If you have highly professional clients who complain about hair being too slippery, too elastic or breaking too quickly, it might be of interest to you to read this.
Since I retired a few years ago from the bow hair company I founded many years ago, ’Michael T. Sowden & Sons’ I now have the time to process white horse tail hair for the bow, as I was taught when I was 15 years old, back in the good old days in the early 1960s.
I was then, the last horse hair dresser to be trained outside of China, as the Chinese hair companies sold direct to the brush and bow makers around the world. Consequently, horse hair dressers were no longer required in and around Europe, but unfortunately the quality of the preparation of the hair deteriorated. That was when I decided to start my own business carrying on the worlds most unusual and rarest of trades.
The company I worked for, ‘E&G Slacks Ltd.’ was known all over the world for well over 150 years for its finest quality hair whether it be for the brush or the bow.
Back in those days ‘E&G Slacks’ bought most its hair from the slaughter houses in around the British Isles, and sometimes from Uruguay and Argentina and processed it within their Drighlington factory. This involves eight different procedures, each one very important in its own right.
These days practically all horse hair is imported from China.
The hair imported from China is basically OK for general work shop rehairs, apart from how it is sorted and processed, especially the washing of the raw hair and the use of industrial conditioners to speed up the process. This coats the hair with an industrial wax based synthetic invisible film, as it does with our human hair , and masks the natural scales abundant throughout on the surface and internally . This being an industrial coating is very difficult to remove by conventional washing, and causes hair not to accept rosin for very long periods. It also makes the hair too elastic and slick, which is also a big problem.
I suppose it’s difficult to criticise the work standards of factories over in China, as most of the owners care more for quick turnaround and maximum profit with the labour force drawn in from the poorer outlying villages who are totally oblivious to its intended use, as I found out when I paid one of my visits the factories over there.
As I said before, washing the hair, especially the long tail hair used in bows should treated in a very special way because for one thing, it is the most expensive white horsetail hair on the market and has to be suitable for the purpose it is intended for, the bow. ‘E&G Slack Company’ closed its doors forever over 40 years ago.
Now in my early 70s I have now decided to go back to the work practices of my old days and re-process the hair myself in my little workshop in West Yorkshire, as it should be, by re-washing and drying the hair slowly to get the best hair in the world for your bows. It’s a long process and I cannot produce a lot, but I get there in the end, it takes about a week to process 2 kilos.
The process includes completely removing all the strings, unwanted short and bad hairs and completely re-washing the hair. We used to call it ''scouring'', in a mixture of detergents we used years ago which does not harm the hair. This removes all the industrial conditioner and waxes and allows the original keratin surface to be revealed again, which allows the scales on the hair to be opened again by removing any conditioner that has been absorbed into the centre of the hairs (this can only be removed by using a centrifuge) which causes the hairs to be very elastic and stretch too much. By removing these unwanted added elements the hair is less elastic, stronger and better able to hold rosin much longer and also allows the camber of the bow to do what is was intended to do, that is to tension the hair correctly.
No other hair in the world is treated in this way.
Thank you for taking up your valuable time to read this. It might be worth your while to keep a small amount in your workshop, along side your regular hair, for those clients who are the most discerning.