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Humidifying Mania


DaveKell
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I probably could've searched this topic first and found a ton of posts as on any guitar forum about it. My thoughts run along the lines of I seriously doubt anybody with a Gibson in the 1930's ever humidified their guitars, and yet many of those guitars are still intact and commanding incredible prices today. My 2016 le Advanced Jumbo maple I recently obtained is a fairly light weight guitar compared to other dreads I've owned. I'm wondering how obsessive I should be about keeping it in the case humidified? I live in Texas where the air conditioning is on about 10 months out of the year and dry, electric heat the rest of the time. I much prefer the guitar out on a stand readily available to grab and play several times a day. I have a house with pretty big rooms. The guitar lives in my bedroom which is almost the size of my living room. I'd need a fairly large capacity room humidifier. Truthfully, is humidifying newer guitars really THAT big of an issue? I'm wondering how all those highly collectible guitars lasted so long without it?

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I'm not judging, but my guitars live on the inside walls of my living room in a broken up floor plan, where the next room has my main winter heat source...a wood stove. My first floor is a 30 X 30 space...3 rooms and the second floor is closed unless sleepover guests are in. The guitars; 30's and 50's Gibsons, 50's and 60's Guilds and a '62 Martin. They all have 13's on, tuned down a whole step. Though the guitars are NEVER allowed to be brought into the side of the house the stove is running in, the RH in the guitar room hovers around 35-40% all winter (and boy do those guitars ring!), while in summer the whole floor is air conditioned. In 13 years, Ive never really had more than a couple slight back cracks pop up and one bridge lift. When I weigh this fact against the thought of equipping six cases with humidifiers and taking guitars in and out, or running a room unit, I always decide to let things ride. So far, so good, for what it's worth.

 

The last time I confessed to this humidification apathy I was reamed out a good one here.

Edited by jedzep
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I have used the "dampit" humidifier in an acoustic during winter up north where the heat was on all the time and humidity very low. You just need to keep checking your guitars. If the top is sinking down, or neck is bowing one way or the other it might be too dry - then humidify it. If you don't see any problems then the room humidity is probably close enough and you don't need to bother.

 

Only talking acoustic guitars here where you have a pretty thin top. A $10 investment isn't much to save major problems with an expensive guitar - cracks and bridges pulling up would not be "minor" things to me. [scared]

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When the house heat goes on wet sponges in perforated pill bottles go into the acoustic cases.

For my Martin I use the Martin humidifer which is a sponge in a long rubber tube which hangs inside of the guitar.

It only takes a few minutes each Saturday to wet them so yes, I humidify the acoustics.

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I live in Houston now, but I've lived Texas and New Mexico for 40 years including DFW and west Texas and it's never been a real problem. In Houston the A/C keeps the humidity right around 45%. Same for DFW only more like 40%. Midland was a little drier (around 25%) but there never was that big a problem. If the wood was properly seasoned before they built it, and you're not leaving it in the sun I wouldn't worry to much. If you're really concerned a and live in west Texas a small, cool humidifier will be fine, anyplace else, don't worry about it.

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.... the RH in the guitar room hovers around 35-40% all winter (and boy do those guitars ring!), while in summer the whole floor is air conditioned. In 13 years, Ive never really had more than a couple slight back cracks pop up and one bridge lift.....

I'm glad to hear that! I usually keep my acoustics in their cases with damp sponges, but I've had to leave them behind all alone for the past month while I'm working on our new place up on Lake Pend Oreille. I sure hope I do not find any cracks or finish checking on my return!

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I seriously doubt anybody with a Gibson in the 1930's ever humidified their guitars, and yet many of those guitars are still intact and commanding incredible prices today.

I have thought about this a lot too, and may be it's that the vintage instruments had different glue finish materials/formulars which probably helped them stay impervious to the climates. I have a 1978 Alvarez D25 copy that is impervious to climate changes. but my other acoustics, not sure sure.. rather be safe than sorry.

 

In the Northeast where I am located, the RH goes right off the charts once we start running the heat. I have a few hydrometers in the house, and right now, they are reading 30%. For my liking too low but just wait a few weeks, it'll get lower.. (20% on average) My acoustics are in their cases, with humidifiers in the sound hole and damp sponge in a soap travel case under the head stock. if managing RH levels during the dry months is wrong, I don't wanna be right...

Edited by kidblast
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I have had a guitar suffer damage from when I lived in a house with no central heating (nearly all my life). I suspect temperature fluctuations were mostly responsible.

 

Though not obsessed about humidity, I do try to keep a check and protect the acoustics (and violin) with hydration measures.

 

It very likely that the older guitars that did suffer serious humidity damage were junked anyway, so the good ones you see around now are just the 'lucky ones'.

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I live in a very dry desert in the Southwest. For years I tried to humidify my one acoustic in its case. I never got it right and usually it was over humidified so I gave up trying. That was at least three years ago and the guitar looks and sounds better than before. I'm not saying everyone should not humidify and maybe I'm just lucky. I hope it holds up for many years.

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I never humidified anything nor put anything on a fretboard for decades, and the winters here are cold and dry and the summers hot and humid. Central heating and everything.

 

Basically, I subjected a number of guitars over the years to decades of the worst possible conditions, and although they live elsewhere now, I know the owners and the guitars are fine.

 

After I discovered this forum I discovered humidifiers and fretboard oil and all that. A few years on, I'm starting to think maybe once every two years is enough oilings for rosewood fretboards. I comply with instructions to satisfy the insurance company, though.

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I never humidified anything nor put anything on a fretboard for decades, and the winters here are cold and dry and the summers hot and humid. Central heating and everything.

 

it's really debatable right? I mean if you take the precautions and nothing happens, then you would be led to believe it's a success! If you don't and nothing happens, then you lean to the "well that's a load hogwash"..

 

I'm in the middle and go with what is mostly just prudence.

 

I tend to not keep them out of the cases either which I think does help them from climate shifts. This is acrostics btw.. I don't know if solid bodies are quite as critical.. that said, I do know all about fret sprout which can be a pretty nasty little thing to deal with..

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I never humidified anything nor put anything on a fretboard for decades, and the winters here are cold and dry and the summers hot and humid. Central heating and everything.

 

it's really debatable right? I mean if you take the precautions and nothing happens, then you would be led to believe it's a success! If you don't and nothing happens, then you lean to the "well that's a load hogwash"..

 

I'm in the middle and go with what is mostly just prudence.

 

I tend to not keep them out of the cases either which I think does help them from climate shifts. This is acrostics btw.. I don't know if solid bodies are quite as critical.. that said, I do know all about fret sprout which can be a pretty nasty little thing to deal with..

 

You are of course absolutely correct. I too prefer to err on the side of caution. And thank God for cases.

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I gig with my guitars. Like all my instruments, they are tools. They get used and abused. I'll make more money in a year with each than if I keep them in pristine condition for a couple of decades and sell them to a collector.

 

I play once a week outdoors on a quay over a salt water lagoon, also weekly in too-cold-for-me air conditioned venues, wherever the gigs take me. Plus they get transported in the van, in flight cases, but bouncing around getting heated by the Florida sun, not given adequate time to adjust to the venue temperature and then played hard and enthusiastically on the gig. If they become unreliable I just sell them for what I can get and get something new. There is no special care other than oiling the fretboard a few times a year, wiping the strings when I'm done playing, and general but minimal maintenance.

 

I know others who really care for their instruments, and sometimes I wish I was that finicky, but it's not my nature. For those who keep your instruments beautiful, more power to you. There is more than one right way to do this.

 

I just pick 'em up and play 'em.

 

Insights and incites by Notes

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I gig with my guitars. Like all my instruments, they are tools. They get used and abused. I'll make more money in a year with each than if I keep them in pristine condition for a couple of decades and sell them to a collector.

 

I play once a week outdoors on a quay over a salt water lagoon, also weekly in too-cold-for-me air conditioned venues, wherever the gigs take me. Plus they get transported in the van, in flight cases, but bouncing around getting heated by the Florida sun, not given adequate time to adjust to the venue temperature and then played hard and enthusiastically on the gig. If they become unreliable I just sell them for what I can get and get something new. There is no special care other than oiling the fretboard a few times a year, wiping the strings when I'm done playing, and general but minimal maintenance.

 

I know others who really care for their instruments, and sometimes I wish I was that finicky, but it's not my nature. For those who keep your instruments beautiful, more power to you. There is more than one right way to do this.

 

I just pick 'em up and play 'em.

 

Insights and incites by Notes

That’s the approach that makes sense under the circumstances you described. I have a good friend who toured with Kristofferson , Hank Jr. and was lifelong friends with the incomparable Mickey Newbury who has treated an original Taylor the same way. The top is a roadmap of places he’s been and it even has a strumming hole worn through the top. You expect something great when you see it and he doesn’t disappoint. I took your approach with the one of a kind Yairi super abalone willed to me last year by a wealthy friend. I played it in crowded jams where a few headstocks were always getting bumped into it. It was horribly crushed in a car wreck but will soon go to a renowned restoration expert. He said it will come back entirely playable but with healed visible scars. The new AJ will then stay home to acquire that appeal to collectors you mentioned eventually.

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I know some people like collectable instruments and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

 

But I don't think most instruments make particularly good investments.

 

I bought a Selmer Mark VI in 1960 for $600. The Mark VI has become the most collectable sax in history. I played it for over 10 years, in school, then in seedy bars, show club and eventually touring the country, in a warm up band for major stars. Saxes need to be overhauled every few years, and back in those days, saxes got automatically re-lacquered. Mine was overhauled and re-lacquered at least 4 times. The overhaul consists of new pads (to seal the holes), new springs, and a lot of cork and felt bumpers to keep the keys from clanking plus height adjustment of the open keys for intonation.

 

If I had not played it much, never re-lacquered it, and it still had about 90% of the original lacquer on it, it would go for about $5,000 today. Due to inflation, $600.00 in 1960 buys what $4,865.01 buys today. So I would have made $135 actual profit. I make more than that on one gig.

 

So if I didn't play the horn much, it wouldn't have been an investment, just a hedge against inflation. A S&P indexed mutual fund would have probably done much better.

 

When I was doing work at Motown, James Jamerson (session bass player) had this old beat up Fender P Bass. I think the neck was warped because the strings looked very high on the fretboard, and he played it on a zillion Motown hits. He probably bought it new and played it hard and well.

 

I play my best instruments on the gig, eat good food, drink good wine when I drink, and don't save those things for the future.

 

Today I'm playing a Parker DF522NN (NN for Notes Norton - a custom job), and a custom built MacSax Classic on the gig. They are my best instruments. The lesser ones are back-up instruments in case the others fail.

 

Back on topic.

 

No humidifier, no special care, all the road wear represents the result of a lot of good times making music.

 

So if you want to keep your instrument pristine for investment or just your own personal satisfaction (most instruments are beautiful in their own right), and you want to humidify/de-humidify or whatever, go for it. Me? I just gig with them.

 

There is definitely more than one right way to do this.

 

Just don't make a lamp out of your guitar :D

 

Notes

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Hmmm, Yes and No on humidifiers for Acoustics. Just wondering? What do guitar shops all do with guitars that don't sell in a year or 2 or even longer that just hang up on the walls? They don't take them down and stick them in cases? Customers come in and out in the winter with cold air blaring inside and the same in summer heat. msp_confused.gif

Just a question?

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Hmmm, Yes and No on humidifiers for Acoustics. Just wondering? What do guitar shops all do with guitars that don't sell in a year or 2 or even longer that just hang up on the walls? They don't take them down and stick them in cases? Customers come in and out in the winter with cold air blaring inside and the same in summer heat. msp_confused.gif

Just a question?

Good point. And most music stores are heated in the winter (dry) and air conditioned in the summer (dry). I'm wondering if it really matters.

 

Insights and incites by Notes

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I don't know for sure but I think that short term changes in humidity, in the ranges most of us will see in our homes, are probably not going to have any long term adverse effect on the guitars. It can definitely cause relatively minor changes that may effect your setup. Maybe extremes of humidity changes long term could cause problems but that's just not what most of our guitars will see in their lifetime.

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