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Author Topic: Bow Hair - What's the difference?  (Read 9016 times)

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Offline fidla

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Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« on: May 31, 2005, 11:28:24 PM »

-what is the difference between...

I've been a bow hair professional for many years.  At Emily's, we import some of the highest quality horse tail hair sorted for the professional bow market in the world.  Our horse hair comes from the North East region of China including Inner Mongolia, also Mongolia, Siberia and sometimes Canada and Argentina.  The hair is cleaned with a mild detergent (no bleach), rinsed and dried in a cool dark warehouse for several days, turned carefully and by hand.  The hair is then quickly sorted and combed (with hackles), tied off in a bundle.  The hair is then drawn, butted off and tied into loose bundles.  What happens next determines the quality of the Bowhair, and our grading system. 

You can read more and look at pictures from our latest trip to the hair factory at http://bestbowhair.com/

Let me try to answer your (simplified) questions:
1.  what is the difference between horse hair and synthetic hair in terms of sound, playability, preferences (assuming professional genre players have a preference)?

Answer: there is a HUGE difference.  First let's talk about the electrostatic principals of natural vs synthetic hair.  Natural hair acts like a magnet, attracting dust particles, whereas synthetic acts like a reverse magnet, repelling dust particles.  This is why they still make push brooms, brushes, and rollers out of natural hair, and why synthetic hair brushes don't last very long.  Horse hair attracts the small particles of rosin dust, whereas synthetic hair pushes rosin away. 

Sound: good horse hair that has been professionally sorted produces a good even sound with little "bow noise", or hiss typical of synthetic hair or a lesser quality hair.

Playability: good horse hair will have enough inherent "grab, grip or bite" so that over-rosining is not necessary.  Synthetic hair has no inherent grip, requiring abundant and frequent applications of rosin.

Preferences: real professionals of any genre will tell you that they prefer good quality unbleached white horse hair that has been well sorted, is free of kinks or wavey hairs and is strong enough to not come off the bow during a rigorous session.  Real professionals do not use synthetic hair.

2.  Is there a relationship between the hair chosen and the style of music played?

Answer: not often.  Most players do not know anything about bow hair.  But they do know what "feels right" in their bow.  It feels right if it grips, if it's strong, if it doesn't burn off the stick too quickly.  Some more agressive players, fiddlers, cellists and bassists like a thicker horse hair, something more "grabby".  We have a thicker hair we have called "fiddler's hair" in the past.  Essentially, it is hair I have my sorters select for its density and width.  It tends to hold rosin better and is stronger than standard width/dense white hair, and bass players like it because, unlike black hair, it doesn't contribute to "bow noise"

3.  How often does a bow need to be rehaired?

Answer: not often.  Good, professionally sorted bow hair will last at least a year without needing to be rehaired, as long as the person that rehairs the bow does a good job.  There are all kinds of reasons why a rehair job can be done poorly, including cutting the blocks and wedges incorrectly, using too short/long a hank of hair, etc.  In my experience as a bow hair importer/dealer as well as a musician, a professional player can rehair their bows once a year without cause for concern.

4.  When does one know to rehair their bow?

Answer: when it needs it.  There are some typical "problem areas" of the bow hair.  The first area is down near the frog - the hair here can pick up dirt from unclean hands and this dirt can weaken the hair.  At the middle or upper middle of the bow, where most fiddler's play, the hair can stretch or become overlong with wear.  If one doesn't loosen the hair completely every time, the hair overall can stretch.  And finally, if the hair that was on the bow originally is not of professional quality, it can "burn off" the stick, break, wear, tear or stretch out of useful range.  All of these factors can contribute to one's need for a rehair.  When in doubt, ask your friendly local luthier to give you some advice.

Or send me an email :)

Hope this helps

Adam

Offline Richard Martin

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Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #1 on: Jun 04, 2005, 09:50:48 AM »
interesting post Adam - learned more than I expected on bow hair - thank you

Offline fidla

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Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #2 on: Jun 04, 2005, 05:08:18 PM »
interesting post Adam - learned more than I expected on bow hair - thank you

you're most welcome :)

Offline Cathye

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Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #3 on: Jun 05, 2005, 07:38:33 PM »
Bravo Adam. What a great and detailed response!

You provided much more information than I could have hoped for. It has been so many years since my bows were last re-haired, I don't even know where it was done. That shows you just how out of touch I am. When I stopped publishing and switched careers, the fiddles--including my Hardanger fiddle from Norway (circa 1913)--went in the closet, rarely to see the light of day except the occasional Corporate pick-up band and company events -- and boy, was hubby unhappy about it! Anyway, I am bringing them out once again and beginning to play again.

The technical description of natural horsehair's tendency to grab and hold on to particles, including rosin, explains a great deal to me. I have always believed that "things are they way they are for a reason" and you have just provided a littany of reasons. I also appreciated the details on where you get your hair, how you process and grade it, and the fact that it is possible for one to request hair that is of a heavier grade, such as the kind that bass players prefer.

I am in California, south of San Francisco. Is it likely that bow re-hairing professionals in my area would understand this grading process? If I were looking for the smoothest and fattest sound possible - with the least amount of bow noise, would you suggest that I request this heavier grade of bow hair? If so, what is the technical term for it? I have two bows, so perhaps I should experiment by having a different kind of hair put on each one, to find out which I prefer. Also, is sounds like re-hairing may be something that is subcontracted out. Is this true? Where are you located? Do violin shops send you bows from all over the country for your services, or is it that you supply the hair to the shops and they do the work at the local level? Just curious.

PS: your information is a great example of a situation where modern technology (i.e., synthetics) has been unable to replicate or improve on mother nature.

Thanks again Adam.

Cathye


Offline rcc

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Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #4 on: Jun 06, 2005, 09:26:56 PM »
Cathye,

If you're in the Bay Area, I'd recommend Ifshins Violins as the place to go for bow rehairing.  The person that does the rehairs there has been doing them for a *long* time and works on anything from cheap bows to very very very expensive bows.

Give them a call and talk to them.  They may or may not be able to address your specific concerns but you can believe what they tell you.

I've had two bow rehairs done there (two different bows) and have been really happy with the work.

- Ray

Offline rcc

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Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #5 on: Jun 06, 2005, 09:29:12 PM »
Cathye,

Two other things -- Ifshins has some interesting articles on their website including a review of various strings.

Also, what style(s) of music do you prefer to play?

- Ray

Offline Cathye

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Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #6 on: Jul 08, 2005, 04:45:16 PM »
Thanks Ray. I tend to prefer Texas style over all others, though I am by no means a Texas-style fiddler in the sense of Benny Thomasson, Texas Shorty, Dick Barrett, or the other many pure Texas players. They are still my most dominant influence. My favorite tunes to play would include I Don't Love Nobody and Cotton Patch Rag. The closest thing to my aspirations would be Byron Berline and Johnny Gimble. Byron, for his unbeatable "fat bow" sound, great ear, choice of material, and technique. They just do not come any better than that, IMHO. What a guy. And Johnny for everything that he is - but especially his Western Swing work and improvisational ability. Just listen to his breaks on the Merle Haggard's Tribute to Bob Wills album and marvel.

Speaking of Western Swing, we once published a western swing mandolin book and tape combo by Tiny Moore (played with Bob Wills and later Merle Haggard). I just put a tape recorder in front of Tiny and told him to just start playing (he played a 5-string electric mandolin, but we designed the book for the 4-string for obvious reasons). Some of the best times I had in the publishing business were those days sitting with Tiny in his little music shop in Sacramento, CA, recording his improvisations and then later transcribing them for the book. Of all my notation in the book, when peer reviewing it just prior to going to press, Tiny only changed one note - and that was a C# he used in a phrase that was similar to a descending passing minor that jazz musicians like so much -only with a major chord. He said later "did I really play that lick?" and I said "Yep. It was the best of the bunch" and to this day, 20 years later, I still wish he had left it in! Some day when I get the energy, I guess we will put the book back in print. It is a real tribute to Tiny's uncanny ability.

Cathye

Offline ruadhan

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Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #7 on: Jul 08, 2005, 07:03:41 PM »
IPreferences: real professionals of any genre will tell you that they prefer good quality unbleached white horse hair that has been well sorted, is free of kinks or wavey hairs and is strong enough to not come off the bow during a rigorous session.  Real professionals do not use synthetic hair.

2.  Is there a relationship between the hair chosen and the style of music played?

Answer: not often.  Most players do not know anything about bow hair.  But they do know what "feels right" in their bow.  It feels right if it grips, if it's

Hi Cathye,

Adam makes some good points and is very knowledgeable about much to do about bow hair, but he is wrong on certain areas.  Most notably is the broad statement that "Real professionals" do not use synthetics.  There have been some remarkable and exciting developments in synthetic hair in recent years, and one in particular holds rosin with remarkable tenacity and presents much greater strength than horse hair.  Due to these noteworthy traits, it has become a choice for many experts and professionals.

The hair is used on Incredibows, and it is probably the most successful synthetic to date.  It takes rosin with an amazing power.  In fact, when rosining a fresh bow with horse hair, as you know, you have to score the rosin cake and apply the hair for 10 minutes or more to start the bow.  With Incredibow hair, you don't need to score the cakes and the string bites the rosin so well, that normally 30 seconds is sufficient to rosin a fresh bow.

This synthetic hair holds rosin with remarkable tenacity and typically only has to be touched up with rosin about once a week or twice a month.  And the hair does not produce hair noise.  In fact, one of the most noteworthy traits of this hair is how little hair noise it produces.

The most amazing thing about this hair is its tremendous strength.  Each fibre is literally stronger than steel.  A LOT of professional players have bought bows with this hair, and they do it for tone and for strength.  One such example is a professional neoCeltic punk player who was burning out her bow's horse hair almost weekly.  She bought an Incredibow months ago because she couldn't afford to keep paying the luthier to rehair the bow and hasn't had problems since.  In fact, the maker of this hair believes that it could last as much as 20 years or more.  It just is not known because to date it has not worn out.

Which to choose for which style?  Well, it's a matter of taste.  I like horse hair and Incredibow hair, and I have bows haired with both.  They each seem to lend their own nuances to the instrument.  For tradition, go with horse hair.  Also, I find the horse hair seems to lend a bit of a darker tone to an instrument.  For strength, go with the synthetic.  I find it seems to lend a bit of a brighter tone.

Slainte,
Cliff

Offline giannaviolins

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Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #8 on: Jul 08, 2005, 07:41:15 PM »
"Many professionals" is rather an overstatement, considering that millions of bows with good real hair are in use and perhaps a few hundred Incredibows.  I think you'll find that Adam knows hair quite well.  I doubt that any professionals using good wood bows will want Incredibow hair.

Offline ruadhan

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Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #9 on: Jul 08, 2005, 08:20:23 PM »
Hi Stephen,

I have no doubt that Adam knows horse hair very well.  It is his knowledge of new developments in synthetics I question.

Actually, the maker of Incredibows recently asked us if we would be willing to handle rehairing traditional bows with Incredibow hair because he doesn't have time to handle it.  I had asked him about the converse--about rehairing Incredibows with horse hair--but he said it's never come up.  It seems there is a growing number of requests by persons who have experienced the Incredibow hair to get the hair on their more traditional bows.

But you're right in that there are a great many Tourte bows out there compared to Incredibows.  However, Incredibows are only one bow amidst a sea of bows that have been around for centuries, and in that sea most any individual bow make will be a minority, be it of the Incredibow variety, a Glasser, a Coda, or even the very traditional and respected Muellers.

Slainte,
Cliff

Offline giannaviolins

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Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #10 on: Jul 08, 2005, 08:42:59 PM »
We're comparing the body of conventionally constructed & haired bows against the body of retro pseudo baroque arrow shaft bows with mystery hair.  Probably 100,000 to 1 or better, I would think.

Don't misunderstand - I've handled Incredibows for a long time, I suspect I had some of the first.  A good product, but hardly a replacement for the conventional design.

Offline ruadhan

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Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #11 on: Jul 08, 2005, 09:09:09 PM »
I understand and respect what you are saying, Stephen.  And I also like and play with the conventional designed bows with horse hair too.  In fact, one of my new favourites is the Glasser braided carbon fibre bow.  It is such a big step up and I am deeply impressed.  And the Celt's Caudlron represents many more conventional Tourte designed bows than Incredibows.  It's not as if our little business rises or falls with Serenity Mountain.  We really have no vested interest in its success other than that we think Ed, the maker, is a great guy and would like to see him do well.  But I persist in my dislike of the statement "Real professionals don't use horse hair," for more reasons than I even named.  One, it is an all encompassing statement, and is not factual.  I know plenty of professionals who don't use horse hair.  Not the majority, but they are "real" enough.  I know plenty more teachers who use and recommend Incredibows.  Are these not professionals in their own right?  Another reason I am biased against this kind of sweeping language is that it is in a horse hair dealer's vested interest to steer people toward horse hair.  It just sounds over done.  Third, having been trained as a psychotherapist with years of background in academics and the psychological sciences, I just innately don't like yes/no types of responses.  Everything is measured on a statistical curve with a margin of error and deviation.  In this case, users of synthetic hair are a deviation from the norm, but they do in fact exist and are in fact professionals.

As to the other reasons, Adams statements are in error.  Not all synthetic hair is subject to bad hair noise.  I just received a new experimental bow from Serenity Mountain today with the hair band almost doubled in width, and there still is no hair noise.  And the hair is so durable rehairing is hardly an issue.  I don't know if you still carry the Incredibows, but if you haven't in a while, the hair they are now made with is not the original hair.  The new stuff is much improved.  And, yes, its fabrication is a mystery, but that is beyond the point.  It works.

I believe that, like it or not, synthetics are going to move into the music market.  We are going to see it appear in hair and not just sticks.  We are going to see more instruments made out of it.  I think we are on the verge of that era now.

Slainte,
Cliff

Offline giannaviolins

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Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #12 on: Jul 08, 2005, 09:17:31 PM »
Yup, true.  I would say that Incredibow could be said to have some market penetration if they'd sold 1% of the bows on the market in the last 3 years or 5 years, something like that.  But that's not been the case. 

"Professionals" may include teachers. Generally one is looking at the performers.  I've not seen a single classical performer using one.  Although there's no reason not to.  And exactly 3 fiddlers on stage - not very many considering the number of fiddling events I've set up at.  I would say that the sightings are extremely rare here. 

The Incredibow seems to compete with conventional bows up to about $250.  I've not had anyone looking at a nice silver mounted handmade stick give the Incredibow more than a passing try.  However, that low end area is quite a big market.

I'm supposed to have more Incredibows on the way.  Should be fun to see how they are now. 

The Glasser braided is surprising.  I got one in yesterday.  Took it over to a violinmaker friend's place.  We were both pleased. 

As far as statistics, keep in mind that "not in the majority" is a bit of an overstatement - Incredibows may represent .05% of the bows in regular use, I don't know of course, but I would anticipate far less than 1%.  Reasonably big market, tiny producer.

Offline ruadhan

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Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #13 on: Jul 08, 2005, 09:53:19 PM »
They have been sold to quite a few classical players, some of whom contribute on the Incredibow chat forum.  Mostly, they seem to be European players.  I would think they go within the $500 market mostly, and a few players have quit using Tourte bows valued at thousands.  Regardless, the statement "real professionals don't use synthetic hair" is inaccurate and IMO biased.

And, well, that's enough of that topic, eh?  LOL!

Slainte,
Ruadhan

Offline madfiddler

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Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #14 on: Jul 09, 2005, 12:57:40 AM »
I would suggest that certain classical players would not entertain an Incredibow in the same way they would not entertain an electric violin!

At our last Fiddle Hell event, there were two players out of what, perhaps 20-25 who had an Incredibow, and a number of players were definately interested in getting one to try out. Why did they not have one already? They either had not heard of them, or had the opportunity to try one. Us Brits are a tad strange when it comes to buying before trying. I know I've had my fingers burnt on that one before!!! ;)
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Offline ruadhan

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #15 on: Jul 09, 2005, 02:54:47 AM »
I can understand this, especially in Britain where it probably costs the equivalent of $15 USD to return the bow.  Still, given the guarantee, it's pretty safe.  But your numbers impress me as 2 out of 25 is 8%.  And that's not a bad percentage for a tiny bowmaker in a backwater state across the sea.

Slainte,
Cliff

Offline Steve_W

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #16 on: Jul 10, 2005, 04:00:46 AM »
A very informative discussion on bow hair turns into yet another thread about the merits of the Incredibow.  Sigh.

Offline rcc

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #17 on: Jul 10, 2005, 04:44:36 AM »
What Steve_W said.

- Ray

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #18 on: Jul 10, 2005, 04:47:05 AM »
Hi Steve et al,

Returning to the subject of bow hair, I've been in doubt as to the electrostatic principle being sufficient to hold rosin to the hair, so I've been doing some research.  I cannot find any authoratative information anywhere.  But with two years of education in electronics, I cannot believe that a gram of hair could hold sufficient charge to hold rosin.  It takes 10000 volts of electricity to create a simple static discharge, such as the spark when you touch a doorknob while standing on a shag carpet.  It takes an organic mass the size of a human being to hold such a charge. A gram of bow hair cannot hold this much charge.  It would be like putting a 10000 volt potential into a lithium watch battery.  Further, there are other problems with this assertion.  One is that electrical attraction is a fairly weak force.  I may be wrong, but I believe the only weaker force is gravity.  However, more to the point, if an electrostatic charge held rosin to a bow's hair, the charge should be grounded when the hair touched the fiddle strings and the player's fingers also touched the strings.  I do not believe electrostatic charge can hold rosin to the hair and I will have to be shown credible proof by an engineer or physicist to convince me otherwise.

So I have looked into other possibilities to account for how rosin is retained by hair.  One possibility seems to be the scales inherent in mammalian hair.  If the scale-like structure holds true to horse hair, it is possible that the numerous craggy surfaces within the hair could mechanically retain the rosin.  This could be a very effective means of retention.  As was demonstrated in the book "Chaos: Making a New Science" by  James Gleik, the smaller an object's imperfections are reduced to, the more potential surface area the object possesses.  Thus a hair could mechanically hold a great deal of rosin particles in these microscopic imperfections--or fissures--in the horse hair.

Of course, there is also the possibility that the rosin particles share electrons with the bow hair molecules, as in a chemical reaction, but there is no apparent chemical change in the hair that I know of.

I know there is at least one engineer on this board.  Perhaps he could comment on this enigma.

Slainte,
Cliff

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #19 on: Jul 10, 2005, 11:48:31 AM »
Large contact area re scales & small, complexly shaped rosin.  Rosin maleable, so very effective contact once broken in. 

Pickering paraphrased: "Rosin breaks up into tiny particles with sharp edges. There's an ionic interchange between the collagen in the horsehair and the rosin resulting in a mutual attraction between these two complex molecules somewhat like static electricity. During bowing the particles of rosin get trapped between the string and the bowhair." http://www.scavm.com/norman.htm

Some kind of chemical bond, need a chemist or more time to research.  Electrostatic is very weak - can't be that.

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #20 on: Jul 10, 2005, 12:39:18 PM »
Hi Steve et al,

Returning to the subject of bow hair, I've been in doubt as to the electrostatic principle being sufficient to hold rosin to the hair, so I've been doing some research.  I cannot find any authoratative information anywhere.  But with two years of education in electronics, I cannot believe that a gram of hair could hold sufficient charge to hold rosin.  It takes 10000 volts of electricity to create a simple static discharge, such as the spark when you touch a doorknob while standing on a shag carpet.  It takes an organic mass the size of a human being to hold such a charge. A gram of bow hair cannot hold this much charge.  It would be like putting a 10000 volt potential into a lithium watch battery.  Further, there are other problems with this assertion.  One is that electrical attraction is a fairly weak force.  I may be wrong, but I believe the only weaker force is gravity.  However, more to the point, if an electrostatic charge held rosin to a bow's hair, the charge should be grounded when the hair touched the fiddle strings and the player's fingers also touched the strings.  I do not believe electrostatic charge can hold rosin to the hair and I will have to be shown credible proof by an engineer or physicist to convince me otherwise.


I have no oppinion (because of lack of knowledge) if rosin get stuck to bowhair due to elctrostatic force but I do not agree on your description of electricity.

The electromagnetic force is actually a quite strong force (I think the dominating view is that there are four and only four fundamental forces: The strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, electromagnetic force and gravity).

A gram of any material holds "a lot" of atoms and thereby elctrons (negative charge) and protons (positive charge). There is no need for an organic mass of a human being to have voltages in the 10kV range. Voltage is a potential (energy) difference for induvidual electrons/protons and there is in theory possible to get 10kV by only moving one electron. One have to know the difference between force, work, energy, power a.s.o.

About grounding the bow hair, if horse hair is a good insulator grounding do not mean that all static electricity would dissapear at once, it could also be maintained by touching/moving against other materials. Compare rubbing a ballong (insulator) against e.g. a cat.






Offline ruadhan

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #21 on: Jul 10, 2005, 05:24:04 PM »
Hi Stephen,

I read the article referenced in your link "http://www.scavm.com/norman.htm"  Absolutely fascinating reading, thanks for contributing it.  It is a lot of food for thought and very knowledgeable and does lead to the answers to some questions, while creating more questions.  But good research should do this, eh?

As I understand it, static electricity is not the same thing as ionic attraction.  This is noted in the Pickering article where it states the ionic attraction between rosin and horse hair is "somewhat like static electricity."  If I recall correctly, static electricity results from a build up of loose electrons within a field, or a gathering of ions in a field.  Ionic attraction, in the circumstance of rosin to bow hair, is rather the attraction made by individual particles of rosin of one charge, being compelled toward the individual molecules horse hair of an opposing charge.  Such an attraction occurs on a molecular level and is not the kind of thing that can be grounded out as easily as a field.  It could only be neutralized by adding free electrons.  Also, to my knowledge, the binding of ions of opposing charges is much stronger than the attraction of objects within a static field.

But most noteworthy within Pickerings article was the statement, "Contrary to popular belief there are no barbs or ridges on horsehair: it's smooth and shiny."  This would indicate that scales do not retain rosin particles by means of mechanical retention, making my theory incorrect.  On the other hand, unless I am confusing "electrostasis" and ionic attraction, what is going on is not the same as static electricity holding rosin particles to hair.  Static electricity is an imbalanced field of charge that can be moved and grounded.  An ionic charge centers on individual molecules or atoms and results from a surplus or deficit of electrons to protons.  Static electricity attracts by pulling things toward the charge of its field.  Ionic attraction actually pulls another molecule toward itself and creates its binding by sharing electrons.  This is a stronger bond and in light of this, it would seem more accurate to say that horse hair retains rosins due to its natural ionic attraction.  Is this correct or am I confusing terminology that I have not studied for more than ten years?

I found a later comment to also be quite fascinating: "Norman debunked the notion that bowhair wears out. He repeated that there are no barbs or hooks on bowhair to wear off despite what some musicians or teachers may tell you. It is not necessary to rehair a bow until too many hairs have broken off. He knows of professional players who have used the same hair for 20 years."

This indicates that horse hair's primary enemy is biodegradation and not wear and tear.  This makes sense to me as I've seen plenty old bows pass through that haven't been rehaired for ten years.  My own horse hair bow hasn't been rehaired in two years and is still going strong.  If one can keep the horse hair safe from such enemies as mites and sunlight, it could last a very long time.  That gives me a whole new level of respect for horse hair.

Babbage, thanks for your comments.  I can understand where you're coming from.  The formula for calculating voltage, resistance and amperage is called Ohm's Law, and it is IR=E, where I is amps (current), R is resistance (Ohms), and E is voltage (potential).  Certainly it is possible to reduce either I or R to increase voltage in a circuit.  Let's suppose you have a circuit with 1 amp flowing with 1 volt of potential and 1 Ohm of resistance.   If I were to replace the 1 Ohm resister with a 10000 Ohm resister, I could conceivably end up with a low power circuit producing 10000 volts, for volts can be thought of as potential energy, the push that gets the amps flowing.  A high Ohm resister is like a door that forces the amps to have to push harder (raise their voltage).  But in reality theory doesn't quite hold true.  Other forces take effect.  The circuit will waste power, and in electronics resistance represents waste shed in the form of heat.  Should I add a 10000 Ohm resister to my circuit, I will essentially open the circuit, stoppering the flow of electricity, because the miniscule power in the circuit will be shed in the form of heat before getting through the resister.  Another example of this is the way a diode blocks a circuit.  If I add a diode with a 7.6 volt cut off to a circuit, the electrical flow doesn't simple increase voltage and continue to flow.  It must first be able to overcome the diode's resistance.  This is the basis of the transistor, the heart of all modern electronics.


Given that what is theoretically possible is not always possible in physical reality, I do not believe that under the normal circumstances of horse hair on a bow we would see a 10kV potential static field.  And static fields are large, so that you might be able to sense it, as when you pass your hand over a woolen blanket you can feel the charge in the air.  Yet one cannot sense a static field of such power in bow hair.  It won't shock you if you touch, or release a charge of if you ground it.

You are of course correct about the four basic forces: the strong force, the weak force, the electromagnetic force and gravity.  The interrelation between these forces is complicated and interesting.  For instance the strong force and weak force are incredibly powerful and hold the nuclei of atoms together, but they do almost nothing in the way of shaping large objects.  Other forces work in that arena.  And gravity, the weakest of the four fundamental forces, shapes the star systems, stars and galaxies.  So the weakest force is pivotal in giving the world its shape.  The electromagnetic force is second from the weakest.  This does not make it insignificant, but it is weaker than the strong and weak nuclear forces.  And in terms of electrostatic fields, in grand terms they can present awesome power, but in the case of bow hair and rosin Pickering's identification of ionic attraction is more accurate and makes much more sense to me.

Well, hopefully I haven't mangled my thoughts and terms too badly.  Someone with an engineering or physics background could do a much better job of explaining this and set us all straight, I am sure.

Slainte,
Cliff


Offline ruadhan

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #22 on: Jul 10, 2005, 06:46:06 PM »
This is off topic, but the Pickering article noted that if a bridge vibrates in phase to a string, it essentially lengthens the string length.  But if it vibrates out of phase it essentially shortens the string's vibrating length.  So at what part of the string's vibration phase should the bridge vibrate at?

Slainte,
Cliff

Offline babbage

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #23 on: Jul 10, 2005, 06:48:49 PM »
I come from an electrical engineering background and realise that it is very hard to describe this in a short text without mathematics. I have no intention to transform this forum to an electronics forum (I already are a member of a such). Your argumentation that ruled out a physical effect did not convince me even when I tried to read between the lines. I guess that was what I were trying to convey in a clumsy way.

I would grade the electromagnetic force the second strongest, ahead of the weak nuclear force.

I will keep reading this thread and look forward to if someone could give a sure answer and point to usefull documentation.

By the way, I think fidlas first posting in this thread is very good. Practical knowledge are much more useful than untested scientific theories. Even if there are some controversy about the advice about hair/synthetic it gives a safe well known route to get a good bow from a broad range of suppliers for beginners. If the latest generation synthetic are as good or better I am sure it is only a question of time until fidla will recommend synthetic. I have not got the impression that he is a horse hair fundamentalist even if he needs hard proof to be convinced.

Offline ruadhan

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #24 on: Jul 10, 2005, 07:06:10 PM »
Hello Babbage,

The strengths of the four fundamental physical forces are not a matter of opinion to be debated over.  They are a matter of fact, and in terms of strength are: the strong force, the weak force, the electromagnetic force, and the gravitational force.  Without the strong and weak forces, all matter would fly apart at the atomic level--the electromagnetic force is not powerful enough to hold atoms together.

But all persons are entitled to their opinions.  And I do also think Adam's posting on horse hair was quite good.  But I certainly felt his assessment of synthetics was behind, and disagreed with his assessment on what force causes horse hair to retain rosin.  I believe what Adam was trying to communicate refers to the ionic force, and I can agree with him on that.  The ionic force is quite powerful, sufficient for this task, and is a vast advantage of real horse hair.

All the best.

Slainte,
Cliff

Offline babbage

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #25 on: Jul 10, 2005, 07:36:09 PM »
http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/forces/funfor.html

The weak force is weaker, but the distance inside the atom where it works are so small.

Offline Don Stackhouse

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #26 on: Jul 10, 2005, 09:45:54 PM »
Why does the rosin stay on the hair? That's easy...

BECAUSE IT'S STICKY !!!

Seriously, though, I doubt electrostatics has much to do with it. Note, I do NOT claim to be an expert on this particular subject, but I do have some experience in related cases. A fair amount can be deduced by analysis of analogous situations, plus application of a little common sense.

One analogous situation that comes to mind is the common office copier (Xerox machine or equivalent). A powdered toner, essentially very fine particles of pigmented wax (about like finely ground black crayons) are given an electrostatic charge that makes them stick to an oppositely charged surface. Once the image is formed on the paper, the whole thing is heated, causing the wax particles to melt and fuse to the paper.

Now, if you've ever been there when the machine malfunctioned and failed to heat and fuse the toner to the paper, you might have noticed that the toner can be brushed off the paper with no trouble, and this is with a charge that was deliberately generated by some very high voltage electrical stuff inside the copier, put there for this purpose, not just the charge generated from a little mechanical rubbing. Likewise, the toner can be cleaned off of the charged drum inside the copier with a simple brush. With its electrostatic charge it tends to get all over everything in sight, but the attachment to any given surface is extremely weak.

If that's what was holding the rosin particles to the bow hair, all of the rosin would be mechanically brushed off the hair and all over the strings, the fiddle, your shoulder and arm, on your glasses, up your nose, etc., with just the first few strokes of the bow across the strings.  AHHHH-CHOOOO !!! (excuse me)

Electrostatic forces may help it go towards the hair, but that can't be the primary source of the bonds keeping it there. we need something strong enough to grab onto a string and pull it, then release it, without pulling the rosin particle completely free of the hair, at least most of the time. More likely to achieve that is a combination of mechanical bonds as the rosin particles interlock and squish into the "asperities" (i.e.: microscopic surface imperfections) in the hair, and maybe some degree of chemical bonding (probably covalent, i.e.: the sharing of electrons between atoms, as opposed to ionic, or the outright giving of electrons from one atom to another) between the molecules in the rosin and the hair.

This last, the small amount of formation of chemical bonds, could be influenced by the choice of synthetic vs. natural horsehair. In general, synthetic materials tend to have a "low surface energy", meaning that there are few sites on its molecules that are interested in forming new chemical bonds with anything. Teflon is an extreme case of this, polyethylene and polypropylene as well, although synthetic plastics in general tend to act this way to some degree. Natural materials, as a group, tend to exhibit higher surface energies, which is why they are generally easier to glue to than synthetics. This is also why natural fabrics tend to be more absorbent.

However, if something is reactive on the surface, then it will be subject to making reactions with things it comes into contact with, and as those sites on its molecular surface get used up in stronger reactive bonds, gradually becoming less available for future reactions, the surface tends to gradually lose its surface energy.

A classic example I'm personally very familiar with (and wish I wasn't) is molds for fiberglass parts. In that situation, we need a surface with very low surface energy so the fiberglass parts won't stick to the mold. A new mold tends to be a real pain in this regard. The molds are often made from the same materials as the parts being made in them, and if there are any unreacted molecules in the mold surface, it's darn near impossible to keep the first few parts from sticking to the mold, even with multiple layers of wax and other mold releases. Somehow the molecules in the resin of the new part find ways of reaching through the mold release layers and grabbing on to the mold surface underneath. It's not uncommon to have them stick together so badly that not only is the part destroyed trying to get it out of the mold, but also pieces of the mold surface get pulled out, in some cases destroying the mold. Trust me, it can ruin your whole day.

For those first few parts, about the only consistent performer is a thick layer of PVA, or Poly-Vinyl Alcohol, a sort of water-soluble plastic that builds up a layer on the surface of the mold too thick for the molecules in the resin to reach through. It can be washed off with water afterwards. However, once the mold has been used a few times, with more waxing and releasing in between parts, the reactive sites in the mold surface's molecules get used up, and the mold's surface energy is gradually depleted. After a half dozen parts or so, it's possible to use just the wax layer, without using PVA, with no sticking problems.

In something that is actively involved in lots of chances for reactions (and bow hair qualifies in this regard), the surface energy decreases fairly rapidly until it isn't a major player any more. Based on that, I'd have to conclude that the formation of chemical bonds with the rosin particles is not a major factor over the "long haul".

This leaves mechanical bonding with the hair's surface as the major player. It's possible that the higher surface energy of natural horsehair is a minor factor the first few times the rosin is applied, but after that it's the microscopic shape and texture of the surface that probably dominates.

Problems with adhesion on some synthetic hair (speculation again here on my part) would therefore be most likely due to having too smooth a surface, with nothing the rosin particles could mechanically get a grip on. Fibers made by a melt-type spinning process could be expected to have just such a perfectly smooth surface.

An etched or abraided surface, or surfaces formed by other processes that leave a more textured microsurface, could be expected to do better.

Of course too rough is not good either. If the surface is so rough that the rosin particles can only grip the very tips of the asperities, like peas just barely impaled on the tines of a fork, they might not be held very securely either. This would explain the situation described on another website where the scaly surface of brand new horsehair did not hold rosin well, and it was only after the smoother (but still rough on a submicroscopic level) subsurface was exposed after the scales were worn off, that the rosin really began to grip.

Offline babbage

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #27 on: Jul 10, 2005, 10:05:23 PM »
Seems like you done some serious thinking about this subject and presenting a clear logical chain to your hypothesis.

Here is a microscope picture of human hair found on www, I guess horse hair should be similar.
http://www.jpk.com/spm/hair_h1.htm

Offline ruadhan

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #28 on: Jul 11, 2005, 12:10:14 AM »
Thank you, Don.  That clears a lot up.  We move from the electrostasis hypothesis, to mechanical and chemical bonding, to ionic, and back to mechanical.  I knew some brilliant engineer would eventually speak up :)

Slainte,
Cliff

Offline flatfive

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #29 on: Jul 14, 2005, 07:38:09 PM »
What about the attraction of a plastic like Saran Wrap to a glass bowl? There is a force there but it's not static electricity or else it would discharge when you touched the bowl. If you try and put the same plastic wrap on a plastic bowl, the attraction is much less. Teflon, none at all.

Offline Angry_Mouse

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #30 on: Jul 16, 2005, 04:52:14 AM »
Why does the rosin stay on the hair? That's easy...

BECAUSE IT'S STICKY !!!



That gave me a good laugh.  ;D

Offline fidla

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #31 on: Jul 17, 2005, 01:25:18 PM »
some interesting points here

Offline Cathye

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #32 on: Jul 19, 2005, 08:08:34 PM »
The pickering article was fascinating. Nothing like a physics background (or chemistry in other applications) to debunk common theories and myths. Now I feel better in my long held belief that you only need to re-hair your bows when you run out of hair. I have two, and neither has been re-haired in the past 20 years. (Confession time...) but then, as mentioned before, I have not been doing much playing in the past few years, or perhaps it would occurred to me.

I still think this needs to be balanced with the information provided by Adam re the perspective from someone in the industry. It could also be that oil and dirt build up quicker than we realize, decreasing the effectiveness of rosin and/or that breaking enough bow hairs to alter the effectiveness--but not necessarily being visible to the player--would be another thing that could affect tone and technique. Especially if playing violins/fiddles and bows are more technique sensitive than pickering may realize.

Nevertheless there is nothing like a good series of scientifically driven trials to test these theories. A valuable contribution all the way around.

Cathye


Offline Don Stackhouse

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #33 on: Jul 20, 2005, 04:34:33 AM »
What about the attraction of a plastic like Saran Wrap to a glass bowl? There is a force there but it's not static electricity or else it would discharge when you touched the bowl. If you try and put the same plastic wrap on a plastic bowl, the attraction is much less. Teflon, none at all.

There are some websites that discuss this. Here's a good one:
http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/mar98/890527087.Ph.r.html

In a nutshell, the basic plastic film is made of long-chain polymer molecules like polyethylene or PVC (polyvinylchloride) that do not tend to stick to other surfaces or each other. To make it cling to itself and to containers, they then coat it with short-chain polymers that act like glue. When in contact with another surface that has enough surface energy, such as glass or ordinary plastic bowls, the coatings can form covalent bonds with the surface (see my earlier post).

If it's a surface like Teflon that has a very low surface energy, there are very few places on the surface that can form bonds with the coatings, so the glue-like coatings on the plastic wrap can't grab on and stick very well.

Offline Joe Gerardi

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #34 on: Jul 20, 2005, 04:51:44 AM »
Oh yeah? Then how do they get Teflon to stick to the pan? Huh? HUH? :):)

..Joe
"Some people are like a Slinky... not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs"

Offline Don Stackhouse

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #35 on: Jul 20, 2005, 05:02:58 AM »
Oh yeah? Then how do they get Teflon to stick to the pan? Huh? HUH? :):)

They sinter it on, often using a rough surface in the substrate to create mechanical bonds. The Teflon is applied to the surface under heavy heat and pressure, causing it to flow into the nooks and crannies of the textured surface of the pan, where it solidifies, anchoring the coating to the pan's surface.

Offline Nfkfiddler

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #36 on: Jul 20, 2005, 09:18:58 AM »
You did ask, Joe.  Now you know ;D

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #37 on: Jul 20, 2005, 11:51:40 AM »
Don't you believe them Joe. They use nails.

Alternatively, they use a carrier that will stick to anything and form a permanent bond:

Bolognaise sauce.

Offline olduckhunter

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #38 on: Jul 20, 2005, 12:01:57 PM »
this is my first post on fiddleforum. i won't get into the argument on which is best or what holds what better.  i have met and talked with the man that makes incredibows. met him at mt. view, arkansas at the folk center at the fiddlin' contest. he had a booth there and i had just bought my beginner fiddle to try to learn "fiddlin'".    i had seen him around  the square at mt. view playing his saw.  i asked him at his booth to play (he had a fiddle for people to try his bows out on) the fiddle with his bow. he said, "i don't play the fiddle.   don't know how."  he plays hand saws and if you've never heard someone play a hand saw it is really pretty and different.  anyway i bought an incredibow (the featherweight model).  at the time it was 40.00. this was a little over a year and a half ago. he said that he was going up to 80.00 after the contest. might have been a sales pitch and said that anyone that bought one at the contest could, if they liked them, buy another at that price later.  

i just went to his website and was amazed how the prices had gone up.   i live about 50 miles from his place and may one day go visit him.   i'm not that good at playing yet so i can't give an "experts" opinion of the incredibow. i can tell a  difference in the sound between it and a pernambuco bow i have but it's not that big of a difference.  or at least to me it's not. and the pernambuco bow is not a real expensive bow either.  so far not one "hair" has broken on the incredibow but i don't play it that much either.  would i buy another?  i don't think so at the prices they are now.  however, the new ones may be a lot better and not having to have them rehaired would be a great plus.


olduckhunter

Offline Don Stackhouse

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #39 on: Jul 20, 2005, 04:02:00 PM »
Don't you believe them Joe. They use nails.

Alternatively, they use a carrier that will stick to anything and form a permanent bond:

Bolognaise sauce.

Actually those comments are both surprisingly close to the truth. The mechanical bonds formed by interlocking the Teflon with a rounghened surface are in the same category as the mechanical bonds made by nails. The big difference is that in the case of Teflon coatings, the shape that creates the mechanical interference that makes the mechanical bond is made first, then the mating material (the Teflon) is formed into that interlocking shape. In the case of nails, the materials are formed first and placed together, then the nails are added to create the bonding mechanical interference.

In the case of Teflon spray-on coatings, they essentially have microscopic bits of Teflon suspended in a paint-like binding agent to form a slurry. The slurry is brushed, sprayed, dipped, etc., onto the substrate. The binder is then allowed to dry, cure, heat-set, or whatever so that it holds the Teflon bits in place. As the surface wears, the bits of Teflon are exposed, creating a self-lubricating non-stick surface.

However, I'm not aware of anyone using Bolognaise sauce as a binder. Sounds like an opportunity...

Don

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #40 on: Nov 30, 2005, 03:37:34 PM »
Hi Fidla,

Thats a very interesting post.  I do have one question though.  My wife used to play with a box which had Black Horse Hair and said it is the nicest bow she has ever used.

Would this have anything to do with the colour of the hair or did she just have a good quality bow?  The reason I ask is that I have to buy a new box and was wondering if the hair colour had anything to do with quality?

Cheers

Gav

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #41 on: Nov 30, 2005, 04:21:57 PM »
black hair is substantially thicker than white or silver grey (fiddlers) hair.  It has more "grab" and can produce a bigger sound, but many players complain of "bow noise" with black hair because of the thickness.

Here's a really good website with everything you need to know about bow hair: http://bestbowhair.com/.  Stores and luthiers, if you place your order today, we'll give you a FiddleForum 10% discount on all bow hair!

stone

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #42 on: Nov 30, 2005, 05:38:31 PM »
EDITED.
« Last Edit: Mar 12, 2006, 04:29:58 AM by stone »

Offline fidla

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #43 on: Nov 30, 2005, 06:38:17 PM »
I wouldn't worry overmuch about a little dirt on the hair part closest to the ferrule.  you don't play down there and it doesn't do anything to your sound or to weaken the bow overall. 

That aside, the best way to clean hair is to remove the frog from the stick, put a drop or two of denatured alcohol on a clean cotton cloth (like an old diaper for instance), and rub the cloth over the hair.  Don't let any alcohol touch the bow (unless it's synethetic material) as it will damage the finish.

stone

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #44 on: Nov 30, 2005, 07:28:30 PM »
EDITED.
« Last Edit: Mar 12, 2006, 04:30:23 AM by stone »

Offline beeswing

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #45 on: Nov 30, 2005, 09:24:05 PM »
"I wouldn't worry overmuch about a little dirt on the hair part closest to the ferrule.  you don't play down there and it doesn't do anything to your sound or to weaken the bow overall. "

Big old yup to that. That's where the hair gets grubby. So? It means you have (or someone has) been practicing.

There's a teacher in Eastern Mass who studied in Japan with Dr. Suzuki while he was still living, and tells the story about how his (Dr. S's) bow was never rosined for the first inch and a half from the frog. He would hand a newbie his fiddle and bow and ask them to play something. They'd be all eager to show how they used every millimeter of bow hair, and would skate silently for that first inch and a half... everyone else in the room would be doing their best not to giggle.

I don't hold that up as an example, but only a story.
I want to be a musician when I grow up.
Sorry, son, you can't do both.

stone

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #46 on: Nov 30, 2005, 09:58:56 PM »
EDITED.
« Last Edit: Mar 12, 2006, 04:28:49 AM by stone »

Offline fidla

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #47 on: Feb 08, 2006, 02:41:10 PM »
Lately we have been selling a lot of colored hair in hanks to individual players.  http://cgi.ebay.com/Bow-Hair-Red-enough-for-1-violin-bow_W0QQitemZ7389035919QQcategoryZ38108QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

I sold a bundle of red bow hair hanks to a luthier from Germany.  Anybody here know why a violin shop in Germany would be buying RED bow hair?

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Re: Bow Hair - What's the difference?
« Reply #48 on: Mar 12, 2006, 01:36:34 AM »
I never paid attention to hair that much before, until I got one of Adam's Beta Bows, and I love the hair on this... I'm sure part of the power and sound I'm getting from my acoustic with this bow is down to the hair, it really suits me. The only problem is that I'm used to my Incredibow hair strength now, being synthetic it is very very strong, and I guess I've broken about a 1/3 of the hair on the Beta bow already... and I'm not even gigging regularly...
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