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May 27, 2024 - 2:29:51 PM
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275 posts since 11/26/2013

This past weekend, Saturday, in our 3rd set, second to last song, I'm about to take my solo when the hair on the head the bow decides at that moment come completely detached from the bow. Just poof! It also cracked the little pocket where the hair goes, the ivory/ebony (?) face plate broke and the little piece went spinning off into the grass in front of the stage. And unfortunately my spare bow I had with me with me had only 15 or so hairs left on it (been meaning to have it rehaired). I was lucky enough that there was another fiddle player at the festival that lent me her spare for the rest of the weekend! But as most of us know, jumping onto a different bow that you're not used to is no easy thing - I got through the weekend but not playing at my best to say the least.

So I spent the better part of the afternoon today, Memorial Day, calling every violin/fiddle shop here on Long Island. Found a few that were open, and a visit to one found me a good replacement, a decent second bow and their bow guy will rehair the one that needed it and is gong to call sometime next week with the bad news on the broken one. The few bow guys was able to chat with said the repair on the broken one may cost more then it is worth to repair it correctly (and that one is not a cheap bow by any means, around $8-900 USD) . As I said, it bought 2 bows just now, one was also not a cheap one and the other much less but it plays pretty close, especially for a Chinese made one.

Moral of the story (if there is one) - always have a spare bow with you, and not just some crappy piece of wood with some hair glued into it. You can never tell when you might need it!.

May 28, 2024 - 6:04:40 AM

1199 posts since 7/30/2021

Wow, you are the THIRD person who has told me this happened to them, in the last couple of months!

C had hers explode during orchestra. E had his explode at a gig on stage, too!

So…does anybody know what causes this? Does playing more intensely trigger it?

But yes…I do have a second bow (my old one) and I will start keeping in my case.

May 28, 2024 - 7:13:11 AM
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GeorgeH

USA

30 posts since 2/23/2018

It can happen because the wedge in the head of the bow that holds the hair inside was too big when installed, and it swelled in the humidity causing the head to blow-out.

Also, the tip plate adds a lot of strength to the head, and should be checked regularly for cracks along the thin narrow edges. If there are cracks in it, then it should be replaced before using the bow again.

Bow re-hairs should be considered a repair and not a simple replacement (like a string change) and should be performed by an experienced archetier. it is not a simple job for amateurs.

Edited by - GeorgeH on 05/28/2024 07:15:13

May 28, 2024 - 8:14:40 AM

Erockin

USA

928 posts since 9/3/2022

I've been sawing the same bow now for some time and I've only broken 1 hair...lol...needless to say I mustn't be playing very hard. :)

May 28, 2024 - 10:38:52 AM
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1511 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by NCnotes

So…does anybody know what causes this? Does playing more intensely trigger it?


There are a few causes. Typically it's related to the fit of the tip plug in the mortise. The way a proper plug is cut should keep the hair locked into place without coming loose, but things can happen that compromise the fit. The geometry of the plug works for the forces placed on it from tightening and playing, but if the hair is pulled straight up from tip it will come out (unless it's in with too much pressure or some kind of adhesive). Bows that get caught in bow spinners sometimes have tip plugs pop out because the hair is pulled at just the right angle to dislodge it. 
 

When cutting a plug, the hair gap needs to be exactly the right size for the hair; if it's too big, the hair can pull out, and if it's too small the plug won't fit in properly and will be more likely to come out because it's not seated against the mortise as it should be.

If the plug is made of a soft wood, it will be prone to fluctuation with variations in climate. This is a reason I only use hard maple for plugs. Harder wood has to be more carefully cut but once it fits it's pretty stable.

If moisture gets into the tip mortise it can wreak havoc on the plug. A wet piece of wood can expand and force itself out, or worse, crack the tip, or even worse, the head.

If the plug was too tight to begin with it can crack the tip, and that crack can make the plug come out.

If the hair is too wet at the area of the knot when it's put in, it'll shrink as it dries and the plug will become loose.

If the knot at the tip isn't solid enough, hairs can pull out. If enough come out, the hair gap will no longer be filled enough to lock the plug in and it can come out. If the knot fails, all the hair can come out of the mortise at once. The plug will often still be in place, and if you remove it you'll find the thread from the knot still inside.

For a player, having the hair come out, especially in a performance, is unnerving and frightening, but it does happen from time to time. Playing isn't the cause. 

May 28, 2024 - 10:48:28 AM
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1199 posts since 7/30/2021

OK, thanks-
so it sounds like we can go crazy when playing, and it won't make our bows explode...? That is, it's not our fault when it happens!

May 28, 2024 - 11:02:07 AM

DougD

USA

11931 posts since 12/2/2007

Al - I don't know what the weather's been like up your way, but around here its been hot and extremely humid. I wonder if that had anything to do with it. Let us know what the repairman has to say.

May 28, 2024 - 12:19:02 PM
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6482 posts since 9/26/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Erockin

I've been sawing the same bow now for some time and I've only broken 1 hair...lol...needless to say I mustn't be playing very hard. :)


You shouldn't really be breaking hairs a la Charlie Daniels or anyone. Some folks never break hairs. I break them along the right edge (closest to player) eventually, but that is likely a combo of user error and wear from the bow spinners. Been happening from the very beginning of my fiddle journey. I have a spare just in case

May 28, 2024 - 5:31:06 PM
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1511 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by NCnotes

OK, thanks-
so it sounds like we can go crazy when playing, and it won't make our bows explode...? That is, it's not our fault when it happens!


You're off the hook on this one, haha! If you get really wild in your playing there are ways you can damage the bow or the instrument, but under playing conditions, even with a heavy bow arm, the hair should stay put.

If you play a lot of aggressive music (think lots of chords at fff with accents) it can be hard on the hair and more may break (although not necessarily). In that case the hair is more likely to break at the ferrule because that's the portion of the bow that's used for that mode of playing. 

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 05/28/2024 17:31:24

May 29, 2024 - 6:39:24 AM

275 posts since 11/26/2013

SO the bow is being looked at on Friday by their bow guy. Opinions at the shop seem to think its not un-reparable, but with bows its hard to tell. There is a tiny piece of bow wood that needs to be replaced and there are 2 cracks that extend into the mortice. And the face plates need to be totally replaced. So, we'll see. This bow is about a $700 bow. I like it a lot, its got balls to it. However while there I was trying out other bows, I just said "Keep them coming", and I picked up one that I LOVE, used it last night at a session and the other players even noticed a big difference in the sound and the things I was able to do, pretty effortlessly. Well worth the $900 it cost. So I will have a battery of good bows to have on hand.

There is no doubt the humidity where I was playing (literally right on the sea shore) had a big part in the event, very humid that day, that and perhaps a bit too large plug, even though it was rehaired a few years ago by a well known, good, bow guy. And its not like that environment is unique, as a pirate band, we do a LOT of shows by the water, being a pirate kind of necessitates close proximity to water, a lot of it! Its a Seifert (sp?) bow, the guys at the shop even said this is a very good bow. So who knows, maybe it was just its time! They even closed up 2 seams that had opened on my fiddle, which I was unaware of! A good violin shop, to be sure.

May 29, 2024 - 8:14:10 AM

DougD

USA

11931 posts since 12/2/2007

Al - On the subject of spare bows and tip repairs: My first paying job as a fiddle player was as a "fiddling bear" in a theater production in 1997. I was so reluctant to do it that although it was four shows a week (alternating with another show) I split it with a friend so I just played two shows a week. It was really just a straight play, not a musical, and my character mostly just glided onstage and played underscoring solo fiddle for some scenes. It could have gone on without me, but they would have had to adapt a bit.
I was using the fiddle and bow I'd bought about twenty years earlier, and once we got the show up and rolling I looked at my little outfit and thought about what could go wrong. I had spare strings, bridge and maybe a tailpiece, but only one bow.
So I called my luthier friend and asked if he had anything I could use as a spare. He rented Chinese outfits through the schools and said the bows were so bad that he usually just threw them away, but he would give me one if I could use it. So I went over and quickly realized why he threw them away. I thought I could spend $100, and asked him if he had anything better. So he scurried around the shop and pulled 6 or 8 out of nooks and crannies. He laid them out and told me to try them while he went out to feed his animals. Two seemed much better to me than the others, and when he came back he said "Ah, very good taste!" Turned out my favorite was $750, but my second was $250, because he had repaired the tip with a spline (which you would never notice unless I pointed it out). He said otherwise it would have been about $850, and that he would stand behind the repair. So I stretched my budget a bit and bought it, and have used it ever since. My luthier died a few years ago, so I guess I'm stuck with it after 27 years. I've showed it to a few good players who immediately say its a really good bow.
Moral of this (not so) little tale: A serious tip repair drastically reduces the value of a bow, and is only worth it on a pretty good one. And of course, always carry a spare!
Good luck with yours.

Jun 9, 2024 - 2:15:53 PM
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275 posts since 11/26/2013

Bow repair was $100. New faceplate and the underplate too. Tiny bit of regluing the cracks. Re-hair was also $100. Once I rosin it up good ( there's a whole process I use), it will go back into the rotation.

Jun 9, 2024 - 3:05:53 PM

DougD

USA

11931 posts since 12/2/2007

Sounds like a good result for a $700 bow.

Jun 10, 2024 - 5:12:09 PM

275 posts since 11/26/2013

Right, Doug? I was getting verbal estimates from around that to almost $1000. Glad I was it was only $100. FOund out its a viola bow, maybe 3/8" longer then a fiddle bow. They weighed it, so I kept to the same weight when I bought another bow while there. Yes (head hanging down) I have BAS bow acquisition syndrome I suppose. I really like this new one, even more then the exploding one. Its got the same balls with a touch more spritelyness if thats a real word. Very sensitive to hair tightness I find. Not enough its almost flacid, too much and it sounds more like I am chopping wood, LOL. When its right, its wonderful and worth every penny of the $899. Gotta love octagonal bows. More personality then round ones, I feel.

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