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Rusting Strings

Instruments: THe strings on my sister's violin are always rusting. What could be causing this?

From Jennifer DeLaney
Posted May 18, 2008 at 07:50 PM

My sister wanted me to ask a question on here for her. She has had a problem with her violin strings rusting. Recently, she hasn't played much, but she has found that when she takes out her violin, the E-string is entirely rusted (the entire string all along the fingerboard) as is part of the D-String. The first time this happened, she replaced all the strings and it happened again. Her violin is stored in a room with other instruments, and none of the other violins have had this problem. ALso, it happened with the violin after it had been stored in two different cases. WHat could be causing this? I thought maybe making sure the strings had been wiped thouroughly after playing could help. ANy other suggestions?

From Joe Fischer
Posted on May 18, 2008 at 08:06 PM
It is common place for a straight steel e-string to rust [moisture in the air].
Try a gold plated e-string.

A lower grade of steel may rust faster than a higher grade.Manufactures of strings sometimes utilize the least quality of steel in order to maximise their profits.

So,try a different brand---but try to lean toward a gold-plated e ......

From Bohdan Warchal
Posted on May 19, 2008 at 04:08 AM
Definitely try another brand. Our distributors were quite suprised I told them we provide 100 years guarantee of corrosion resistance of our Ametyst, Karneol and Brilliant E strings :-)
From John Blakely
Posted on May 23, 2008 at 10:31 PM
Rust is caused by moisture in the atmosphere. Pretty obvious really! Perhaps the strings on the other instuments have some body oils deposited on them from previous players, protecting them slightly. Oil is a rust protector. You say your sister doesn't play much, that would mean in a dampish atmosphere the unplayed strings are exposed and will rust over time (unless the case is hermetic with built in moisture absorbtion which I doubt!). This violin needs to be played more often. Cheap strings may also be more susceptable to rust.
From Conrad Jacoby
Posted on May 23, 2008 at 11:09 PM
I spent several summers playing summer-stock musical theater next to the Atlantic Ocean. Every night, shortly after the start of the second act, the fog would roll in. A few nights, it was hard to see the stage for some cues.

I bought a bag of "dry-it" (or was it actually called "damp-it"?) at a hardware store--basically, a medium-sized bag of clay kitty litter--and kept it in my case to absorb moisture from the violin and bow. This was in the days before carbon fiber, so I was playing a wooden bow that would lose all tension from the humidity if it wasn't dried out. Once a week, I dumped the clay pellets into a tray and heated them in a toaster oven to drive the accumulated moisture out.

In all of this, I do not recall having my strings rust. I would have been playing Dominants, with some kind of steel E (probably a Pirastro). Based on what everyone has been saying, my dehumidification process may have also helped the strings. Perhaps you might want to give this a try.

From michael reed
Posted on May 24, 2008 at 09:30 PM
if it is mostly on the string over the fingerboard, then it is probably not just from moisture in the air

some time ago someone posted that their child snacked on something, I believe it was olives, while playing and the strings rusted badly.

Sometimes rust is from moisture, etc from the fingers, so washing/drying and avoiding eating while playing might solve the issue

From Michael Darnton
Posted on May 25, 2008 at 03:14 AM
Lots of younger people in the active hormones time zone have trouble with things being destroyed by their body chemistry. I've known several young violin makers for whom every piece of wood they touch turned black (one friend worked with white cotton gloves to prevent this), and players whose breath dissolves the varnish directly under their noses, or whose hands corrode varnish off the body around the neck.

I'm not aware of any cure for the body-chemistry part of the process, but it's not a bad thing to keep a small piece of 0000 steel wool in your case to polish the strings when they discolor, and it's good for anyone for taking the caked rosin off the bowed part of the string.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on May 25, 2008 at 02:30 PM
One of my teenage students had a rusty string (Dominants) problem. Whether it was sweaty hands, or acidic hands, or both, I suggested that he wash his hands thoroughly before he plays, and wipe down the strings after he plays. This routine has helped a lot.
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