Phoenix Bow Rehair

Why do I need the grip on my bow?

Why do I need the grip on my bow?

By on Jan 15, 2017 in All About Bows | 0 comments

This might seem like a very basic question, that does not warrant much of an answer, but it is actually a very good question, with a lot of facets in which most people would not think to consider when looking at this piece of leather wrapped around the stick of their bow. Clearly, by name alone, the primary purpose of this part is quite obvious, it helps you to hold your bow. Without this part, it would be difficult to hold the bow during performance, as the fingers would much more easily (especially when your hands start to sweat) slide up and down the shaft of the bow, making bow control far more difficult. The other main purpose of the grip, is one that most do not think, but it is to protect the wood of your bow from the acids in your sweat. We don’t think much of it, but our sweat can be quite destructive to our bows, when coupled with regular pressure, and use.

One of the most difficult aspects of playing a bowed instrument, is holding the bow in a relaxed fashion, so as to permit the bow to do its best work, and produce the best sound. This is something that most string musicians will struggle with the most, and will continue to morph throughout their career. Eventually, most will fall into some sort of comfort zone with their bow hold, but typically this will also include some kind of divot into their bow grip, where the thumb contacts the stick. This is where there is a contradiction of purpose of the grip, while the divot will help to permit a relaxed bow hold, when let to continue through the leather, and into the wood of the stick, it will cause permanent damage to the bow. It might at first seem insignificant, but in fact, it can become quite serious very quickly, as that part of the bow will become weakened, permitting warpage to occur, and in the worst case scenario, the bow breaking completely. If you should find that your grip is in this state of repair, the course of action is to cover the spot with some kind tape (duct, gaffers, electric, etc.) as a stop-gap measure, until it can be properly repaired in the shop.

Traditionally, the grip on a bow is about one-inch in length, but for most performers, this is not enough grip for the span of their hand, resulting in a hold where the fingers will have contact with the lapping on the stick, and compromising their ability to maintain a relaxed bow hold. Most bow luthiers, will pre-cut their different leathers into one-inch strips, to expedite the process of replacing a grip. However, in my shop, I customize every grip to the specifications of the customer, choosing the best piece of material, and cutting to the length that will best permit a comfortable, relaxed bow hold.

For my customers, I regularly stock black cow, and various colors of lizard leather as options for replacement bow grips. Cow leather is the most traditional material that is be used, is quite functional, comfortable, affordable, and will last a reasonable length of time. Lizard skin (in all colors), while being less traditional, especially for older bows, will give the performer a more “aggressive” grip to their bow, because of the scales on the leather, and a far more durable material. Because lizard leather is so thin, it must be supplemented with backing material, or the grip will feel too insignificant to the performer. In my process for replacing a grip, while many luthiers will use a thick paper material for backing, I use a thin cow leather for my backing material. As a result of this process, when the customer chooses lizard skin for their new grip, there will actually be two new grips, one of cow, the other lizard leather. The effect being two layers of leather, that when bonded, are incredibly durable, and will last a long time. These layers give the grip a very nice cushion, and depth to the grip, that most performers find helps to promote a comfortable, and relaxed bow hold. It will as well, dress-up any bow, adding to the overall beauty of your bow in ways that will leave you very satisfied with your decision to have your bow’s grip replaced in my shop.