Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have a question you
don't see here?
The Question Section
|Q, How do I look after my bow?||Q, Where does pernambuco come from?|
|Q, How long will hair last?||Q, How does Rosin work?|
|Q, How should I rosin my bow?||Q, How is a bow recambered?|
|Q, Can I change the balance of my bow?||Q, How important is a "good" bow?|
|Q, How can I find the balance of a bow?||Q, How long can my bow last?|
|Q, I found a "Strad", could it be real?|
The Answer Section
How do I look after my bow?
|Bows are not as climate sensitive as
instruments. The horse hair, on the other hand, is very much affected by
humidity. Therefore the hair should always be long enough to allow the
stick to completely relax. Continued tension on the shaft can actually
help warp the bow.
Secondly, the shaft should always be kept clean. Dedicate a piece of an old tea towel to this task, wiping the entire shaft each time you return the bow to is case. This can help prevent wear as well as keeping the polish smooth. No chemicals should be used to remove built-up rosin. Allow your violin shop to clean it next time you have it rehaired. Wash the towel regularly.
Can I change
of my bow?
|You bet! Bows are normally balanced about the
time they are finished. The ideal balance of the bow is at 241 mm (or 9.5
inches) from the end of the wood shaft (not including the button,
sometimes known as the screw). Bows can be balanced using different
material for the face plate, winding at the grip and even the screw button
itself. At the face plate, metal can be used to shift the balance forward,
while replacing a metal plate with bone or mastodon ivory can dramatically
shift balance toward to frog. Solid metal sleeve button replacing a divided
ring button has the same effect.
can I find the balance of a bow?
|Be seated with your bow, a round pen (not
octagon) and a 12 inch ruler. Sit at a height where the upper parts of
your legs are level with the floor. Carefully place the bow across your
legs, hair facing up. Slide the pen under the bow shaft and gently lift
just enough to raise one end or the other until both ends lift at the same
time. Take the bow at that point with your thumb nail representing the
exact balance point. Now measure from the end of the shaft to your thumbnail.
More than 9.5 inches shows a heavier balanced bow while the reverse is
true for a shorter length.
How should I rosin my bow?
|Rosin has a very low melting temperature. Often
we see musicians vigorously rubbing rosin at both ends of their hair. The
reason they do that is because their teachers did it and their teachers
before them. The more you rub the quicker you melt the rosin, turning it into
a glass-like sleeve around the hair. We call that "adulteration"
of the rosin. This impedes the tone production at both ends of the bow
which makes the musician rub it even more and so the vicious circle never
Change your ways with the next rehair. Place the cake against the hair beginning at the frog, draw the bow slowly and evenly across the cake, once up, once down. Try it before you carry on. Rosin only when necessary, not each time you extricate your bow from the case.
Follow this advise and your hair will last considerably longer.
How long will hair
|Hair can last a very long time. In hygrometers
dating back to the 1800's, a single horse hair wrapped around a
shaft while the other end was anchored to a base would rotate a needle
attached to the shaft according to the humidity surrounding it. They can
still be found intact today.
We have seen bows with hair 50 years of age arrive in our shop in playing condition.
Normally hair breaks, it does not "wear out". Over rosining will cause the hair to become slippery and brittle. When more than ten per cent of the hair is broken the bow will begin to pull the head to the left, Not advantageous in playing. At ten per cent replace your hair.
For a more scientific in-depth report on horse hair and its properties, click here
I found a
Strad, could it be real?
|So, you found a Stradivarius violin!
I receive numerous e-mail messages every month from people who have inherited or purchased a "Stradivarius" violin.
I will not tell you that it is not the genuine article. That would be unethical and foolish of me, but I will share some information with you to help you judge your course of action.
Since well before the turn of the twentieth century, manufacturers of violins, often nestled in the valleys of southern as well as western and eastern Germany, were producing tens of thousands of violins annually, labeled "Antonius Stradiuarius, Cremonenfis Faciebat Anno 17 " and had a circular embellishment on these labels which included a cross above the initials "A" and "S". More often than not, the last two digits of the date were penciled or inked in by hand. Sometimes it was left blank.
These manufacturers, housed in such towns as "Bubenreuth", "Mittenwald", " Markneukirchen" to mention a few, mass produced these violins, in part by hand or completely by machine, and, until 1957, labeled them exactly as the master did. After that date, the words "Copy of" were often included on the labels.
They were also made world-wide in such places as Bulgaria, China, Czechoslovakia, France, Japan, England and elsewhere.
Millions of these instruments exist today.
Antonio, along with his sons are believed to have made more than 1,100 instruments during his lifetime of which roughly 512 violins are thought to still remain, depending on who you're asking.
It is also known that many were destroyed either by fire, accident, lost at sea or floods, during the fire-bombing of Dresden, etc., which leaves virtually none unaccounted for.
To determine whether yours is the genuine article you need to take it in person to an expert near you. Such experts may be found among members of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers listed in the pages of this web site. These experts may and often do charge for their time and opinion
The odds that you have found a genuine Stradivari will be very slim indeed.
Nonetheless your find might be compared to an oyster; - "if you don't find a pearl inside, you can still have a good meal". In other words, make beautiful music with it.
Where does pernambuco
Pernambuco is the name of the wood species Caeselpinia echinata, a relative of the mahogany family of woods. The best of this wood grows in the Brazilian province of Pernambuco.
important is a "good" bow?
I have always believed
that the instrument played with the bow is merely the body
that produces the sound while the bow is the soul that produces the music.
We hardly ever think about the fact that music for bowed instruments is
not written so much for the instrument as it is for the bow!
|A, How long can my bow last?||We are working on
bows that were made in the early 19th century. Some bows have survived
from periods well before that. A bow must be properly handled and stored
and always rehaired and repaired by a professional. Many good bows have
been destroyed in the hands of unskilled persons.
How does Rosin
|A, How is a bow recambered?||Bows are recambered using dry heat. Recambering a bow should be left to a professional. It is a very sensitive job and in the wrong hand, can easily be broken or burned. A bow should be recambered when it warps to one side or the other or has lost some of its curvature. All these play a great part in the performance of a bow.|