DES 40A/Sect A04
1 December 2014
The invention of the violin dates back to the 1500s. Technology may be much more advanced today than in the 1500s, but many still practice the old-fashioned art of handcrafting violins. Though its manufacture may appear to be much easier on the environment than for advanced technologies like computers and phones, in actuality, the acquirement and manufacture of the pieces which make up the violin take quite a toll.
One of the main components of the violin is the body, assembled from over seventy separate pieces of wood (“Violin Facts” par. 2). The body is not crafted from one type of wood, but actually from several different trees including maple, sycamore, spruce, beech, ebony, rosewood, boxwood, and pinewood. This combination varies between makers, but many violin makers consider maple, spruce, and ebony as “the best choices in violin making because of the unique structures and properties that each of these materials has to offer” (Kobilan par. 5).
Maple is often used for the back, neck, ribs, bridge, and inside linings (Bachmann 58). Its physical properties “allow the maker to create a light weight instrument while retaining excellent acoustic qualities.” (Kobilan par. 2). Before the supply was largely exhausted, European Maple from Yugoslavia was prominently used. Now, many European violin makers must look elsewhere, often importing broad leaf maple from North America (Tiebout par. 1, 3). Thankfully, maple is a prevalent tree. Ebony or rosewood on the other hand, “used for the fingerboard, nuts, pegs, tailpiece, tailpiece button, and sometimes purfling,” is not so common (Bachmann 58).
Ebony, which grows in warmer climates and the tropics, is chosen by violin makers because it is “the strongest of the lightweight woods. This durability enables it to stand the test of time and hold up for years” (Kobilan 4). Black Macassar ebony found in India and the East Indies is especially chosen because of its aesthetic appeal (“Ebony” par. 1). Rosewood is found in the rainforests of Brazil, Madagascar, and other tropical areas. Similarly, It is obtained from purplish-black hardwood trees and is used for a variety of instruments and cabinetwork (“Rosewood” par.1). Because of the high demand on these two woods, many species of ebony and rosewood are now vulnerable or endangered and must be CITES (Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species) protected (Meier par. 9-10). Though the violin is not the only contributor to this issue, its production only furthers the problem.
Pine too, often used for the bass bar, belly, cornerblock, and sound post, has several species that are either vulnerable, conservation dependent, or critically endangered (Meier 10-11). Spruce, a more common tree often selected from the Rocky Mountains in Colorado or from cold climates in Europe, is often used as an alternative (Kobilan par. 3).
Beech and sycamore are sometimes used as an alternative for maple for the back and ribs. Beech trees grow in the temperate and subtropical regions of the Northern Hemisphere and are valued for “the tough, strong, and easily worked wood” (“Beech” par. 1). Because beech takes an especially long time to grow, it is now “declining in abundance through lumbering and beech bark disease” (par. 1). Sycamore trees, which grow in the United States, Canada, Eastern Africa, and Europe “are one of the oldest species of trees on Earth, and are known for their longevity and hardiness” (Roberts par. 1, 5). While excellent for violins, cutting down these century-old trees eliminates a valuable carbon sink. To give an idea of exactly how much one tree stores, Researchers at Ecometrica found that a sycamore with a diameter of 52cm (20.5 in.) and a stem of 12m (39.4 ft) has roughly one ton of stored carbon inside it, equal to approximately 3.67 tons of CO2 (Barbosa, par. 11).
Because there are so many variables in wood type and location between makers, it is impossible to track exactly how much fuel is used to ship these products. But to give an idea, in a single day a small container ship of 4,000-5,000 TEUs (a TEU is a unit of cargo capacity equivalent to 20ft) can consume over 150 tons (4,283 gallons) of bunker fuel a day, while a large container ship of 10,000 TEUs can consume over 365 tons (10,422 gallons) (Rodrigue par. 1). In order for a violin maker to make a violin, he or she must order wood from numerous parts of the globe, including, but not limited to, Europe, the United States, Canada, India, the East Indies, Brazil, Madagascar, and Eastern Africa (this combination varies depending on which woods the maker prefers). Since resources have to be transported from so many parts of the globe, hundreds of tons (thousands of gallons) are burned.
So what holds a violin together? Many makers use plain-old animal glue. According to James Beament, author of The Violin Explained: Components Mechanism and Sound, “animal glue has several properties which are of exceptional value both for instruments and in the making process, and which are not found in any other glue” (165). Synthetic glues exist, but hide glue is often preferred because synthetic glues “are non-negotiable once they’ve dried, will not dilute in water, and will destroy wood in the process of being removed” (Dyck par. 3). For these reasons I will not focus on them.
Animal glue is made from animal remains including “ears, tails, scraps of hide or skin, scrapings from the fleshy side of hides, tendons, bones, and feet” (“How it’s Made Volume 5: Glue” par. 13). These are obtained from slaughterhouses, tanneries, and meat packaging companies and are washed in multiple baths of water and lime to break them down (par. 15). In order to obtain the lime for the baths, limestone must first be extracted from quarries and heated in a kiln to around 1648oF (898oC) to form quicklime (“Chemistry of Lime” par. 3).
Once broken down, the hides are washed in water to remove the lime and treated with either acetic or hydrochloric acid (“How it’s Made Volume 5: Glue” par. 16). The acetic acid used is made from oxidizing acetaldehyde or from the destructive distillation of wood (“Acetic Acid” par. 1). The hydrochloric acid is obtained in multiple ways. One way is to ignite chlorine and hydrogen gas in a graphite combustion chamber (which needs to be cooled by water), cool it, and have it absorbed into water to form a concentrated liquid. More often, it is produced as a byproduct either during the chlorination of organic products, the fluorination of chlorinated organic products to manufacture (hydro)chlorofluorocarbons, or during the incineration of chlorinated waste at high temperatures (“Hydrochloric Acid Production Process” par. 2-4).
Afterwards they are boiled in tanks at 160oF requiring 3-4 treatments of water. The impurities must then be removed, so alum and egg albumin are added. To change the glue to the desired color, sulfuric acid (for brown), phosphoric acid (for clear), or alum (for white) are added. Finally, the glue is evaporated to concentrate it, dried, and bottled (par. 17-19).
Varnish is used to give the violin a protective finish and add to its aesthetic quality. In order to make it, one needs linseed oil or walnut oil, some type of resin, alcohol (for spirit-varnishes) and turpentine (for non-alcohol based varnishes). Once all of the ingredients have been gathered, the oil and resin are cooked individually and then combined and cooked together. Afterwards turpentine or alcohol is added to thin it and make it into a brushable varnish (Douglas par. 2). Though this process seems simple enough, what most do not realize is how many resources need to be gathered and processed to make these products.
Linseed oil is made by taking seeds from the flax plant Linum usitatissium, originally from Central Asia, but now grown in Argentine, India, U.SA., Canada, and Russia, and pressing them to a meal using grooved rollers (Friend par. 13, 16). The meal is then “heated in a kettle to 70oC (158oF), packed in bags, and submitted to a pressure of some two or more tons per square inch in a hydraulic press” (par. 16). It’s then heated to 70-80oC (158-176oF), combined with sulfuric acid, and left to sit for several hours. The oil is then extracted using solvents such as benzoline, which can be distilled off afterwards (par. 24-25). According to an informational video by walnut oil makers, Andre and Gerard Duparc, walnut oil is made in a similar fashion only with walnuts instead of flax seeds. The walnuts are pressed into a meal using a grooved roller, wrapped up in bags, and put under immense pressure until the oil is extracted.
The resins used in varnish vary based on the maker and the color desired. Resins that are commonly used because they are soluble in both alcohol and turpentine include amber, dammar, copal, mastic, pine resin, sandarac, balsam, rosin, and shellac (Douglas par. 3). A paper in itself could be written on the types and locations of these various resins, but I shall only go into detail on just a few.
Amber is a fossil gum found “along the shores of a large part of the Baltic and North Seas, especially off the promontory of Samland. It is cast up by the sea and collected at ebb tide with nets and is also brought up by divers and dredging” (par. 9). Copal is obtained in a fossil state from the trees of the Gulbourtia, Trachylobium, and Hymenia families located in Sierra Leone, the west coast of Africa, and several South American countries (par. 19). Mastic gum coms from the resin that seeps from a type of evergreen shrub known as pistacia leatiscus. These trees are found “in the Mediterranean, particularly in Greece on the Aegean island of Chios, but also along the coast of Portugal, Morocco, and the Canaries” (par. 32). Pine gum and Sandarac both come from types of trees. Pine gum comes from the Calliris sinusis of China and the C. reessii of South Australia, while Sandarac is obtained from a conifer in northwest Africa called Callitris quadralvis (par. 39). Shellac actually comes from an insect. It’s a brittle substance “secreted by the female lac insect, Coccus lacca, found in the forests of Assam and Thailand, and harvested from the barks of trees” (par. 7).
As previously mentioned varnish can be made from two types of bases: alcohol or turpentine. In order to obtain alcohol, a process of fermentation must take place in which yeast breaks down sugar into carbon dioxide (which evaporates into the air) and ethanol (Kovacs par. 6). Turpentine is a volatile oil extracted from the wood chips of pine trees. During the kraft paper making process, pine woodchips are brought to an “elevated temperature and pressure in white liquor, which is a water solution of sodium sulfide and sodium hydroxide” (“Chemical Wood Pulping” par. 2) During this process a mixture of water and turpentine vapors are separated from the wood. The turpentine is lighter than water, and when left to sit in a tank, the turpentine separates from the water and rises to the top of the tank (“Turpentine Production and Processing” par. 2). However, there is still some turpentine left in the water and so it must be refined through fractional distillation (par. 4).
Previously, I stated the ingredients necessary to make varnish consisted of a resin, either linseed oil or walnut oil, and either alcohol or turpentine, but as we just covered, each of these ingredients can be broken down into its own list of materials. Knowing this, the new list of ingredients used to make each of the different varnishes consists of flax plant seeds, sulphuric acid, benzoline, walnut oil, water, sugar, yeast, pinewood, sodium sulfide, sodium hydroxide, and some combination of balsam, copal, dammar, mastic, pine, rosin, sandarac, or shellac. All of these come from various locations across the globe and just like wood, must be transported through heavy fuel-consumers like containerships and planes all to a central location to be formed into varnish which must then be shipped to stores around the world. Continuing on this pattern of hidden materials, the components that make up violin strings are more complicated than one might guess on first glance.
Violin strings can be broken down into three basic types: gut, steel core, and synthetic. For interests of length, I will not delve into the specific manufacturing processes of each of these, but instead just break down each into its smaller components. Gut strings were the first to be invented, yet they are praised over both synthetic and steel-core strings for their “warm, rich sound with complex overtones” (“Guide to Choosing Violin Strings” par. 5) However, they are more susceptible to changes in weather than the other two and must be frequently tuned. The strings themselves are made of sheep gut, but during the manufacturing process several other materials are utilized including water, salt, soda ash, oil, pumice powder, and sulfur powder (hydrogen peroxide mixed with water) (Larson par. 4, 14-15, 23, 28). Steel Core Strings are “usually thin spirals of roped or spiraled steel…wrapped with a variety of metals such as aluminum, chrome steel, tungsten, silver, and titanium” (Ward par.3). Many of these substances are not found in the form necessary for manufacture and must undergo extraordinary amounts of heat and pressure to get in the forms we desire. Lastly, synthetic strings are made from high tech-nylon, such as nylon perlon, and wrapped in aluminum or silver (Niles par. 7). This perlon is made from caprolactam attained from phenol in coal tar (“Perlon.” par.3)
Often the true worth of a product goes unnoticed. When one looks at a violin they might see the four end products necessary to make it (the strings, the wood pieces, the varnish and maybe the glue), but the buyer likely doesn’t know just how many resources are necessary to make those things. Behind each product is a complicated web of other resources, high energy manufacturing processes, and waste. These numerous resources need to be extracted from the ground, from plants, or from animals, processed in factories, and shipped to other places where they are used to make new things, all of which requires tremendous amounts of fuel. This true measure of resources gathered and manufacture necessary may go unnoticed by consumers, but it has a true toll on the environment.
Violin Materials Bibliography
“The Anatomy of a Violin.” violinstudent.com. Violin Student Central, n.d. Web. 15 October 2014.
“Acetic Acid.” encyclopedia.com. The Coloumbia Encyclopedia 6th edition, 2014. Web. 5 December 2014.
Bachmann, Alberto. An Encyclopedia of the Violin. New York: D. Appleton Company, 1925. Print.
Barbosa, Vera. “Ever Wondered How Much Carbon is Stored in a Tree?” cabiblog.typepad.com. CABI, 30 June 2011. Web. 10 December 2014.
Beament, James. The Violin Explained: Components, Mechanism, and Sound. Oxford: Oxford University, Press Inc., 1997. Print.
Belknap, Monte. “Making a Violin.” theviolinsite.com. 2012. Web. 15 October 2014.
Chambers, Simeon. “Wood.” simeonchamberstonewood.com. Simeon Chambers Tonewood, 2014. Web. 15 October 2014.
“Chemical Wood Pulping.” epa.gov. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 19 May 2014. Web. 8 December 2014.
“Chemistry of Lime.” cheneylime.com. Lime and Cement Company, n.d. Web. 8 December 2014.
Douglas, Leroy. “Classic Violin Varnish.” leroydouglasviolins.com. Leroy Douglas Violins, n.d. Web. 28 November 2014.
Duparc, Andre and Gerard Duparc. “How to Make Walnut Oil.” Online Video clip. Youtube. 1 August 2008. Web. 1 December 2014.
Dyck, S. Van. “Types of Glues Used in Instrument Making.” Benning Violins, n.d Web. 8 December 2014.
“Ebony.” encyclopedia.com. The Coloumbia Encyclopedia 6th edition, 2014. Web. 25 November 2014.
Friend, J. Newton. “The Chemistry of Linseed Oil.” archive.org. A. C. Gumming, 1917. Web. 8 December 2014.
“How Products Are Made Volume 2: Violin.” madehow.com. Advameg Inc, 2014. Web. 15 October 2014.
“How Products Are Made Volume 5: Glue” madehow.com. Advameg Inc, 2014. Web. 8 December 2014.
“Hydrochloric Acid Production Process.” solvaychemicals.com. Solvay Chemicals International, May 2005. Web. 5 December 2014.
Johnson, Chris and Roy Courtnall. The Art of Violin Making. London: Robert Hale, 1999. Print.
Kobilan, Marisa. “Wood Used in Violin Making.” blog.kennedyviolins.com. Kennedy Violins, 27 June 2011. Web. 20 November 2014.
Kovacs, Betty. “Alcohol and Nutrition.” medicinenet.com. Medicine Net Inc., 31 March 2014. Web. 11 December 2014.
Larson, Daniel. “Making Gut Strings.” gamutmusic.com. Gamut Music Inc., 2010. Web. 4 December 2014.
Meier, Eric. “Restricted and Endangered Wood Species.” wood-database.com. The Wood Database, 21 April 2014. Web. 25 November 2014.
Niles, Laurie. “The Violinist.com Guide to Choosing Violin Strings.” violinist.com. Niles Online, 2014. Web. 13 November 2014.
“Perlon.” german-holsery-museum.de. German Hosiery Museum. n.d. Web. 4 December 2014.
Peterlongo, Paulo. The Violin: It’s Physical and Acoustic Principles. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1979. Print.
Roberts, Heath. “Facts About Sycamore Trees.” homeguides.sfgate.com. Demand Media, n.d. Web. 25 November 2014.
Rodrigue, Dr. Jean-Paul.“The Geography of Transport Systems: Fuel Consumption by Containership Size and Speed.”people.hofstra.edu. Hofstra University, 2014. Web. 8 December 2014.
“Rosewood.” encyclopedia.com. The Coloumbia Encyclopedia 6th edition, 2014. Web. 25 November 2014.
Sloane, Irving. Making Musical Instruments. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1978. Print.
Tiebout, Ralph. “Wood for Making Violins.” theviolinsite.com. The Violin Site, 2012. Web. 20 November 2014.
“Turpentine Production and Processing.” nzic.org.nz. New Zealand Institute of Chemistry, n.d. Web. 8 December 2014.
Ward, Richard. “Guide to Choosing and Using Strings for Violins, Violas, and Cellos.” ifshinviolins.com. Ifshin Violins, 2014. Web. 13 November 2014.
Energy Used in the Production of Violins
The production of violin instruments is a sensitive and resource-consuming process that ensures the integrity, style and durability is maintained. Due to the level of complexity involved in the construction of a violin, most of the parts are designed separately and then joined together to form the final product. The reason for this slow process is that the style of design as well as the quality of materials determines the voice produced by violins. Creating a violin involves many different stages that were initially done by hand. Mechanical robots have since replaced these. These machines consume a significant amount of energy and in the process, emerge as vital areas of study in the design process. Analyzing the overall energy needs that go into the construction of violins will provide a wealth of information into their development process.
An important aspect of the violin is the rosin or crude turpentine. This particular chemical is used to preserve the wood and give it a shiny look. A process of distillation using wood chips in copper stills achieves the extraction of spirit of turpentine from crude turpentine. The crude turpentine is subjected to high temperatures within the boiler to separate the sulphurous compounds and water first. Next, the temperature is increased while strengthening the vacuum. These conditions ensure the extraction of refined turpentine. However, it takes approximately 24 hours for one batch of pinenes to be fully treated at temperature exceeding 150 degrees Celsius (Macharis and Sandra 29). On a positive note, the production of rosin for the violins also results in the production of dipentene, pine oil, camphene, and terpin (Saint-George 28). The important aspect is the massive consumption of energy in the process of extracting small volumes of rosin to be used in making the violin sound melodious. Therefore, it emerges that in order for quality sound to originate from a violin, the quality of rosin must be checked beforehand. Inexpensive rosins that can be found on student’s violins have a tendency of being clammy that produces a grainy sound, and leaves a powdery residue than the professional types. Professional rosins contribute in the creation of smoother and coordinated tone. However, professional rosin if far more expensive than ordinary ones.
In addressing the industrial aspects of mass production of violins, it is imperative to note that very little human contribution is necessary especially for advanced production stations. In such sites, violin production is done using three-dimensional printing technology. Three-dimensional printing has the major advantage of being extremely cost-effective as it uses almost the same amount of material and skill to manufacture numerous units. The technology works by editing a blueprint of the desired violin (Dinçer, Midilli, and Haydar, 78). This process allows for the changing of color and form. A 3D printer that deposits layers of metal, plastic or fiberglass in a layered form until the final shape is replicated then prints this design. Similarly, the printing technology cuts costs involved in setting up factory machinery and safety measures. However, it consumes an inordinate amount of electricity in the process of fabricating detailed objects such as a violin. Electricity consumption is a major factor when large-scale 3D printing of violins is involved. In 2008, a study on electricity consumption revealed that large industries using 3D printers consumed 100% more electricity to make the same objects (Campbell, Murray, Clive, and Arnold 29). This makes the printer highly unfeasible as it threatens the ecological stability.
Most of the parts in a violin are made mostly of wood. The remaining materials used to create the instrument include animal hide glue, fiberglass, or plastic. In its most natural form, wood for the main violin or its bow has to be extracted. Pernambuco trees are normally chopped and shaped into plans using manual or electric chainsaws (Thorpe 29). These planks are further sawn into blanks to be used in shaping the violin’s bow. Shaping the bow involves the use of a high temperature gas burner or a spirit lamp that can slowly bend the stick to the desired shape. After the bow and violin is almost complete, it is necessary to treat it. This process also uses a significant amount of energy in the form of several chemical treatments. The chemical process involves swathing the instruments with nitric acid and consequently neutralizing the acid with ammonia. French polishing processes are sometimes used to add sheen. The polishing process involves adding a thin layer of shellac. In industrial production, diesel-powered or electric machines do all these aspects of chemical treatment. Similarly, robots that consume a large amount of electricity coordinate the whole process.
Preference for Traditional Methods of Production
In the article titled “Manufacturing the violin” by Tony James that appeared in the Engineering and Technology Magazine, the author pointed out the importance of quality and instrument integrity when designing a violin. In his example, he pointed out the Primavera violin that was retailing at approximately $125 (James 23). While quite affordable, the violin was designed under a restricted budget and displayed issues such as slipping pegs and difference in tones depending on the weather. The main reason for making a preference for traditional methods of violin production over modern methods is the amount of energy used for the main and subsidiary processes. Most factories use coke or wood fuel tat is supplied by companies such as Yukon Wood Furnace Company to raise the temperatures of the boilers and facilitate the distillation process for wood treatment or extraction of turpentine (Hill 45). Wood and coke fuel are highly and easily combustible and therefore, a massive amount of such fuels is required. Furthermore, since coke and wood are bulky and available in selected regions, there is further transportation costs that increase the amount of energy used to produce violins (Hesse 45). Lastly, energy is also consumed in the environmental measures installed in the factories. The states has stringent regulations concerning air and soil pollution and this has forced many establishments to install air purification systems, air conditioners, smoke absorbers and other electrical appliances that can reduce pollution. By the time several thousand units of violins are produced, a massive amount of energy is used within the factory alone. This consumption does not include any transportation costs.
Conversely, most of the raw materials originate form other continents such as South America, Asia and Africa (Chang 34). These materials include raw rosin, tree saps, green tree poles, and other unrefined elements. They have to be transported across the Atlantic and Indian Ocean in tankers or via air. There is also a significant amount of energy wasted in the transportation and distribution processes. One, there is a large distribution network between the violin producers, wholesale sellers and retailers. This network is facilitated by a strong transport system comprising of trains, airplanes, trucks, and ships (James 18). All these form of transport consume massive amounts of energy to deliver the musical instruments to different parts of the world.
Within the last decade alone, there has been a massive influx of Chinese-made violins, cellos, and violas. This massive influx of musical instruments from Asia targets mostly the student player and therefore, most of the prices are significantly lower than ordinary violins in the United States. The relationship between American-based companies such as Southern Strings and Donley Violins has ensured that affordable channels of transporting such products are opened. Regardless of the low cost of shipping, the transportation of violins from Asia to the United States and Europe consumes a significant amount of energy in terms of fuel for tankers.
The following conclusions can be made from the analysis on the energy needs in the construction of violins. One, the conflict between handmade and industrial production of violins is a very valid one. While industrial production allows for the delivery of numerous units, it uses an inordinate amount of energy to prepare the materials and make final changes. Industrial production is also detrimental to the art of violin making that involves years of training and includes an aspect of originality (Rossing 45). Two, the process of producing a single violin is labor and capital intensive to an extent that it is almost uneconomical to do it on a small scale using traditional tools.
Campbell, Murray, Clive A. Greated, and Arnold Myers. Musical Instruments: History, Technology, and Performance of Instruments of Western Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.
Chang, Emily. China's violin city spreads string message. CNN. 2010. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
Dinçer, İbrahim, Adnan Midilli, and Haydar Kucuk. Progress in Sustainable Energy Technologies: Vol II. , 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
Hesse, Markus. The City as a Terminal: The Urban Context of Logistics and Freight Transport. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008. Print.
Hill, Charles W. L. International Business: Competing in the Global Marketplace. , 2014. Print.
James, Tony. Manufacturing the violin. Engineering and Technology Magazine. 6.11. 2011. Print.Bottom of Form
Macharis, Cathy, and Sandra Melo. City Distribution and Urban Freight Transport: Multiple Perspectives. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2011. Print.
Rossing, Thomas D. The Science of String Instruments. New York: Springer, 2010. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
Saint-George, Henry. The Bow, Its History, Manufacture & Use. S.l.: General Books, 2010. Print.
Thorpe, Dave. Energy Management in Industry: The Earthscan Expert Guide. 2014. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
Trystan Jaycob Velasco
Professor Christina Cogdell
11 December 2014
Violin Making: An Analysis of Modern Methods and Waste
For centuries, the tradition of handcrafting a violin, the techniques and care associated with the creating such a delicate instrument, has remained virtually unchanged. Even today, the age old techniques and ideas are being passed on in violin workshops around the world. However, even though the violin itself is being created in the virtually the same way it has since the olden times, methods of obtaining or processing the materials to create the instrument and the distribution of the instrument has entered the modern era. Globalization and the Carbon era is relevant to products like the violin as materials and production pieces are shipped around the globe in order to meet the certain demand associated with this graceful instrument. This also means that the harmful waste and emissions tied to the practices of the carbon era can be tied to the violin as well. Fossil fueled machines have become a part of the story of the violin’s creation within the past decades, but that does not rank the violin amongst the most unclean and non-green products out there. In fact, despite the adaption of fossil fueled machines and other harmful methods, the creation of the violin has minimal waste and emissions compared to other contemporary products.
As stated before, globalization and the carbon era relates to the creation of the violin, but mostly in the gathering and production of raw materials and components that go into the creation of the instrument. It is important to remember that for any machines or factories needed for processing materials and components, electricity is being used, and electricity is a coal powered industry so coal emissions and waste need to be kept in mind but will not be explained within this paper. Many components are used to create a violin, one such integral part being the wood. What follows is under the assumption that logging methods practiced in the U.S. are relevant to the production of the violin and are used for the various tree types. The process of producing timber requires a few things: chainsaws used to cut the trees down, trucks and other vehicles to transport the lumber (Harris, William.). and sawmills to create planks of manageable travel size to areas that need wood. All three of those aspects require the consumption of fossil fuels which means that each aspect contributes carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is also release from the tree itself when it is cut down. Depending on the biomass of a tree, the act of cutting one down can release literal tons of carbon dioxide into the air. Carbon dioxide emissions do not just come from wood extraction, however, it also comes from the extraction and refinement of metals that are used in violin strings. While most violinist will prefer natural catgut strings, there are many violins that use synthetic or metal strings, and these strings are made of nylon wrapped with aluminum and steel wrapped with aluminum respectively. It is no secret of how unclean an iron or steel factory can be, as some of the wastes include carbon dioxide emissions and kish particles, graphite flakes associated with spherical iron particles, being released into the air (Machemer, Steven D.). Surprisingly, aluminum production can be just as bad. Researchers have found that in the production of aluminum can release perfluorocarbon emissions, two perfluorocarbons, tetraflouromethane and hexaflouroethane, that are in fact potent greenhouse gasses (Gibbs et al.). Catgut strings are far less wasteful as they are made from animal intestines soaked in water and roll pressed into string (Larson, Daniel.). The creation of nylon however is a much more harmful process as it can emit carcinogens, non-carcinogens, respiratory inorganics, terrestrial ecotoxicity, and greenhouse gasses produced when creating caprolactam, a material used to create nylon. Another material needed for violin production is the varnish, and the process of making varnish is found to emit volatile organic compounds, or VOCs (Branch, Chemical Industry.). Another material that produces VOCs during production is synthetic adhesives, however, many violinist prefer using animal hide based glues as synthetic glue can be problematic. So, a large bulk of waste and emissions can be seen during the extraction of raw materials, their refinement, and creation of components such as the strings, varnish, and glue for the violin, however, building the violin is a different story.
Crafting the violin, due to the age old hand crafting tradition, is where waste and emissions become much more minimal. The process of creating a violin requires cutting the wood and forming it into the body, ribs, and neck of the violin, gluing the pieces together, and then coating the finished wooden instrument with varnish (Sherman, Andrew M.). For some, using hand tools to carefully carve, cut and, shape the wood is the desired process, while others may decide to use electric saws. The main waste here is any excess wood cut away. After the wooden pieces are ready, they are all glued together using either the synthetic or animal hide glue. Then, when the wooden part of the violin is constructed, it is coated with multiple layers of varnish. Varnish, however, releases harmful VOCs into the air even at this point. Once the varnish is dry, the soundpost, bridge, and strings are attached. Overall, there may be some waste in terms of scrap wood and fumes from varnish, but these emissions are minimal, especially when compared to raw material extraction as stated before, and also the transportation of these items and the violin itself.
Transporting raw materials, products used for the violin, and even the violin itself makes up the next big chunk of waste and emissions that can be tied to the instruments story. Materials are harvested from around the world and shipped to the factories that produce the individual components of the violin. This entails the use of large cargo ships and trucks to transport these materials overseas and overland. Large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions can be expected from both of these transport systems, however there are a few tied to shipping that are somewhat unique. Besides carbon dioxide emissions, there is also the concern of ballast water on ships (Tamburri, Mario N., et al.). The problem here lies in the fact that ballast water within a ship can hold microorganisms from one part of the globe and introduce them to other parts, therefore endangering the ecology with a new species. Low grade ship fuel has also been found to contain much more sulphur in it that in automobile fuel, therefore causing more sulphur emissions in the air (Vidal, John. 2009). So, the violin cannot be exempt from the effects of fossil fueled transport systems, but the maintenance of the violin is one that is much less environmentally impactful.
Maintaining a violin does not add any significant waste into the equation. When maintaining a violin damages can be easily fixed with glue to seal in cracks or coating the instrument with another layer of varnish to fill and cover any blemishes. Strings are commonly replaced regularly to preserve sound quality. Bridges, soundposts, pegs, and other wooden parts can also be recarved and replaced. Basically, many of the materials are already being made and are available, so no new waste or emissions are being produced. So maintaining a violin is not so bad in terms of creating vast amounts of waste, but how about when it is time to let go of the violin?
It turns out that when a violin loses its original splendor, throwing it away is not always the answer, in fact, it is highly resisted. After researching on many violin blogs and other sites, it became clear that many violin owners and violin sellers did not typically approve of throwing away a violin. Many violin sellers offered to buy any old unwanted violins for the sake of refurbishing and reselling the violin. Also many violin owners expressed interest in keeping the violins as a part of a collection. This may be because of the stigma that comes with owning a handcrafted violin, which in part is really like owning a piece of art. For the most part, violins are continually refurbished or kept as works of art, but what if one did happen to find itself thrown away?
There are a few assumptions that can be made if a violin was to be thrown away by looking at its individual parts, even if most violins are not disposed of. If a violin was put into a landfill, it would not be so incorrect to assume that the varnish, being made of volatile ingredients would produce harmful vapors and chemicals as it degrades. The varnish would have to be the first thing to go because it is essentially a protective layer around the wood. After the varnish degrades enough the wood would begin to rot naturally. The metal strings would rust or erode in a typical manner and the violin essentially would just be a rotten carcass of wood and string wires. So even in its end the amount of waste and emissions produced from this hypothetical decaying instrument is rather uneventful and insignificant.
The violin, for many violinists, is ideally made of natural materials, however, there are materials that require processing, and even if the violin is fully natural, it can still be tied to the waste associated with fossil fueled machines. For many products out there on the market, it is hard to not be associated with the waste and emissions of fossil fueled machines because fossil fuels have become heavily seeped into the economy. The violin cannot be exempt from the harm caused by fossil fuels, but when looking at the larger picture, can be viewed as a product that contributes less to the degradation of the environment than other products on the market. For looking at the many products out there created using synthetic materials, petroleum byproducts, hefty chemical processes, and a multitude of heavy refinement phases, the violin with the ancient techniques that is employed in its production does not come anywhere close to being dangerously high waste and emissions.
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