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Andreas Preuss

Are claims that Borax treatment on spruce enhance acoustic properties correct?

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I was sort of surprised to see the borax thing pop up again.  Just a thought, quite a few of us here are both woodworkers and blacksmiths, and so have borax around in quantity.  If it did something super-fantastic when you soaked wood in it, wouldn't we all be raving about it?  [Kicks her slack tub, and elicits a dull "thud".] :huh::)

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5 hours ago, Don Noon said:

Wood doesn't need to be left outside in the elements to show surface aging effects.  I have had some tonewood (collected from other makers, retiring, etc.) that has been 30+ years old, and there is definitely a skin of dark wood.  I have tried cutting off the surface carefully to try to measure its properties, but it has been pretty thin, and I never got anything I could trust out of it.

Some of the skin darkening is photo-related for sure, but there's also the observation that the discoloration at the endgrain is normally much thicker than elsewhere, indicating to me that air penetration is involved as well.  Either that, or all of the wood was stored in such a way that the endgrain got a lot more light exposure than the sides.

In any case, a color change indicates something is going on chemically in the wood, and chemical changes could also affect acoustic properties.

Don,

Great post.  Photo-degradation of wood has had a lot of study...particularly in the outdoor finishing trade.  Early photo-degradation is primarily a minor breakdown of hemicellulose.

As Jezzupe  said, situation has everything to do with color.

Backstory...my wife and I are renovating our kitchen.  Our house is a poor man's Victorian built in 1890.  The picture is of vertical grain fir bead board.  The sample on the right is a cut off from the kitchen ceiling I just finished installing.  On the left is the same material I cut from the basement stair way....a windowless corridor.  So that material has been hanging unfinished, virtually in the dark, for the last 130 years. 

on we go,

Joe

fir.jpg

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3 hours ago, David Beard said:

What is the blacksmith use? And is that an ancient use?

Yup, it's a flux for forge welding, and you sprinkle it liberally.  Known as tincal,  it was mined from evaporite deposits in various parts of Asia, and traded to the Med area since ancient times.  Names resembling "borax" begin to occur in early medieval Latin.  Discovery of New World deposits created part of the wealth extracted from the Spanish colonies.

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35 minutes ago, Michael Jennings said:

Also gave us "Wagon Train" with Ward Bond.......... Sponsored by "Twenty Mule Team Borax" :)

And "Death Valley Days", introed by Ronald Reagan.  :lol:

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24 minutes ago, David Beard said:

So it certainly add viable path to Cremona violin making.  Though again, doesn't mean it was used.

 


Yup, it was available in 18th. Century Cremona.  One thing that gives me pause about these supposed treatments is, wouldn't soaking your green wood in anything be counterproductive to trying to air dry and season it?  :huh:

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I think are indications that 18th and 17th wood workers generally had less in the idea of bone dry wood.  

Consider even their neck work.  With the wedge to set elevation, and then a laminated composite approach to the fingerboard, even in this area that has the greatest need for stability, they use glued and layered structure that would reduce the reliance on the actual material for stability.

 

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16 hours ago, Michael Jennings said:

Juzeppi, How many of those 1/8" bellies and backs have been left out in the sun, wind, rain, snow...... for any portion of their life? Not quite the same exposure as a deck or fencepost I suppose.

As has been pointed out by others, wood does not need direct sun, it just needs light. But it is much more than just light, what we must do is think of all the forces and possible ways that degradation can happen. 

Aside from light, as noted by Don, air is a big contributer to what I shall simply call "changes" , a similar chemical process that will happen to an apple will happen to the wood. The polyphenol oxidase that is present in varying amount in various plant based life forms reacts with air and starts a chemical process. and also noted by Don the endgrain is where the air can really infiltrate based on its orientation.

However your post brings in  very important factor in all of this, the rate of speed of degradation, how the rate of speed acts on specifically thinned material and most importantly the varnishes role in slowing down the rate of speed and allowing for a "sealed" material to slowly go through the degradation process in a "safe" slow way, "safe and slow" means the material maintains structural integrity, does not crack,split,warp, etc. 

All this of course goes hand and hand with stewardship and how care and thoughtfulness goes hand in hand with longevity and what it gets exposed to , or not.

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2 hours ago, Violadamore said:


Yup, it was available in 18th. Century Cremona.  One thing that gives me pause about these supposed treatments is, wouldn't soaking your green wood in anything be counterproductive to trying to air dry and season it?  :huh:

Increased permeability of wood after ponding may facilitate drying.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00833406

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-85778-2_8

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Borax and other boron containing compounds are often used fire retardants.  Boron when is oxidized it forms B203 oxide glass which forms a thin layer on the burning surface.  This glass layer is a barrier to oxygen which slows down the oxidation rate.  Other elements such as sodium in the compound (in borax) also are glass formers and also improve fire resistance. 

So borax might be helpful for violins but not violas.

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2 minutes ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

Borax and other boron containing compounds are often used fire retardants.  Boron when is oxidized it forms B203 oxide glass which forms a thin layer on the burning surface.  This glass layer is a barrier to oxygen which slows down the oxidation rate.  Other elements such as sodium in the compound (in borax) also are glass formers and also improve fire resistance. 

So borax might be helpful for violins but not violas.

:lol:

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28 minutes ago, Jim Bress said:

Not trying to argue, but, unlike ponding water, a treatment solution implies a considerable solute load.   What if the new porosities opened up by any bacteria are then occluded with various hydrated crystals as the soaking solution dries out?  :huh:

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On 7/10/2019 at 6:40 AM, GeorgeH said:

Tai's "research" is pure pseudoscience. There has been lots of discussion about this in previous threads.

Not pseudoscience at all.  You may argue that he is measuring the wrong thing, or that what he is measuring is not related to sound or quality or any number of other qualities, but he is proceeding in a far more rigorous fashion than most discussions here - to state the obvious. 

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1 hour ago, l33tplaya said:

Not pseudoscience at all.  You may argue that he is measuring the wrong thing, or that what he is measuring is not related to sound or quality or any number of other qualities, but he is proceeding in a far more rigorous fashion than most discussions here - to state the obvious. 

I think his methodology is sound, but the real intent behind it all is low level friendly propaganda that helps keep the dream alive , the mystique in vogue and the prices....priceless

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6 hours ago, l33tplaya said:

Not pseudoscience at all.  You may argue that he is measuring the wrong thing, or that what he is measuring is not related to sound or quality or any number of other qualities, but he is proceeding in a far more rigorous fashion than most discussions here - to state the obvious. 

It is total pseudoscience. His experiments are poorly designed, completely uncontrolled, and non-reproducible. The origin, sampling methods, storage, and handling of the wood samples that he performs his "tests" on are not disclosed and the materials cannot be proven to be what he claims. His results have unreported and missing data, and the statistical analyses that he uses to make his extraordinary and ridiculous claims are a complete sham. It has all been reviewed in old threads on Maestronet.

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12 hours ago, A432 said:

Sacconi wrote that electron microscopy showed that the pores were not occluded.

FWIW

Wouldn't that more properly 'some pores examined were not', thus not negatating Vda's concern.

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Seeing as it would have been impossible to examine them all, I suppose, technically. But if you wanted to take a more rigorous approach, wouldn't it be better to question whether or not the ones examined (from a little detached splinter) were representative ? 

The sample showed they weren't, which, I thought, answered the question.

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19 hours ago, jezzupe said:

I think his methodology is sound, but the real intent behind it all is low level friendly propaganda that helps keep the dream alive , the mystique in vogue and the prices....priceless

While his research may not tell us exactly the answers we are looking for, it does eliminate some things from the list by the process of elimination. While armchair critics may argue his methodology, he's putting in the time and effort, and working with what resources he has available. More so than the critics who don't make any effort to perform their own research.

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4 hours ago, Bill Yacey said:

While his research may not tell us exactly the answers we are looking for, it does eliminate some things from the list by the process of elimination. While armchair critics may argue his methodology, he's putting in the time and effort, and working with what resources he has available. More so than the critics who don't make any effort to perform their own research.

I don't disagree with any of that. I just don't think people should be hung up on trying to find or prove there is some 'secret" or anything overly special outside of what they are, which is special, but there's no special on top of the special imo

And to the best of my knowledge he has quite a few resources with a whole buncha money and a boss who owns one of the largest collections

Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking him or anyone who does research, it's just in the long run, after the years going by, I can't really recall any bit of scientific research that I've read that has helped me build a better instrument. 

No Strad involved, that has been all me, I think we know everything we need to know just based off what was left behind and that as more time goes by the more I find these things are for people who are interested in violins and stringed instruments, not for people who make them.

 

 

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Well, there has been talk for centuries already, of special qualities of the wood used by the Cremonese. Any research that confirms or dispells some of these notions brings us a little closer to the truth of the matter.

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1 hour ago, Bill Yacey said:

Well, there has been talk for centuries already, of special qualities of the wood used by the Cremonese. Any research that confirms or dispells some of these notions brings us a little closer to the truth of the matter.

[Checks the laces on her running shoes.]  Heck, maybe it is magic.  Any hardcore New Age occultist will be aware of the Tibetan/Tantric belief in inducing a spirit into inanimate objects through human contact, concentration and adoration.  The Japanese heterodox Shinto/Mikkyo belief in producing a powerful kami in a sword by rituals during forging followed by hundreds of years of treating it with the respect due a divinity is well-known to sword fanciers.  For that matter, in the Western magical traditions, blacksmiths have always been considered more than a little witchy, going back to earliest recorded antiquity.  Maybe Tony and his buddies, though good Catholics all, were not averse to, besides having the local priest bless their products, reinforcing that with some hedge magic from the local  smith scattering a pinch of borax flux over their fiddles, and muttering something in dog-Latin while making impressive hand-passes.  Then you follow the Stregheria with 300 years of somewhat superstitious players treating their Strads with more focused affection than they bestow on their lovers, children, or Chihuahuas..........  [Sprints away to check on her popcorn and beverage supply, while chortling "If you can't dazzle them with your brilliance,....... "] :ph34r::lol:

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To me there are two components to the magic

1. time = degradation and sending lots of vibrations through the material over that period of time

2. natural talent that is given a chance to flourish

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