Several of our customers have asked about the upgrades we have made to the string workshop to insure quality, so I thought I would put in a short description of the changes we have made to insure that you receive the best gut strings that we can make.
I have been in close contact with our suppliers to impress upon them the necessity of very high quality gut to start with. We got in the supply of sheep gut from Egypt, but it is less promising than the samples they first sent us. The strings are very strong, but there are numerous casings with irregular qualities that make it unsuitable for strings. I am disappointed that the yield is not more per hank, which drives up the cost of strings. However, I have found a new supply of lamb gut from New Zealand that looks promising. The strength is as good as the Egyptian gut and the yield is more per hank.
We have put in a new water softening system in the twisting workshop that also includes a carbon filter that removes chlorine and other chemicals, so we have the most pure and pH neutral water possible for making the strings. This allows us to control the processing of the gut more completely with confidence that there will be no reactions in the water with the chemicals we are using.
The drying cycle for the strings has been extended to 48 hours to insure that the collagen in the strings bonds thoroughly and make the strongest strings possible. We have also put in some extra environmental controls to maintain a more even humidity through the twisting and drying processes.
The strings are being seasoned for at least two weeks after the drying cycle before they are made into strings, and in most cases longer than that. We now color-code the batches so that we can use the oldest strings for each order and, if a problem does develop with a batch, we can easily purge that batch from the stock.
More and better testing is taking place with each batch of strings to check on the strength and durability of the batches.
The standard for gut strength is expressed as the breaking tension and the surface area of the cross section of the string, as Kilograms of tension decided by the surface area: Kg/mm².
There are two types of strength tests that are done on gut; one is called Knot-Pull, which tests the tension at which the string will break when knotted, and the other is the Straight-Pull test where the strength of the straight string is established. Gut strength is usually expressed from the Straight-Pull figures and suture makers of the 20th century established the standard of about 50 Kg/mm² for beef gut and about 40 Kg/mm² for sheep gut.
The tests on our current beef gut production focus on the Straight-Pull test and we are getting between 50 Kg/mm² and 56 Kg/mm² and the sheep gut is testing between 40 Kg/mm² and 45 Kg/mm².
In musical terms, this means that a beef gut violin e-1 string of .62mm will break at about “g” about “b” about the violin “e” and a .62mm sheep gut string will break at about “g#” above the violin “e”. This is a pitch of a-440.
Gut is a funny material and the changes and tests we are doing help a lot to insure quality, but, still, some strings will break as is the nature of gut. Please be assured that we are doing everything we can to reduce this possibility.