortable with the idea of handing a bow back to a customer in a condition that is lesser than its normal playing condition, and in the time it would take to clean the hair and wait for it to dry I could put in new hair without having to sacrifice any integrity. Bow makers, restorers, and rehairers alike recommend against cleaning hair.

Even just using water on hair can really make a mess of it, as it can distort the hair tension and undo the careful work of the rehairer. Moisture can be drawn into the frog and head by capillary action quite easily and it can cause cracks. A good number of rehairers use fairly soft wood for the plugs and/or spread wedge, so that poses a greater threat due to the amount of moisture that can be absorbed.  


The earth was flat for good reasons. 

Jun 13, 2023 - 3:49:03 AM

3615 posts since 9/13/2009
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by GeorgeH


Dr. Norman Pickering (cited earlier by alaskafiddler)) is flat-out wrong. It appears from micrographs that the hair scales of fresh hair are barbed, and the scales become smoother through use. It isn't clear to me how fast this occurs. Does a freshly haired bow loose these barbs quickly or slowly? The visible relationship between the level of worn hair scales and sound quality has not been established, as far as I know.
 


What Pickering was referring to was the popular notion that barbs play direct role in stick/slip motion to the string. Not whether hair has scales, or that those can be worn down, weakening the structure, affect elasticity and more breakage.

What he pointed to is that it's the rosin, chemical bonding. As far as comparisons to synthetic hair... different chemical make up creates different electrostatic bonding capacity. Something Yamamoto and Sugiyama don't seem much aware of in their research; as conclusion states...

Although stick-and-slip interaction was considered to be facilitated by the rosin particles, it is not clear whether the bow hair and strings contact directly or through the rosin.

Besides not considering the chemical bonding properties (and melt aspect); nowhere in those papers does it present evidence or experiment to which addresses what affect/degree worn hair has toward holding rosin or actual playing; to which could make comparison.

Pickering is not alone, in what makes things sticky is mostly the chemistry properties of the substance and what it's applied to. Even some specifically to bowed instruments.  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228841873_ANALYSIS_OF_BOW-HAIR_FIBRES

In fact the stick-slip motion of the string is caused by the rosin. The bonding capacity between the hair surface and the rosin depends on the chemical properties of the cuticle and not on the shape of the plates.

 

The the idea "Intuitively, it would make sense that barbed hair would pick-up and hold more rosin particles than smooth hair"; and "smaller particles that can embed more deeply into the bow hair". Good question...  Yamamoto and Sugiyama; nor Casido didn't address that nor provide research, evidence to support that claim. But here's some other things to consider... even from the cited link and photos: 

...the step height of the cuticles was 420 +/- 125 nm (n =16), as presented in Fig. 1b
...The typical size of a rosin particle is 20 mm by ten coating strokes.

That is, the (scale) height is very small... even one layer of rosin is 5 times greater than that height, overall around is 50 times times. Also note the worn out sample didn't reduce to zero; not completely smooth, the difference if worn to new is very very small.  

This is mentioned by above Dr. Norman Pickering; Rocaboy, and others including Knut Guettler points out

...but as far as friction goes: scales has very little to do with it, since they rise up above the hair stem less than 0.5 µm (Rocaboy 1990), which is negligible compared to the string diameter, and moreover they are completely covered when rosin has been applied and partly melted


All this science and research is interesting, how things work; points to certainly debatable aspects, and lot's more research. But might be over looking main points fiddlers might have, esp about cleaning.

Jun 13, 2023 - 4:00:06 AM

3615 posts since 9/13/2009
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In looking at it from pragmatic fiddler POV, addressing the condition... bow hair isn't holding rosin well. and the question do need re-hair or will cleaning the hair help restore ability to hold rosin well? (might help address the science question of whether it's scales vs chemical process

1. It's due to that the barbs or scales are worn... thus cleaning will not achieve any positive results. Only solution is the old hair needs removed and discarded; replacing with new hair.

2. it's due to contamination (old rosin/dirt/oils) build up; affecting the fresh rosin to bond to actual hair.  Cleaning should thus restore ability to form good bond. 

Fairly easy to test. In my experience, cleaning does indeed restore increase bonding ability compared to initial state. Reinforcing that the idea of it's more #2 (if #1 was true, it shouldn't). 

From just pragmatic view, does it help?... YMMV; but might consider: If it doesn't work it's a bit of "so what? " - you are not out anything; if barbs actually "worn out" then would need re-haired anyway; the old hair gets tossed.

OTOH, if it works, saved yourself $$$ on a re-hair.

in the time it would take to clean the hair and wait for it to dry I could put in new hair 

If you do that for FREE, good for you. AFAIK, most folks don't re-hair for free. What I know, and have evidence of, is it saved me a lot of $$$. Don't even have to worry nor consider if return to "new" condition... just that can extend the life of it. 

Bow makers, restorers, and rehairers alike recommend against cleaning hair.

FWIW, apparently not all of them... that's who I learned about cleaning from those folks. 

-------------

treating bow hair with alcohol will dissolve the rosin particles and it will soak into the bow hair making the bow hair less able to pick-up and hold the hard rosin particles which are what makes the bow hair work. 

Valid point, and actually supports the #2 concept of chemical bonding failure (as mentioned old rosin left on bow). However, the process of cleaning isn't just applying alcohol, but to remove excess, by gently working it, wiping residue, and/or bit of rinse and repeat. YMMV, but again, if doesn't work - so what? Were planning on saving the hair for some other use?

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 06/13/2023 04:12:40

Jun 13, 2023 - 6:06:21 AM
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3354 posts since 10/22/2007

Let's back the truck up. Alcohol is a solvent. Hair is a protein. Alcohol dissolves protein(hair), as well as rosin. I don't need this. But everyone is free to do as they wish.

Jun 13, 2023 - 11:01:54 AM

1462 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler
quote:
Originally posted by GeorgeH


Dr. Norman Pickering (cited earlier by alaskafiddler)) is flat-out wrong. It appears from micrographs that the hair scales of fresh hair are barbed, and the scales become smoother through use. It isn't clear to me how fast this occurs. Does a freshly haired bow loose these barbs quickly or slowly? The visible relationship between the level of worn hair scales and sound quality has not been established, as far as I know.
 


What Pickering was referring to was the popular notion that barbs play direct role in stick/slip motion to the string. Not whether hair has scales, or that those can be worn down, weakening the structure, affect elasticity and more breakage.

What he pointed to is that it's the rosin, chemical bonding. As far as comparisons to synthetic hair... different chemical make up creates different electrostatic bonding capacity. Something Yamamoto and Sugiyama don't seem much aware of in their research; as conclusion states...

Although stick-and-slip interaction was considered to be facilitated by the rosin particles, it is not clear whether the bow hair and strings contact directly or through the rosin.

Besides not considering the chemical bonding properties (and melt aspect); nowhere in those papers does it present evidence or experiment to which addresses what affect/degree worn hair has toward holding rosin or actual playing; to which could make comparison.

Pickering is not alone, in what makes things sticky is mostly the chemistry properties of the substance and what it's applied to. Even some specifically to bowed instruments.  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228841873_ANALYSIS_OF_BOW-HAIR_FIBRES

In fact the stick-slip motion of the string is caused by the rosin. The bonding capacity between the hair surface and the rosin depends on the chemical properties of the cuticle and not on the shape of the plates.

 

The the idea "Intuitively, it would make sense that barbed hair would pick-up and hold more rosin particles than smooth hair"; and "smaller particles that can embed more deeply into the bow hair". Good question...  Yamamoto and Sugiyama; nor Casido didn't address that nor provide research, evidence to support that claim. But here's some other things to consider... even from the cited link and photos: 

...the step height of the cuticles was 420 +/- 125 nm (n =16), as presented in Fig. 1b
...The typical size of a rosin particle is 20 mm by ten coating strokes.

That is, the (scale) height is very small... even one layer of rosin is 5 times greater than that height, overall around is 50 times times. Also note the worn out sample didn't reduce to zero; not completely smooth, the difference if worn to new is very very small.  

This is mentioned by above Dr. Norman Pickering; Rocaboy, and others including Knut Guettler points out

...but as far as friction goes: scales has very little to do with it, since they rise up above the hair stem less than 0.5 µm (Rocaboy 1990), which is negligible compared to the string diameter, and moreover they are completely covered when rosin has been applied and partly melted


All this science and research is interesting, how things work; points to certainly debatable aspects, and lot's more research. But might be over looking main points fiddlers might have, esp about cleaning.


Reread the quote from Pickering that you posted. He doesn't claim that scales or barbs aren't important, he claims that they don't exist at all. That's just not correct.

There is argument now over the function of the scales and whether or not they have anything to do with the slip-stick motion. It seems reasonable to say that the rosin is responsible for at least the majority of the contact, especially because the scales don't really protrude much. This is the reason why I avoid the term "barbs." That term gives off the impression that there are fibers that branch out of the main stalk of the hair like tree branches and that they have ends that are hooked and will catch the string enough to pull it back and make it snap. I don't agree with that idea, and I think that's made clear by the fact that hair works in both directions. A rehairer or bowmaker needs to put the hair in in the right orientation, but that's for other reasons.

I think the point about rosin particles becoming smaller and smaller through playing is rather interesting. Perhaps it's possible that the hair isn't coming into contact at all with the string at first but does in small part as the bow is played and the larger rosin particles are either worn down or away. It is true that a bow that's been over-rosined will give a crunchy sound  that can only by overcome by removing rosin. My understanding currently is that the rosin is what's principally in contact and that it creates slip-stick motion is its heating through friction so that it makes the string stick to the bow and snap. For that to happen, the rosin needs to adhere to something so that it doesn't simply slide off the hair. Here's the complication, though: worn hair doesn't work well because it becomes too smooth, and strings that have been cleaned with an abrasive and are smoother don't work as well either. The surface texture of both is important. This is why it's just wrong that cleaning makes hair "as good as new." That's only the wishful thinking of people who think they've outsmarted the professionals so they can avoid the cost of maintenance. Notice how those who clean hair always like to brag about how much money they've saved, as if they're being taken advantage of by anyone who recommends routine maintenance. Trust me, anyone who is good at rehairing bows is not that desperate for work--there are more bows that need rehairing than time available to do the work.

It doesn't make sense to argue that only rosin is important for playing, or else the bow would have no need for hair. You can make a sound with a cake of rosin on the string,  but it has no quality. Similarly, you can't play without any rosin. 

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 06/13/2023 11:02:27

Jun 13, 2023 - 1:37:58 PM

2475 posts since 12/11/2008
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All I can say is that when the best (and most used) of my three bows got to the point where I couldn't get anything more than a weak scraping sound out of it, I went to the one place on my island that actually dealt with esoteric procedures like bow rehairs. It took about a month for the actual re-hair person to show up. She happily took bows from several folks, and maybe a week later I got my bow back. She agreed that my bow was long past its rehair due date. In any event, the bow has been excellent ever since. A true pleasure to hoist. Significantly better than my other bows.

Jun 13, 2023 - 4:38:27 PM

2597 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful


pandhbows.com/why-we-use-horse...our-bows/

Hair does wear out through use, and that’s not even accounting for the changes in structure that hair experiences as it ages. A bundle of hair that is just hanging up has a shelf life after which it will not be optimal for use structurally.


Your last link raises the old question of which direction the horse hair should go on the bow. I use to hear that hairs were alternated in some fashion, then read that wasn't necessary. I tend to think the microscopic scales that show up in the photograph do indeed have a role in capturing the rosin but that the orientation doesn't matter for playing. I have played for long periods of time on bows that haven't seemed to lose their ability to produce tone. If there is a secret to longevity I think it has to do with not over rosining. The friction of too much rosin on the hair, aside from causing bad tone, might tend to put more stress, friction and heat, than is required for production of sound. That extra friction will possibly cause failure of hairs over time. I doubt that hair just sitting on a shelf will age noticeably for a very long time.

Jun 14, 2023 - 11:08:10 AM
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1462 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Brian Wood
quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful


pandhbows.com/why-we-use-horse...our-bows/

Hair does wear out through use, and that’s not even accounting for the changes in structure that hair experiences as it ages. A bundle of hair that is just hanging up has a shelf life after which it will not be optimal for use structurally.


Your last link raises the old question of which direction the horse hair should go on the bow. I use to hear that hairs were alternated in some fashion, then read that wasn't necessary. I tend to think the microscopic scales that show up in the photograph do indeed have a role in capturing the rosin but that the orientation doesn't matter for playing. I have played for long periods of time on bows that haven't seemed to lose their ability to produce tone. If there is a secret to longevity I think it has to do with not over rosining. The friction of too much rosin on the hair, aside from causing bad tone, might tend to put more stress, friction and heat, than is required for production of sound. That extra friction will possibly cause failure of hairs over time. I doubt that hair just sitting on a shelf will age noticeably for a very long time.


The reasons for orienting the hair are more about the nature of hair growth and the dimensions of the bow. I have heard of people claiming the hair should be alternated for the purpose of "making the bow work in both directions," but that's another myth. Hair will work regardless of the direction. The best rehairers may not agree about whether to rehair from tip to frog or frog to tip, but they do agree on the way to orient the hair.

Over-rosining is not good for the bow, strings, or violin. I have noticed that bows with too much rosin seem to have more problems with hair breaking. This may well be because, as you suggested, there's greater friction on the hair. I can't say with certainty whether this causes long-term damage to the structure of the hair, but that doesn't sound outlandish, and it's a question that would be worth investigation.

Abour hair sitting on a shelf: if it's clean, the changes in its structure might not be visible for quite some time, but they would be quite obvious once you started using the hair. It doesn't even feel the same in the fingers when it's old. Old hair gets brittle. Every so often a customer will bring in an instrument that hasn't been used in a long time and it will have a bow in the case that was either bought new and never played or rehaired and not played afterward. Even sitting in a case and never exposed to direct sunlight, considerable temperature and humidity fluctuations, or contaminants, the hair will still be need to be replaced for the bow to be in good playing shape again. Hair is as its best fresh. 

Jun 15, 2023 - 4:05:35 AM

bacfire

USA

50 posts since 3/26/2008

I’ve seen a few old fiddlers use a block of fine sandpaper to “rejuvenate” hair and “rough it up again.” One is a shade tree luthier who says he's been doing it for 75 years.

Edited by - bacfire on 06/15/2023 04:06:25

Jun 17, 2023 - 2:38:47 AM

102 posts since 4/11/2022

quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

All I can say is that when the best (and most used) of my three bows got to the point where I couldn't get anything more than a weak scraping sound out of it, I went to the one place on my island that actually dealt with esoteric procedures like bow rehairs. It took about a month for the actual re-hair person to show up. She happily took bows from several folks, and maybe a week later I got my bow back. She agreed that my bow was long past its rehair due date. In any event, the bow has been excellent ever since. A true pleasure to hoist. Significantly better than my other bows.


Did you try cleaning the bow before you took it to be re-haired? 

Jun 17, 2023 - 12:13:34 PM

2475 posts since 12/11/2008
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by fiddler135
quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

All I can say is that when the best (and most used) of my three bows got to the point where I couldn't get anything more than a weak scraping sound out of it, I went to the one place on my island that actually dealt with esoteric procedures like bow rehairs. It took about a month for the actual re-hair person to show up. She happily took bows from several folks, and maybe a week later I got my bow back. She agreed that my bow was long past its rehair due date. In any event, the bow has been excellent ever since. A true pleasure to hoist. Significantly better than my other bows.


Did you try cleaning the bow before you took it to be re-haired? 


Yes. I tried both a gently moistened rag cut from a Turkish towel washcloth, and a piece of nice soft chamois. They certainly did not bring my bow back to glory. By the same token, though, the cleaning attempts did not make things significantly worse.

Jun 17, 2023 - 3:39:39 PM

3615 posts since 9/13/2009
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

Let's back the truck up. Alcohol is a solvent. Hair is a protein. Alcohol dissolves protein(hair), as well as rosin. I don't need this. But everyone is free to do as they wish.


Not advising anyone they need to... the OP asked about cleaning; having that option; so I'm sharing experience.

I haven't ever witnessed hair dissolving when I've used alcohol. The process I use isn't soaking, for long period of time, but just small amount. Acetone also works quite well. Both of which, evaporate rather quickly. Of course seems rather a moot worry if might destroy something that's not functioning; and if only other option involves destroying the hair and replacing it.

[A similar analogy might be potentiometers or connectors not functioning (scratchy or not making good contact, weak signal). While might think need to simply replace them, throw them out and replace them (due to wear). Most often whatever wear is minimal, it's simply it's dirt and oxidation; and cleaning them will most often restore functionality capability. Understanding that, gives an option; other than toss/replace.]

From pragmatic POV end user POV.... Don't really need to know much about the science/physics or why; just "does it work?" -

For me, after cleaning the bow; rosin sticks to hair very noticeably improved, and doesn't just fall off. (as what research says should happen). YMMV.
 

Sep 27, 2023 - 7:22:10 PM
likes this

455 posts since 6/26/2007

I don't want acetone or alcohol near the finish on a wood bow, but have used an alcohol-moistened rag for a quick hair refresh on a CF bow. Works fine. A clean, dry microfiber towel (or most any clean rag, or a paper towel) will wipe off some of the old contaminated rosin, and make a noticeable bit of improvement.

Best to give it a proper shampoo. I've heard of folks using baby shampoo, but I use a weak solution of clear ammonia-- any residue left by imperfect rinsing will evaporate. I detach the frog, hold it and the tip close together with one hand, dip the loop of hair and rub and slosh it about with the other hand.... After washing and rinsing, reattach the frog, wipe off all the water I easily can with a towel, tighten the hair to where it just pulls together into a ribbon, and hang the bow up where I can keep an eye on it. As the hair dries, it shrinks, so whenever I can see that it's tightening, I loosen it back to that minimal level of tension (NOT slack). How long it takes to dry depends on the humidity.

YMMV, but I find newly-washed hair works just like brand-new hair.

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