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Hank Schutz

Shelf life of gut strings

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In a cleaning up spree, my wife found half a dozen unused all-gut strings, including violin E. They are probably 40-50 years old. Two are made in Italy, branded "La Bella". Two are German branded "La Brilliante" and two are American branded "Criterion". There is a contemporary La Bella company focusing on guitar strings, but I can not find references to either La Brilliante or Criterion.

Is it even worth string these up? If so, is there some preconditioning that might be useful?

HS

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As a rule of thumb, old violin, old strings, new violin, new strings.

Of course, it's false. 50 years is kinda old for strings. But what's the worst that can happen? They break during a performance and ruin your career. Big deal, your career probably wasn't worth the price of a few strings anyway. :) Look at it this way, this might be your one opportunity to try all-gut, dried out, oxidized, stiff strings. :)

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Andres Sender is thinking, these are the wackiest strings he's ever heard of. Baroque strings from a former era. As I understand it, the diameter of baroque strings is a matter of some speculation. Baroque strings from the 50's or 60's doesn't exactly give us a window into the Baroque, but it does give those of us who know nothing about it a window into what people thought about the Baroque some 300-400 years later. :)

If you try them, better learn to tie them correctly--especially the E--or they can break very quickly.

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I'm with Anders and La Folia, that these strings might be interesting artifacts of an earlier time. As such, it might be worth keeping them unused.

I doubt that tonally the strings would be satisfactory, and they probably wouldn't last very long.

When I was using metal wrapped gut core strings some 40 years ago, I never got more than a few months worth of satisfactory use from them. The useful life of gut core strings was a few months, never mind decades, and buying strings that were fresh was important.

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Here are the dimensions. I used a fairly high-end Mitutoyo digital caliper that displays to 0.01 mm.

LaBella D (no knot or dressing) 570mm x 1.1mm

LaBella E (knotted) 570 mm x 0.71mm

LaBrilliant E (no knot or dressing) >600mm x 0.66mm

LaBrilliant E (no knot or dressing) >600mm x 0.60mm

Criterion D (Knotted) 545mm x 1.17mm

Criterion G (looped and dressed) 545mm x 0.84 mm (silver plate wound on gut)

HS

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So they have knots and loops? I would be interested in a picture of the knots if you have an easy way to take a macro shot. As it happens, I need to find out how to tie those. :)

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Andres Sender is thinking, these are the wackiest strings he's ever heard of. Baroque strings from a former era.

Actually I'm just interested in what diameters 20th c. players were using when they were still using pure gut (as many were for middle strings up through the '60s). :)

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Actually I'm just interested in what diameters 20th c. players were using when they were still using pure gut (as many were for middle strings up through the '60s). :)

I have a load of those La Bella striings in a tube somewhere ,i bought them on ebay around the year 2000 (about 100 in different gauges),they still look rather fresh,i tried one or two and they seemed ok.I used all the silver wound G`s as they were rather good.

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So they have knots and loops? I would be interested in a picture of the knots if you have an easy way to take a macro shot. As it happens, I need to find out how to tie those. :)

This is how I do it.

post-37-1234398209_thumb.jpg

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Here are the dimensions. I used a fairly high-end Mitutoyo digital caliper that displays to 0.01 mm.

LaBella D (no knot or dressing) 570mm x 1.1mm

LaBella E (knotted) 570 mm x 0.71mm

LaBrilliant E (no knot or dressing) >600mm x 0.66mm

LaBrilliant E (no knot or dressing) >600mm x 0.60mm

Criterion D (Knotted) 545mm x 1.17mm

Criterion G (looped and dressed) 545mm x 0.84 mm (silver plate wound on gut)

HS

Hank,

What is the difference between dressed and not dressed? Is there some kind of coating when dressed?

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Hank,

What is the difference between dressed and not dressed? Is there some kind of coating when dressed?

I was referring to the fine thread coiled around the string extending for a few cm in length near the ends of the string. Nowadays such wrappings are color coded so that one can identify the string type. I called it dressing because I do not know what it is actually called.

The knots are no more than a single overhand knot, like the first half of making a square knot. The loop appears to be what David Tseng has shown, which I believe is called a bowline on a bite.

HS

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I was referring to the fine thread coiled around the string extending for a few cm in length near the ends of the string. Nowadays such wrappings are color coded so that one can identify the string type. I called it dressing because I do not know what it is actually called.

The knots are no more than a single overhand knot, like the first half of making a square knot. The loop appears to be what David Tseng has shown, which I believe is called a bowline on a bite.

HS

Heres a pic of some of the gut strings i have ,they are by la Bella , an American brand called nu-tone,the silver wound G strings were called Squier-Trued.

252826104-Untitled-1.jpg

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I'm with Anders and La Folia, that these strings might be interesting artifacts of an earlier time. As such, it might be worth keeping them unused.

I doubt that tonally the strings would be satisfactory, and they probably wouldn't last very long.

When I was using metal wrapped gut core strings some 40 years ago, I never got more than a few months worth of satisfactory use from them. The useful life of gut core strings was a few months, never mind decades, and buying strings that were fresh was important.

There are probably quite a few of us who grew up with these gut strings and the sound and response was good but string technology has come a long way since those days. With the gut strings, you were always fiddling with the pegs to adjust the pitch, especially after fitting new ones. But now, I can just put on a new string and pitch will be stabilized within and hour or so and remain for weeks.

Modern strings never seem to need changing either.

Glenn

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There are probably quite a few of us who grew up with these gut strings and the sound and response was good but string technology has come a long way since those days. With the gut strings, you were always fiddling with the pegs to adjust the pitch, especially after fitting new ones. But now, I can just put on a new string and pitch will be stabilized within and hour or so and remain for weeks.

Modern strings never seem to need changing either.

Glenn

I agree Glenn but some old instruments do sound very good with gut.

As an aside the Mari family who founded the La Bella brand ,were founded in the 17th century and supposedly supplied strings to Amati family and Stradivari .

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