Horsehair and Wood: Re-hairing a Violin Bow

The idea for producing musical sounds using a bow fitted with horsehair is thought to go back at least a thousand years to the nomadic horse cultures of Central Asia, while the modern violin bow was perfected in the mid-to-late 1700’s. With this rich history, bows are a fascinating mix of engineering, material, and refined craftsmanship and an essential element in bringing any great violin to life.  And why this interest in bows? With two dedicated teenage violinists in the house, bows are just a part of my life. From replacing or repairing the protective bone tips, to re-gripping the leather holds, to regular re-hairing, I’ve gotten to know and appreciate the intricate beauty and engineering of this amazing bit of of woodworking.  Anyhow, I recently re-haired both girls bows and thought you might enjoy a peek into what this is about.

Update 10/3/2013: It should be said that bow work is rather tricky and quite delicate and if you are interested in trying this yourself, be certain your bow is a cheap one — you could easily suffer a complete fail until you have gained experience! (Thanks to Andrew Bellis’ comment for pushing this point). The following is not meant as a tutorial, simply a chronicle of some of the work that I do.

Well, here’s a bow  and a very handy fixture for securely holding the bow while it’s being worked on.   It’s made to gently clamp the bow at the tip and frog end (the ebony grip is called the frog) and accommodate various length bows.

After inspecting the bow, I remove the frog from the stick and fold back the hair at the tip end in order to remove the small wooden plug that secures the hair to the bow tip.  The plug should not be glued in. It’s unique compound wedged shape allows it to lock in place due to the pulling action of the hair. Sometimes, however, it takes a bit of digging to remove the plug.  If it stays intact then I may reuse it.

The plug is quite small as you can appreciate in this picture!

Once the plug is removed the bundled hairs are pulled out of the mortise.  Now it is time to remove the old hairs from the frog.

The metal ferrule is a tight fit and needs to be pulled off carefully. I use a piece of rubber and a small vise.


The small triangle of wood is called the spreader — it serves to do just that — spread the hairs into an even band.  A drop of glue holds it in place and as a result they often get ruined during removal. I always replace these anyhow to ensure a proper fit with the new bundle of hair.

Next the abalone slide is removed.  It has angled edges that fit into the channel creating  a dovetailed way. These also can be recalcitrant due to tight fits and rosin buildups!


Fold back the hairs and the frog-end plug can be seen and then removed.

The frog is carefully cleaned, metal parts polished, and the channels for the slide are lubricated with graphite (pencil). After selecting and measuring a new hank of hair I tie the end off tightly with very strong thread. I use three clove hitches — a self binding knot – finished off with a reef knot.


The end is then dipped in powdered rosin.

Then the rosin is melted into the hair, using an alcohol lamp, while the heat also serves to swell the hair ends, locking them firmly in place.  All of these efforts are taken to prevent hairs from pulling out while the bow is in use.

You can start attaching the hair at either end, but I prefer to begin at the tip.  Insert the hair so the knot is settled at the bottom of the mortise and then takes a bend to come up the back wall.

Then insert the plug to capture the hair bundle.  I reused the old one which was  made of hard maple and still seemed serviceable despite the small chip in the corner. I always give firm pressure on the hank of hair at this point, simulating use, to be sure that the plug is working properly and will hold the hair in place.

After a bit of preliminary combing to straighten and spread the hairs evenly, I use a rubber band to pull the hairs down tightly at the tip.

Next, I wet the hairs, comb and tension them and tie off the frog end. Now is the time to thread the ferrule onto the hank. Slide it up out of the way.  Then the plug is inserted to capture the hank in the frog.

The frog is installed on the stick. The abalone slide is slipped into place and the ferrule is put back on — it goes on easily without the pressure of the spreader clamping it. Here is some mahogany that has been shaped for a spreader. I insert it as is and mark and score it a little oversize for length.

Finally, a dot of glue goes on the tip that will be against the ebony of the frog. the spreader is inserted into the ferrule, separated at the score mark and the hairs carefully fanned out and evenly distributed.  Then the spreader is pushed all the way home.

It’s a good job if the bow hairs all tighten up evenly when the bow is tensioned and all the hairs are properly aligned.

Until next time!


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102 Responses to Horsehair and Wood: Re-hairing a Violin Bow

  1. Rob says:

    This procedure resembles a delicate surgical operation. Thanks David.

  2. Jerry Rice says:

    Very informative. Great pictures. Would like to have dimensions for the bow holding jig. Thanks, Jerry

  3. Hello David,
    Bravo, well done! As a full time bow maker I must admit to cringing when I see posts regarding the bow. Often times the information given is not well thought out and can cause problems down the road for players and their bows. Not so with your post. If you want to make a frog someday check out my blog and follow along.
    Nice work, site, and books.
    All the best,

  4. John says:

    Superb pictures and explanation.


  5. Janet says:

    I am having work done on a violin and bow which I was recently given. The “store” said that the case would have to be replaced because of the “bugs” which have eaten the horse hair on the bow. I have never heard of this nor did I see anything resembling exoskeletons. Am I being lied to?

    • David Finck says:

      There is most definitely an insect that will eat through bow hairs. It is called a demestid or “museum bug”. Infestations seem to be prevalent in cases that are rarely opened (I am not commenting on your practicing habits!) as the insects like it dark. Likewise, it also seems that the case can be cleared of the infestation by exposure to several days of bright sunlight (while protecting the violin elsewhere of course). This seems like a good course of action to me. I would follow the music shop’s advice though and replace the case if you continue to lose hairs after airing it out.

  6. apple juice says:

    This is really interesting i bet i can do it to. =)

  7. Isla says:

    I am glad I have found this tutorial with very clear photographs. Would you please advise where the frog is positioned in the bow slot for measuring the length of the hair, would it be the closest to the grip? and where to cut the hairs off in relation to the frog’s mortise.
    Any help would much appreciated. Thank you so much.

    • David Finck says:

      Hello Isla — keep in mind that although I am sharing my work here, it is not intended as a tutorial. The treatment is in no way comprehensive. If you are diving in to this I hope you will practice well on student, or inconsequential bows. To answer your questions though — yes, the frog must be forward in the slot, closest to the grip. I make a mark on the hairs past the back end of the mortise, plus the thickness of the plug, towards the button, as the point to start tying the knot. The knot is tied and then the hairs cut off close to the knot.

      Hope this helps and good luck.


  8. Kay says:

    Is there a particular kind of wood (or woods) used in making the plugs? You mentioned this one was maple (and mahogany for the spreader), but are other types of woods acceptable? Thanks for this site. Very clear information.

  9. Andrea says:

    Hello, David.
    I’m trying myself to rehair a bow of mine. I was thighting the hair once, when the wood plug popped from the head of the bow, going where no man has gone before!
    It is the first rehair try and I’m almost shure the last, because things become really difficult when those little parts are to tight! I already have removed ferrule and the spreader wood from the frog, but the abalone slide is absolutely tight!
    Any tips to make its removal a little easier?
    Thanks in advance!

    • David Finck says:

      There are a lot of things that can go wrong with a bow rehair! To remove a tight slide try cutting two narrow strips of duct tape, about 1″ longer and slightly less than the width of the slide, and doubling them up for strength, then stick them down onto the slide. Pull on the excess tape while holding some pressure on the portion that is taped down to the slide — see if this give’s you enough purchase to loosen the slide. Failing that, remove the frog from he stick and dropper some alcohol or turpentine onto the margins of the slide where it meets the ebony of the frog — built up rosin dust is probably the culprit for your sticky situation and the solvents may loosen the deposit enough for the tape trick to work. There shouldn’t be much if any finish on the frog but do be aware that alcohol will damage a shellac finish. Turpentine is preferable as it won’t damage any normal finishes and is a pretty good solvent for the rosin. Clean the slide area well once it is off and graphite the dovetailed channels with a sharp pencil to keeps things sliding easily the next time around. Good luck!

      • Andrea says:

        Thanks a lot, David! Great tips, indeed!
        Unfortunately, turpentine had no effect to an absolutely GLUED slide! 🙁 Ended up broke.
        Nonetheless, frog is now clean and with graphited channels. Will buy another inlined abalone slide any soon and will keep playing the violin with the other bow that I have! No problem at all!
        Thx again!

  10. scott says:

    Great information.
    My question is which alcohol lamp to buy? Is the glass based lamp with a 3/16″ wick the one to buy?

    • David Finck says:

      That sounds like what I have — it does the job. A larger wick might be nice for more heat output if you were to perhaps try recambering a warped bow with heat from an alcohol lamp…

  11. mike meyers says:

    what kind of wood do you use for the plugs??? my wife is a fiddle player of 32 years and can not find a good rehair place so we are trying to learn the craft. any advice wood help thank you

    • David Finck says:

      I would use fairly hard wood with very fine grain that pares nicely for the plugs and something fairly soft for the spreader. There are many woods that fit this general criteria. I’ve used, pearwood and maple or cherry.

  12. Gilbert Gia says:

    Very pleased to see your work and encouraged to give a try on three old bows I inherited. Thank you.

  13. Very good photography, but PLEASE don’t carry out work like this unless you have been shown how to do it by a bow maker. Remember, the bow may be worth much more than you think, and the slightest slip with a tool could harm it. Bows are very delicate items. For instance, I see from the speckles in the wood use for the spreader wedge that it is the wrong wood – far too hard. Use lime (basswood). The reason there isn’t much written material on bow work is because it has to be seen ‘live’.

    • David Finck says:

      Thank you for your comments Andrew. You spurred me to update and and include thoughts along your lines. With this bow, I simply replaced the spreader with the type of wood that was used previously — a softish mahogany. An even softer wood, such as basswood as you suggest, would be a better choice for its compressibility. However, if the fit is good and the purpose served without harm to the bow, then there is nothing terribly wrong. I also feel that there are a vast number of junky bows out there needing work that a person could safely build their skills on!

  14. Anita Sterling says:

    I recently got back into playing the violin after a 55 year hiatus. I had been given an old violin that has been sitting around my house for @20 years. The bow hairs were eaten away when I recently opened the case. I learned about the bug that does that from my instructor and we are in the process of cleaning the case. I really appreciated your response about the demestid bugs and how to treat the case after cleaning it. We will put it in the sun (of course, without the violin). Thank you so much!

    • David Finck says:

      Let’s hope the sunning does the trick. My dad started in with the violin after 60 year vacation. Best of luck to you getting started. He eventually shifted over to viola

  15. josh says:

    I acquired some horse hair from a friend and was planning to rehair a cheap bow. Should I wash the hair first? Would the natural oils in the hair inhibit the hair from taking rosin?

  16. Max says:

    Great guide, David! I apprenticed to a luthier for nearly four years and could not have done a better job myself. My only recommendation is to notch a small block of wood then line that with a bit of soft leather to hold the head of the bow instead of just clamps – many a good bow has been lost by the head snapping off accidentally and this will help alleviate the pressure.

  17. Ken Roach says:

    Wonderful Article! and many thanks. I have one question. Does the little wooden plug that holds the hair on the bow’s tip have a name? Mine was lost and I wondered if it’s possible to order a new one or should I try to make it? Thanks so much.
    Sincerely, Ken

    • David Finck says:

      That would typically be called (surprise!) the “tip plug”. Plug material is sold, but every plug must be accurately fitted to the mortise of the particular bow.

      • Bill says:

        All these demonstrations, the guy is always lucky and reuses the old plugs, so we never get to see how to make one 🙂

        • David Finck says:

          That’s probably a good observation, however, making a plug is no more that trimming it to fit accurately! How is that done? With very sharp tools! Experienced re-hairers may use a knife; I am more comfortable with a chisel. I get the bottom (narrow end) and sides to fit right with the plug cut a little long. Once those fits are perfected I cut the top edge (widest). I hold the plug with the tip of a sharp knife pushed into the plug so I can also pick it up and try the fit. I trim the length of the plug until the little wood gauge I made, which corresponds to the width of the slot of my Herdim hair gauge, is a nice slip fit. Hope that helps a bit!

  18. Rod says:

    Could you please clarify how much hair to use for a violin and viola. The hank I have looks like it might be too much.

    • David Finck says:

      Pre-measured hanks typically oversupply the amount of hair required. Once your tip plug is fitted you should end up with a gap where the hair will exit from the tip — it should be about 1 mm wide and, of course, the width of the mortice. You should select just enough hair to fill that gap. Herdim makes a handy little metal gauge (available from luthier supply shops) that is simply a flat tab with an open-ended 1 mm slot milled in it that corresponds to the gap I described above. One would mark the width of the mortice on the gauge then fill up the slot in the gauge with horsehair until you hit the mark on the gauge — that’s how much hair is needed. Let me know if you need a photo or two.

  19. Melvin Gilhaus says:

    This is the best information I have seen on bow rehairing. It is full of good information. Here are a couple of observations:

    I have been re-hairing student and professional violinists bows for 20+ years and it never ceases to amaze me how many bows come to me with the hair glued in. I have often thought of charging extra (I don’t, I just mutter unrepeatable things under my breath) for the labor involved. The half-lined frogs seem to be the worst.

    If you have old cello bridges in your shop, they make very good frog and tip plugs. Just make sure that the grain is going in the same direction as the hair.

    Removing abalone or mother-of-pearl slides, I have a sized mounting base with a clamp to hold the frog and I use a large rubber eraser and a mallet to gently tap the slide. Once started, I finish the job with my thumbnail.

  20. I play my fiddle outside, like to take fiddle for walks and lose hair so much hair. Need to figure out how to do this. Find rosin and hair less effected by humidity. Thanks for the post and fine set of pictures.

  21. A. H. Miceli says:

    I am having difficulties combing the hair properly without having a lot of loose hairs after I tie off the frog end. Dampening the hair seemed to help and combing it from the tip end, but we still end up with a lot of looses hair. How can I maintain an even bundle by the time I get to the frog end?

    • David Finck says:

      If the trouble is with your combing technique you must learn from anyone with long hair — start combing at the free end and work your way back towards the knot. If you are already doing that and hairs are pulling out then your ties are not tight enough. It’s a little hard to say though without knowing precisely what you are doing.

      • George says:

        I am a bow maker and restorer, for my sins!
        Thanks for this guide, and the possibility to get involved with this discussion too.
        As for glueing, though…I have to say that I do not understand why anyone would advise the use of glue on the hair spreader wedge at the frog lip.
        Why? Because the next rehairer has to be able to remove the ring, etc. Plus it is not necessary at all for firm fitting.
        Any glue used, as well as using burnished rosin on the ends of the ties of the hair hank ends will cause a problem in that time will solder it to the mortise sides and corrode the hair ends and will act just like glue.

        • David Finck says:

          I like to glue with white (PVA) glue on both sides of the wedge for two reasons. As the spreader wedge goes in and it tightens up on the hairs it can grab them and pull them into the frog a bit creating some slack under the slide. When the hairs are subsequently cycled between tightened and loosened it is possible for that slack to get pulled back out and loosen the spreader wedge. In this capacity then, the glue acts as a temporary lubricant allowing the wedge to slip into place without pulling the hairs along at all. I also like the extra security of that dab of glue holding the wedge to the ebony to keep it in place. I have never experienced a difficulty removing the ferrule due to a glued wedge.

  22. John Cockman says:

    Hi David, when you receive the hank, is the root or tip end of the hair specified? Can you distinguish root from tip? If so, do luthiers have a preference of hair direction? I have read that some will start with the root end of the hair at the bow tip, so that the tip end of the hair gets trimmed off at the frog. I have also read that some luthiers used to alternate hair directions. Does anyone still do this? Thanks! John

    • David Finck says:

      Hi John — That’s a great question. Every hank I have received is knotted at the root end. The tips of the hair are identifiable because they taper to a point (they usually darken towards the tip as well). There are two premises for making a choice of which way to orient the hairs or to jumble them. Horsehair is seen to have a scale structure (like shingles on a roof) going from the root to the tip). Some have thought that this accounts for the “grippiness” of horsehair on the string and would be a good argument for jumbling the direction of the scales so you get similar grip in both bowing directions. However, the scales are so small (.5um) in relation to the hair diameter that they present a flat surface to the hair. It is the chemical nature of the hair protein that attracts and holds the rosin, and it is the stickiness of the rosin that gives the bow hairs grip on the string. The other consideration is strength. As mentioned, the bow hairs taper to the tip, especially over the last couple of inches, so for the strongest hair it is best to trim off (waste) hair more from the tip than from the root. Since players can exert more force on the frog end of the bow than out at the tip of the bow I orient the root of the the hair all at the frog end of the bow. This scientific article by Francoise Rocaboy has an excellent discussion of these points along with some (not very helpful) electron micrographs. Here’s a link to an excellent micrograph of a horse mane hair:–equus-caballus-/science-image/80019138. I actually had trouble finding micrographs of horse tail hair, but almost all micrographs of mammal hair seem to show this same scale structure. Finally, I have an instructional DVD on bow rehairing and the presenter divides the hank and reverses half the hairs, so there a probably a fair amount of people doing this if they follow his lead.

  23. Nita Kinney says:

    I have two baroque bows. Both lacking hair. Because we are on SS, bow rehairs are out of our budget and my husband is rehairing my modern composite bow but is defeated by the difficulty of making a wooden plug for the baroque bows. They just won’t stay in. I had one professionally rehaired and the plug fell out after a month. What is the secret?

    • David Finck says:

      Well, of course, accuracy of fit is everything. Properly done, the plug will sit in the mortise with no gaps at the sides or the face nearest the frog and no force is required to have it sit level with the bow tip — just a slight push. The gap at the opposite end must correspond to the correct amount of hair and then the correct amount of hair must be used so that too much hair does not create a jammed fit for the plug. Finally, the details of the mortise itself must be correct — nice flat walls correctly angled and undercut sufficiently at the tip. Takes some practice to get this all right! When it is right, the slightest tension on the bow hairs will serve to lock the plug in the mortise due to the undercut wall at the tip.

      • Penny. says:

        Hi David,
        I looked you up when trying to find some consensus on the amount of bowhair to use. I am a violin restorer and do a limited amount of rehairs too. I find that bow rehairing is one of the more difficult tasks strangely, maybe because there are quite a few operations involved in the process requiring different skills. When I was learning to rehair we were told to count the number of hairs as a guide to how much to use but this is very slow and not very accurate. I think it is difficult to assess because the tip end is much narrower than the ferrule end and I have ended up with what I would consider too thin a ribbon when I put the spreader in and have ended up starting again! Also the hair appears to thicken up when rosined so there seems to be quite a lot of guesswork as to how much hair to use. I would value your opinion of how to accurately assess how much hair is needed. I’ve used the Herdim gauge but can’t get on with it unfortunately.
        PS When I seal the knotted ends I use superglue after flaming the ends (very carefully as it spreads quickly down the hair). While the knot is still reasonably wet with the glue I hammer it flat so that it fits into the box leaving more room for the wedge and you then don’t need to cut a groove on the bottom of the wedge. I used to use rosin but it breaks up and stops doing its job.
        I thank you very much for all the answers that you have given people as they are very accurate and helpful and I think show how difficult good rehairing is. I wouldn’t encourage any amateur to do it though as there is far too much to go wrong.
        With regard to the ‘woollybears’ that eat your bowhair in the case, I usually remove all the old bowhair, give the case a careful and thorough vacuuming, then spray with an insecticide spray (choosing the least nasty type) and close the case for a day or two to take effect. I then totally dispose of the bow hair (in a sealed plastic bag) including that attached to the bow so the problem is eliminated. Its a shame to get rid of a good case uneccessarily.
        Once again thanks for all the info.

        • David Finck says:

          I made a little wooden gauge that is the same thickness as the Herdim hair gauge. When I trim my bow-tip plug I make certain that the gap between the plug and mortise front wall is a nice slip fit. Then, I mark the width of that gap on the hair gauge and fill the gauge with hair to that mark (I have also already rejected bad hairs). This process gives me a consistent ribbon thickness that I am satisfied with. Thanks for you comments!

  24. Daniel Wise says:

    Hi, a big thank you for this, I found very useful! A question: what about flaming the hair after a rehair? I’ve heard many suggest this operation as a must do, is there really a need to do it? In order to obtain what? Another question comes from my issues on obtaining a good tip plug, when I press it down to capture hair it either holds too weak (and as I twist the button to tighten hair, it comes out) or eventually I break it for applying too much pressure… Don’t know if this happens because of wood I’m using (I tried with willow, now I turned into much harder juniper, but stil having problems) or because of too short thickness of the plug I realized, or even uncorrect grain direction (I keep it parallel to direction of hair, but it breaks in two when I press it…) What’s your suggestion about it? Again, many many thanks!

    • David Finck says:

      Hi Daniel — I believe most people rehair with wet hair as it is easier to handle. Flaming is usually done to to help tighten stray hairs that are looser than the rest of the bundle, after the bow is initially tightened. Some folks rehair with dry hair, then wet the hair and flame it to get the hairs tightened up. Here’s a decent video on that approach: Caution! It is easy to overdo it and weaken the hair or even burn the stick so practice on your own cheapo bows if you want to give this a try!

      The plug problems you describe just sound like poor fit (sorry) to me. When all the angles are cut correctly (not easy!) and sized correctly, the plug will fit easily and stay in place. It is also very important that the gap for the hair be correctly sized to the amount of hair you are using — if the gap is undersized or you are using too much hair, the wedge won’t fit because of the extra hair. If the plug is breaking from pressure — beware! — you got lucky — it is just as easy to rupture the walls of the bow tip. On the other hand, your plug may be excessively weak because it is too thin (perhaps the mortise is also not deep enough — inexpensive bows can have many ills). Plugs can be made from hard wood, even brass, so it is the fit that defines its functionality not so much its material. Hope this helps a bit.

  25. David says:

    Hi David,
    As everyone has said, great article, thanks.
    Two quick questions: can you recommend a supplier for individual hanks of hair, or if not, what price range would you have to pay for hair of reasonable quality. I’m assuming that the hair quality will be a significant factor in the final quality of the re-hair.
    Second, have you a link that demonstrates the end tying process. I’ve had two goes with limited success.
    Thanks again.

    • David Finck says:

      I have used International Violin out of Baltimore, MD for individual hanks. No links for tying off. Some folks use wire, some wrap tightly with button thread (strong) and tie off. I use 3-4 cloves hitches as each turn is self-locking to a degree, and tie off with a reef knot. Then I drill a hole in a piece of scrap that is slightly larger in diameter than the knot and about 1/2 as deep as the length of the knot, fill this with thin super glue and dip the knot in the glue, then hit it with accelerator to cure the glue quickly. The hole and glue trick are essential to prevent an excess of glue from wicking up the hairs past the knot and causing a hardened mass of hair where you don’t want it!

  26. Cowan William says:

    Very professional presentation and encouraging article. Inspires me to have a go with some poor quality bows I have collected. Have you any advice on how I could repair bent bows?

    • David Finck says:

      Thanks Cowan. To my knowledge (ie. I have not done it myself!), bows are re-cambered by applying heat in the form of an alcohol lamp or hot air gun and bending on a form or using a wooden roller (like a sheave). Too much heat and the finish singes and wood scorches, not enough and the wood fails to plasticize and disaster ensues (breakage!). I would try this if the bow is so cheap that even if properly repaired it would still be worth less than the cost of repair. Bear in mind that cheap bows would likely be made with the worst bow wood, which is liable to give you problems with bending and may be the reason for the now needed repair. Good luck!

  27. Dan White says:

    David, you mention a DVD. Could you give us the title and perhaps where to get it? Thanks! Dan.

  28. Chloe Verlatin says:

    Where would I buy a new bow hair spreader? I would prefer if it was cheap.

  29. Trisha DiBlasi says:

    I have a source for buying rehairing supplies.
    Try Ms. Hannings has been making and repairing bows for 45 years. She has a wonderful supply list and has great quality items. You will find everything you need for rehairing bows. She uses the BEST horse hair.

  30. Lily says:

    i was tightening my viola bow and the plug popped out, i have the plug, i tried putting it back but as soon as i tighten it a little it pops out.what do i do

    • David Finck says:

      Whatever you do DO NOT glue it in place! The fact that it came out probably indicates that either the plug is cut incorrectly or that the mortise itself is cut incorrectly. I think you will need to take it to a competent bow rehairer or take the time to learn how to do it yourself, however, if this is a good bow or your only bow I would not practice on this one! It is very easy to damage a bow. Sorry I cannot be of more help to you.

      • Lily says:

        thank you, is it making it any worse that the plug is not wooden but -plastic?

        • David says:

          Plastic is definitely a problem and requires a perfect fit to be functional as it is so hard and slick. Wood, having a little give and a more frictional surface is more forgiving though very good fit is still a requirement.

  31. Gerard Vaughan says:

    I came across your excellent little instruction here whilst looking for hair, and thank you much for it !.
    I have have had some success as a clueless performer at this task, but your lesson showed how it Could be done.
    The holding-jig ! – of course ! – and how to treat the bundle in the Tip. Trying to get no slack hairs was very frustrating ! One time I started at the Nut-end – bad move !!
    So that has saved me – and possibly others ! – further tears and frustration, I am sure.
    Can you suggest a supplier of hair – other than an un-suspecting horse ?

  32. I’m in awe of the work you do and yet my intention is simply collect for recycling purposes old/unuseable bow hair.
    I am a visual artist who has been drawing, photographing, painting recitals and performances of a special group of young musicians who have brought much needed
    culture to our neighborhood. I would like to incorporate used bow hair into the artwork.
    The authenticity of the rosin bow hair is integral to the process rather than finding some unsuspecting horse and giving him/her a haircut.

    Would I be fantasizing if I thought it would be as simple as offering to sweep a floor of dismissed bow hair? I could sweep.

    I would appreciate any ideas or direction.

    Thank you,

    • David Finck says:

      Interesting comment! I think you would have good luck contacting any busy violin shop in your area with their own bow re-hair specialist and you would be tangled up in quite a bit of hair in short order.

  33. Susan says:

    Dear David,
    I am rehairing a cello bow, and the pearl slide is STUCK tight in the frog. I tried a little alcohol, and a little acetone– I put in on the short hairs sticking out, hoping it would wick it in to any glue in there. Still stuck. If I completely soak it in acetone, I’m sure the mother of pearl will fall off the ebony liner. I’ve taken a bow rehair class, but have not had a “repair” class. I do not know how to make and fit a new liner if I end up braking it, I realize they are not all standard sized, correct? If I have to glue on the mop to the liner, what it the best glue to use for this? I have tried your other removal ideas here in this blog without success. Any other ideas before I do an acetone soak? Thanks for help!! S

    • David Finck says:

      One other solvent you might try is xylene, which is very effective for dissolving rosin. If AR or PVA glue is the culprit (yellow and white carpenter glue) then vinegar will soften these glues. One other strategy I might try as a last ditch effort, glue a small block of wood to the slide with medium viscosity CA glu. This will allow you to get a lot more purchase on the slide after introducing more solvents to the joint. If you are able to get the slide out then used CA remover (which I think is primarily acetone), repeatedly applying to the joint of the block with slide to remove the block. If you have some hide glue, alternatively you can glue the wood block with a piece of paper between the block and slide. For removal, ease the block off the slide with a sharp chisel and the paper will split at the joint. The glue can then be removed from the slide by keeping a wet piece of cloth on it for a while, then wiping off glue and paper. Good luck!

      • Susan says:

        Thanks much for the great ideas!! Shortly after I made the first post, I DID finally get the slide to budge. I “soaked” it a little more in Acetone, and then worked a little harder, tugging, pushing, etc. It turns out…it was poorly made. the slide and ebony liner were actually not perfectly rectangular. The liner was slightly “V” shaped. No wonder I had so much trouble. I sanded the sides to slightly shape it correctly, and used graphite to lubricate the heck out of it, and got it working not completely smooth, but at least better! The next hurdle was discovering that the frog wedge was made of metal!! That’s a newby! Getting that out was very tough, but I did get it out. Made a normal wood wedge, and just got the “Bow from Hell” finished this morning. Lucky me, I have one more bow exactly like this one, as these 2 bows belong to twin girls that have the exact same bow. Thanks again for the good ideas, I have a feeling I’ll use your ideas for the second bow.

  34. Susan says:

    Update-the 2nd twin’s bow which was by the same maker–the mop slide just slid right out with very little force. This bow also had the hard to remove metal frog wedge.

  35. Ryan says:

    Thanks so much for documenting this! I just re-haired my Viola bow using this as a reference. Thanks to you, going in I knew what to expect, and what sort of tricks to use to overcome all the little difficulties on the way. I used some packing tape to remove the slide – couldn’t have been easier! Rubber bands at the tip over the hair… I had to carve new plugs for the tip and the frog ends, which was a job in itself. No help there, but then again, I suppose each one is unique. I used mahogany for both. The spreader wasn’t glued in (the original was mahogany to boot), and I re-used it as is. I did not glue it, the press fit seemed sufficient.

    The overall results are incredible! I couldn’t be happier with the outcome! I believe the hair on the bow was the original from when it was manufactured – about 10 years old. The old hair, compared to the new is extremely brittle, no stretch to it. I only played about 15 minutes with the new hair, and am trying to get rosin worked into it to get the bite back, but already, the sound quality is orders of magnitude better! Soft, gentle and sweeter!

    Honestly, the most challenging part was getting all the hairs lined up and equally tensioned. This being prior to attaching the hair at the frog. I combed it and re-tied it over and over until it met my expectations.

    Thanks Again –

    • David Finck says:

      Congratulations Ryan — I am glad you had good luck with the process. I’d say your success has more to do with your own skills than the information found in my article, which is, as you note, incomplete. I would like to restate to others that it is very easy for a beginner to destroy a bow and reiterate that the intent of the article is to present an overview rather than a “how-to”. Practice on low-value bows if you are diving in to this!

  36. Stewart says:

    Dear David,
    It is very considerate of you to share your knowledge; thank you.
    I have had an old bow re haired by a professional but have had two disappointing results.
    First the hair was too tight; then stretched to become too loose; now I am told the stick is too flexible and requires some calculation to arrive at a suitable number of hairs and a suitable tension. What is going wrong ?

    • David Finck says:

      Hi Stewart,
      I wouldn’t make any diagnoses without the bow in front of me, but would council you to get a second opinion or try another re-hairer. A good bow maker might re-camber the stick to combat a soft stick, but I don’t feel that issue would be suitably addressed by the quantity of hairs employed in the rehair. To my mind, the reasonable amount of hairs employed to achieve a suitable ribbon and then knotted at the correct length of the time of year (considering ambient humidity) gives a correct re-hair regardless of the stick’s flexibility or camber – those are separate issues. I hope I haven’t just revealed my ignorance on the topic, but keep in mind that I am neither a bow maker nor greatly experienced bow re-hairer!

  37. David Dyott says:

    Dear David,
    Greatly enjoyed your article. I have attended the bow making class with Lynn Hannings the past two summers and am trying to locate fuel for the alcohol lamp. That which we used in class was top quality, but I haven’t found it available except in bulk cases. I was wondering what type alcohol you found suitable?

  38. Diva says:

    What is the characteristic of the hair bow? Can we use another hair which isnt from horse?

    • David Finck says:

      Graded horsehair holds rosin, is long, strong, elastic, and free from irregularities. If you have access to other hair or material that approximates those qualities it may be useable. Let me know what you come up with!

    • Jason A Adams says:

      There is a product called Hervex a synthetic hair. The product comes advertised as orchestra quality and superior to horse hair in every way but I could find no comparisons or reviews on it anywhere. I did find one site that stated that the synthetics were horrible to the point even a beginner would be able to tell. I accidentally got some while getting materials to practice rehairing with but I haven’t tried it yet I still have white horse hair to work with. But since I am a guitar luthier and a beginner fiddler I will try it and post a review on YouTube when I get a chance.

  39. Jason A Adams says:

    Skill points for those who are wanting to give it a try.
    1. The tying of the hair.
    2. The plug making.
    3. The wetting and combing of the hair and maintaining it while tying off. For an even tension across all hairs.
    4. Familiarity with the tooling and being able to use it.

    Sounds simple right? I am a guitar luthier TRYING to learn this art and all the videos make it look simple but the above are what I have identified as the key skill areas besides know the hair types and quality.

    • admin says:

      To your item 3. above I would add tying off the hair to the correct length, as well. This needs to take into account the position of the frog, the thickness of the plug at the end you are finishing with and expected ambient humidity. An even more sophisticated job will also pack the hairs a little thicker on the the side of the bow that the player favors (the same for violin and viola; the opposite for ‘cello and double bass). The people I’ve watched who have done 10,000+ rehairs do make it look rather simple!

  40. Joseph Mattingly says:

    Would a propane torch work as a substitute for the alcohol lamp?

  41. Michael Kolb says:

    “Now is the time to thread the ferrule onto the hank. Slide it up out of the way”.

    Oh, but I had a good chuckle at this! As a novice, one of the most sinking feelings is to get both ends of the new hank measured, tied, combed and plugged …. only to see the ferrule winking at me from the edge of the workbench! Aaarrrgh!!

  42. RonRoss says:

    Hello David, At age 70 with no training, I started re- hairing bows for our old-time fiddler group. As I am not a violin player, I lacked the reverence and belief in the mystical ,thereby was able to do a good clean job.
    A good demo on your part. Just a little research, and careful workmanship is all that is required. A good sharp knife and a farmer’s basic physics does help.
    You do all a service , by encouraging self confidence.

  43. Randi says:

    Thank you so much! The hair at the head end of my bow suddenly popped out, and I thought I’d have to get it repaired or buy a new one. With your wonderful explanations and photos I realized the plug had come out. I found it and replaced it and it’s fixed! (And now I appreciate all that goes into rehairing a bow and will happily pay for that service when/if I need it!)

  44. ludwigvan_.beethoven says:

    The bugs can be discouraged by placing moth balls
    Into your case. I would like to learn to do this but need to know tools needed where to find them. Where can

    • admin says:

      Moth Balls are composed of either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, two chemicals that I would rather not inhale! Sunlight is effective at ridding the pest

  45. ludwigvan_.beethoven says:

    I do not feel competent to do this with a valuable bow I inherited. Where can I find some to do this who can do a professional job.

  46. Jessie Turner says:

    Hi David,

    Thanks very much for sharing your notes.

    The hair, which is attached to the plug at the tip, keeps falling out of the tip. I thought at first that some glue must have dried out and thats why the plug keeps coming out, even under tension, but now I’m thinking that I should push the plug in a little deeper. Should the hair actually be attached to the plug…does it make any difference in the longevity of the bow?



    • admin says:

      If the hair is falling out at the tip then the either the plug, the mortise, or both are incorrectly shaped. The mortise should be undercut and the plug shaped to fit such that tension on the hair causes the plug to pivot (not visibly) and to tighten onto the hairs. Never glue in a plug – that creates a real headache for the next rehair job! It should not take much pressure to push the plug in such that it is flush with the tipping material (usually plastic, bone, or metal) — and this must be done carefully as it is pretty easy to crack the tip if overdone!

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