Rehairing a bow.. My first successful attempt. ;)

Well, I have been blessed with an overabundance of ancient bows. Most of them need to be rehaired, and have damage in different areas. Here’s an account of my journey- good, bad, and ugly.. ๐Ÿ˜‰


This bow had a few hairs still attached, with a damaged wooden wedge trying desperately to hang on.ย 20140324_091658_resized


I dug the wedge and old hair out, then cleaned out the cavity in the bow tip as well as I could.



Then I went to work on the frog. First thing was to convince the metal sleeve to come off without damaging the ebony frog or scratching/deforming the ring. Took a while, but eventually it slid off.20140324_092620_resized


Then I slid the slide off, which again didn’t want to budge. I managed to get it off, but the shell delaminated from the wooden portion of the slide. I glued it back on, and set the slide aside



Once that was apart, I lifted the old hair out of the way and pried the wedge from the interior of the frog.20140324_092957_resized


It was pretty tightly wedged in, but came out without damage. Thank Heaven. ๐Ÿ˜‰



Here are the parts..

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Not every day you get to see the insides of a frog- Very precision chambers and channels in there…



I cut a piece of maple to make a new wedge for the tip. The wedge from the frog was fine, it’s better to reuse the original when possible (these are a pain to carve from scratch).20140324_095942_resized


Previously I mentioned gluing the shell to the slide of the frog- I guess this is when I actually did it. A couple drops of cyanoacrylate glue put it back in short order.



I gently placed the frog in a vise, and pressed the ends of the hair into the cavity, followed by the wooden wedge. Looks easier than it was..ย 20140324_105328_resized


Then I flattened out the hair, straightened it out to be as uniform as I could get it, and ot the slide into place. The slide clamps the hair and the wedge in place, and is very effective.



Once the hair, wedge, and the slide were in place, I slid the metal sleeve back onto the frog, which holds the slide in place. It also provides a platform that is straight and rigid on which the hair will rest.

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At this point, I drove a very thin wedge above the hair, which keeps everything nice and tight, as well as keeping it as close to a consistently flat plane as I could get. ย It is very securely anchored in the frog at this point.


I cut the loose end of the ย hair to length, and combed it as neatly as I could. Horsehair is really coarse, tough hair. By the way, this hair was removed from a clunky fiberglass bow that I didn’t care for. ย The old wooden bow is thinner, lighter, and more resonant than fiberglass. Each bow needs to be responsive and balanced, it has a huge impact on the sound and playability of the violin.



I got a length of cotton thread ready, as well as some CA glue and a toothpick.



I held the hair as straight as I could while tying the ends together, adjusted the knot, and put a drop of CA glue on the ends of the hair and thread. Once it had hardened, I trimmed it back to keep it as small as possible, without breaking the bond.




At this point, I spent a couple of hours carving a new wedge, but neglected to take pics- it was intense, and the fit is critical. Eventually, I got it to fit well into the cavity, holding the hair in place. Once I was satisfied with the fit, I put a tiny drop of hot hide glue into the cavity, inserted the hair and wedge, then pressed it into place. Held it tightly until the glue set.. then filed the underside of the wedge dead flush with the bow tip. I’m trying to keep the hair flat, flush, and straight. Reminiscent of running a six-burner stove with a one-track mind. Looks pretty good in the end, though. ๐Ÿ˜‰



Once the hair was seated in the tip, I reattached the frog to the stick, trimmed a few loose/wild hairs, and ran an open flame along the length of the hair. No pics, as I really couldn’t shoot anything while holding a moving flame along the hair. I’d hate to set it on fire.. lol

The heat helped bring the hair to a more uniform tension, and helped set the bend in the tip. Turned out nicely. This took some practice to get it nice and flat, but it affects the way the bow grips the string, and I’m very picky about having the hair straight and even. Any deviation is maddening, and wrecks the response of the bow- adversely affecting both the feel and the tone.20140326_151045_resized_1



Double click the pic, and you can see the hair is pretty darn flat- which is what it must be. You may also see a bit of discoloration near the frog, this is a carbon deposit from the flame.. Luckily, I was able to clean this off with denatured alcohol. Gotta keep that fire moving at all times.



That’s it- this bow is better than it has been in decades. Still nice and straight, also has a nice curve to the stick, giving a good amount of tension to the hair. Turned out very well. ๐Ÿ˜‰20140326_151141_resized_1



Antique German fiddle repair/restoration.. “Scratchivarius”

Here’s a grand old fiddle that has seen better days..

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The neck joint looks and feels solid. Lucky..


Pretty bookmatched maple back, 2 pieces. Seems to be intact.



It had a bone tailpiece in the case, I doubt it is original. I will probably put this away for a different project. It looks stressed, and doesn’t look good with this fiddle.. Still, it’s pretty cool! ย ๐Ÿ˜‰ Flintstones…

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Treble side and lower bout seams wide open..


A bit of warpage on the back plate- should go back with a bit of coercion and glue..


Opening up another seam, on the lower bout of the bass side. I’m cleaning crumbly glue and determining the length of the split. Dang, didn’t see this one at first.


Found a compound split on the upper bass corner- side is loose, so is the back.



No problem for some glue and patience. Nice and solid now. I glued both problems at the same time.



All set to glue up the bass side seam.. Gotta work extremely fast, so everything must be prepared in advance. I assembled everything first, then opened up the clamps and prepared to glue. I only have a few seconds to get the glue in place, align the pieces, and install/set the clamps. Once the glue starts to cool, (immediately) it loses its strength and bond.




Whew.. That was a biggie- but not as big as the treble side. I’ll probably glue that one in two operations.. We’ll see..




While manhandling the fiddle for the previous repairs, I heard a flex- a creak. Upon very close inspection, another corner block was unglued.. Go figure..




Again, opened the split, cleaned it, glued and clamped. Nice. ย ๐Ÿ˜‰


There was some previous tool damage to the finish on the first corner, so a quickie touch-up of shellac helped the appearance. I don’t want to go overboard with touch-ups, but some less meticulous workman had marred this pretty badly. Better to give it a shot, and it should blend right into the original finish..



Cleaning up the fingerboard- it’s pretty rough..


Needed leveling with a precision beam..


Brushed on some ebonizing fluid. Nice and black now. I’ll deal with finishing touches once the fiddle is closer to completed.



While everything settles down and dries/hardens, I dug in my stash and put together a set of tuning pegs- ย rough fitted them, and ebonized them.. Once dry, a little steel wool and elbowgrease will get them nice and smooth..



About 90% cleaned and hand rubbed/buffed.. Starting to come alive!!

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I picked up a nice ebony tailpiece and a new tailgut- much better choice for this instrument..



Prepped the big one and glued/clamped it tightly. I think that’s it for the structural part- at least as far as I can tell for now.. Big progress today! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Pre-warming the parts gives me a bit more working time with the hot glue..



I glued the corner first, aligned the side as good as it will go, then glued and clamped like a madman.. Looks like a nice repair.


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I was doing some additional touch-up on the side, and the original finish started to melt- turned to sandy grit. What a mess.. So I made some colored shellac to match, and managed to refin the side. Great match, but what a hassle..





Got a little nervous, but I figured it out.. ย ๐Ÿ˜‰DSCN1250DSCN1251


While I was at it, I cleaned and polished the scroll and pegbox too..DSCN1252DSCN1253


I straightened out the transition from neck to fingerboard, and re-ebonized the edges of the fingerboard. This one is a hardwood, but not ebony, Likely boxwood, but it’s anybody’s guess.. Getting those lines straight was exciting.. I ended up doing it by hand, with a brush! DSCN1257 DSCN1258


Something that keeps haunting me is the way the heel is carved.. It’s not symmetrical. It remains to be seen if the neck is straight to the body. I’ve seen this before, (it’s pretty common on these oldies) but it always is disappointing. Let’s hope it’s straight.. Shifting it is major surgery, and not really worth the effort- as long as everything plays nicely when it’s strung up. ย I’d hate to have to disassemble the whole fiddle to correct the angle.. Been there, done that before…DSCN1259

Another indicator the alignment may be off is the angle and location of the endpin hole. It is off center, and not at right angles to the body. It looks like there was some repair work done, as the side has a repaired crack- I don’t know how this is going to shake out..DSCN1264 DSCN1265


Measuring for length of the sound postDSCN1254


Preparing to cut a new sound post. Kind of critical.. ๐Ÿ˜‰DSCN1256


I installed the sound post, then turned my attention to fitting the tuning pegs. While reaming the holes in the pegbox, I noticed a hairline crack in the head. Damn. Time to heat up the glue again.. So goes the restoration process.

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So, it has been a battle.. Looks like I won. Need some rest, though.

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Had a tuner hole that was sloppy, so I bent some maple and laminated it into the hole. Worked like a charm!DSCN1275 DSCN1276

Trimmed off the excess..


Touched up the finish


Refitted the peg.



Strung it up, perfect result! ย ๐Ÿ˜‰ Then I made a video..

Very pleased with the results. Hope you enjoyed the blog. ย ๐Ÿ˜‰


Restoration of ’60’s Harmony (by Heath) hollowbody electric guitar

This cool old piece walked in the door yesterday, in need of some TLC.


Looks like a side seam had opened up, among other troubles. I didn’t get real far, but laid out a curve to match the true edge of the body.


Then made a wooden caul to exactly match the shape.

Once I finish the clamping jig, I’ll press the side back into place, get some hot hide glue in the seam, and clamp the pieces together.

More to come..

As an aside, the original pickups look to be DeArmonds, and they have a very unique (not to mention cool) sound. Easy on the eyes, too!


I’ve seen plenty of Harmony Rocket guitars, but this is the only one I’ve seen that started as a Heath kit. Awesome! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Clamped and aligned..


It took three clamps to stabilize, but looks like it worked out well. Hot hide glue applied, now letting it set up hard.




Good result..


Bringing the pickups into adjustment- those polepieces were crazy high, and the pickups themselves were very far from the strings… The new positioning will give the instrument a much stronger signal, with less background noise.


Here’s the fretboard- Dirty, corroded frets and covered with gunk. Funny what 20 years sitting in a barn will do to a guitar.


Some cleaning, polishing, and a good moisturizing treatment will bring this back from the dead.. lol

Washed, scrubbed, scraped, buffed, and oiled…

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Much better now!

I found an old switch tip that matches the character of the instrument, drilled and tapped it to fit the original switch. One more item down.. ๐Ÿ˜‰



Now a partial disassembly, bath, and polish is in order..

Tightemed up a loose neck


Pulled the tuners off and polished the headstock on all sides


Cleaned. lubricated the tuning machines. Straightened two bent tuner shafts, and repaired a binding, sticky tuner- reinstalled.

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Cleaned, tested the electronics and reinstalled.


Polished and tightened the loose bridge.


Knocked the nut off- it had been glued off center. Cleaned the slot, the nut, reinstalled properly.


Pulled the pickguard, output jack. Cleaned and aligned the jack, polished the face of the instrument.


Here’s a little gem under the pickguard.. Awesome! ๐Ÿ˜‰