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Boiling old strings to make them sound new...

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by InfinityJaco, Dec 24, 2001.

  1. InfinityJaco


    Jun 5, 2001
    I wanna boil my strings that I have on my Warwick right now. I have a big ass gig coming up on New Years Eve and I want my strings to sound fairly new-ish... I have another set of Billy Sheehan strings that I was going to put on, but they're 43-115 gauge and the ones i have on now are 45-105. I won't have enough time from now to new years to get used to the new gauge (probably would but i dont want to take a chance). I was wondering, how long should I boil the strings for? :confused: I heard that when you boil them, they get a little weaker and they also don't stay bright for very long, but I dont know...its worth a chance!
  2. i wanna do the same, but I wouldn't know where to begin, I'm only posting this so I'll know as soon as you do.
  3. i use fender stainless steel round wounds. is it worth risking ruining them do you think or should they be ok?
  4. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    I have had limited success boiling strings. Also, if you dry them in the oven (I do), I'd do it at about 220-250 deg. F. I think 400 might change the heat treating properties. I've had reasonable success with Rotosounds, though I had to try twice. The first time I don't think I boiled them long enough, and I had to do it again. It worked the second time.

    Right now, though, I don't boil them. I can afford new strings when I need them, and I just bought 7 sets of strings from various different people (ebay sellers, discussion board guys, etc) for about fifty dollars, so I should be set for a while. If you look hard, you can find major brand strings cheap and stock up.
  5. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    WAIT! Do a search on "boiling strings" and you'll find the following posted often. Many of us have tried this and it works much better than boiling.

    I've been using this method for years and it works like a charm if you need to clean strings instead of replacing them. All this stuff can be had cheaply from your local Lowe's or Home Depot.

    Get a piece of PVC pipe about 3/4" in diameter, just about the same length as a new string, wrappings and all....cap one end of it, leave the other end open (they make caps...you'll find them in the same area as other PVC fittings). Cut the pipe so that the length so that when you put the straightened strings into the pipe, the top of the pipe just reaches where the wrappings on the strings start. Get some Denatured Alcohol, which is found in quart-size cans in the paint section. With the strings uncoiled and standing in the pipe, fill the pipe to just below the top. The idea is that only the areas touched by your hands are submerged in the alcohol. Stand this up in a corner somewhere out of the way.

    A couple hour's soak will make your strings good as new....much cleaner and better sounding than boiling. Your wraps won't get wet and deteriorate. When you're done, pour the alcohol from the pipe back into the can for later use. Works like a charm. Works especially well if you're a touring musician...you can just carry the can and pipe with you. This saved me major-league $$ on the road. I could keep a set of strings sounding good for literally years.

    Some cautions: This stuff won't really irritate your skin or anything, but it's poisonous so DON'T DRINK IT! (Do I really have to even say that?). It's also flammable, so keep it away from open flame. In short, treat it like any other household chemical...with common sense.
  6. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    I haven't tried alcohol, but it sounds like a good idea. You should probably do the entire operation outside of the house, since there are various sources of ignition (pilot lights, etc.) inside. Gasoline is way too dangerous to use for cleaning of anything.
  7. Cantstandsya

    Cantstandsya Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2001
    Fontana, CA
    I usually coil the strings up in an empty coffee can full of rubbing alcohol for about ten to fifteen minutes. I just rinse them off with water and towel dry them. Works a lot better than boiling. If you boil your strings too long they will be just as dead as when you started.
  8. and it doesn't matter if i soak or boil the end parts of the string with the fabric wrapped round them?
  9. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    It'll shorten the life of the wrappings much faster. That's why I started using the PVC pipe method...you can soak the strings uncoiled, and can leave the alcohol level so that the wrappings aren't submerged.
  10. I'm thinking about trying this method of coiling them and puting them in alcohol in a coffee can. The string ends made of fabric will fade and whiten but wont be damaged as such?
  11. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    They'll also start to unravel faster.
  12. so should i leave the fabric sticking out the alcohol?
  13. klorence


    Nov 21, 2001
    Pittsburgh, PA
    just thought i'd pipe in here, since some of these 'recipes' are making me laugh out loud. "bake at 400 in your oven"??!!?? come ON!!!

    i tried the boiling thing MANY years ago, since being in high school, I didn't have any $$$ for new strings. boiling them in effect just cleaned them, and of course they sounded 'newer' for awhile.

    but the first time i was late for a gig & didn't have time to boil my strings (or get burnt by un-coiling strings shooting out of the boiling water, or scalding from the steam, etc.), i just washed them with a little "lemon fresh" Ajax dishsoap & some hot water in the kitchen sink. dried 'em with a dishtowel, and Voila - same net effect as boiling, 1/10th the time. if your strings have silk windings, be careful not to get the silk wet, and it won't unravel on you.

    also, i've never in my 20 years' playing experience found washing or boiling strings to make them *last* any longer. believe me, i wish it did.

    yes, cleaning your strings will make them sound 'newer' for awhile, since the crud is washed out of them. and wiping down your strings in between sets or after the gig will keep some of the dirt out of them, too, and will make them require washing less often.

    the reasons strings break are usually metal fatigue (bend a wire back an forth a whole lot and it will break) or possibly a sharp spot on your bridge that doesn't distribute the string tension evenly over the contact area of the string. (i've had this happen before; a quick filing of the offending bridge saddle & breaks decreased 99.9%).

    i've found that nickle strings get dead slowly over time; you sort of 'know' when they've reached their limit & aren't surprised so much when they finally break.

    stainless steel strings seem to stay brighter longer, but when they do eventually fail, you could have swore that they were still sounding new!

    anyhow, i hope this saves you some scalded fingers and time wasted on ridiculous recipes for cooking your strings.

    work on your technique, wipe down your strings after every gig/rehearsal, wash them if they get cruddy.

    end of rant.
  14. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    I use rubbing alcohol (sp?) to clean my strings after each practice or concert. You just put some on a rag and wipe the string from nut to bridge direction this takes care of finger oil and rosin.
  15. thank you everyone
  16. klorence


    Nov 21, 2001
    Pittsburgh, PA
    whoa, dude. no chest pounding going on here. and even tho' i've been playing for awhile, i certainly don't have it all figured out. and i certainly don't remember saying anything like that in my post.

    i just wanted to offer a little friendly advice based on my experiences: washing strings worked as well for me as boiling them did. end of story. a friend suggested wiping them down after playing; that, too worked for me, so I do it. i didn't acuse him of chest thumping, i tried his advice before telling him he was full of it.

    sorry if i came off a little flip about the whole oven thing, but it just struck me as overkill, and my intention was, as you suggest, to help out folks with fewer years' experience; save them some time, save them some burnt fingers and charred silk wrap.

    > I'm not curing cancer, I'm not saving kid's lives, and
    > I'm not keeping the world safe for democracy. You're
    > not, either.

    no sh*t! did i touch some kind of nerve? jeez!

    >This is a discussion board. It is not a BBQ
    > pit and it is not Gore Vidal's parlor. Lighten up.

    believe me, if this is the kind of response that can be expected from this forum, you certainly won't have to worry about hearing from me again.
  17. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    Nahhh...c'mon guys...I think this whole exchange is a little blown up. After Christmas blues?

    Everybody's input is valuable here and both you guys are welcome. Surely we aren't gonna lose a coupla vets due to a newbie with nasty strings? :D
  18. klorence


    Nov 21, 2001
    Pittsburgh, PA

    and i promise to be sure that the tone of my posts does not get misunderstood!






    (there - that's every smily face i could find!)

    happy new year!
  19. jcadmus


    Apr 2, 2000
    Steering back to the actual topic...how did THIS turn in to a controversial topic?...

    Boiling will indeed remove grit and grime from strings and make older ones sound newer. I used to do it fairly regularly with moderately good results -- now I usually just change the strings.

    But what boiling (and other cleaning methods) WON'T do is repair wear spots on the strings where they contact the frets -- more of a problem with nickel strings than stainless steel, but even stainless will see some flattening at the contact point.

    This wear does effect the intonation of the string, so you will have to eventually replace the strings.

    Caveat: if you're going to change strings, do it a few days before a gig if possible, and make sure you properly stretch the strings. They will continue to stretch for a day or two after installation before eventually settling down.
  20. tucker

    tucker Guest

    Jan 21, 2001
    North Carolina
    Just borrow some money and buy new strings. Then pay the person you borrowed the money from.

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