When to Get Them, What Goes Into Them, The Works!
They’re a normal part of a string player’s life, but when should you get one? Most people actually get more rehairs than they really need— unlike a car needing oil changes, most bows don’t need new hair at regular intervals.
Good indicators that your bow NEEDS a rehair:
1.) Lots of breakage
2.) Hair is visibly dirty
3.) Hair is the incorrect length: either too short (bow can’t loosen enough) or too long (bow can’t tighten enough)
4.) Uneven hair (this is fairly uncommon in Colorado as our humidity levels are fairly consistently dry: this more common on the East coast and in other locations where humidity levels vary greatly)
5. Your bow needs other work done
Good indicators that your bow DOES NOT need a rehair:
1.) You have an audition tomorrow*
2.) There is a change in the seasons and your bow feels odd (unless any of the indicators to the left are present)
3.) You have increased anxiety/self-conciousness before an audition/performance*
*We have ALL BEEN THERE, and we’re happy to help if we can, but this usually is not an issue with your bow, and you probably sound much better than you’re giving yourself credit for!
What Goes Into a Rehair?
Although this is a routine service that all string players will need at some point, it is actually quite intricate and requires great skill and precision! Below are the steps to completing a good rehair.
Many thanks to Eben Bodach-Turner and Evan Orman for hand modeling.
Remove Old Hair
The first step in a rehair is removing the old hair. After cutting one end of the hair (typically the hair near the frog), the wood plugs in the tip and frog, and the spread wedge (flat piece of wood between the hair and the ferrule) are removed.
The plugs are removed with an awl. This is an intricate process, as the wall of the head mortise is quite delicate and easily damaged.
Once the plugs are out, the old hair can be thrown away.
At this point, the ferrule and pearl slide can be removed from the frog, which opens up the frog mortise. Once the frog mortise is visible, the plug in the frog can be removed.
Using a high alchohol percentage ethanol, the bow and bow componants get cleaned. You'd be surprized at the amount of rosin and other gunk that gets built up on everything! Then the wood of the bow gets a layer of French polish.
Cut Plugs and Wedge
In order to correctly cut plugs to house the new hair in your bow, your local bowmaker needs to know the shape of the mortises (tip and frog), and every bow has different mortise shapes!
There are many very delicate aspects to this process: the edge of the mortise can be very easy to chip, the tip plate is usually made of ivory, silver, or something else expensive and delicate, the frog is typically made from ebony, which is also delicate and
There's really a lot of delicate aspects-- the edge of the mortise is easy to chip (and the tip plate is usually ivory or silver or something else fancy), and on the frog the ebony is also delicate-- it's easy to lose one's grip and chip things and takes a high level of craftsmanship and artisanship to work with the tools in such a way that you're able to work with the aspects that need to move in a tiny space without wrecking anything.
The goal is to have an evan and balanced ribbon of hair that fits across the entire width of the ferrule and the tip. You don't want hair that's able to bend its way around the wedge or plug you've made, but you want as much as possible in order to give the player that "oomph". Different bowmakers use different measuring tools to approximate the amount of bow needed for each bow.
Tie Off Tip End of New Hair
this ties for one of the two hardest parts of doing a rehair. it ties with carving the wedges. there are two different school of thought: tip to frog or frog to tip. We do tip to frog: you have to make sure you're holding the hair so that the frayed ends are lined up-- give yourself a little wiggle room, and you need to make a tie on the hair that cannot slip off. Evan uses a lanyard to hold tension, Eban uses cork-- the knot crosses over itself every time you wind it to secure it. The permanant knot at the end is called [X], and once the knot is finished, there is a nice "click" sound. Once the knot is securly placed, you can snip the rest of the hairs, and the thread. Eban dips the end in rosin, then lights it with a alighter to keep it in place. Evan uses superglue and a piano key to secure the hair into place. Both things secure the end, and along with the tie, this solidifies everything into place.
Insert Tip Hair
Now that you've got the tie, you put the tie into the tip of the bow, then place the wedge on top of it.
Make sure everything is perfectly in line and that you have a beautiful ribbon and disperses the hair really evenly. Put the ferrule back on, place the frog in a little channel holder then measure out the hair and make a small pencil marking as to where to put the tie.
Tie Frog Hair Knot
Tie the same way as the tip hair knot. similar to tip, place under wedge, put wedge on top, etc. Once hair is in, you comb the hair again to make sure it is even-- the hair is under tension via a piece of wood of some sort-- Evan uses a bridge, Eben uses a piece of wood that he's made specifically for this purpose.
Now that hair is combed and even, the pearl slide can be put back into the bow, and put the ferrule back on.
Now you wet the hair
Insert Spread Wedge
Insert frog wedge, wet hair (helps it form to where you want it to be in place)
"disrespect the hair": tighten bow then wave over an alcohol lamp and this helps settle the hairs
Insert the Spread Wedge
smush in frog wedge, then rosin if requested!