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Stradivari's Secret


Roger Hargrave

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David,

The water in the dead structure can freeze if the winter is cold and long enough. I think it takes extensive time under minus 40 F. The living cells have a three stage process which keeps the free water from freezing.  One of these processes [an increase in  viscosity]creates an increase in pressure within the cell structure that keeps the bound water from freezing in the cell walls.  This is the explanation given to me by the Forest Products Research Lab.

Here is a brief outline of the concepts: http://northernwoodlands.org/outside_story/article/trees-survive-winter-cold

Joe

Joe, very cool. Somehow I missed this article. Since I have been girdling a lot of trees in my woodlot to achieve gradual crop tree release I have a lot of standing dead trees which I am now cutting for firewood. My experience is that the wood from the girdled trees is lighter than trees cut live and then dried but I have not seen any more insect infestations or fungus other than stain spreading from the cuts themselves. So far I have not documented any of these observations but I am now intrigued enough that I will try to get some real data about the timing of the girdling and harvesting as well as weighing samples of the wood from pre-girdled trees versus similar live harvested examples.

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oooh baby...it may be cold outside....

But the water in the tree, both bound and free water, does not freeze until the tree dies.

Joe

Joe

Read the article you linked to again. Both you and David are partially right in your assertions. The water in the dead wood cells of the living tree do freeze but the tree does not die because the living cells don't freeze.

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I read an article by Dr. Nagyvary that said the wood was treated with Borax.

He scientifically found chemicals in the wood that was not in normal wood.

So the only question would be what did the treatment do to the wood and we have the secret ... wood-wize that is.

 

Why, because I would have expected Dr. Nagyvary violins to all be made with this new wood by now, but have not heard any startling news about them surpassig Strad.   It still may be that the wood is aging, so I will keep an ear open. 

So the secret must be Strad, and his work envirnment, since it would seem that everything else has been tried .... except.

 

Has anyone tried an infinite number of monkeys in a room with wood and tools?

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About trees freezing

 

Take a walk in the forest and tell me what you see?

 

If trees froze, and water expands when frozen, then there would be expolding trees everywhere.

Run for your lives!

 

If just 1% of threes exploded, we would know about it.

Hey Mom I am going for a walk in the woods.  

Son don't forget your kevlar coat and safety helmet.

 

Trees have a way to  survive the cold.

 

Simeon Chambers measured and listed the properties of special wood from trees that had been on the ground.

They would have been exposed to very cold temperatures, and had no girdling, so should be interesting to see these instruments, if we can identify the wood in them and see how they do.

I was thinking of buying this special wood, but then it was pointed out to me that since this is my frst instrument that I am working on, that I would not benefit from it.   Cheaper wood was best.

Perhaps when I get more experience I will try this.

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Have you taken a look at how much pressure is required to suppress the freezing point, even one degree?

I'm thinkin' 100 psi to several thousand psi internal tree pressure has never been measured, and isn't viable.

The answer is here, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Phase_diagram_of_water.svg , but this probably won't mean a lot to most people. Look at the red horizontal line marked 1 bar, that is a typical air pressure. Notice how the red line intersects the boundary between the areas marked 'solid' (blue shaded region) and 'liquid' (green shaded region)  at a right angle? That means that you can increase the pressure a whole lot before the freezing temperature of water changes. Maybe if the pressure inside a tree is 1000 times higher than air pressure the fluid wouldn't freeze....

 

There are a lot of red maples around where I live now. Last week I saw one that had  a small trig broken off and the sap flowing from the trig had frozen into a 3" long maple sap icicle. The temperature had been in the twenties for a few days when I saw this.  It's a little confusing. Obviously the sugars weren't enough to keep the sap from freezing. However, the sap had to be fluid inside of the twig or else it wouldn't have been able to flow from the wound.

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Maybe tress have chemicals which act as antifreeze agents? You know there are fish that live at great depths and in the freezing Arctic ocean that don't freeze. Scientists have found chemicals which act as antifreeze. And there are bacteria, plants and simple organisms which live in 300 degree plus heated water in mid oceanic rift vents, it's possible there are lots of things we don't know about hot and cold and why organisms don't freeze or cook in environments were our bodies would.  

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About trees freezing

 

Take a walk in the forest and tell me what you see?

 

If trees froze, and water expands when frozen, then there would be expolding trees everywhere.

Run for your lives!

 

If just 1% of threes exploded, we would know about it.

Hey Mom I am going for a walk in the woods.  

Son don't forget your kevlar coat and safety helmet.

This isn't a normal occurrence; I've only seen it happen once in my life, and I've spent considerable time wandering about in the forests. As I mentioned, it went from a very warm fall day to below 0F in a matter of about 8 hours. It wasn't an isolated happening either, as many trees were cracking alike that particular night.

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Birches

BY ROBERT FROST

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
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I love the cold.....beautiful picts James M. Jones....lovely place and home.

 

Many cold areas, where boats winter in water, it is common for a pump to be placed beneath the boat pumping water from the warmer bottom to the top to impede freezing, not much pressure necessary, only water a little warmer....maybe something similar happens inside the trees?

 

IM not so HO cold begins at aprox -34ºC , -30ºF  - the point of skin freezing being the line - or at much higher temperatures with winds. This reminds me of a passage in one of my all time fav books called North to the Night, Alvah Simon was speaking with an inuit who told him he wanted to later in life move to a warm area where he could grow vegetables, he asked where, the inuit told him - somewhere north of Quebec..... :lol:

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Beautiful! Thanks for that Robert and of course Stephen for bringing it to our attention. I can tell you that it has made my morning.

 I believe he wrote it around 1969- it was one of his responses to the US space program, I don't think he ever came out and said that verbatim, but it's there in the poem.

 

All this tree freezing chat brought that up for me. We have to remember in the middle of our facts & numbers and rational thinking as makers we are still aiming for poetry too. 

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Perhaps you're right, and the people who have taken actual measurements of these things are all fools.

 

"Does not the mercury go up and down with temperature change?"

 

Sure. Invert the thermometer, and the mercury will go in the opposite direction. Which way is the thermometer facing in a tree?

Hey! There are people on this forum who are banging on "UNSUPPORTED" plates and measure the taptones! :)

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This isn't a normal occurrence; I've only seen it happen once in my life, and I've spent considerable time wandering about in the forests. As I mentioned, it went from a very warm fall day to below 0F in a matter of about 8 hours. It wasn't an isolated happening either, as many trees were cracking alike that particular night.

I apologize if you think I was taking a shot at you.

I believe that you really experienced what you say.

Just trying to show that nature has a way of doing things that are hard to understand, but easy to see, and easy to miss.

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Maybe tress have chemicals which act as antifreeze agents?

 

 

This isn't a normal occurrence; I've only seen it happen once in my life, and I've spent considerable time wandering about in the forests. As I mentioned, it went from a very warm fall day to below 0F in a matter of about 8 hours. It wasn't an isolated happening either, as many trees were cracking alike that particular night.

 

These 2 posts triggered a thought.

 

> Suppose trees use 'special' antifreeze chemicals that they only make in cold weather - wasteful at warmer temps

> The changing season could be the trigger for the new synthesis.  In other words, it doesn't happen overnight

> Severe sudden changes in temperature could catch a tree 'unprepared"

> Bang

 

On the surface, this would not explain Wm Johnston's observation of frozen maple sap, unless the antifreeze chemical in 'bound' to the water conduit tubules, so free sap freezes.    

 

ps - I once was a scientific reviewer for a manuscript on antifreeze in the atlantic flounder.

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Two things come to mind.

One the United States have just experienced a very cold winter, so Spring should be interesting.

Two Maple syrup is collected, and depending on it original strength, some 30 or 40 gallons is needed to boil down to 1 gallon.

Must be mostly water then.

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Two things come to mind.

One the United States have just experienced a very cold winter, so Spring should be interesting.

Two Maple syrup is collected, and depending on it original strength, some 30 or 40 gallons is needed to boil down to 1 gallon.

Must be mostly water then.

Yup, it got frosty all the way down to me in Jan and Feb, hopefully it killed a lot of bugs.

 

I don't know from sugar maple, but having tapped both river birch and sycamore, at the right time of year the sap will flow (and look) like water.  One can fill a canteen with it and drink it when necessary.

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Ring barking is more generally known in forestry as girdlinghttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girdling  Googling on "girdling" will produce a large number of publications on it, but here are some you might want http://dspace.hil.unb.ca:8080/bitstream/handle/1882/246/MQ54653.pdf?sequence=1. http://web.utk.edu/~mtaylo29/files/stem%20girdling.pdf

 

 

As far as I've been able to determine from reading the forestry and botany studies, sap content throughout the tree remains about the same year-round. Except that carbohydrate/sugar content tends be a little higher in the fall and winter, because this is stored energy is needed for spring growth and re-foliation, prior to there being enough leaves for photosynthesis to kick in.

 

So apparently, there is no advantage to cutting wood in the winter, except that transportation may be easier, and the wood may have a chance to dry a little bit before temperatures become warm enough for mold growth.

 

And according to the paper Violadamore linked to, the notion of sap reduction (aside from water loss) from ring barking looks a little sketchy. In some cases, they found that the sugar (etc.) content of the trees had increased (was higher than the controls), a year or two after ring barking.

The paper that Violadamore linked to (http://web.utk.edu/~mtaylo29/files/stem%20girdling.pdf) brings up an interesting point for girdling trees for tonewood.  Their results showed higher polysaccharides and lipids above the girdle in pines and maples compared to controls.  Based on this study, it is possible that girdled trees could yield wood with different properties (better or worse) than non girdled trees.  I imagine (i.e. I didn't look it up) that this could occur during the period before the leaves die and the photosynthates produced are transported via the phloem to the roots but are blocked by the girdled section.  I agree with David that the article is a little sketchy in that their sample size was very small, and I find it very hard to believe that the statistical anlyses used met the assumptions of the test.

 

On the subject of sap flow and freezing, I found these papers interesting.    

Plant Physiol.-1983-Tyree-277-85.pdf

Plant Physiol.-1967-Hammel-55-66.pdf

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Im asking this purely out of curiosity because its a simple question i havent read a response to. havent there been numerous blind sound comparison studies that have been published wherein the Strad violins have not been consistantly chosen as the superior sounding instrument?I do not have a sense of how respected these studies are in the violin world, but if they are reputable studies- why is it that people continue to deem Strad violins as tonally perfect or at least vastly acoustically superior instruments? Especially when sound in itself is a subjective thing?

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Im asking this purely out of curiosity because its a simple question i havent read a response to. havent there been numerous blind sound comparison studies that have been published wherein the Strad violins have not been consistantly chosen as the superior sounding instrument?I do not have a sense of how respected these studies are in the violin world, but if they are reputable studies- why is it that people continue to deem Strad violins as tonally perfect or at least vastly acoustically superior instruments? Especially when sound in itself is a subjective thing?

Subjective?  So is belief [Look!! A heretic!! Bring the torches!!!] :lol:   These comparisons have been going on since the 1800's, yet the controversy continues.  Some matters are beyond rational argument :rolleyes:

 

Let's put those worms back in the can for now, and stick a lid on it, ok? :)

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Not good press for the investors and owners of these instruments to have contemporary makers compare with the old masters. I believe that there are modern makers today whose violins rival and better some of the older instruments. Is the worst Strad better than the best modern? As long as there is a financial stake it will always be subjective when it comes to sound.

Money is the root of all evil

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