From Draglines For Timbre To Spider Ranching

Spiders put a great deal of effort into spinning silk, building webs and the keeping them in good repair. Not all their threads are the same though. The thickest and strongest is their dragline silk. Over the centuries we have looked at the silk and tried to make use of it.

Wound dressing is one application that was tried many years ago with some success and it has been used as cross hairs in some scientific equipment, but not many other practical uses have been devised. The main reason is the collection of large enough quantities that would be required for commercial exploitation.

However, a new high-end use has been tried out by Osaki at Nara Med. U (1, 2). Dr. Osaki has been ranching a brand of golden orb-weaver spiders in his lab in Japan. With three hundred of these working hard, he has collected dragline silk to twist into fibers.

Up to 5,000 strands were twisted together first and then three of these fibers were twisted together in the opposite direction. The resulting fibers were used to string Dr. Osaki’s violin. They are strong and elastic; stronger than gut but not as strong as nylon strings.

The twisting process binds them so tightly together that the fibers deform to make intimate contact with their neighbors and leaving no gaps inside the bundle.

The elasticity of the strings is such that the overtones of the notes played are more pronounced than those produced with conventional stringing. This is most marked with the higher notes. The net result in psychoacoustic terms is an enhanced timbre or tonal quality – one of those difficult things to describe but one knows it when one hears it.

Perhaps we will soon hear a Stradivarius strung with dragline silk for the ultimate musical experience.


Leave a Reply