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alt /to making fiddle bow

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pete au 28 Apr 03 - 07:50 PM
JohnInKansas 28 Apr 03 - 08:26 PM
pete au 29 Apr 03 - 01:57 AM
GUEST 29 Apr 03 - 07:19 AM
Malcolm Douglas 29 Apr 03 - 08:55 PM
JohnInKansas 29 Apr 03 - 09:01 PM
Gurney 30 Apr 03 - 02:47 AM
JohnInKansas 01 May 03 - 01:35 AM
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Subject: alt /to making fiddle bow
From: pete au
Date: 28 Apr 03 - 07:50 PM

hi i play the sing saw and i allways brack the hairs on the bow,i have heard sum people using a car tyre or a lady's stocking instead
of the hair, anyone know were i can get instuctions on how to play the cross cut saw


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Subject: RE: alt /to making fiddle bow
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 28 Apr 03 - 08:26 PM

Most of the "sawyers" I've seen use a regular hair bow, although a few prefer a viola bow (heavier) rather than a fiddle bow. I'm sure many other things have been tried, since almost any two things you rub right can make "music" of some sort.

Musical saws should have the back edges smoothed up a little and the teeth blunted so you're not running around with holes in your knees all the time. With a "musically sharpened" saw, you might get a little more rapid hair loss than on another instrument, but it really shouldn't be extreme.

I assume you're bowing the backside and not on the teeth?

We have a few players who may be along with firsthand help.


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Subject: RE: alt /to making fiddle bow
From: pete au
Date: 29 Apr 03 - 01:57 AM

yes john i am using the back side of the saw, when i rosin the bow i rosin the backside of the saw as well.

thax for your help


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Subject: RE: alt /to making fiddle bow
Date: 29 Apr 03 - 07:19 AM

Try using the saw to play the fiddle.

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Subject: RE: alt /to making fiddle bow
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 29 Apr 03 - 08:55 PM

See also these earlier discussions:

How do you play a saw?
Musical Saw Players Festival
Musical saw. How do I make/play one?

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Subject: RE: alt /to making fiddle bow
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 29 Apr 03 - 09:01 PM

Our "found instrument" experts don't seem to be responding here. It may be because they don't recognize what you're looking for from the thread title you used. Good titles are sort of an "art" that has to be learned, so don't worry about it.

You might find something of interest at Folk Instruments. I didn't find anything specifically about musical saws, but you might pick up something from the bowed psaltery articles and other "homebuilt" instrument links.

Dennis Havlena has a rather strange site, with a link to How to Musical Saw. He gives a very brief description of how to use fishline to make a bow, and a quick description of how to play a saw. Lots of other interesting stuff there if you're into homemade music.

If the problem is just that your saw is too "sharp" and is cutting the hair on your bow, you should be able to smooth it with a little "elbow grease" - i.e. muscle and time. You could start by simply rubbing the "playing edge" with any smooth steel object. The round shank of a large screwdriver would be about right. Try to apply fairly firm even strokes just to the edges. Not too much pressure, but enough to "hone" the edge and smooth down any rough edges.

For a "finish," if needed, you could use almost any kind of strap, such as an old trouser belt. Leather is ideal, but a heavy cloth web should also work. It will polish more quickly with a little "grit" applied, and the normal thing would be to use a commercial "rouge" polishing compound. Any commercially available "scouring powder" (sink cleaner) or even some toothpastes and powders might work ok - or just a little road dust, if you're really hard up for materials. Put a little of the grit on your "strap." Sit down with the saw between your knees, and run the strap back and forth as if you were polishing someone's boot. Work up a good stroke and you might find you like playing the "strap" as well as the saw.

As to substitute materials, Havlena suggests nylon fish line. Almost anything that's soft enough to "take" a little rosin should work, but once you've got the technique of making the saw "sing" for you, you'll probably like the conventional hair best.

I didn't find anything on groups or even individual performers "down there," so the normal recommendation to find a local consultant doesn't do much good - although it's always good to have an accomplice or two in a new endeavor, if you can find one or two.


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Subject: RE: alt /to making fiddle bow
From: Gurney
Date: 30 Apr 03 - 02:47 AM

You can always make a new bow if you can get the horses tail. When I made Bowed Psalteries I made the bows from heat-bent bamboo, notched at the ends, with the hair sprung in like a bow-string.

Dampen the horse-hair slightly, comb it straight, and fix the ends by making a little 'sandwitch' of wood and a gapfilling glue, such as 'Plastic Padding.' Is that still available?

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Subject: RE: alt /to making fiddle bow
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 01 May 03 - 01:35 AM

My previous post was sort of a catastrophe. My link to my ISP shut down on me in mid post, and a whole lot of garbage came up, so I had to re-do it all. Malcolm Douglas posted links while I was rewriting mine, or I would have commended him for his selection of related threads.

There is quite a bit of helpful stuff on how to play the saw, and on how to select a saw to play, but I'm afraid not much on the original question of alternate bow materials. The consensus is that a "regular" bow works best.

Those who describe how to play all use a "finger grip," which I've found rapidly tiring. (I don't play, but I've tried it out.) The half-dozen players who show up at festivals in my area all use a 6 or 7 inch long wooden "dowel" - broom handle size, with a slot cut about half way through near one end. Slip it on the end of the saw and push to raise an upward (convex up) bow, and then when you hold the rod a little above the blade, the torque generated by the "offset thrust" just naturally puts the "S" curve in. It really is a lot easier to get the proper curve, and much less tiring (for those of us with weak fingers, at least).

Strongly recommend that you check out the links above. In addition to some info on saws, you'll find some of Mr A.T.'s horrible stories that seem to go with the customary act that needs to accompany the instrument.


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