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Thread: Humidity control

  1. #1
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Humidity control

    I live in a very humid climate (Washington DC during the summer) and have just paid a hefty repair bill to my favorite luthier for my past lack of humidity control. I now have installed a dehumidifier in the mandolin room. My question is this: Given that the humidity in the room will be maintained at 45%, is it wiser to keep all my instruments out on stands or packed away in their cases ... or doesn't it matter? Thanks for your help. -- GiogioB

  2. #2
    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Humidity control

    So your mandolin had to be repaired due to too much humidity? What kind of issues did that cause?

    If you're controlling humidity in the entire room, it shouldn't matter if they are in their cases or not. The humidity inside the cases will equalize with the air in the room, unless they have some sort of airtight seal.

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    Default Re: Humidity control

    I live in the midwest with very high humidity, been here, well we won't go into that, I haven't had any humidity problems other than high action in the summer then low in the winter, and round and round chasing it. Lower, raise, lower, raise. and of course strings not lasting as long in the summer.
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    Default Re: Humidity control

    I'm in Georgia. I think the phrase, "It's not the heat, it's the humidity" originated here. I'm like Pops1. I haven't had any problems. I tend to keep the AC set around 75 +/- for economy reasons with no problems. And, I generally don't worry about the humidifiers in the cases unless the mandolins are going to be away from home for a while.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Humidity control

    IMHO, it's always wiser to keep instruments in cases. But that's my personal preference -- to avoid accidental damage, to allow for individual environmental care of instruments, and to allow for more compact storage (you can pile cases on top of each other, put them on shelves, etc. -- harder to do with instruments on stands).

    Leaving that aside, if you're strictly maintaining humidity around 45%, your mandolins should be OK either way.
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    Default Re: Humidity control

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    The "Brunette" Wall


    Sometimes I wonder how Martins, Gibsons, Stradiveri, etc. ever survived before climate control.

    Or for that matter how the human animal managed without climate control..

    My guitars and mandolins hang on the walls of my living room and seem to survive at least as well as I do [my "action" needs adjusting now and then as well]

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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Humidity control

    Quote Originally Posted by michaelcj View Post
    Sometimes I wonder how Martins, Gibsons, Stradiveri, etc. ever survived before climate control.
    Many of them didn't.

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    Default Re: Humidity control

    I suspect that humidity wasn't the worst enemy of survival.

    The items on the "Brunette Wall" were made in Idaho, New York, Tennessee, and Montana. I live on an island in the PNW….. we are all doing fine without AC or climate control…. season through season.

    The Epiphone Broadway [1946] in the photo spent 25 years in an unheated barn in its case before I found it… had to repair a bit of deteriorated celluloid binding on the fingerboard… other than that and lovely carquelure in the finish it's in better structural shape than I am and I'm 3 years younger.

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    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Humidity control

    Thanks, everyone, for your feedback. Michaelcj's laissez-faire attitude used to be my own until last summer when, having set two vintage Gibsons on the porch table in the sun while I took a phone call, I watched in horror as the backs quickly separated from the binding leaving a gaping hole at the bottom of each instrument. "These look like they've been through a flood!" said my favorite luthier. My grandfather's left-handed A4 and my 1912 F4 are now together again, I have a humidifier, and I know why there are so few Stradiveri still haunting the planet. Thanks, again. -- Giogio

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    Default Re: Humidity control

    Sorry if you misunderstood my attitude towards instrument care. Or if I came off as "snotty".

    I think many things in life can be taken to un-necessary extremes.

    I don't leave my instruments outside… or in a hot vehicle…. and luckily my home isn't in a flood prone area.
    However… the changes of seasonal humidity in an average home I believe is not likely to cause damage to most instruments, other than the normal movement that may, or may not, necessitate an occasional action adjustment.

    I can see that in some extreme climates [desert, glacial] some extra care would be advisable, but for the average majority the swing, as it is here, between 40-45% and 60-80%, is not dangerous.

    Extreme heat, moisture, and hide glue aren't a friendly thing….unless of course you are a repair/restoration practitioner and need to disassemble intentionally, then it's a godsend.

    Apologies if I came of as a jerk….. Sorry for your troubles….

  11. #11
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Humidity control

    Most instrument damage is not caused by exposure to a certain temperature or humidity, but a rapid change in heat/humidity, like Giogo's unfortunate experience. Wood and metal can survive and thrive in a wide range range of environmental conditions, but sudden changes can damage finish, glue, etc.

  12. #12
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Humidity control

    "Apologies if I came off as a jerk" -- No, michaelcj, not at all! I appreciated your response. The humidity around here last summer was close to 100% for more than two months straight. I was the jerk for setting these instruments in the sun! Live and learn can sometimes be a costly way to make it through, but it's the way of the world. In any case, after reading all the responses, I guess I'll keep my instruments out of the cases; this will give me the incentive to play them all occasionally and keep them alive. Thanks, again. -- Giogio

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  14. #13
    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Humidity control

    Quote Originally Posted by michaelcj View Post
    I can see that in some extreme climates [desert, glacial] some extra care would be advisable, but for the average majority the swing, as it is here, between 40-45% and 60-80%, is not dangerous.
    Obviously, every area of the country is different. And I'm not sure what the "average" would be, in terms of indoor humidity swings. but averaging isn't relevant here; everyone needs to know the conditions where they live. I don't live in a desert or a rainforest, but our winter humidity goes down to about 15% when high-pressure systems blow in from the north (compounded by running indoor heating), and summer humidity hangs out around 85-90% since we get regular wind off the Gulf. That is not a safe range.

    Exposure time is a factor as well. Short exposure (hours or days) to overly dry or overly humid conditions may only affect the action but not cause undue stress. But prolonged periods (like months or an entire season) can cause problems. As I've said in other threads on this topic, there really isn't any benefit in remaining ignorant on what the humidity is, or what the safe range is. There are a lot of people out there who ignored it, only to have problems. This thread is a perfect example of that. And you won't know whether you will have a problem until you have a problem.

    So it sort of boggles my mind why people continue to insist that others shouldn't worry about it when it has been absolutely proven that some instruments (like the OP's) will have problems. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Humidity control

    Quote Originally Posted by mandogio View Post
    ... I have a humidifier, and I know why there are so few Stradiveri still haunting the planet. Thanks, again. -- Giogio
    I am sure you are wise to pay attention to the humidity, and to take excellent care of your instruments. That said, humidity issues are probably NOT the central reason why "why there are so few Stradiveri still haunting the planet." It is estimated -- fairly accurately! -- that Antonio Stradivari produced 1,116 stringed instruments in his career (960 of which were violins), of which about 650 survive to this day. That's fully a 58% survival rate, after over three centuries! I'd say that's remarkably good (how many other items from this era survive with this high a rate?). There are so few Stradivarius instruments today mainly because there were so few made in the first place. People have kept really good care of these, as a rule. And small wonder, given the prices they command...
    Last edited by sblock; May-26-2016 at 11:07am.

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