Matt hits a note with a season-appropriate topic of guitar humidification. Know the pitfalls of improper maintenance and how to avoid them.
...or as most people would say: Humidification. Humidity. Humid. What does that muggy summer feeling have to do with guitars? A whole lot!
As winter approaches the conversation we have with customers shifts to an emphasis on the importance of ensuring your guitar is properly humidified to keep the instrument playing its best and to prevent serious damage from lack of humidity. Our seasons shift from wet and warm to dry and cold, and the wood in your guitar will react to these changes. A guitar that is left to dry out in the winter can experience any and all of the following symptoms:
- changes in the relief or curve of the neck,
- warping to the neck,
- warping to the guitar’s body,
- bridge separating from the top of the guitar,
- sharp fret ends,
- cracks in the instrument,
- and more I am probably forgetting!
Late winter / early spring is the busiest time of the year for our repair shop, and much of the work being done is correcting the issues that arise when a guitar is not properly humidified. These repairs can be expensive, and in some cases guitars are not fixable when they have been dried out year after year. It breaks my heart to see an amazing instrument ruined by dryness. The good news is, all of this damage is entirely avoidable when you take care of your guitar with proper humidity control devices.
The best practice is to keep your guitar in a hard case with an instrument specific humidifier, this will create an environment inside the case that is much higher humidity than that of your home. Most of these humidifiers are simply a sponge that you wet and place inside of a plastic housing that is placed inside the sound hole of your guitar. The ideal humidity level is 45%-55% and there are humidifiers that will tell you the humidity percentage on a digital display so you can ensure that you keep that sponge topped up with moisture. There are also solutions that use disposable gel packs that do not require soaking; simply replace the gel packs each winter. These are great for electric guitars where there is obviously no sound hole, simply place a gel pack or two in the hard case with your electric guitar or bass.
I know that it is convenient to leave a guitar out on a stand in your jam space, and it may pain you to lock your favourite guitar inside a case when not being played, but trust me it is very difficult to keep a single room at an appropriate and consistent humidity level. I have tried to do this in my small apartment with two steam generating humidifiers running 24/7 and I was barely able to maintain a 40% humidity level. Here at Tony’s we have an industrial grade humidifier (very big and expensive!), along with two other large evaporative humidifiers that keep our store In the 45%-55% range. It is so much easier and more affordable to keep your guitars in a case with an instrument-specific humidifier. Your guitar will thank you, your wallet will thank you, and I will personally thank you.
Keep that guitar humidified and it will continue to be a real hum-dinger!