It’s a pain, but it has to be done.
If you own a violin, the time will come when you need to rehair your violin bow.
Like changing a string, this can seem like a daunting task. These bows are delicate and if you accidentally damage them, they can be costly to replace.
For that reason, many violinists opt to pay someone to rehair their bow. It’s easier and safer. If you can afford it, I highly recommend you hire a professional.
But doing it yourself is possible. As long as you know what you’re doing.
And by the time you get to the end of this article, you will know what you’re doing.
Beginning violinists and experienced instrumentalists alike often make the same mistakes. Luckily, they are easy to avoid if you follow the correct procedure.
My instructions will guide you through the rehairing process and ensure you do not do any irreversible harm to your bow.
Rehairing A Violin Bow: A Complete DIY Guide
Before we get to the rehairing instructions, let’s take a look at the tools you need to rehair your violin bow. Many are things you probably already have around the house.
Things You Will Need
- Horse hair (like this good, inexpensive pack on Amazon)
- Needle-nose pliers
- Sharp Scissors
- Gauge (this is a good one)
- Thin wire
- Wire cutters (like these)
- Hair clips or hair slides
Removing The Old Horse Hair
Obviously, before you can attach new hair to your bow, you need to first remove the old hair. To do this, simply take your scissors and cut the hair off, leaving a few inches at each end. These few inches will allow you to get leverage for the next step.
Now, use your needle-nose pliers to grip the very end of the few inches of remaining hair on the plug side of the bow. Roll the pliers into the hair, so that it wraps around them.
Keep rolling the hair onto the pliers, while pulling it from the plug. Some plugs release the hair much more easily than others. Either way, be careful not to damage the plug.
To remove the hair from the heel of the bow, loosen the screw at the back of the frog wedge first by twisting it to the left. This will loosen the ferrule.
You’ll probably need to spend some time rocking the ferrule back and forth before it loosens. Again, be patient. You don’t want to cause any damage to the wood.
When it is released, remove the small wooden wedge at the bottom and then use the same method with the pliers as you did on the plug side.
Buying Horse Hair And Storing It
When buying horse hair, the general rule is: the lighter the hair, the better. If you can afford it, get lighter hair.
To properly store the hair, make sure to gather it together neatly, so it doesn’t become tangled and unusable. An easy way to do this is using ordinary hair clips at the top, bottom and middle of the bunch of hair.
Replacing The Horse Hair
Use the gauge to measure how much of the horse hair you will need. It should be approximately the same width as the ferrule that you removed earlier.
Gather the hair that you cut off and clip it together using simple clips or hair slides, so that it stays together and doesn’t get tangled while you are working with it.
Use the wire to tie the hair closely together at each end. Use the glue to get the hair to stick together at the part where it is slightly protruding from where you tied it together with the wire. This will ensure that it fits neatly, without any hairs sticking out. Give the glue time to set.
Once the glue has set, insert the hair at the top of the plug (with the wooden wedge removed) using a thin stick or screwdriver to poke it in and get it in the correct position.
When you have the correct positioning, put the wooden wedge back in place, to ensure the hair stays where it should. You want the plug to be flush with the tip of the bow.
Before attaching the hair to the heel or frog side of the bow, remove the clips and use a small comb to comb out any tangles that may have appeared. You want the hair to form a thin ribbon shape as opposed to being bulky like a rope.
Once you’ve got it nice and combed, put the clips back to prevent any future entanglement. Tie the loose side of the hair off with wire and fuse the hairs together with glue, just like you did before with the other end.
Slip the hair through the ferrule. Remove the bow from the frog to give you a little bit of extra room to work with.
Place the hair into the small hole in the frog from the top down. Use the screw driver or stick to get it in the correct position, before putting the wooden wedge back in place.
Finally, slide the abalone back, keeping the hairs away from the rail.
When you have finished reattaching the last wedge, you can use apply light heat quickly along the hair, to get the strands to fuse together a bit for finer playing. Then use some rosin to prime the bow. Crush it and gently pat and rub it all along the hair.
That does it! You’ve successfully reahaired your bow and it’s ready to once again make beautiful music. Nice work!
Cost To Rehair A Violin Bow
If you do it yourself, the cost is your time, plus the cost of the replacement hair. You can easily find good bow hair for under $10 and even extremely high quality hair shouldn’t cost much more than $20.
If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can expect to pay a professional luthier around $50 to $80. This includes the cost of the horse hair and labor. It is money well spent to ensure your valued instrument is taken care of.
Frequently Asked Related Questions
These are some of the most common questions I get related to rehairing a violin bow.
How Often Do You Rehair A Violin Bow?
It mainly depends on how much you use your violin. If you play 4 or 5 hours every single day, you will likely need to rehair your bow 3 or 4 times a year. If you’re not quite that dedicated, replacing it once or twice a year is usually enough.
How Do You Tighten The Hair On A Violin Bow?
There is a screw on the end of your violin bow. Turn this screw to tighten (or loosen) the hairs on your bow.
How Do You Get Broken Hair Off A Violin Bow?
If you have a few loose or broken hairs, there is no need to replace all the hair entirely. You can just remove the offending hairs and continue playing with the bow.
If you have a loose hair, cut it at the loose part, which makes it the same as a broken hair. For broken hair, pull the hair(s) away from the rest of the bow and then cut it carefully at both ends. Cut close to the frog and the tip.
You do not want to pull the hair out. If you do that, the grip on the remaining hairs loosens a bit and it make it easier for more of them to become loose or to break. Always cut the hairs, leaving the ends still attached at the frog and the tip.
Here is a two-part video series that might help illustrate the rehairing process.