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Bassoon: Raw Materials
Since the early 18th century, artisans personally crafted the bassoon to fit the needs and desires of each individual musician. These artisans painstakingly created each bassoon solely by hand; however, today’s production process incorporates new machinery that makes the process more efficient yet more taxing on the environment. Even though the manufacturing process has grown, bassoon producing corporations still strive to create a high quality bassoon that imitates the appearance of a handcrafted work of art. One way bassoon manufacturers achieve this is through the use of high-grade, natural materials in order to achieve the sound quality sought after by many aspiring musicians. Through the examination of the materials used in the production of a standard bassoon, one can see that the desire for personally crafted instruments leads to the careful extraction of specific natural materials.
The wood chosen to form the bassoon is a crucial step in the making of a quality instrument, for it directly affects the tone and overall sound of the bassoon. Manufacturers consider hard woods to be the optimal base for the instrument because, “Bassoons made from this wood are reported to have a fine, clear tone” (Zadro). Bassoons produced in Europe generally use hard and porous maple. In addition to the wood used for European bassoons, bassoons produced in North America use black maple or sugar maple which are labeled as hard maple lumber. These maples are generally found in north-eastern climates such as New York, Quebec, and New England (Social Indicators). Manufacturers consider the acquisition of these woods to be a critical component when making a quality bassoon and require a highly trained eye to pick out the finest of woods. Most wood used in the production of bassoons in the United States is domestically grown. Major bassoon production companies like Fox will choose their materials with great care. Alan Fox, the president of the company, “will go to a wood site and choose only the best for a top-line professional model” (Complese). This step in the production process demonstrates the hands-on approach used by many bassoon-making corporations to ensure the quality of the instrument. After the process of choosing the wood is complete, manufacturers take important steps to protect this valuable material.
Wood is vulnerable to air and water; therefore, further materials must be used in the manufacturing of wooden bassoons. After the manufacturer receives the wood, it is sanded by machinery to form the shape of the bassoon and then stained and varnished by hand. The stains used in the production of bassoons are oil based and “utilize mineral spirits for the solvent […]. Oil stains also generally use linseed oil as the resin or binder that has been treated with special acids so that it will not penetrate too deeply into the surface of the wood” (Wood Stain). After the wood is stained, it is varnished with an oil based varnish which creates a more resonant sound. Most manufacturers use synthetic alkyd resins to make oil-based varnishes because natural resins are rare and more expensive to produce. They then dissolve the resin in a solvent before it can be used to encase the bassoon (Lipinski). Some manufacturers choose to utilize materials other than wood when producing their bassoons in order to save both money and time.
Manufacturers utilize plastic in the production of cheaper bassoons, because is it a less expensive material to acquire and produce than maple. Bassoons made of plastic are more durable than their more expensive wooden counterpart; therefore, they require less maintenance. One of the most popular materials used in plastic bassoons is ebonite. Ebonite is a hard rubber used as a substitute for ebony wood, and it is composed of natural rubber, sulfur, and linseed oil. The company SEM, an ebonite manufacturer, acquires caoutchouc, a raw material, from the caoutchouc-tree in Sri Lanka (Ebonite-Production Close to Hamburg – Our Process). This natural material combines with sulfur and linseed oil to make ebonite. While there are many choices of materials in terms of the body of the instrument, manufacturers must also choose materials for its complex key components.
Taking the brunt of daily use and therefore needing durability, a web of intricate metal key workings cover the majority of the body of a bassoon. These keys are typically made out of nickel silver. Nickel silver, also referred to as German silver, is an alloy made up of around 65% copper, 18% nickel, and 17% zinc (Making of Nickel Silver). Copper is most commonly extracted from copper ores, and although it is rare, natural copper can be found in the areas near Lake Superior in Michigan. Producers mine copper through the use of open-pit mines, and some of the largest copper mines are found in Utah, New Mexico and Chile. Nickel is found in ores such as pentlandite, garnierite, millerite, and niccolite. Canada, Australia, Indonesia, and Russia are the main nickel-producing countries, and since there are no known active nickel mines in the United States, it can be assumed that most of the nickel used in the United States is imported from these other countries. Sphalerite is the primary ore in which zinc is found, and it is mined in Canada, Russia, Australia, the United States, and Peru. After the manufacturers obtain these raw materials, they then combine the nickel into the copper-zinc alloy through the process of melting in order to get Nickel silver (Making of Nickel Silver). While metal is an important material for the exterior components of a bassoon, it also plays vital role in the interior as well.
Instruments made of wood, like the bassoon, have disadvantages when it comes to the upkeep of the instrument. “Among these is the fact that wood instruments absorb moisture as they are played […]. This causes weakening of the wood, swelling, contraction and warping all of which may affect the tone quality as well as the life of the instrument” (US2730003A - Cast Liner for Woodwind Instruments). To counter this problem, bassoon manufacturers constructed metal or rubber lining throughout the tubing of the instrument to prevent the deterioration of the wood. Silver nickel comprises the metal lining of the bassoon, as seen before in the compositions of the keys. In place of metal, hard rubber can also be used in wooden bassoons to line the boot joint and the wing joint to prevent damage due to moisture. This hard rubber is also known as ebonite, the same material used to make some plastic bassoons. Lining a bassoon to protect it from moisture helps maintain the longevity of the instrument while other materials work to maintain its quality of sound.
Pads are used to cover the tone holes of the instrument and are key to creating the rich sound of the bassoon. Manufacturers glue pads to the backings of the metal bassoon keys in order to create an air-tight covering for the tones holes. “Pads for woodwind instrument keys consist of a thin felt disc backed with cardboard or paper and covered with a fine layer of gut (bladder) or leather” (Pads from Woodwind Instrument Keys from Italy). The backings of keys on the bassoon are generally made out of the bladder of a goat. Pads play a major role in the sound quality and tone produced from an instrument, and their manufacturing process is extremely labor intensive because even miniscule alterations to the pad can change the sound of the instrument. The United States is one of the largest producers of leather in the world, and most of the leather used to make bassoon pads for American corporations is from the United States. However, other major suppliers of leather for the United States are Argentina and Italy. These soft materials such as leather and felt play an important, internal role in a bassoon’s creation and use, while other materials are more prominently displayed on the instrument’s exterior as a more decorative feature.
The decorative ring on top of the bell of the bassoon is either made of a plastic imitation of ivory or the nickel silver used in the keys and lining of the instrument. Celluloid is a synthetic material usually used to imitate the look and feel of ivory. Nitro cellulose is a major component of celluloid, and it is made from the combination of cellulose, a plant fiber, and nitric acid. These celluloid “plastics were made by dissolving nitrocellulose […] in solvents such as alcohol or wood naptha and mixing in plasticizers such as vegetable oil or camphor (a waxy substance originally derived from the oils of the Asian camphor tree, Cinnamonum camphora)” (Britannica). The production of celluloid has changed dramatically since the mid 20th century. The use of large production lines that produce celluloid in factories transitioned to the use of traditional and more time-consuming production methods that are specialized toward the individual retailer. Once these production methods are complete, the finished bassoon needs to be transported across the country requiring new materials to be used in the process.
Fossil-fuel powered vehicles transport these raw materials all over the United States, and this is one of the most environmentally-taxing steps in the bassoon-production process. Manufacturers procure the raw materials used to make fossil fuels from the ground through the process of mining. These raw materials such as coal are, “preserved by the earth in a rock layer called a coal seam; mining is the only way to remove it whether it’s near the surface or deep underground. Oil and natural gas are preserved inside rocks which contain and trap these fluids in the earth” (fossil fuels). Before they can be used by consumers, producers send the raw materials to plants to be converted into fossil fuels that will then be ready for consumption.
The process used to make a bassoon, which was originally done completely by hand, has transformed and expanded into a more global practice. This transformation resulted in a deviation from the traditional handmade bassoon, and the process began to involve more machinery. However, many bassoon manufacturers still actively take part in the production of each instrument in order to ensure that the materials and the processes used to acquire them are of the highest quality. Even though the process has become more industrialized, manufacturers still strive to maintain the integrity of the instrument and meet the needs of the consumer.
American Art Plastics: Celluloid, www.americanartplastics.com/celluloid.shtml.
“Bassoon.” Bassoon - New World Encyclopedia,
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Celluloid.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia
Britannica, Inc., 18 Nov. 2016, www.britannica.com/technology/celluloid.
Camplese, Kathryn S. “Fox Products Corporation - A Musical Miracle in Indiana's Farmland.”
Ball State University, 1984, pp. 1–9.
“Ebonite-Production Close to Hamburg – Our Process.” Schönberger Ebonite Manufaktur
“Fossil Fuels.” ELI: Energy: Support Materials: Fossil Fuels,
Lipinski, Edward R. “Working With Traditional Oil Varnishes.” The New York Times, The New
York Times, 13 Oct. 1996,
Making of Nickel Silver, www.metallab.net/nickelsilver.php.
“Manual of Mineralogy.” Google Books,
“Nickel - The Chemical Element, Its Compounds, and Alloys.” Explain That Stuff, 5 Aug. 2017,
“Pads from Woodwind Instrument Keys from Italy.” Google Books,
“Social Indicators.” Google Books,
“US2730003A - Cast Liner for Woodwind Instruments.” Google Patents, Google,
“Water-Borne and Air-Drying Oil-Based Resins.” Progress in Organic Coatings, Elsevier, 29
“Water Treatment Solutions.” Lenntech Water Treatment & Purification,
“Wood Stain.” How Products Are Made, www.madehow.com/Volume-6/Wood-Stain.html.
Worrell, et al. “Energy Use and Energy Intensity of the U.S. Chemical Industry.” Energy Use and
Energy Intensity of the U.S. Chemical Industry (Technical Report) | OSTI.GOV, 1 Apr.
Zadro, Michael. Woods used for woodwind instruments since the 16th century—1, Early Music,
Volume 3, Issue 2, 1 April 1975, Pages 134–136, https://doi.org/10.1093/earlyj/3.2.134.
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Energy Consumption in Bassoon Manufacturing
Bassoon making is a time consuming and delicate process that requires professional care and expertise. Its production and assembly is a multistep process, and most of the various bassoon parts are manufactured separately before they are all joined together to form the finished instrument. Most of the energy that goes into the bassoon making process is seen in the use of different wood carving machines, as well as the transportation that is required to conglomerate the different materials. By analyzing this process step by step, it becomes apparent that it is not as sustainable as one would imagine, and even though most of the energy consumed may be man powered kinetic energy, the use of a few industrial machines and big rig trucks can act as a pushing threat to the environment.
Since bassoon manufacturing is a delicate process, a majority of the assembly is done by hand. One of the main manufacturers of bassoons is Fox Products, and their manufacturing and assembly process is geared towards providing its consumers with professionally made bassoons that provide a desirable pitch when played. For this reason, Fox produces its instruments, specifically the bassoon, by using a mixture of industrial machinery as well as highly trained craftsmen. Since wood makes up almost the entirety of the bassoon body, the process by which it is treated and carved is crucial. The specific wood used for bassoon making is usually maple wood, and it is aged up to ten years before it is used. (Fox Products). The aging process ensures a proper tone for the instrument. Bassoons have four separate portions; two of these portions are turned into shapes using a four axis mill, while the other two are carved using CNC lathes. The rest of the bassoon making process is done by hand, to ensure precision. The separate pieces of the bassoon are joined together using brass and nickel, then the body is finished with varnish. Then holes are drilled into the body of the bassoon, and the joints are then fitted with a rubber lining to ensure that moisture does not damage the wood. (Fox Products). The other pieces such as the mouthpiece and rods are added at the end of the process.
Although a majority of the bassoon making process is done by hand, so with the use of kinetic energy, the wood carving is done using two different electrically powered machines: the four axis mill and CNC lathe. The four axis mill is an electrically powered milling machine that uses rotary cutters to remove materials from a workpiece. It can operate on wood, foam, composite board, and aluminum alloy. (Multi-Axis CNC Machining). The use of this machine makes the wood carving portion of the bassoon making process highly efficient, because of the vertical build of the machine. This means the spindle of the machine moves parallel to its axis, so it is built to work in a timely fashion, while maintaining high levels of accuracy, making it ideal for detail work. The amount of energy used by these machines differs on the number of axes. The four axis mill used for the bassoon process uses 48.1% of its consumed energy on the material removal process, while the three axis uses 65.8% and the five axis uses 24.2%. (Pavanaskar). The CNC lathe is the other machine used for wood carving. The lathe shapes the wood by means of a rotating drive that turns the wood against changeable cutting tools. The CNC portion of the lathe stands for computer numerical control, which is a feature that has been added to the machine in order to increase its efficiency (CNC.com). Information regarding the specific energy of the CNC lathe was difficult to find, but a research study by Kara Anderberg states that “energy prices of today are not high enough to pose any particular need for making radical energy savings for CNC machining.” (Anderberg).
To start the bassoon making process, the maple would must first be acquired and transported to the Fox manufacturers. Fox products uses both domestic maple and internationally imported maple from European countries such as Austria. For domestic maple, the process starts with the full logs being transported by truck to the sawmill, where they are mechanically shaped into their standard dimensions. Then, electrically powered saws are used to cut the logs into different lengths, widths, and thicknesses. Most of the energy used in the manufacturing of wood is thermal and electrical energy that is formed by the combustion of the woody biomass. The wood is then transported from the manufacturing facility to the retail/distribution point. This can be a warehouse, distribution center, or wholesale outlet. The transportation energy per short ton of the product is 0.29 which BTU (British Thermal Unit), (EPA). One BTU is equal to the amount of energy used to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree fahrenheit. This calculation includes the “retail transportation” which includes the averages emissions from truck, rail, water, and other modes of transportation that is required to transport the woods from the manufacturing facility to the retail/distribution point. The trucks used to transport the wood, however, are very fuel inefficient, using one gallon of fuel for every six miles traveled. This requires the use of fossil fuel energy, which is not sustainable and highly toxic for the environment, due to the high levels of carbon dioxide emissions (California Green Solutions). Therefore, the energy used to transport the wood is relatively high, due to the high levels of gasoline and diesel being used, even though the process of extracting the wood uses less energy. When the wood reaches the Fox manufacturing facility, it is aged in preparation for future carving and assembly.
After the body of the bassoon is carved using the four axis mill and CNC lathe, it is stained with an oil based stain and coated with an acrylic enamel varnish. The stain is applied by hand with a paint sprayer, and then sanded down in order to remove the grain. The main raw materials used in making these oil based stains are mineral spirits, linseed oil, metallic salts, and various thickening agents. The process starts with mixing the linseed oil with the solvent, mineral spirits. The pigments are then added in order to create the desired color for the stain, along with the thickening agents. These ingredients are mixed during a process referred to as “the grind”, where a saw-tooth blade uses electrical energy to rotate at high speeds for approximately twenty minutes, ensuring a thorough blend of the ingredients. Then the mix is cooled down, and filtered in order to dispose of the sediment that accumulates during production (Snyder). This entire production process takes roughly two and a half hours, not including the packaging process that follows. The process of making the oil stain is relatively sustainable, aside from the use of the main solvent, mineral spirits. For this reason, a lot of manufacturers are starting to use water based stains instead, however these stains do not provide the same depth of color as the oil based ones. It can be assumed that this is why Fox products and other bassoon manufacturers continue to use the oil based stains; although the water based stains may be more sustainable, the oil based stains provide for a more desirable look. Some bassoon manufacturers mix the stain with the varnish in order to create a single step process, but Fox Products in particular apply the stain and varnish separately. The varnish used to coat the previously stained maple wood is a natural oil varnish. It is made with the use of drying oil, resin, and turpentine. The resin is produced by coniferous plants, and it is dissolved into the drying oil, which is usually linseed oil. These coniferous plants use solar energy to form chemical energy in order to undergo photosynthesis. Then, turpentine, which is an oil that is distilled from gum turpentine or pine wood, is then added to act as a diluent. This natural oil varnish is different from polyurethane varnish, which tends to give the finished wood an unnatural plastic look, so most manufacturers stay away from using it (Lipinski).
Bassoon keys are made by using two methods, but the most common is casting. Molds are made by packing sand around pre-made gates. The sand molds around the gates, and creates the mold for the keys. The entire molding process is done by hand, so with the use of kinetic energy. Thermal energy is then used to heat nickel silver which is then poured into the mold, and then cooled until it takes the shape of the gates. The mold is then removed, and the keys are broken off of the ends of the gate. This molding process is mostly efficient, yet the keys must be fine polished and sometimes hand polished before they can be used, which can be time consuming. The fine polishing is done in a vibrator, which uses electrical energy, and it can last up to five hours (Claudiogn). After the key parts are made, they are mounted onto the instruments by hand.
The rubber lining of the bassoon is primarily made of ebonite, which has a lengthy production process. The first step involves extracting parts of the caoutchouc tree, which grows with the use of solar and chemical energy. Then the caoutchouc is washed and air dried, before the sulfur and linseed oil is added to it (Ebonite Production). The sheets are vulcanized, which is the process of treating rubber with sulfur under heat (thermal energy) and pressure in order to produce a harder and more elastic substance (Vulcanizing). This ebonite is used to line the bassoon in order to prevent the wood from becoming susceptible to water damage. Celluloid is another plastic material that is used for the ivory ring that is installed at the head of the bassoon. Celluloid is made by dissolving nitrocellulose in a solvent such as alcohol and then mixing in a plasticizer such as camphor. Most of the energy used in creating celluloid is thermal energy used during rotational molding (Plastics). Once the celluloid is formed it is used as a mock ivory ring and is installed using kinetic energy.
The leather that is used for the bassoon pads is made from goat bladder, which is considered a renewable material (Materials Database). The process of padding is done by installing a flat disked pad in the tone hole rim. The pad must be installed at an angle in the tone hole, in order to ensure that the tone of the bassoon remains unchanged. As the pad is being installed into the hole, it needs to be stitched, in order to seal the excess leather that results from putting the pad in the tone hole. This stitching is done by hand, using a needle and thread, so by the use of kinetic human energy. To cement the pad into the tone hole, pad cement is put in the hole and held down until the cement dries. The amount of time and heat needed in order to heat the pad cement depends on the type of cement used, but thermal energy is used to heat the cement. To seal the leather bassoon pads, carnauba cream is added to the installed pads (Owen). Carnauba cream is a mix of carnauba wax and water. Carnauba wax comes from the carnauba palm tree leaves, which is grown in various areas in the United States. The leaves are dried and sun dried for 48 to 72 hours, and then the leaves produce the naturally as a defense mechanism to drying out. One pound of carnauba wax can be acquired from drying ten leaves (Carnauba Wax). This wax is then mixed with the water to produce the cream that is applied to the leather pads.
When looking at the bassoon manufacturing process as a whole, the trucks used to transport the wood as well as milling machines and other machines used to carve the body of the bassoon consume some of the highest amounts of energy. Also, smaller parts of the bassoon such as the metal keys and the rubber linings consume large amounts of the total energy used in the process. This may be surprising, considering the fact that these parts are not as prominent as other parts of the instrument, such as the body. Although the bassoon manufacturing process may seem like a super small scale, sustainable process, extracting different materials necessary can be viewed as quite taxing to the environment.
“About Us.” Fox Products - About Us, www.foxproducts.com/about-us/#Example-Tab-3.
Anderberg, Kara S. “Energy and Cost Efficiency in CNC Machining.”
“California Green Solutions.” Green Jobs, Green Careers, and Green Business Solutions for Sustainable Communities, www.californiagreensolutions.com/cgi-bin/gt/tpl.h,content=983.
claudiogn. “Bassoon Making by Fox 5-7.” YouTube, YouTube, 23 July 2010, www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtt9hYGztzg&t=1s.
“Ebonite-Production Close to Hamburg – Our Process.” Schönberger Ebonite Manufaktur GmbH, www.ebonite-arts.de/en/production.php.
“Fox Products Corp.” Manufacturing Today, 11 Nov. 2011, www.manufacturing-today.com/sections/profiles/365-fox-products-corp.
“How To Make Carnauba Wax.” It Still Runs | Your Ultimate Older Auto Resource, itstillruns.com/make-carnauba-wax-6168254.html.
“How To Make Carnauba Wax.” It Still Runs | Your Ultimate Older Auto Resource, itstillruns.com/make-carnauba-wax-6168254.html.
Lipinski, Edward R. “Handling Traditional Oil Varnish.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Oct. 1996, www.nytimes.com/1996/10/13/nyregion/handling-traditional-oil-varnish.html.
“Member Log In.” Materials Database, www.materialconnexion.com/database/679009.html.
“Multi-Axis CNC Machining.” Wisconsin CNC Machine Shop, www.owensind.com/CNC-Information/MultiAxisMilling.
Owen, Chip. “Fundamentals of Bassoon Padding.” 1997, pp. 1–6 .
Pavanaskar, Sushrut S. “Improving Energy Efficiency in CNC Machining.” 2014, pp. 1–69.
Snyder, Thomas A. “Williamsburg Art Conservation Inc.” HISTORIC VARNISHES AND RESINS | Williamsburg Art Conservation Inc. | Thomas A. Snyder, www.williamsburgartconservation.com/historic-varnishes-and-resi.html.
“US EPA Archive Document.” Mar. 2015.
“Vulcanising.” The Free Dictionary, Farlex, www.thefreedictionary.com/vulcanising.
“What Is a CNC Lathe and How Does It Work?” CNC.com, 4 Dec. 2015, www.cnc.com/what-is-a-cnc-lathe-and-how-does-it-work/.
“Plastics.” Lifecycle of a Plastic Product, plastics.americanchemistry.com/Lifecycle-of-a-Plastic-Product/.
Eckes, Alfred E. “Pads from Woodwind Instrument Keys from Italy.” Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=2xXW__cgN24C&pg=SL1-PA2&dq=what%2Bare%2Binstrument%2Bpads%2Bmade%2Bout%2Bof&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj-4bbt2qPZAhXDrlQKHWRdAM4Q6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=what%20are%20instrument%20pads%20made%20out%20of&f=false.
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Design Life Cycle of the Bassoon: Waste and Emissions
It is often forgotten that when we are buying a product, we are also buying into its overall life cycle. From the products’ conception to its demise, we are holding ourselves accountable to the raw materials used, the embodied energy in manufacturing, and ultimately the wastes and emissions associated with the products production and conclusively its death. Because our Earth has a limited supply of resources, we’d hope that a product could ultimately pay for itself–that it would return a greater yield than was taken in order to make it. In the case of the bassoon, there are a lot of constraints the makers are faced with. The instrument needs to be loud enough to accommodate large music halls; it needs to have ease in playability to ensure the performers comfort; it needs to have exceptional sound to produce beautiful tone. In producing a product that is up to these standards, a lot of waste and emissions accumulate. However, the more popular the bassoon became, the better the manufacturing became–increased popularity encouraged more sustainable and efficient manufacturing processes.5 The small scale yield, in unison with the great care taken in the production process and the longevity of the product, ultimately balance out the costs of the wastes and emissions associate with the manufacturing, resulting in an optimally sustainable life cycle of the bassoon.
The bassoon is composed of many parts: the boot, the joints, the bocal, the hand rest, the bell ring, and the keys and posts covering the exterior of the instrument. All these parts are made of different materials that produce associated wastes and emissions in the process of their extraction, manipulation, formulation and maturation.
Maple wood is used in the body of the bassoon, in fact the bulk of the bassoon is made from wood. Choosing wood as a building material reduces the use of non–renewables, which is good because wood is one of the very few building materials whose amount is constantly increasing.33 The wood used for the bassoon is mainly hardwood. Hardwood lumber is more expensive than softwood lumber to extract, manufacture and process. The lumber is grown in managed forests, then felled. The maple used for bassoons is harvested using silviculture, a method to harvesting timber that is much more sustainable than clear cutting forests. Silviculture methodically cuts partial areas of the forest over long periods of time, making sure to leave enough behind for the forest to sustain itself and have a chance to renew. Harvesters partially cut forests every 10–20 years. This is very time consuming; but worth it! This way the forest has time and space to heal itself. The harvesters use chain saws to cut down the trees, and then proceed to bucking–cutting the tree into logs. This step of the felling process relies on gas–powered chain saws, powered by the burning of fossil fuels which creates a substantial negative impact on the environment.18 The logs are then transported to the outer edge of the forests via tractors who also run on fossil fuels. This step can also impact soil compaction, something that determines the soil’s ability to supply and grow trees in the future.16 Felling trees also displaces existing vegetation, contributes to soil erosion, loss of habitat diversity and an overall loss of wildlife and plant species and overall biodiversity.12 Timber harvesting is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. To put into context, in the period of 2000–2017 CO2 emissions in Oregon amounted to 33 million metric tons. Logging and lumber harvesting emit more CO2 than any other industrial sector. This surprised me, it wasn’t obvious to me that this would be the case, but what I hadn’t realized is that the trees themselves inhabit a lot of CO2, that is then released into the atmosphere upon felling.20 Industrial tree plantations carry further danger with them: they are more susceptible to wildfires, floods, and drought due to the partial destruction of biodiversity. This may not be an obvious example of waste or emissions but it definitely has a negative impact on the ecosystem in whole. It is clear that moving forward, climate change legislation must involve solutions that adress this.31 Upon felling, the lumber is transported in big rig trucks to the saw mill. Emissions here depend on distance traveled.18 Following the construction of the Interstate Highway System, we saw a huge expansion in big trucks on the road, which ushered in a huge change in the transportation industry–what once was transported via railway was now able to move from place to place by semi–truck trailers and big rigs. This allowed industries increased freedom in the distribution of their products, they had more control over when and how much was being delivered, and they could for the first time reach places far from central hubs. This increased traffic on the roads tenfold, estimates say that there are currently over 15.5 million commercial trucks on US roadways. Great news in terms of reaching a wider audience, but the way it reaches that wider audience is extremely inefficient. The trucking industry accounts for 13% of all the fuel purchased in the US. Burning fossil fuels in an internal combustion engine produces exhaust gases containing NOx and other toxic emissions.3 And while the small car industry has poured energy into fuel–efficiency research, the big rig industry has not. CO2 intensity trends of domestic freight movement have increased, in contrast to small cars who are becoming exponentially more efficient. An average big rig goes 6 miles on a gallon, this is miniscule compared to the fuel efficiency of small cars. In a country where 80% of communities receive their goods via big truck transportation, this is unacceptable.34 Not only is the big rig industry consuming more fuel than any other industry, it is also using it in the most inefficient way. Moving forward, it would be preferable that trucks adopt technologies that save fuel and use it more efficiently. In doing so they could lessen the strain on the environment by reducing GHG emissions and other air pollution, as well as save money.3
Nickel silver is used in the exterior posts, plates and keys on the bassoon. Nickel silver is a metal alloy of copper, nickel and zinc.24 Nickel is a flexible metal and is used widely in industrial applications.32 Nickel is obtained through extractive metallurgy that separates the ore from the material, using roasting and reduction processes through physical, chemical or electrolytical extraction.23, 21 The nickel silver is further processed by pyrometallurgical techniques, known as smelting, that involve applying high temperature to the material to induce certain chemical reactions that will make it more malleable and able to be poured into casts and moulds to form the keys and posts.6,21 The smelting process uses a furnace that reaches 1200°C. In this process, a lot of harmful toxins are released, not to mention the waste and emissions as a result of the coal furnace.8 Air emissions associated with smelting are the release of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), which is a major air pollutant released as sulfide ores are converting into pure nickel silver. SO2 emissions can be as high as 4 metric tons per metric ton of nickel produced. SO2 emmisions can be controlled by transforming it into sulfuric acid, converting it to liquid sulfur dioxide or recovering it as elemental sulfur, using the hydrogen sulfide that is released as well as a product of the acid leaching process in the smelting operation. In the process of carbonyl refinement, another step of smelting, highly toxic nickel carbonyl is released. This contaminant is often broken down in decomposer towers in the factories themselves, to make sure it is not directly released out into the atmosphere. But this can become a huge danger if it is leaks into the workplace, as it is highly iritable to skin and mucous membranes.25 There are also liquid emissions associated with nickel smelting, through the pyrometallurgical processes there are a lot of liquids released when the heat is applied to the ore. This causes leakage and leaching of antimony, arsenic, mercury and water. I could not find any information on how these excretions are handled, if they are recycled or not–but I hope they are because they have detrimental effects on all natural life: plants, humans and animals. Additionally dense silicate is released through smelting as a solid waste.25 Smelting sounds extremely detrimental to living systems, but fortunately it has come a long way from older methods of refinement. Refining technology, and implementing pollution prevention and control programs, has increased the sustainability and efficiency of smelting. A new technology called flash smelting is one of the most positive advances in reducing pollution in the nickel processing industry. Flash smelting is not widely used yet, but trends indicate it will become an increasingly viable and efficient option.25
Ebonite lines the bassoon to prevent it from water damage. Ebonite is made from caoutchouch trees, where it forms a crepe like material that is mixed with sulphur and linseed oil to make a compound that is then vulcanized using autoclaves that give rise to the ebonite material.28 The vulcanization process is known to be harmful to environmental and human health. Associated with vulcanizing rubber are a lot of harmful fumes, which can become carcinogenic and cause respiratory inflammation. It is of grave importance that appropriate safety measures be taken in these factories to ensure workers health.19
Leather is used in the bassoon pads, it is made from goat bladder or goat stomach which would otherwise be waste from the food industry. This is considered a renewable material, but as we have talked about in lecture, renewable does not equal sustainable.9 It is actually extremely unsustainable, as it is very resource intensive, to raise an aninmal for food productio. It might sound like a good solution to use the waste of the food industry as a step towards sustainability, but it would be far more sustainable to not even raise the goat for consumption in the first place. This becomes apparent when we look at the resources needed to raise a goat, 5520 liters of water are needed per kilo, and annually 174.5 tons of CO2 emissions are associated with goat production in the US, and this is not factoring in the feed needed to keep the goat nurtured and satiated.17, 15 These numbers, however, do not just account for the goat leather, but the entirety of goat production: milk and meat as well.
Celluloid is used for the fake ivory bell ring on the top of the bassoon. When celluloid ages, there is a lot of deterioration and excretion of other materials. With excess heat, the nitrate molecules in the cellulose break apart and release nitrous oxide and nitric oxide.7 These two oxides are both considered green house gases, and very harmful to the atmosphere. These gases also have a harmful effect on respiratory systems of both humans and animals, as well as being harmful to plant health.26 Celluloid as a material is also really dangerous in use. It is highly flammable, and does not need oxygen to catch on fire, it can also burn in water. It is really hard to put out a celluloid fire in the case it does occur.29
The lacquer used for the bassoon is acrylic enamel.6 The lacquer varnish gives off fumes that contain VOC’s.27 If care is taken in the production process, the acrylic enamel can have a low VOC concentration. And usually, cheap mass produced lacquer contains a higher concentration of VOC’s than more expensive lacquer.10 Although acrylic enamel releases 5.2 lbs of VOC per gallon of varnish, it is more sustainable than traditional lacquers. Compared to other more general lacquers available on the market, acrylic enamel has around 45% less harmful VOC’s according to a report the EPA published on air quality.4 Apart from VOC’s, other harmful materials in the lacquer include carcinogenic substances, toxins that can cause eye irritation, damage to organs through repeated exposure, and fumes that cause drowsiness and dizziness.30 One of these materials is acetone; which annually emits around 380,000 kgs of air emissions, and although toxic, is far better than other solvents like benzene, chloroform or trichloroethylene.13 Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA recently determined that acetone has slight ground–level ozone–forming properties, and absolved it from air pollution regulations.2 Other less harmful toxins released from the varnish are: n–Butyl Acetate, Ethylbenzene and Propane, all of which are not considered greenhouse gases or known to be air pollutants.11,14,22
The process of making the bassoon sounds frightening, there are a lot of harmful chemicals released that can have a really harmful effect on human and environmental health. But due to the fact that the bassoon lives on for a very long time after it is manufactured, can be played for years and years needing only minimal repair, and is rarely thrown away but rather passed down generations, I argue the bassoon’s benefits outweight the life cycle’s costs. Upon reading this paper, I hope it is apparent that there is a lot of energy and resource waste associated with manufacturing a product. In cases where the product doesn’t have as long a lifespan as the bassoon, I hope this has proven a useful account to ensure how important it is that we move forward in a more intentional, mindful way of our consumption.
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“Bassoon Making by Fox 1/7–7/7.” Youtube, uploaded by claudiogn, 23 July 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3vhgtbjwaA. Accessed 10 March 2018.
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Jagadale, Santosh C; Rajkumar, K; Chavan, R.V.; Shinde, D.N.; Patil, C.L. “Environmental Concern of Pollution in Rubber Industry.” IJRET: International Journal of Research in Engineering and Technology, vol. 4, no. 11, November 2015, p187–191. Accessed 13 March 2018.
Koehler, Matthew. “Report: Timber Harvesting is by far the Largest Source of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Oregon.” A New Century of Forest Planning, 13 December 2017, http://forestpolicypub.com/2017/12/13/report-timber-harvesting-is-by-far-the-largest-source-of-greenhouse-gas-emissions-in-oregon/. Accessed 10 March 2018.
“Metallurgic Processes.” Lumen: Boundless Chemistry, https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-chemistry/chapter/metallurgic-processes/. Accessed 10 March 10.
“n–Butyl Acetate.” DOW Chemical Company, http://msdssearch.dow.com/PublishedLiteratureDOWCOM/dh_0954/0901b8038095464a.pdf?filepath=oxysolvents/pdfs/noreg/327-00022.pdf&fromPage=GetDoc. Accessed 10 March 2018.
“Nickel: Extraction and Purification.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel#Extraction_and_purification. Accessed 10 March 2018.
“Nickel Silver.” Global metals: Precision Metal Products since 1962, http://www.globalmetals.com/nickel-silver.html. Accessed 10 March 2018.
“Nickel Smelting and Refining.” World Bank Group: Pollution Prevention and Abatement Handbook, July 1998, p 349–352. Accessed 10 March 2018.
“Nitrogen Oxides.” World Bank Group: Pollution Prevention and Abatement Handbook, July 1998, p 223–226. Accessed 13 March 2018.
“Paint Toxicity.” Green Painters: Painting Australia a Sustainable Future, http://www.greenpainters.org.au/Consumer-Information/Paint-Toxicity.htm. Accessed 10 March 2018.
“Production of Ebonite: Collection of Raw Material in Sri Lanka.” SEM Finest Ebonite, http://www.ebonite-arts.de/en/production.php. Accessed 10 March, 2018.
Puschmann, Sarah. “Microplastics in our Environment: A Conversation with Odile Madden, Smithsonian Plastics Scientist.” Smithsonian Insider, 20 March 2017, https://insider.si.edu/2017/03/microplastics-environment-conservation-odile-madden-smithsonian-plastics-scientist/. Accessed 10 March 2018.
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