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Musical instruments as transparent as ice

© Evonik Industries AG, Konzernarchiv Hanau

Curious about other applications for PLEXIGLAS®, company founder Otto Röhm and his employees even made musical instruments from the new material in the 1930s.

When it came to processing, the researchers at Röhm & Haas, a predecessor company of Röhm, tried making everything they could think of out of PLEXIGLAS®. It soon became apparent that PLEXIGLAS® could be cut, drilled and milled. In addition to this, the finished sheets could be shaped at high temperatures below their melting point. Elated by the possibilities, Otto Röhm, who was interested in art and music, commissioned an employee to build him a violin from PLEXIGLAS® in May 1935.

The finished instrument was ready for playing 6 months later. However, the sound was not really convincing at this point. Röhm realized that the craftsmanship of a skilled instrument maker was required to achieve a satisfactory result. Bruno Rügemer, a master violin maker from Darmstadt, was therefore commissioned to build two violins and other string instruments from the brand acrylic glass from Röhm & Haas, now Röhm. The manufacturing steps were the same as for wood instruments.

Concerts with PLEXIGLAS® instruments

The material gained prominence thanks to concerts with PLEXIGLAS® instruments, rather than through professional circles. For example, the Lutz Quartet played in the Ufa Weekly Review newsreel and on the radio in 1938.

© Evonik Industries AG, Konzernarchiv Hanau

Concerts with PLEXIGLAS® instruments

In 1937, the violinist Bernhard Etté and his orchestra performed on PLEXIGLAS® instruments on the roof garden of the Eden Hotel at the Zoologischer Garten railway station in Berlin.

© Evonik Industries AG, Konzernarchiv Hanau

String and wind instruments

Due to their weak resonance, the string instruments from PLEXIGLAS® were only suitable for chamber music. Flutes and clarinets, on the other hand, displayed no acoustic disadvantages compared to other classic wooden or metal instruments.

© Evonik Industries AG, Konzernarchiv Hanau

Concert in the stairwell

The Dieffenbach Damenquartett performed in the stairwell of the new office building of Röhm & Haas on PLEXIGLAS® instruments in 1937. They played the Kaiservariation by Joseph Haydn on two violins, a viola and a cello made of PLEXIGLAS® by the master instrument maker, Bruno Rügemer.

© Evonik Industries AG, Konzernarchiv Hanau

Transparent wind instruments

Inspired by the first instruments from Röhm & Haas, the Mönnig company in Markneukirchen also wanted to produce wind instruments made of PLEXIGLAS®. The employees in the workshop analyzed the new material in great detail to find a suitable processing method and to set up the required tools. A Mönnig employee was ultimately able to produce a bassoon, a flute, a clarinet and an oboe from square bars of PLEXIGLAS®, first by lathing the PLEXIGLAS® and then drilling the necessary holes. It was significantly easier to process PLEXIGLAS® than wood, which is why he only needed 90 minutes to manufacture each instrument body.

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