How to Make Violin Bows Out of Recycled Materials

Updated April 17, 2017

According to bow maker Don Reinfeld, "the violin bow is to the violin what the breath is to the singer." For a violin bow to be so inspiring, manufacturing a bow oneself using recycled materials is a great task to undertake. A store-purchased bow from a music store, for instance, normally consists of imported wood or synthetic materials like fibreglass, carbon fibre or epoxy for the stick, ebony for the "frog" area of the bow and horse hair. To save money, be creative, and learn how to aid the environment and avoid using bow materials that are exotic or expensive. Create the wooden stick, frog and hair for the violin bow using recycled materials.

Obtain a dense piece of wood or wood laminate from an old oak chair or table. Cut a long block of wood and try bending it to test the density of the wood. Other good recycled wood material for the bow includes Brazil wood, spruce or solid maple. Measure your old bow for the perfect length; violin bows are anywhere from 21" -- 29" in length. Rough out the stick with a medium-grit sandpaper. Then use a block plane to shape the stick into an octagonal cross-section. According to DrBows, "the bottom three facets of the stick are draw-filed to remove any tool marks. The stick is then heated, a few inches at a time, over and alcohol flame or charcoal embers and pressed against a hardwood form to give the bow its curve, or camber." Because you've sanded the stick from its original recycled form, finish the stick with a wood stain that you can purchase at any home goods or hardware store.

Create the "frog," or the piece that holds the strings or hair and tensions the hair at the foot of the bow and smooth it so it fits to the stick. For the frog, use ebonol, which is made of layers of paper and resin. Ebonol is the replacement of ebony, the normal yet hard-to-find material used in violin bow frogs. Square the frog blank and plane the sides to make the blank into a trapezoid-shaped piece. Shape the sides with a gouge and scrape the frog to its typical shape. The frog needs some metal pieces in order to be prepared for the hairing process (the strings). Screw, don't glue, a small button with two metal rings into the frog.

Remove the hair from an old violin bow that you may find at a garage sale or online, in order to be consistent with using as many recycled materials as possible for your handmade violin bow. To remove the hair from the old bow, use a penknife and pick the hairs out of the wedge, the head and the knot. With these hairs, you may need to retie the ends of the hairs so they don't slip out, by searing the ends with a lighter or other form of gas flame, then cement the hairs together with a little resin. Place one seared end of the hairs into the box at the head of the bow stick. Straighten the hairs as best as possible using a small-toothed comb, then soak in lukewarm water. Comb again until straight. Sear the ends of the other side of the hairs once they are in perfect parallel form, and you have lain them into the wooden wedge to cover up the wedge box. With one final comb-through from head to end, flatten the hair out upon the upper side of the hoop.


To get full details to create your recycled materials violin bow, utilise the Internet. There are specific methods depending on the materials you choose to use. A tool shop with a wide range of tools is necessary for this project. It is a good idea to discuss options with a professional instrument manufacturer before embarking on the project.

Things You'll Need

  • Wood or wood laminate material
  • Ebonol
  • Recycled bow hairs from an old violin
  • Eco-friendly glue (just in case)
  • Resin
  • Lighter or other gas flame method
  • Small-toothed comb
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About the Author

Jodi Beuder is a writer and marketing consultant based in Reno, Nev. Her portfolio includes work for the "Reno Family Examiner," Skagen Designs and Teamwrx. Beuder holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from the University of Redlands (Calif.). She has two books that are currently in review for publishing, one fiction novel, and one parenting book she co-wrote with her mother.