A company that claims to lengthen the life of machine tools by freezing them says the technique also improves the tone of musical instruments, makes golf balls fly farther and keeps nylons from running.

"Our primary source of business is to harden steel tools. But since we have these refrigerators, we tend to throw anything in there that fits," said Jeffrey Levine, who co-founded Applied Cryogenics Inc. in this Boston suburb.Levine and his partner, Bruce Norian, started their two-man operation in 1986 and have built a $250,000-a-year business freezing machine tools and selling cryogenic equipment.

Now, the two claim to have found new uses for this little-understood technology by experimenting with musical instruments.

Norian, an amateur violinist, happened to bring a replacement set of strings to work one day. There was room in the company's freezer, so he threw in the strings.

Later, when Norain tuned the new strings on the instrument, he found it sounded brighter in pitch and stayed in tune longer, he said. The strings also lasted longer after freezing.