Thankfully, having to change the hairs in your bow is something you won’t have to do very often. Certainly nothing like as much as you will have to change the strings on your instrument.
However, at times they will need to be changed; therefore, you need to know How to Replace Your Instruments Bow Hair.
A Slow process
The deterioration of the quality of the bow hairs could well be a slow process. It might not be evident until they are worn out and start breaking. And as they begin to break down, it will affect your technique. That will affect how you play and, therefore, the sound.
The hair on your bow should last about two years. Possibly longer, depending on how often you play. The pros, however, might re-hair their bow up to three times a year. That said, every two years is generally when you should re-hair your bow.
What are the signs?
There are some obvious signs a bow needs to be re-haired. If the hairs on one side of the bow are beginning to disappear, that is quite clear to see. But that has more significance than just lost hair on the bow. That will cause an imbalance of tension on the bow.
In fact, this can be a reason why instrument bows warp. That means, in the best case, a repair. In the worst case, complete replacement. Likewise, hair loss in the middle causes a problem with your bowing action, and inevitably your sound.
Finally, you will be using Rosin on the hairs. After a time, this will discolor the hairs and will make them sticky. And as time goes on, you might also notice a nasty smell.
When the time comes…
You have the choice of taking it to a professional or doing it yourself. Considering the purpose of this article, we would have to recommend the pro. You are certain to get the job well done, and it isn’t that expensive. A worthwhile investment, in my view.
However, if you are a DIY person and want to do it yourself, here are some tips on how to replace your instruments bow hair.
Going it alone? Things to bear in mind
People train for years to be able to re-hair bows to a high level. And they are taught by professionals. So, you need to accept that you will not become an expert or very competent for quite a while.
It is also possible that someone doing this method can damage their bow. This is easier than you might imagine with the tensioning involved. Therefore, it is not a bad idea to practice on an old bow for the first few times.
You will require specific special tools. You can’t avoid that, and it is going to cost. These all things to consider if you are going it alone. Still convinced you want to try? Ok, good, let’s get going…
Preparation and Initial Cleaning
The first thing to do is have a good look at the stick of the bow. Ensure there is no damage and that it is not bowed. Then you can cut out the existing hair, but you should leave about four inches at both ends.
Clean the winding, the frog, and the button and check to make sure the thumb grip is stable. If not, glue it in place. Remove the tip block, the ferrule ring, and the slide, and then clean the stick. You can then add a small amount of lubricant to the slide slot.
Prep completed… now it gets interesting
Select the correct amount of horsehair for the bow. How much horsehair do you need to re-hair a bow? Ideally, between 200 and 250 hairs is the norm. And before you ask. Yes, the pro guys do count them out. That is about 5 grams if you want to do it by weight.
Don’t overdo it
Something you should know is that most pros say that less is better than too much hair. You will get a better feel and a better sound by not overdoing it. Once you are happy with the amount of hair, tie it tightly with strong cotton. Cut it and dip the ends into crushed Rosin, then burn the ends.
You can then fit the hair into the block mortise, ensuring it has a snug and flat fit. A little more crushed Rosin should be applied to the block before securing it on the mortise hole. The hair will now be over the block. Give the hair a little pull to make sure the block is secure.
Space the hair evenly
You can now put the slide back into the slots for the frog and replace the ferrule ring. You may have to make a new wedge as quite often used wedges won’t fit properly. The hair should be spread evenly across the ring, and the wedge should have a secure fit. To reiterate, the hair must be evenly spaced.
Then you need to replace the frog. You will need to measure to ascertain how far it must be back from the grip. After that, you may need to adjust it to get a nice snug fit.
A special comb
The comb for the hair on your bow is specially designed and made with finely crafted metal. Let the comb run smoothly through the hair. Then dampen the hair without getting any moisture next to the wedge.
When you are combing, ensure you use even pressure. Hold the hair using your free hand and tie it up behind the tip block using strong cotton once you have the correct length.
You can then cut this end of the hair, dip the ends into Rosin and then burn the ends. It should be wide enough to fit snugly into the tip block hole. More combing holding the hair between your fingers, ensuring that it is evenly spaced.
Once you are satisfied the hair is evenly spaced, you can put this tied end into the block mortise. Rosin is then applied to the end of the block and is eased over the hair. One more check to make sure the hair is evenly spaced.
Finally, you need to lubricate the bow screw and refit the frog. You can adjust the tension of the hair a little at this point.
While the hair is drying, you need to keep a little bit of tension applied. As the hair dries, it will shorten, so after 60 to 75 minutes, you should adjust the tension again. Once the hair is completely dry, apply some Rosin to the full length of the hair.
You may need anything up to 50 applications of Rosin up and down the new hair. It is going to feel different at first. And so it should do. It just needs to be played in a bit.
Looking for Great Stringed Instruments and Accessories?
We have a nice selection to get you started. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Electric Cellos, the Best Student Violins, the Best Violin Bows, the Best Electric Violins, the Best Violin For Kids, the Best Violin Cases, and the Best Sheet Music Stands you can buy in 2023.
You may also enjoy our handy guides on What is Considered a String Instrument, Easiest Musical Instruments for Adults to Learn, Exercises and Tips For Better Finger Dexterity, How To Clean Your Piano Keys, and How to Buy a Used Piano for more useful musical information.
How to Replace Your Instruments Bow Hair – Final Thoughts
Not an easy journey, is it. That’s why it takes so long to train to be a pro. There are plenty of potential pitfalls to be negotiated. Not the least of which is that if you do it wrong, you can probably say goodbye to your bow if it warps.
That’s why I said earlier about having a bow to practice on. However, if you are so inclined, then it would be a useful skill to learn. It might also be a financially rewarding one. There will be plenty of people needing new bow hair.
If you are going to undertake the challenge or give it to a pro, then you will still need to get yourself the Rosin Light Low Dust Pack for Violin, Viola, and Cello Bows.
Until next time, may the music always make you merry.