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Bow Hair Cleaning
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TerryG
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December 22, 2011 - 3:23 am
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So I have been curious about cleaning a bow I have. It is a used bow I received with my violin. There is some building up around both ends of the bow. The bow is still fine and I believe plays well. But I've heard that most just re-hair the bow. So I did some research and found some say the best, and only, way to clean your bow hair is to use denatured alcohol and Kleenex. I read there are two kinds of denatured alcohol: wood and ethyl; ethyl (190-200 proof grain) is the best. In some states it's available only in liquor stores. Other denatured alcohol can be bought in paint stores. I've also read where some use horse hair shampoo per say. All have said consistently do not get any on the wood but mine is a cheap fiberglass bow. One person even wrote he used sand paper with a grit of 320 or higher and just barely touch the hair. A one pass deal and just a whisper of a touch he stated. 

  Also some have said they haven't rehaired their bow in years because they clean it. And yet some say because they practice 3-5 hours per day they get it done every six months. So I'm not sure what to think.

  Is it actually possible to clean the bow hair and make it last for years?

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
December 22, 2011 - 9:18 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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I've heard similar advice to what have read but I don't get too concerned about the build up. I guess I rehair my bow too often to get that kind of grim build up.
I have been rethinking my way of doing things lately. For example, I was selling those CF bows, which btw, I have one in my case permanently and am using it on all kinds of gigs, and it costs me the same amount of money that the rehair costs. I spend $50 for re-hairing my bow every 8 weeks and last time I replaced the leather and of course had to get some fancy skin that cost me $80 making the service on my bow $130. This CF bow is fantastic and I don't have to worry about breaking the tip as I have done with expensive bows for example. Just use it for 8 weeks and throw it away or give it to a poor student.
Just out of curiosity, could you post a small picture of what it looks like now. Maybe you should just clean those two areas with the build up. I use rubbing alcohol for my fingerboard and that takes excess rosin off real easy. Has there been any discussion about using rubbing alcohol?

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Kevin M.
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December 22, 2011 - 9:29 am
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Having so many animals here I have a lot of alcohol preps. They are little paper wipes with alcohol used before giving injections. These things are real cheap and easy to use and keep in the case.  A little wipe and the strings are clean and the finger board is clean.

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TerryG
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December 23, 2011 - 12:38 am
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I agree on NOT using the rubbing alcohol. The post I've read specifically state 'denatured alcohol'. And the ethyl type not the wood type. But I'll post a pic when I get a chance this weekend.

How do I post a pic in the body of a message?

 

And FM..Every EIGHT weeks! I'd have to get a second job. Then I'm starting to wonder if those posters who state they have been using the same bow, without a rehairing, for years might be fibbing a little. But then again, maybe they only play 10 minutes per month.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
December 23, 2011 - 7:12 am
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I'm exaggerating a little since I don't work that much during the summer. But still very expensive. Winter is about 8 weeks 🙁
It's not that I wear the hair so that I can't get a sound, it's that the hairs begin to break of and once they do, they break off fast. Once they begin, after about 8 weeks of playig, I can break all the hairs off in a couple of weeks if I play hard enough. Kind of like that video someone posted with the guy playing Orange Blossom Special smile
I think it will be better with the CF bows since there is so much more arch keeping the stick away from the strings when playing strongly.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Kevin M.
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December 23, 2011 - 10:42 am
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Barry said

My 2 cents :

 

I wouldnt recommend using the alcohol wipes on the hair. Ive cleaned a couple using johnsons baby shampoo with great success . with a CF bow you need not worry about getting the stick wet, but with wood bows I take precautions to keep it dry. Plastic wrap like you put over a casserole dish seems to work well for me.

after washing and rinsing I pat dry and tighten the bow just enough to form the hair into a straight band  (not as tight as you would using it)  Then I let it dry in room temp 24 hours and rerosin.

violin

PS. guess I should explain why Im against the alcohol wipes...LOL.  Ive found that while it does break down the rosin and is good for the occasional string cleaning  on hair it seem to create a sticky film you just spread around. also I wouldnt use it on fingerboards or the violin itself or you will soon notice dull spots as I found out from experience.

Sorry if I was misunderstood.  I only meant to use the alcohol wipes on the strings and fingerboard.  Alcohol and wood finishes don't usually go well together.

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QuicheLoraine
Nashville, TN
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December 29, 2011 - 1:13 pm
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Just chiming in here...

Glasser bows are good fiberglass bows w/ horsehair, inexpensive enough to replace easily, cheaper than rehairing, and because there is no wood they are the easiest to clean.  

I have two Glasser fiberglass bows, one I use, the other as a backup. To clean the horsehair, I remove the nut, and separate the frog from the stick, and use dish soap, a green scrubby, hot water and my fingers. I find this removes most of the gunk and dirt, and then I can towel dry it, reattach the frog, leaving it loose while drying. My orchestra teacher years ago suggested this

I would think you could do this with a carbon bow too as long as you are careful about not getting the frog wet (if it is wood).  

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Oliver
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December 29, 2011 - 3:17 pm
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Wow, a Glasser fan.  I thought I was the only one left.   Wonder why people want  to clean the hair?  Sometimes I do a light alcohol wipe for frog crud but that's it.

coffee2

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
December 29, 2011 - 5:07 pm
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I kind of like it when the hair is nice and black by the frog and what not 😉

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Oliver
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December 29, 2011 - 8:15 pm
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Inspired by this thread I just alcohol cleaned my STRINGS which is now a big mistake.  All the rosin came off dazed

 

But relative to the original topic , another reason I don't clean bow hair is that I don't have the patience to rejuvenate the rosin content to the point from which I just labored to remove it so it will sound pretty much like it did before.

dazed

 

coffee2

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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QuicheLoraine
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December 29, 2011 - 9:32 pm
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Oliver said

Inspired by this thread I just alcohol cleaned my STRINGS which is now a big mistake.  All the rosin came off dazed

 

But relative to the original topic , another reason I don't clean bow hair is that I don't have the patience to rejuvenate the rosin content to the point from which I just labored to remove it so it will sound pretty much like it did before.

dazed

 

coffee2

-ha! I think I frequently rosin my bow from the strings- ha! Might be what keeps them from unraveling. 

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Oliver
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December 29, 2011 - 10:48 pm
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Good point!

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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DragonLady
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February 13, 2012 - 3:11 pm
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I have only one bow that came with my violin, should I clean it or buy a new one? It looks nasty near the frog but all the horse hair looks yellowish and the wire around the stick is a little lose. 

16 years of experience and relearning.

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Oliver
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February 13, 2012 - 6:10 pm
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Used bows always look nasty at the frog.

How does it sound?

It doesn't hurt to clean the hair except that re-rosining is a pain.  If it does not work for some reason at least you will know more about what to do.

I've often read of people using regular hair shampoo to clean the hair and that sounds harmless enough (?)

Do you have a preferred method?

I am a maverick about all this and I sometimes just run a length of masking tape down the length of the hair and then pull off the tape dazed

coffee2

PS  I know some very good amateurs who only plan hair cleaning at intervals of years!

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Kevin M.
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February 13, 2012 - 6:23 pm
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If you are happy with how the bow plays and feels, I would leave it alone. Don"t fix what aint broken.  If it's a bow you got with an inexpensive violin and the winding is loose you can wind the windings back up then just use some clean varnish on it to keep it there. Looking at the frog it looks like an inexpensive bow and if you are not happy with it I would say to look into buying a carbon fiber bow from fiddlershop.com. Right now he has a coupon code somewhere on the forums for 10percent off.

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DragonLady
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February 13, 2012 - 9:16 pm
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I'm plan on buying a fiberglass bow for a back up just in case this one brakes. 

16 years of experience and relearning.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
February 13, 2012 - 10:02 pm
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You may want to try my Carbon Fiber bow someday. I have a few cheap bows that I can almost give away too.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Fiddlestix
Michigan, USA
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February 14, 2012 - 12:45 am
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Cleaning bow hair is a rather simple procedure. Like Fiddlerman, I use Isopropyl rubbing alcohol on all four of my bows. I remove the frog, then wind the hairs in a circle about a 4" diameter, lay the circle of hairs down in a soup bowl with about 3/4" of alcohol. The hairs that do not touch the liquid I use a very soft brush to dab the hairs. I leave them in the solution for about 4 to 5 minutes then remove them, with a soft paper towel I blot the hairs to dry them. I let the bow hairs dry  completely for about a hour before re-rosining them, the alcohol evaporates and dries very quickly.  I do this about once a month to my bows, the violin strings I clean once a week, cleaning the strings and fingerboard with a soft cloth and alcohol. Amazing what a difference it will make and the rubbing alcohol doesn't hurt a thing. If you look at a microscopic view of the horse hair, it looks like scales overlapping each other, they are very porrous and fill with rosin easily, and you know what happens when you have too much rosin on the hair. Powdered rosin can be used to apply to the hairs after cleaning, as for me, I just rosin both side of the hair. You'll know if you have them completely clean, as when you draw the bow over the strings there is absolutely no sound whatsoever. I hope this post helps, don't be afraid, it's easy. 

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Kevin M.
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February 14, 2012 - 8:47 am
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Welcome to Fiddlerman.com.  I read your profile and loved the part about selling seeds.  I did the same thing to buy a bb gun when I was a kid. Your picture is great.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
February 14, 2012 - 10:10 am
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Actually I use rubbing alcohol for cleaning the fingerboard but I haven't ever cleaned the hair on my bow. But that rubbing alcohol does an incredible job at removing old sticky rosin so I imagine it does a great job on the hair as well and your method seems to insure not getting alcohol on the stick 🙂

The reason that I do not clean the hair on my bow is that I break hair off my bow so fast that I end up rehairing way before I ever have the thought of cleaning it.
When I play a lot I can rehair the bow after 6 weeks.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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