I have spent nearly the past 15 years, studying and restoring fine bows. My techniques preserve the original playing characteristics, aesthetics, and value of the bow. Most untrained and even many trained eyes will have difficulty identifying my repairs. What I love about the bow is its functional beauty. Every part of a bow has a reason for being there and yet is disguised as something beautiful. Each part has an effect on either the playability, function, or protects the bow in some way, i.e. the artistic and decorative tip plate is designed to protect the head and beak, the jewelry-like button is used to tighten the bow and protect the butt end of the stick. The following is only a small list of typical repairs and their considerations that I am capable of doing for a bow:
Broken or missing tip plates are replaced with matching materials and are carefully fit to the head. The original shape of the beak and thickness of the material are matched exactly to the makers intent. The process is one where delicate hands, a keen eye, and patience is a must. One extra stroke of the file or careless matching of the chamfers can severely deface and devalue a bow. Proper execution will ensure original appearance, function, and value.
Winding and Grip
Windings and grips are not merely ornamental, but an integral part of the playability and necessary for protecting the stick from handling. The use of different materials like silver, faux whalebone, brocade, or silk thread can have a great effect on balance, weight, and durability of the winding. There are several options for grips such as lizard skin and several kinds of leathers. Recently I have been experimenting with leather alternatives on my own bows.
Screw and Eyelet
Eyelets and screws are the mechanism that allows the bow to be tightened and loosen. A carefully fit eyelet is important for repeatable reliability for several years. It is also necessary to have it fit properly to ensure an accurate fit of the frog, one example is if there is too much play, you can cause excessive wear to the stick where the frog meets the stick. It is not uncommon, over time, for the screw holes in the stick to become worn, which only exasperates the wear on the eyelet, screw, and frog/stick. The typical repair for this is to bush the holes completely shut and accurately re-drill them true.
Pearl replacement is something that should not be put off for too long if your bow needs it. The pearl slide is not only designed to allow access to the interior of the frog for rehair, but a full thickness pearl protects the rails of the frog. Even pearl eyes, if worn too much, eventually can cause the edges of the recess to become rounded and worn.
Replacement or repair of metal parts are necessary if it they severely damaged or worn. For example, ferrules can be bent back into shape, but if a careless rehairer or excessive acidic perspiration of a player causes the ferrule to tear or become worn, it may need to be soldered back together or an exact replica be made for the frog. The intent of the ferrule is to hold firmly the wide ribbon of hair and protect the tongue of the frog.
Recurving a bow is done if a stick has warped or lost some curve over time. I’m of the mindset that if it is a little off from perfect but plays well to leave it alone. Any adjustment to the curve however small it may seem, can have a tremendous effect of how the bow plays and feels. Additionally, whenever a bow is heated and bent, there is always a risk of damaging the bow, so it should only be done by experienced and qualified technicians. When I recurve a bow, I make tracings and take measurements so that the curve can always be stepped back to where it was before. When I make my personal bows, I document the original curve so if a little is lost overtime, the original curve can be put back in.
A cheval is done to the frog if part or all of an edge is damaged and needs to be fit up with all new wood and shaped back to original shape.
Headspline or graft can done if the head has been broken off of the stick. This type of damage to bow is the most devaluating and for insurance purposes is usually declared a total loss. Splining a head or grafting the stick can restore the bow to playing condition but there is comparatively little to no value left in the bow and should probably be reserved for bows with historic value.
Replica frogs are a great idea if your valuable bow has a frog made of products from an endangered species such as Tortise or Ivory. Not only has traveling abroad become more difficult if you own items of these materials, but these materials are generally more fragile and more time consuming to repair then ebony. The original frog can be preserved and stored in a safe place while the bow is used with a replica frog made of ebony. The original frog can be reunited when the bow is sold or displayed in an exhibit. It is important that replica frogs are made to exacting dimensions and specifications to preserve the playing characteristics and aesthetics of the bow.