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BowBadger Instruction Manual


Even if you do not own or have access to a BowBadger, you will still find useful information in this manual. I recommend you read it



Terms used in this manual.


Butt, the butt of the bow is considered to be the general area from where the winding ends to the very end of the bow.


Nipple, ‐ The nipple is the wood protrusion at the end of the bow which acts as the rear bearing on which the bow button rides.


Door‐Ease, a wax lubricant used on the nipple, of the bow screw and the front of the button. This product is available from automobile supply stores.


Zipper‐Ease, A wax lubricant manufactured by the A.G.S Company in Muskegon, Mich, USA. Similar in properties to Door‐Ease albeit some‐ what thicker.


Bow butt layout and terminology. As seen from the bottom of the bow.



These terms will be used frequently throughout this manual. Please refer back to this drawing.






The BowBadger was born out of a shear need to speed up the often-delicate operation known as the butt bushing.

Most bows will in time require one and the unaided method, although most often very well done, is very time consuming. Especially for violin shops that are not necessarily dedicated to this work. What once took up to six hours can now take as little as 15 minutes.


After more than a year of design and testing, the BowBadger applied for a patent in the year 2011.

It has since found its way into shops around the world, including Australia, Austria, Japan, Ger‐ many, Iceland, Finland, France, Korea, Taiwan, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Russia, USA and



All moving parts are supported by Oilite® bearings for long life. Stainless parts and high grade anodized aluminum housing make up this precision bench-top tool.



Owners will leave it to their grandchildren.

Page 4



Drilling the new shaft.


The perfect assembly for bow and frog is established using the forward screw shaft and the rear nipple as the only two bearing points. The screw should travel freely through the rest of the rear shaft. The rear portion of the butt is not a bearing. When the rear part of the shaft is the same diameter as the screw, say 3mm, the screw can bind when the climate changes.


The thinnest drill bit supplied with the BowBadger is number 38 which measures 2.57mm or 13/128 inch in imperial measure. Begin with that bit. Insert the guide for that drill and drill the pilot hole.


Next use the number 30 bit  which measures1/8th inch

or 3.2mm. This will be the shaft for violin, viola and

cello bows. Most commercial screws measure

just under 3mm and turn freely in that size shaft.

If you choose to go with a 3mm shaft, re‐move

 The drill guide and drill with your 3mm drill bit or

purchase the 3mm drill guide.

 Most violin shops prefer the number 30 drill

shaft size.


Once the new rear shaft is drilled to size, use

a nipple cutter to form the new nipple according

 to the recess in the button.

If you are making a new bow, you can

Make the nipple diameter according to your own standard.

Use a recess cutter in the button to match the size of the nipple bearing.




For nipple cutters and recess cutters see that chapter.

Page 5



Boring out the old wood for a butt bushing.


Boring out worn shafts is a delicate operation. Always start with some expendable bows until you feel comfortable with the results.                                                             

First insert the bow into the vice and close the gates. No need to crush the bow butt, the jaws should hold it firmly in place. Try pulling it out. If it stays for the pull it will stay during the drilling.

Next try to wiggle the bow. If it has a different diameter at the back or the front portion of the insert you may want to wrap a layer of masking tape around the end that is looser.


Don't overlap. The drawing below shows a taped packing on the narrow end. Tape does not need to be long to offset the difference. See the green tape in the drawing below.


Ideally you may not want to drill into the mortise cavity. Here is the solution to avoid that.

Open the jaws of the vice.


Turn the bow with the mortise facing up. Gently clamp it above the guide rails so the entire butt is visible. Fasten a drill stop on each drill bit you plan to use. Lay drill bit along the bow and lock the drill stop level with the front face of the drill guide.


Next drill the butt with the #15 drill bit. Go slowly. The sound it makes will tell you what it is doing. Next use the #7 drill. That bit is just a little over 5mm and will cut an ideal shaft diameter for the rear portion of the butt.


Set a drill stop in this bit and do not drill into the mortise. Stop right at the very end.



Now use the 1/4-inch  brad point drill bit and cut a cavity 5mm in depth. This drill will cut a diameter of 6.4mm. Go very slowly, use a drill stop.

This will accommodate the stepped plug of the new bushing.

Page 7


Loading older bows into the vice.

Not all bows are a perfect octagon, especially the older French and German bows.

When a bow is deeper on the vertical, insert the bow at 90 degrees. This way the shaft will be drilled exactly in the center and give a balanced view once the button is in‐ stalled. It also squares the rails the frog rides on (the 45-degree faces) with the frog. In figure B1 we see the bow on its side

Figure B1

In figure B2 you can see how the shaft location may be distorted by allowing the bot‐ tom facet to drop though that gap in the vice.

Figure B2



The shaft will now be drilled to the maximum safe diameter. If the butt allows it, use the ¼  inch brad point bit. Advantage of this drill is that it scrapes the side of the shaft before it drills the center core.


This is the last bit used in the butt and great care must be taken to

avoid splitting the wood. If the butt is on an old bow, great care must be taken to avoid splitting. The best security is to wrap the end with nylon thread. The video on line shows how.

Remember, all drill bits have a tendency to "grab" or draw forward into the wood. Holding the chuck and handle back is of the utmost importance.


Again, practice on "junk" bows to develop the feel.

There is no need to drill deeper than three or four millimeters into the end using the 1/4 inch brad point bit. You only need a good seat for the nipple. Use the #7 drill bit up to the mortise and not beyond.

Next, machine a Pernambuco plug on a lathe to fill this cavity. Be accurate with a snug fit.


The new plug.

Page 9


Glue the Pernambuco plug with a high quality epoxy glue and allow to cure as long as
essary before drilling the shaft.

Once the glue has completely cured on the new plug, reinsert the bow into the BowBadger and using the #38 drill, drill a pilot hole. Next follow that up with the #30 drill. If you are using 3mm drill bits, use it in place of the #30.

Now you are ready to shape the new nipple.

Install the appropriate pilot rod in your nipple cutter and let it guide the cutter to the cen‐ ter of the butt. Go slowly. Heavy torque on the cutter can destroy your new wood. Take your time. It will be worth it. Be careful not to cut into the existing bow wood. Go only up to it and quit.

Test the new nipple with the existing button.

Use a piece of very fine sand paper to smooth its surface.


Coloring the new wood

For this procedure, use a pipe cleaner. Believe it or not, people still smoke pipes and clean‐ ers are readily available.

Mix a small amount of potassium permanganate with water. This is a stain. Dip the pipe cleaner in the solution and coat the inside of the bushing as well as the exposed new wood. It will instantly age it and blend in with the original colors. Allow to dry completely.

Page 10




Aligning the forward screw shaft


Once the nipple is re‐established and the shaft drilled you must now drill the for‐ ward screw hole in line with the nipple. The frog must slide along the 45-degree rails evenly along their full length. It must also not wobble. It should have the freedom to adjust without binding.

First, insert the bow screw into the brass eyelet. Next establish the proper height of the eyelet by placing the frog at the mouth of the nipple while holding the frog tight against the stick. Adjust the height until the screw fits dead‐center into the shaft.

That establishes initial height of the brass eyelet. See figure B4




The ideal technique to establish the location is to use an alignment rod. Made of piano wire, also called music wire, available in most hobby shops, with a diameter of 3/32nds of an inch. (2.37mm). It slips perfectly through the brass eyelet.

Since the rod is made of a high‐carbon steel it will not bend.

Grind the end evenly on both sides until it is reduced to one millimeter in the middle. Slope the end to make a spade bit of it using the grindstone. Now you have a perfect drill bit as well.



The rod should not be less than 6 inches (50mm). Actually the longer the better. The external portion is used to visually align the eyelet height inside the mortise.

A couple of words about the brass eyelet. It needs to be absolutely dead center be‐ tween the two rails. If the eyelet is inserted at an angle or more to one side, you may have to drill an oversize hole in the eyelet seat, bush it and re‐drill the seat to make the necessary corrections.

Page 11



Method of perfect screw alignment


Install the eyelet into the frog. Turn it until it fits in the mortise. Adjust the eyelet height until the protruding rod is absolutely level with the stick. This can be done by eye or with a micrometer. Make sure the frog is held tight against the butt and as far forward as possible.

Once the level state is reached go ahead and drill the forward screw shaft with the frog still in place..


The rod alignment method can also be used to help diagnose issues with the frog seating. A loose frog is obviously a problem for the player whereas a frog that has a gap at the tongue or at the rear will eventually wear the eyelet. Proper seating is of the utmost importance.

Forward screw shaft marking too high

Forward screw shaft marking too low.


Once you have determined the test rod is absolutely in line, drill the forward screw shaft right through the eyelet using a drill bit made of the same music wire as de‐ scribed above, Its like a spade bit Make sure the frog is all the way forward in the mor‐ tise and held secure, either by hand or by some clamping method. Get the shaft started for about two or three millimeters , then remove the frog and finish the shaft to its full depth with this drill bit.


Warning. Test the hole regularly with the screw and button. The forward shaft is not only a side bearing but also a thrust bearing. The very end of the screw must rub on the end of that shaft. This prevents the screw from pulling out of the button.

Page 12

Cleaning your vice

It  is  imperative that  you clean your  BowBadger        after  every use. Use     a  brush  and  a Qtip  to remove all sawdust inside the unit. That includes the threaded shafts, the jaws of the vice and the bottom plate. Avoid the use of metal tools within the jaws. Although they are of hard anodised aluminum, they still can scratch.

Clean the drill bits with alcohol on a tissue, or a stiff brush. Store in a dry place. Drill bits will rust if left in a wet environment. These drill bits are of top quality and expensive to replace.

Keeping your unit clean will give you years and years of use.

The Vann nipple cutter now available in three sizes


Page 13


The Recess Cutter

The recess cutter is made with similar steel and has six cutting teeth. These cutters are glued in wooden handles which allows the screw shaft to be accommodated for it entire length.



The nipple cutter

Manufactured by Turney Industries, the makers of the BowBadger, these cutters are made of high grade tool steel and can be re‐ sharpened when needed.


A handy augment of tools to the BowBadger.


They are made in sizes of 5mm 5.5mm and 6mm for violin, viola and cello.


For bass bows this cutter is 8mm.

Turney Industries can also make sizes custom to your needs. The nipple cutter is made of high-grade tool steel and has eight cutting teeth

that are sharpened with a diamond blade. Nipple cutters can be installed in your hand chuck sup‐ plied with the BowBadger. A different version has each size cutter permanently glued into a dedicated wooden handle for a small additional cost.


The recess cutter is made with similar steel and has six cutting teeth. These cutters are glued in wooden handles which allow the screw shaft to be accommodated for it entire length.


These can be found on

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