Something which may mildly excite gut string nerds with similarly poor foresight

Edited: February 11, 2020, 7:37 PM · I found myself in a familiar predicament: false strings, no spares, and a handful of minor performances in the next 10 days.

So I discovered that it's possible to refurbish "gently-used" gut strings (ie still in one piece) by scrubbing them down with denatured alcohol, polishing them with 0000 steel wool, and then rubbing in a little bit of almond oil to moisten the gut again. The strings came out crystal-clear and with a factory polish. And most importantly of all, not false (albeit they are a little thinner and therefore the tension is less). The tone is obviously better compared to a string clogged with sweat and grime, too.

Maybe one of you will find this knowledge useful if you find yourself down a river without extra strings, as I seem to so often.

Replies (9)

February 11, 2020, 7:51 PM · Cotton, very interesting!

How long did it take you do do this and how long before a string is ready to mount and play?

February 11, 2020, 7:54 PM · No more than five minutes, I think. Few seconds to get all the dirt out with the alcohol, a couple minutes of polishing, and then they're pretty much ready to go once you've oiled them. In terms of tuning, they're already stable, since they were fully stretched before I renewed them.
February 11, 2020, 9:44 PM · This is bad news for the folks who make gut strings. They want you to buy new ones every week.
February 12, 2020, 5:05 AM · While this is a great solution if the strings haven't broken, having spare strings on hand in case one breaks is something that I thought every violinist did as a matter of course. Even an old string is better than no string, so when putting fresh strings on, keeping the most recent set of removed strings can help in a real emergency when a string breaks.
February 12, 2020, 7:31 AM · And by the way, three cheers for the DIY discovery. Seriously!
Edited: March 13, 2020, 6:29 PM · Almost reviving this thread....

I believe I have just busted my first gut set. Or so I believe.
E and A string are frayed badly, mostly where fingers touch them.
The sound is (for the lack of a better description) all over the place. Kind of ropey and with unpleasant eddy sounds accompanying the main tone. Every sound contains gravel like quality. Strings can not even be tuned properly and playing anything sounds gritty and ugly.

Is it me, or is this the normal way gut dies?

March 13, 2020, 6:24 PM · how long have you been playing on these gut strings Mr. Anzlovar?
March 13, 2020, 6:28 PM · About 2 months.
Edited: March 13, 2020, 7:13 PM · 2 months is about the max for a gut E, but see the next paragraph. However, I would expect rather more for the A, depending on playing style, fingering, setup etc.

A couple of years ago, as an experiment, I left a Pirastro Chorda gut E on my violin to see how long it would last under a regimen of about 6 hours per week of orchestral rehearsals plus practice time, which for me is usually devoted to specific problems and so can vary. I ignored the fraying, apart from (very!) carefully cutting away the annoying strands with nail scissors, until one fine evening, 6 months after the string's installation, it decided to die during an orchestral rehearsal. The manner of its demise was that fraying suddenly raced down the whole length of the string from nut to bridge without warning. I immediately stopped playing, removed the string before it could break, and replaced it. End of experiment.

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