Question: I would like to know what a bowmaker recommends to clean and polish the bow shaft. Is it permissable to use the same polish as used on the violin or cello body? What is French polish, can it be obtained through most of the usual sources? Answer: Hello Dwain: Cleaning the bow stick can be tricky. Here are the things to consider. Is the stick finished with a shellac or varnish? Is it just bare wood? Alcohol works wonderfully but it will remove the original finish. If it is a cheap commercial bow, go for it using denatured ethyl alcohol. If it is a named professional made bow, DON'T clean it with alcohol!!! Attempt to remove all the old rosin and finger oils with a mild dish washing soap (green) and warm water. After doing this, use Simple Green if there is any remaining rosin and finger oils on the stick. To polish the stick, do not use and varnish waxes, oils, etc. because they sometimes never dry and will soil the hair causing slick spots. It is best to clean the stick after each playing removing all signs of powdered rosin and hand oils. Don't forget the frog and importantly, the stick portion by the frog. We recommend that the makers stamp be covered with a thin layer of leather using only weak hide glue. This will preserve the stamp. Some players use simple Scotch tape. Ask your bow rehairer to always throughly clean the stick each time it is haired. Don't hold the bow in the middle of the stick when changing pages during the concert. Always hold the bow by the frog. !!!!!!!NEVER-NEVER-NEVER-NEVER-NEVER-NEVER-NEVER-NEVER!!!!! Tap your music with the head of the stick as your applause! don't even wave the tip of the stick in the air to perform a silent applause! More good bows have been damaged this way than any other. Except poor rehairers!!! French polish is an alcoholic solution of shellac and sometimes just a smidgeon of almond or walnut oil. It is used to put on the last finishing glaze over the wood or varnish. It should only be used by someone who has great skill. It can do more harm than good if not used correctly. All the best, Dennis Braun
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