The violin is a handcrafted instrument that, if cared for properly, can produce lovely music. However, while getting your violin bow rehaired at a shop is easy, it can be expensive! Instead, if you follow the steps we provided in this article, you’ll both learn how to rehair a violin bow and save a bit of money in the process.
What You Will Need to Follow This Tutorial
You don’t need that many products to rehair a violin bow, but some of the things you need are specialized. For example, depending on your bow, you may need a specialized jig for the rehairing process for your safety and the safety of your bow. A full list of the items you’ll need involves:
- Quality horsehair – about 150 threads
- A bow rehairing kit appropriate for your instrument
- Miscellaneous tools, such as needle-nose pliers
- Rosin for finishing your bow
- Sharp scissors
- A comb
- A cleaning cloth (optional)
The violin bow rehair kit you buy should also come with the following if your particular bow needs it:
- An appropriate glue, such as super glue
- Thin gauge wire
- Hair clips or slides
- A jig for threading the hair
All bows are different, and you may or may not need all of these parts. It’s always a good idea to purchase a bow rehairing kit that aligns with your instrument’s brand or maker, as this will ensure that you get the specific pieces your bow needs.
In this section, we’ll go through the step-by-step process of rehairing your violin bow. Keep in mind that different bows have different steps, so you may need to find an alternative method that applies to your unique instrument. Never fear – we’ll take a deep dive into this process and all of its alternative methods below.
Optional Step: Cleaning Your Bow
While you’re in the process of replacing the hair in your bow, it’s always a good idea to take everything apart and clean it thoroughly. While you don’t need to clean the hair itself since you’ll be replacing it, consider running a clean lint-catching cloth and an optional gentle cleanser across your bow and inside of your frog and tip.
Step One: Removing the Old Hair
Before you can add any new hair to your bow, you will, of course, need to remove any old stuff! To do this, you’ll need a sharp pair of scissors. After loosening your bow, cut the horsehair near, but not directly at, each end of the bow, leaving a little bit at each end to “grip.”
Most bows will have wedges or slides that you can remove to make removing the old hair easy. If so, use the tool included with your bow or bow kit to remove these wedges. If not, you’ll have to carefully and firmly pull the hair out of each end of the bow. This is where the pliers will come in handy – they’re great for getting a firm grip on the hair. Make sure to move the ferrule out of the way too!
Step Two: Preparing the New Hair
Preparing the new horsehair for your bow is the most tricky part of the bow rehairing process. It involves a bit of in-depth work and attention to detail. Keep in mind that, if you feel so inclined, you can make this process easier by buying hair that is already prepared for your bow from a professional shop, as this may already be glued together and cut to size.
Obviously, the first step here is to purchase hair for your bow, but you should have done this already if you looked at our supply list up above! Online music stores and larger online marketplaces such as Amazon sell horsehair meant for violins, but if you feel unsure about what you need, it’s always a good idea to visit a shop or a luthier for advice.
Your first order of business is to prepare the new horsehair to be strung. First, secure both ends of the length of horsehair together with wire or a hair clip. Make sure the hair lies neatly together after you tie it in place, and use a fine comb to smooth it out here if you need to.
Once you’re confident you have everything laid out neatly, cut the hair to the size you need for your bow, if necessary. Then, secure both ends with super glue to keep everything held together nicely. That’ll make it much easier to insert the end into your bow, and it’ll keep specific hairs from becoming loose, too.
Step Three: Stringing the Bow
This is the guide where the bow type and model you have can significantly change the next steps. For example, the company in the video above uses a unique slider instead of a second wedge in the frog to make the rehairing process much more manageable. Your bow may have similar deviations, especially if you have a composite bow or an electric violin.
While we can’t say which is the best violin bow for you, as every bow gives a different sound profile, beginners may want to opt for an easy bow to work with and rehair. However, intermediate violin players may wish to opt for something slightly better-sounding that may be more complicated.
The first step to stringing your bow is to remove the wedges if you haven’t done so already (and your bow has them, of course). Your bow rehairing kit should come with all the tools you need to remove the wedges carefully. Make sure to remove the wedges in your tip and your frog.
Next, take your prepared horsehair (make sure all of the glue has thoroughly dried first), and insert it into the aperture on the tip end of your bow, working backward to replace the wedge as it was before.
Finally, string the ferrule onto the horsehair and repeat the process with the frog end of your bow. Use a jig for this if you need to. Also, keep in mind that the frog can be removed from the bow itself on many bow models. If you need a bit more room to work, consider removing yours, as it can make the process significantly easier.
You may find it helpful to have a stick or screwdriver on hand while rehairing your bow, as you can use it to help position the end of your horsehair inside of the cavity. You want it to be even, straight, and well-seated to produce the best sound and discourage inopportune loosening of the hair.
Some people believe that the direction of the hair within your bow makes a difference in its sound and playability. If you have a preference, make sure to keep this in mind when adding the new hair to your bow.
Step Four: Tightening the Bow and Applying Rosin
Once you’ve prepared the hair well and seated it correctly in your bow, all you have left to do is complete the finishing touches. Tightening your bow properly is the most crucial part, as it should be tight, but not too tight, and loose, but not too loose. As a violin player, you should know (or be in the process of learning) where this “sweet spot” is so you can loosen your bow after each session.
Many people use very gentle heat to help “fuse” the new horsehairs together after affixing them to their bow, but feel free to skip it if you don’t feel comfortable with this step.
After your bow springs are taught, your final order of business is to coat them gently with rosin. Brand-new hair always requires a fresh coat of powdered rosin, but which type of rosin you choose is up to you. While many people prefer light rosin for violins, some use darker rosin in cooler climates since it’s a bit stickier. If you live somewhere humid, it may be best to stick to a drier light rosin.
Don’t forget that, even after that first coat, your bow still needs an additional coat of rosin before you use it for the first time! Crush the rosin thoroughly (if it’s not already in a powdered form), then rub it gently all along your bow’s new horsehair strings. Work it into the hair well, then remove any excess very gently with a cloth. Finally, your violin is ready to play again!
Did you enjoy this violin rehairing tutorial? The violin is one of the most beautiful instruments, and there’s a certain satisfaction obtained by caring for it yourself. Depending on your bow’s complexity, you may still decide to have this process done by a professional, but it’s always a good idea to know how to do it yourself just in case, especially if you can’t afford a pro.
How much does it cost to rehair a violin bow? Well, this can differ depending on your instrument, how complex it is, and how fancy your repair shop is, but if you ask us, the answer is too much! By learning how to do this yourself with this tutorial, not only can you save yourself that $50-$80, but you’ll discover an invaluable skill, too.