As someone who is unnaturally freaked out by spiders, the idea of a musical instrument’s strings being made from spider silk sort of gave me an unnerving feeling; however, the actual process of how this came about was very intriguing.
Dr. Shigeyoshi Osaki of Japan’s Nara Medical University used the dragline silk of 300 female Nephilia maculata, a species of “golden orb-weavers” known for having complex webs, to create actual strings for a violin. Each string required Osaki to twist 3,000 to 5,000 strands of silk into one “bundle” going in the same direction. Then he twisted three of the bundles in the opposite direction to form the actual strings that would be used.
Once the strings were made, Dr. Osaki had to test the strength. This was important because he wanted to them to uphold like any professional violinist would expect while performing. The strings could withstand more tension than aluminum-coated nylon-core string, but not as much as a more traditional but less frequently used gut string.
An electron microscope revealed that the twisting had changed the “filaments from circular to polygonal,” and this caused no space to exist between the strings. According to Dr. Osaki this particular feature is what not only gives the strings their strength but “unique tone.”
He stated, “The violin strings are a novel practical use for spider silk as a kind of high value-added product, and offer a distinctive type of timbre for both violin players and music lovers worldwide.”
So for the rest of the population that has a creepy crawling sensation when thinking of spider webs, there may actually be something very appealing starting here that can change the outlook of spiders.