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Humidification 101

A Quick Guide To Proper Humidification


Late Fall is the time of year when Coloradans notice their skin drying out and their noses feeling the effects of less humidity. We pull out the room humidifiers, our Neti pots and our saline nose spray. It’s never all that humid here but winters are especially dry.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Utz, an expert on neuroscience and pediatrics at Allegheny University, our bodies are made up of mostly water. Though it varies a bit from person to person, babies at birth are about 78 percent water. By one year of age, that amount drops to about 65 percent. In adult men, about 60 percent of our bodies are water, and for women, 55 percent. Without water a person will not survive more than a few days. We can go without food much longer than water (http://www.thewaterpage.com/live-without-water.htm).

 Did you know that a live tree has a moisture content that’s 200 percent higher than the fiber content? Once you cut the tree and mill the wood, the moisture content drops significantly. Wood will shrink or swell depending on the moisture level of its environment. Experts say a moisture level (humidity level) below 30 percent almost guarantees some shrinkage.

So if an instrument or piece of furniture dries out, bad things can happen. Many guitar owners who move from humid climates to Colorado find out the hard way what happens when you don’t humidify the instrument or the room in which it lives. You get cracks in the top or back, the bridge starts to pull up, the neck shrinks and the fret edges become very sharp. At the Denver Folklore Center  we see a dozen or more instruments a month that need repairs due to lack of humidity. 

To properly humidify you need two things - a humidifier and a way to measure humidity levels around the instrument.  The humidifier stays in the guitar (or other instrument) case with the case closed.  A hygrometer can be used inside the case to measure the level of humidity.

We have a variety of humidification options but our two favorite in-case humidifiers (meaning they are kept in the case with your instrument) are the Oasis Humidifier and the Boveda Two Way Humidity Control System.

Both systems are easy to use and supply sufficient humidity to your instrument. 

We realize that some people leave their instruments out for easy access.  If that’s you, then consider a room humidifier and a hygrometer to check humidity levels. 

 

We have two offerings for hygrometers - the Oasis Digital Thermometer/Hygrometer and the Planet Waves Humiditrack which monitors humidity and uses Bluetooth to alert you to problems.

We personally use both systems and would be happy to discuss them with you on your next visit.

 

 

How Humidity Impacts The Guitar Top And Back

Here is a little visual to help you see how humidity impacts the guitar's soundboard. A normal guitar will have a slight radius or curve to the top whereas a dry instrument have a slightly sunken top and back and a wet instrument will have an overly swollen radius to it.


Guitar Humidity Example
Picture provided by Taylor Guitars.