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Flat_the_3rd_n7th - Posted - 01/06/2021:  11:30:14

In Arkansas, I've never worried about an instrument getting dry. But yesterday a guitarist I play with talked about humidifying his guitar and it made me wonder. It IS dryer in the house in winter due to wood stove and conventional heat.

What humidity do you take action (I suppose either with the little tube in the case if you have one, or a dampit)? It's not really something I keep in my crosscheck but maybe I should, especially with vintage instruments.

UsuallyPickin - Posted - 01/06/2021:  11:36:37

40% to 60% is best if memory serves. .... I occasionally dip down to 30% and have yet to encounter a problem. Fiddles are the canaries of the wood instrument world. They start to squawk a bit when they get dry. In truth it is better safe than sorry. Humidify when in doubt. R /

DougD - Posted - 01/06/2021:  11:54:14

Yes, 40% to 60% relative humidity is what's recommended. For 10 bucks or so you can buy a little digital temperature and humidity gauge and keep track. I have one that also reads outdoor conditions so I know if I need my mittens.
I don't think those little tubes or Dampits do a very good job, plus they're hard to keep up with if you have many instruments. A room humidifier is much better, plus it will be better for your own health to have moister air, and they're not very expensive. We bought a couple larger ones which were great until they both failed. This might inspire me to try and fix them (we have two smaller ones going now).

Edited by - DougD on 01/06/2021 11:55:35

stumpkicker - Posted - 01/06/2021:  12:01:28

I live in the northeast with a forced air heating system. I keep all my instruments in 10 by 12 spare bedroom, in stands for ease of getting to them. I just use a $20 cool mist humidifier from Walmart. It keeps the room at about 40% humidity.

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 01/06/2021:  12:09:03

I never had problems with my string instruments when I lived in drier than thou SoCal. When I moved to 100 inches a year Hawaii, though, my best fiddle's neck came unglued. I mailed the fiddle to the shop I bought it from for repair. The elderly German shop owner gently told me, "These things happen." The fiddle came back good-as-new. I'd cross my fingers to ward off a repeat performance, but it's tough to play the instrument that way.

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 01/06/2021:  19:58:27

I keep my workshop right at 50% all year round. When I’m making a violin I might lower it to 40% to draw a little moisture out of the wood and to encourage glue and varnish to dry a little faster. 40-60 is the recommended range for people, and instruments tend to like the same conditions people do. It’s really better to stay close to 50% as much as you can, though. Things really start to feel different at 60%.

Winter is the hardest time for instruments. The air is dry already, but when you turn on the heat, the heater dries the air out even more, which can make the relative humidity spike downward. When wood gets too dry it’s likely to crack.

When it comes to choosing the best way to keep an instrument healthy, it really depends on where you’re keeping the instrument. If it never leaves the room, you can just keep the room at the right level. If you take the instrument out a lot,
especially to places where the temperature and humidity fluctuate, a Dampit can really help to limit drastic changes to the wood. In-case humidifiers can help to regulate more evenly, but once the instrument leaves the case, it’ll be affected by the outside atmosphere very quickly.

Woodcutter - Posted - 01/07/2021:  02:28:39

I have 2 fiddles which are each well over 100 years old. I live in the Northwest and heat with wood. These fiddles stay out and are usually in the same room with the woodstove. Bottom line --- there haven't been any ill effects. Perhaps I'm just lucky but my logic in treating them this way is based on the assumption that they've likely been through worse conditions back when most people heated with wood or coal and don't seem to be any the worse for wear.

ChickenMan - Posted - 01/07/2021:  04:19:27

All but one of my fiddles are in the 100 +/- year category and two were attic finds. They could care less about humidity. In fact, I've of them plays and sounds best in the winter. In the humid summer, it gets muddy sounding and is much harder to draw a tone from. They others don't change noticeably and the modern one has a case humidifier.
I have a uke that cracked in its first winter so it gets a humidifier, and have a guitar that I keep in its case with a Herco humidifier, the kind that is a small tub with clay inside. The wife and I were just talking about getting a humidifier, so this is timely.

boxbow - Posted - 01/07/2021:  04:20:08

I use a room humidifier and a humidity gauge. If it stays below 0 F. for a few days, the gauge dips just below 40% running the humidifier flat out. Otherwise I keep it in the 45-50% range. It's been mild lately, around 20-30 F. I have to top up the reservoir every couple of days. In more typical (colder) conditions at this time of year I might have to top it up daily. I have a forced air furnace, and I'm thinking of mounting a humidifier on the furnace since that sort of thing is how I earn my paycheck. Problem is they're wasteful of water and have some maintenance issues over time. The room humidifier has been running well for about 8 winters now. Maybe it's a little noisier than when it was new. Cheap and easy to fix when the time comes. Plug in a new one.

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 01/07/2021:  04:59:30

i still have an old Fender I've had for around 50 years. It's been in a house where we heated with a fireplace and the snow would blow in through the walls or where the windows were, in a 12 x 60 trailer where we heated with a woodstove with wood and coal and also opened the windows when the coal made us too hot, and when the snow melted our floor would have 1/2 water all over it...never humidified, I mean, not on purpose...then came up here, bought more instruments and used to humidify, but now I don't bother...if the air feels dry to us, I boil a pot of water for a little while, but I don't do that much out of fear I'll forget and let it boil dry. Gotta remember the old timers probably had rough living conditions and they did ok. Might be best to humidify, measure, put them into a special room, etc., but I've never been well off enough to really be able to do all of that...and mine have been ok, so far...I'm not recommending that to others, just saying I wouldn't sweat it too much. Of course, if you do sweat, you are probably humidifying the

Edited by - groundhogpeggy on 01/07/2021 05:02:00

Snafu - Posted - 01/07/2021:  10:57:25

We used to have a gold fish tank and as expected we had to add water to it every day in the winter when it was dry out. It naturally kept the room humidity nice and even with only the cost of an air pump bubble stone, food and a fluorescent light, and we got to enjoy the fish. Simple. No hard maintenance but a dead fish every once in a while...

Flat_the_3rd_n7th - Posted - 01/07/2021:  16:27:14

I really appreciate all your responses--I'm obliged for all the smarts I lack.  The single-room humidifier is a good 'un.  I remember as a kid that whoever had a sore throat in wintertime got one next to the bed overnight.  I'll probably do something like that upstairs when the house dial says to.

Additionally , I thoroughly enjoy all the stories that follow along with a topic--I should probably request your war stories every time I post--

"There I was...nothing between me and that resonator banjer but a set of year-old Helicores..."

The Violin Beautiful - Posted - 01/07/2021:  18:17:07

Violins are indeed sensitive to humidity or lack thereof. When the humidity drops here each winter, customers start showing up with saddle cracks and open seams caused by neglect.

Professional players often struggle with the changes their instruments experience through travel. Before high speed travel was possible, players would spend a lot of time traveling across the countryside, and their instruments would be able to slowly adjust to the changes. Even then, traveling could be rough on instruments.

Now, though, air travel allows one to cover great distances in one day, which also means the instrument can be subjected to considerable changes in a very short amount of time. That can be very hard on instruments, and it’s the reason many players don’t use their best instruments when they travel. Those that do are extremely careful about the effects of the atmospheric conditions. Many players keep instruments for using outdoors, knowing that those instruments will experience less than optimal conditions.

Professional players know that their instruments can change in different climates, so they often take their instruments to be adjusted by a luthier in the area where they’re performing. Fine instruments are extremely responsive, which also tends to make them very sensitive to the surrounding environment.

christym - Posted - 01/07/2021:  19:15:12

Forced-air heating seems to dry out a house more than anything, especially in a cold climate where the heater may be in constant use for months at a time.

A guitar shop owner recommended the following to me:

  •  store instruments in one room when not playing them

  •  humidify the room with a portable humidifier (inexpensive one is fine)

  •  purchase and use a humidity gauge inline with the inexpensive humidifier to keep the humidity between 45% and 55%, or so

  • monitor condensation build-up on any windows in the room and dial down the humidifier if needed

The following have worked well for me these past 3 winters in Chicago (with forced air heating):

  •  Honeywell Warm Moisture Humidifier (HWM705B)

  •  DAYTON Humidifier Control (1UHG3)


Edited by - christym on 01/07/2021 19:26:01

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