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Bow modifications
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DanielB
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May 31, 2012 - 6:48 am
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cdennyb posted an article in his reply in this thread:  http://fiddlerman.com/forum/le.....nd/#p23634

It is quite interesting, if you wade through the 200 or so pages of it.  But mainly some parts of it got me to thinking about bows in general.  I think that many of us have a sort of typical made in China bow that came "free" with a violin.  Often it is one of the very first things we upgrade to something at least a little nicer.  In my case, I kept the "free" bow as a back-up and also use it to give my bowing hand/arm a bit of a workout, because it is heavier and stiffer than the nicer bow I bought.

The article mentions the possibility of removing the "silver" wrap from a bow as one option for changing the weight and balance.  I am not going to rush into that, but it got me to thinking.  The parts of the bow are somewhat replaceable or customizable.  Maybe the "old hands" here know some tricks on that topic? 

But mostly it got me to thinking of the old "free" bow(s) as raw material for a bit of DIY customization and experimentation.  It was included "free", so nothing to lose really.  And assuming one kept one or more of the old 'free" bows around (as opposed to using them to prop open windows or beat the neighbor's dog), many people would have at least one of them around to use for such tinkering.

With my "free" bow, the most noticeable different is weight.  It is several grams heavier than the A. Breton bow (inexpensive, but nicer) I bought to replace it.  It also has little or no camber, and the workmanship is somewhat less well done.  Mostly it not being all nicely smooth is no big thing, except it has rough/sharp edges on the wood of the frog right about where I usually grip the bow.  So it is heavier and less comfortable to hold.  Those are kind of big problems, but maybe somewhat fixable?  A little time with some fine sandpaper would make the grip more comfortable, and removing or replacing the wire wrapping could somewhat affect the weight and balance.  If the tip or stick are what are too heavy, a little careful sanding or scraping could thin them down a little.

The "free" bow is wood, so the lack of camber could perhaps be fixed with some heat and bending. 

I am not proposing that the low grade "free" bows can be made into anything great.  But maybe with a bit of work they could at least be more usable, and a set of steps can perhaps be developed for figuring out what is wrong with an individual "free" bow and what steps could be attempted to make it more playable.  That way they might at least be worth keeping as a backup for those of us who don't already have several nicer bows.  Just because it was "free" is no reason to consider it "disposable", since one might learn things working on it that would at least improve the appreciation of better bows and help a noob learn what makes a better bow worth the money.

I am not running for my tools just yet.  But I am starting to look hard at the "free" bow, and thinking on how it would have to be different for me to like playing it better.  Any thoughts?

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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NoirVelours
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May 31, 2012 - 8:19 am
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I only own one bow, so I'm too scared to take any chance with it hehee. But why not, is there a perfect size a bow is supposed to be? Could the middle stick be sanded to make it less heavy?

"It can sing like a bird, it can cry like a human being, it can be very angry, it can be all that humans are" Maxim Vengerov

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DanielB
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May 31, 2012 - 8:21 am
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Quite agreed, NV.  If one only has one bow, it would be foolish to mess with it.  But someday when you have one or more nicer bows, it could be something to consider with the old one.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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DanielB
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May 31, 2012 - 10:23 am
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Pardon the double-posting, but I decided to just try taking off the wire wrapping on my "free" bow. 

I got to looking at it when weighing the bow and measuring balance point.

a.) it was loose enough to move, anyway.

b.) "silver"?  Hah.  In a pig's eye.

So after looking over how it was attached, I took off the frog, used a pin to pull the end of the wire up out of where it went into the wood of the stick and unwrapped it.  I also had to peel up the "leather" a bit to get the end of the wire out after it was unwrapped.  "Leather" in quotes because it appears to actually be a bit of vinyl/paper stuff.  But that can be attended to later.

The wire was not silver of any sort, or even "German silver", which is a buzzword for nickel in jewelry.  It was some sort of rather springy steel.  I don't have a very precise scale, but removing it took the weight of the bow down by at least a couple grams.  It took no special tools, and it wasn't difficult to unwrap once the frog had been taken off. No thunderbolts, earthquakes or disasters happened.  I think the bow actually does handle a little bit better without it.  i can definitely feel the weight difference.

That would be the good points.  The bad points are that I am kind of used to the wrapping being there, and it feels a little odd without it.  I will try it for a couple days and if it still feels odd, I will wrap it with a bit of silk thread.  That would be fancy enough for aesthetic appeal and still not add anything near the weight of the steel wire that was taken off.

Comparing the "free" with my A. Breton, the balance point is closer to the head on the "free" by at least a couple centimeters.  I will play with it like this for a few days to see if that is a bad thing, and if so, I may scrape or sand a bit from the stick or even the head to get the balance to a closer match.  I would want to do that before attempting anything with fixing the camber anyway.

I must admit that I am rather surprised how much of a difference the removal of about 3 yards of thin steel wire makes in the weight I feel when playing, though.  It feels oddly "bare" right now without it, but that may not be a bad thing in the long run. I might get used to it, time will tell.

One other plus point.  When I had the frog off, I noticed that the wooden groove the frog fits into was rather poorly cut, and I cleaned up the edges of it a bit with an x-acto knife so the frog can move more smoothly.  I hadn't noted any problems from it, but I didn't like it being poor workmanship.

naked-bow-experiment.JPGImage Enlarger

(Pic added of the "naked" bow along with my little A. Breton for comparison.  Note the rougher workmanship on the "free" bow from the wood of the frog being rougher to the varnish drip near the adjustment knob.  Also the rather crappy "leather".)

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"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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springer
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May 31, 2012 - 11:42 am
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Did you figure out what the wraping is really for? Is it there just for looks or balance.blink

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DanielB
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May 31, 2012 - 12:11 pm
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I do not think it is *just* for looks.

The author of the pdf, in the section titled "stripping your bow", mentions that the wire wrapping on the bow was developed about the same time as steel strings, in the first part of the 20th century.  It apparently did not exist on older bows made for playing on gut stringed instruments.

The actual effects that the metal winding has are gone into at some length in that section of the pdf.  Some of it is beyond my understanding and experience on a quick read-through.  Apparently it affects more than just balance, and he mentions it may be a good thing with steel strings.  But for gut or synthetic strings it may not be the best, or so I gather from the article.

On a really cheap "free" bow, I would bet that the metal winding is there in imitation of current popular bow design, and not something that was precision calculated for balance or anything else.  A good bow made by a knowledgeable luthier, I would expect that any metal winding would be an intentional part of the balance and other factors necessary to the functions of the bow, and I probably wouldn't go taking the wire off.

The "free" bow I am tinkering on has enough flaws that it is hard to tell for certain how much of an improvement it made, if any.  I can tell I like the weight better, but the "free" bow still feels clumsier and more "dead" to me.  But maybe that can be fixed, at least somewhat.  That is what I am trying to figure out.  Taking off the wire winding did make a difference I can feel in the weight.  But by itself, it was no miracle that suddenly made the "free" bow into a good one.  I still like my newer bow better.  I bought it because as soon as I picked it up, it felt light and alive in my hand compared to the "free" bow I had been using.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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springer
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May 31, 2012 - 12:26 pm
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banana Daniel I forgot to ask, has the weight change helped?dancing

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